College will probably be one of the most exciting times of your child’s life. College gives students a chance to finally focus on what they actually care about. In addition to studies, college encourages students to learn to become adults. By being responsible for keeping up their work, and often, for maintaining a room or sharing with a roommate, choosing their own meals, and keeping up their own schedules, students learn to be more grown up. Unfortunately, college is expensive, and for many students, college costs mount quickly, rising above the basic expensive tuition and board costs. If you are able to help your children with college costs, you should look beyond more than just tuition payments, although of course those are expensive. Here are five things you should pay for if you are open to helping your children pay for college costs.
Let’s get this one out of the way first, because we are fairly sure it’s on your mind. According to the College Board‘s list of average published undergraduate charges, the average charges for tuition and fees for 2013-2014 was $3,265 for a public in-state two-year college, $8,893 for a public in-state four-year college, $22,203 for a public out-of-state four-year college, and $30,094 for a private nonprofit four-year school. These charges only include tuition and fees, and not room and board.
Obviously, college tuition and fees really add up. If you can help your college student with tuition so that they can take fewer loans out (or no loans at all), you should definitely do so. Especially if you have a 529 account, paying directly for tuition is a good idea. However, government interest rates for student loans are not very high compared to other loans, so if you can only contribute a small amount towards your child’s expenses, you might want to use your money elsewhere.
2. Room and board
Like tuition, room and board is likely going to be one of the most expensive aspects of your child’s education. If possible, consider encouraging your child to live at home. Even if your child starts at a community college or in-state school for only the first two years, you can both save a lot of money. On the other hand, if your child is sold on going far away from home, you will probably see a bill for room and board. For the 2013-2014 school year, the average cost of room and board for a public out-of-state four-year school was $9,498, and that number jumped to $10,823 for a private four-year nonprofit school. These are hefty amounts, and your children will definitely appreciate if you can help with room and board.
If your son or daughter is going to school out of town, you may need to figure out a transportation plan. Depending on the particular city or town where their college of choice is located, you may be able to convince your child to get around using the bus. However, many areas are not completely bus friendly, so you have to factor in costs for taxis, or even a car.
Even if you find a way for your kid to get around campus and around the city or town, without a car, you probably will need to factor in money for transportation to and from home over breaks and the summertime. If you can afford to help with these costs instead of your child having to take out more loans, this might be a good place to help because these costs are often immediate and can add up. Of course you can encourage your child to get a job to help, but some majors are too demanding to allow students to work very much outside of school. Even with a part-time job, many students will still appreciate extra help.
4. Textbooks and organization fees
Textbooks can get very expensive, averaging about $1,100 per year nationally. Depending on a student’s major, this cost could go up or down, but either way, textbooks are extremely expensive. This is an immediate cost that parents should help students pay for if they are able to, because otherwise the cost will usually end up on a credit card or taken out as a loan. If you can help your child avoid credit card debt or more loans, you should.
Most clubs and other organizations charge a fee, and because college is a time of exploration, parents usually hope that their children will participate in many activities, and get to know other students. However, these organization fees can get very expensive. Sorority and fraternity fees can cost a few hundred dollars, all the way to several thousand. Many other organizations charge $25, $50, or even a few hundred dollars for various activities. If you want your child to be able to participate in different organizations, helping to pay for the fees is a good idea.
5. Other costs
In addition to the costs listed above, your son or daughter will also face many other costs. If you don’t have a lot of money to contribute, but you really want to help in a meaningful way, consider helping your child to furnish his or her dorm room. Also, your child will probably want to go out to eat sometimes, so consider providing a set monthly amount to assist with going out to eat. If you can, add in a little bit more money for off-campus fun activities like movies, sports games, or shopping.
Your child also might face unexpected fees on campus, like fees for copying, fees for overdue library books, or even fees for trips that they take as part of a class. If you can help by setting up an account for unexpected fees, it will be a great relief for your child when the time comes for them to pay for one.
There are so many ways you can help your child financially during college, and any amount will help. Whether you can pay for everything, or only a little, by helping with the costs, you will be helping your child and showing support as they navigate the way to adulthood. On the other side of this issue, is the fact that many graduates are now moving home, or hoping for their parents to continue to pay for much of their college lifestyle, even after they graduate. If your child has already graduated, there are many things you should stop paying for.