It’s a good idea to create a financial worksheet when you are in the process of considering schools. While one of your choices may have lower tuition, it may not be a better financial investment. A four-year investment at a state university will cost between $60,000 and $70,000 including tuition, books, room and board, transportation, and so on. You’ll need to have a realistic idea about what your years in college are going to cost in total. When you are applying for financial aid, you will be asked for your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The only way to ascertain how much you’ll need to borrow (including scholarships, grants, and other free money) is by subtracting your EFC from your total expenses.
Also, do not forget about factoring in incidental costs, because they can really add up. Personal expenses such as internet and cell phone service, laundry, doctor visits and medications, clothing, food, utilities (unless they are included in on-campus housing or rent), cleaning supplies, haircuts, toiletries, and the occasional movie or dinner date are all part of life. Unless you’re careful to budget these things, you might be forced to eat boxed macaroni and cheese more often than you’d like! If you’re not going to live at home while attending college or university, be sure to consider housing costs. One school may charge more in tuition but housing might be more affordable.
When drafting a cost of college worksheet, begin with only those costs directly related to school:
DIRECT COSTS OF ATTENDING COLLEGE:
Additional fees: ________________________________
Books, notebooks, binders, etc: _____________________
Room and board (if applicable): _____________________
(Note: Estimate high on gas or bus fare, because these costs will likely rise as time passes. Include car insurance and maintenance if you will use your own vehicle.)
Now add together the above items, plus an additional five percent for miscellaneous expenses. Write the total below:
TOTAL DIRECT COSTS: __________________________
Now you’ll need to calculate your indirect costs. While there are a number of expenses that everyone has, don’t forget any costs that are special to your situation. If you require costly medication, pay child support, or are paying off a credit card, for example, you’ll need to include those costs. You can either complete the following section as monthly or annual expenses. Just remember that if you calculate monthly expenses, you’ll have to multiply the total by 12 to arrive at an annual number. Modify the following portion of the worksheet as you need:
INDIRECT COSTS OF ATTENDING COLLEGE:
Housing and utilities (if not living on campus): _________
Clothing and laundry: __________________________
Other expenses: ________________________________
TOTAL INDIRECT COSTS: ________________________
Now add the direct and indirect costs, subtract your family’s anticipated contribution, and there you have it! The remaining number is the amount of money you will need in order to complete your college education. Knowing this figure not only puts you in charge of your finances and avoids unpleasant surprises, it also assures those whom you are asking for financial help that you are a responsible individual.