College Cost Calculator
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The high cost of a college education has made it more important than ever to plan ahead for future education expenses. But you must also consider more than just the cost of education itself — and account for things like room and board, supplies and spending money as well. Whether you're planning for your own education or the future education of your children, you don't want to be left scrambling for meal money if your costs exceed your budget.
Tuition is usually the first expense that comes to mind, but it's not the only indicator of how much a semester will cost. Some schools charge per credit hour, while others charge a flat rate per semester. If you're willing to overload on credits at a school that charges per semester, you could cut down your costs by finishing in less than four years.
Room and Board
Other college costs include room, board and travel to and from campus. These costs vary by school, and may also vary depending on your lifestyle. While it might be more convenient to eat all your meals in the dining hall, you could save money by making your own meals at home — although you might need to provide your own mini-fridge or microwave. Similarly, the cost of housing drops significantly if you can live with family instead of on campus.
Colleges also charge various fees to attend, such as activity fees or for parking your car on campus. And although you might not think of it as an educational expense, you should also factor in the cost of supplies like additional study guides, a laptop or special equipment you'll need for your courses. If you're going to major in photography, you might be required to have your own camera — and they aren't cheap.
Lower Personal Income
If you're planning to go back to school, that also means you'll have less time to work — so you won't be bringing home as much dough. You maybe be able to work at least part time while you're in school, so you don't have to write off all your income. In fact, work-study programs or on-campus jobs can help you offset some of the incidental costs that come up while you're in school.
Predicting Future Costs
If you're looking to get a head start on saving for future college costs, you're one step ahead in the game, but your calculations also must account for inflation. If a four-year degree costs $20,000 a year currently, but your child won't be attending college for another 10 years, that $80,000 turns into just over $110,000, allowing for 5-percent annual increases.