Understanding college prices and costs
What are all the different costs associated with attending college?
When many people think of college expenses, they think of tuition, or the actual money paid to attend classes. But other costs include:
- Room and board: “Room” means a dorm room and “board” means a meal plan.
- Books: Some colleges offer the option to rent books or check them out at the library.
- Fees: There are things like student activities, technology, etc. that students must pay for.
- Transportation: Don’t forget to include the cost of driving, gas, parking or the bus (if these costs apply).
- Spending money and other miscellaneous expenses.
The “sticker price” vs. what you will actually pay
While college is expensive and planning is required to pay for it, the price that most families pay is rarely the listed or “sticker price.” Don’t rule out applying to any college based on price alone. You might be surprised at the financial aid it offers your student.
Consider what you’re getting for your money
The college with the lowest listed price may not be a bargain in the long haul. Think about the amount you'll actually pay when financial aid is figured in. Then consider graduation rates — is it likely that a student will graduate in four years? Graduating on time helps save money and allows students to start working — and earning — earlier. Finally, consider the quality of the education a student will receive and how it will help begin a career and advance it later. View our handout on comparing costs.
Net price calculators
To estimate what kind of financial aid package your student/family may receive, you can go to the website of any college or university and find their net price calculator. Each of Minnesota’s private colleges has a calculator or you can use the Financial Aid Estimator provided by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.
Calculators provide a ballpark figure and actual awards will vary.