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Cost of College: Comprehensive Guide to College Expenses

Posted by Sara Giboney Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023

The cost of collegeStarting college is an exciting time. But you may have questions about how much college costs.

The cost of attending college varies by school, but the types of expenses you’ll have will be similar at most colleges.

At Nebraska Methodist College (NMC), you can find the Cost of Attendance (COA), which breaks down the direct and indirect expenses associated with attending college.

Direct expenses include tuition, fees, e-books and on-campus housing. Indirect costs include books, course materials, supplies, transportation, food, off-campus housing, personal expenses, license fees and certification fees.

In this guide, you can explore the costs you should plan for when attending college and learn about college financial planning.

The True Cost of College Tuition

As you’re learning how to budget for college expenses, you’ll want to know all of the costs required to be a college student. Tuition will be your largest expense.

Each semester, students are required to pay tuition for their classes. 

Tuition is calculated based on the number of credit hours a student is enrolled in during a semester. Each class is worth a specific number of credits, which you can find on your program webpage or the course catalog.

Colleges have different rates per credit hour for in-state, out-of-state, full-time and part-time students, and for different programs.

Read more: Pathways to a Healthcare Education to Decrease Tuition Costs

A Guide to the True Cost of CollegeUnraveling Housing and Food

As you’re figuring out how to save on college expenses, you’ll want to consider whether you want to live on or off campus. 

Living on campus allows you to stay connected with friends and classmates, be close to campus and participate in on-campus activities.

NMC’s campus housing, Josie’s Village, offers one- and two-bedroom furnished apartment suites that are a short walk from campus. 

Students can choose between single living, living with a roommate or family living. The cost for each of these options is different. 

Campus living expenses can often be less  than renting an apartment off campus. 

One of the benefits of on-campus living at NMC is that utilities, internet and 24-hour security are included in the cost.

Some colleges also offer a meal plan with different options.

Living in an on-campus apartment with a full kitchen allows students to save money on food costs by making their own meals.

Some of the hidden costs of off-campus living include transportation to and from campus, utilities, internet and buying furniture.

What is the true cost of collegeMandatory Fees and Their Impact

All colleges and universities require students to pay fees. These fees pay for student services such as student health, technology and student activities.

The student health fee enables you to access campus health services, which include appointments to diagnose and treat illnesses, infections and injuries, women’s health services, STI testing, pregnancy testing, lab work, immunizations, physicals and more. 

You’ll also have access to free confidential mental health counseling services.

At NMC, the technology fee allows students to have personal iPads, technology support and state-of-the-art technology in laboratories and classrooms on campus.

There are different fees at each college, depending on the school’s specialty areas, campus size and programs.

You’ll also pay different fees as an online student, since you’ll most likely be taking classes remotely and won’t need on-campus services.

Since NMC is a healthcare college, you might pay small fees for your clinical exchange and labs, depending on your program.

Textbooks and Course Materials

Once you’ve enrolled in classes, you’ll receive a list of required textbooks and course materials.

You’ll be able to choose between new and used books. Some books are available in a digital format, and may cost less.

Renting textbooks can also reduce the cost of textbooks, and eliminates the process of selling back your textbooks at the end of the semester.

Other course materials might include lab supplies, scrubs or art supplies, depending on the class.

Transportation and Commuting Costs

If you live off campus or attend a large university, you may have added expenses for commuting, parking or public transportation.

At many colleges and universities, students must purchase parking permits each semester. At NMC, parking is free on campus. 

Keep in mind that the further away from campus you live, the more you will pay for gas to commute.

If you take public transportation, you may be able to receive a student discount. 

A Guide to College ExpensesPersonal Expenses and Lifestyle Choices

When budgeting for college, you’ll want to consider your personal expenses and anything you do for entertainment.

Personal expenses will include household essentials, toiletries, clothing and beauty items.

While students might be tempted to cut out spending on entertainment and recreation, it’s important to have fun and socialize during college. 

You may also have to budget for health insurance and medical costs while you’re in college. While you’ll be able to receive free healthcare services on campus as an undergraduate student, you have to pay for medical expenses not covered by campus health.

Understanding Financial Aid and Scholarships

Higher education costs mean it’s important to explore scholarship and financial aid options. 

After you’re accepted in a college program, you can apply for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

College scholarships, grants or tuition assistance are free aid, and repayment isn’t required. 

Scholarships are based on need and/or merit. You will have to provide financial and/or academic information to apply for scholarships.

While many scholarships are offered through your college, you might find scholarships through organizations, churches, parents’ or guardians’ employers and your employer.

Student Loans: What You Need to Know

The U.S. Department of Education provides funding and serves as a lender for Federal Direct Loans. NMC is the lender for the Nursing Student Loan and Nurse Faculty Loan Programs, with funding provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

To be eligible for federal student loans, you must fill out the FAFSA. If you qualify for these loans, you’ll be required to pay them back with interest. 

There are different types of federal student loans:

  • Direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans are fixed rate loans that don’t require a credit check. Eligibility is based on the student’s FAFSA results. The loans are made in the student’s name and the student is responsible for paying back the entire loan plus interest.
  • Direct PLUS loans are fixed rate loans available to graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students.
  • Nursing Student Loans are subsidized loans for undergraduate nursing students who qualify based on need and approved credit.
  • Nurse Faculty Loans are available for graduate students who plan to become nurse educators. Up to 85% of the loan can be canceled in exchange for full-time employment as a nurse educator. 

If you use student loans to pay for college, you’ll want to keep track of your loan total so you’re prepared to begin making payments when you graduate.

You can also explore private loans for college, however, these may have a higher interest rate than federal student loans. 

Read more: How to Apply for Federal Student Loans: A Step-by-Step Guide

Planning Ahead: Setting a College Budget

Once you have a breakdown of your college expenses, you can create a budget based on your expected income. 

To recap, here are some expenses you could have during college:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Housing 
  • Food
  • Textbooks and course materials
  • Transportation
  • Personal expenses
  • Entertainment
  • Unforeseen expenses

You can budget using your bank’s app features or by connecting your bank account to an app like Mint. If you prefer to budget yourself, you can use a spreadsheet to track your spending. 

Read more: Six Ways to Reduce the Cost of a Healthcare Education

Maximizing Value, Minimizing Debt

Having a clear understanding of the expenses associated with your college education will help you feel more confident and make responsible choices with your finances.

Some colleges, like NMC, offer financial wellness workshops to help students learn how to budget and manage their money.

Making responsible financial decisions while you’re in college will set you up for success after you graduate. 

Ready to navigate your college journey with confidence? Dive deeper and explore our tailored financial resources and programs. Click here to get started!

Topics: healthcare education, financial aid, bachelor's degree, associate's degree, nursing degree, healthcare career

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