Understanding college costs for first-generation students

College graduation, graduation, college ceremony, college costs

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I had over $20k in student debt. I was a second-generation student and had the opportunity to lean on the support of my parents and community. I also was fortunate to receive financial aid in the form of scholarships and…student loans. Still, there were a lot of costs that I didn’t factor in when thinking about the cost of college: textbooks/class materials, eating pizza on Friday nights with friends, The Office DVDs (yes, college was a long time ago), and meal plans. While some of these items are more necessary than others, it’s important to consider what costs you should anticipate.

According to College Board, there are roughly five categories you need to be thinking about as you’re planning the costs of college:

  • 💸Tuition and Fees: The costs of attending classes at your university.
  • 🏡Room and Board: The costs of where you live while you are in college. Are you living on campus (typically paying for student housing or apartment) or at home? Some colleges offer all-in-one housing packages for students, but this can vary by location. If you’re in an apartment, you’ll have to factor in prices of rent and utilities (gas, electric, water, internet, etc.).
  • 📗Books and Supplies: Textbook and classroom supplies have always been a part of attending school and sadly “tuition” fees do not cover these. According to the National Associate of College Stores, the average cost of required course materials is about $579 per academic year, but College Board estimates it at $1,250, so be prepared for a wildly fluctuating (and growing) number. 
  • 🚙Transportation: The costs of getting around. This could be a car, subway, bus, bike, scooter, Segway (please don’t be this person) or any other costs of traveling.
  • 🍎Personal Expenses: All those pesky little costs that come up outside of the above categories. These could include things like your cell phone, pet expenses, laundry, subscriptions, restaurants, etc.

Global Trends: 

college costs, private, public, nonprofit, university costs

According to research by U.S. News, costs of college are also growing. The average tuition and fees at private universities has jumped 157 percent over the past 20 years while out-of-state rates have grown 194 percent. You can see in the chart above how the cost of private and public colleges have grown significantly, even when all numbers are adjusted for 2017 dollars. 

“If you look at the long-term trend, [college tuition] has been rising almost six percent above the rate of inflation,” said Ray Franke, a professor of education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston to CNBC. On the cost side, paying top-tier faculty (and coaches), infrastructure investments, and amenities for students have added up. On the revenue side, according to analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “state spending on public colleges and universities remains well below historical levels.” The research highlights that from 2008-2017, states spent an average of $1,448 less per student with funding currently remaining “far below” pre-recession levels.

Annual Costs:

Here are average estimated yearly costs per student on-campus at either a public or private nonprofit schools:

College, college costs, how much college costs, College Board

The bottom line(s):

  • We’re living in a continually changing environment for going to college. It’s likely that costs will continue to grow and you should be preparing.
  • It’s important to consider all the additional costs that will go into attending school, and be prepared for tuition hikes.
  • If you’re interested in digging more, College Board has a very helpful guide to financial aid here.

If you are interested in learning more about Image Impact’s programs, visit our page here.

By Soren Nieminen, Social Chair of Image Impact International.