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How Much Money Do Parents Spend on College?

by Sarah Cairoli, studioD

The cost of tuition, room and board, fees and books adds up quickly for college students. Just how quickly often depends on which college they are attending. Public schools are significantly less expensive than private schools. However, whether their children are going to a local community college or an out-of-state ivy league university, parents end up spending significant money on education. The average cost for a full-time student attending an in-state university is approximately $15,000 per year, but a number of factors have an influence on this price.

College Location

Attending college within the state your child resides will save some money. In many cases, tuition is lower for in-state students than for students coming from another state. However, some states will offer in-state tuition to students from neighboring states. Encouraging your child to attend school close to home, if possible, will save some money. Not only will tuition be less expensive, but costs associated with traveling to and from campus will be lower. The cost of room and board can be eliminated if kids attend college in their hometown or online and continue to live with their parents.

Course of Study

Different areas of study have different requirements that can add to college costs. For example, science students often have lab classes that require extra materials and fees. Some colleges charge different tuition rates for different classes, so your child’s interests might determine the cost of college. Certain programs can take longer than four years to complete, which will increase costs as well. Books also vary by course; the cost of books will be different every semester. Many college book stores buy and sell used textbooks, which helps reduce costs.

Finding Deals

Scholarships are available for athletes and stellar students, but average students can also take some courses for free. Many public libraries offer free courses, and a number of universities now post course content online so that it is accessible to the public. Some schools, such as the College of the Ozarks and Cooper Union offer free tuition to all admitted students. Many schools offer accelerated classes during winter and summer breaks to help students complete a degree in four years and save money by attending the institution for a shorter period of time. If scholarships and discounts are not available at the institution your child wants to attend, loans from the federal government can help defray costs.

Student Loans

More than half of the college students in the U.S. graduate with student loan debt. The average debt load carried by graduating seniors is over $20,000, according to the Project on Student Debt. Loans make postsecondary education possible for many people, and there are a number of different types of loans that help parents afford college for their kids. The terms for most student loans require repayment over ten years. Interest accumulation over this span of time can be considerable, and loans should not be taken out unnecessarily.

About the Author

Sarah Cairoli began her writing career in 2002, as a reporter for the "High Country Independent Press" in Belgrade, Mont. She then spent two years writing and editing for an online publishing company, and earned her master's degree in English from Northern Arizona University. Cairoli also writes for "Bozeman Magazine."

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