The 5 Most Expensive Hidden Costs of College

September 10th 2014

Alece Oxendine

There's a national conversation happening about the cost of college--specifically--student loan debt and rising textbook prices. However, what's seldom discussed are the hidden expenses of the college experience. Here are a few: 

1. Electronics Repairs

Although most schools come equipped with computer labs, having a personal computer or laptop can make college much easier. The cost of a MacBook Air starts at $899. This is a cost anticipated by many college students and parents. Now imagine that you accidentally spill coffee your laptop during an all-nighter. That will set you back at least $450 if not the cost of a new computer. Pro tip: many software repairs such as virus removal can be provided for free by the school. 

2. Food

Yes, food is always an upfront cost in college. But the 'hidden cost' occurs as the result of a common oversight students make when choosing a meal plan: selecting the cheapest option. This turns out to be a short-sighted decision, as students are known to eat more during times of stress and are likely to run out of meals and flex money when they really need it: during finals at the end of the semester. Many students, believe it or not, are suffering from “food insecurity” and rely heavily on ramen noodles.

3. Travel/Transportation 

College Freshman Meme

Whether it is a trip to the store or going home for the holidays, transportation costs add up quickly. Thanksgiving, the most popular traveling holiday of the year, is particularly expensive. Students are increasingly opting out of going home for the holidays altogether. Pro tip: book your flight or train now! 

4. Class Fees

Textbook costs aren't the only cost each class might throw your way
It's widely known that textbooks are overpriced, but lab fees and additional course materials may run between $10 to $200 a course for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and fine arts majors. Design majors may need specific software-if its not provided by the school (Adobe Creative Suite costs a student $19.99 a month). Most of these fees are required and may not be known until a student receives a syllabus from the professor. 

5. Extracurricular Fees 

No one expects a student to have zero social life (unless you're an engineering major), so the costs of joining a student organization can add up. Some of these organizations can aid in job placement and resume building so many students eat the cost in hopes of future rewards. Honor societies cost up to $125 and pre-professional student organizations (such as the Mathematical Association of America or the National Student Nurses' Association) cost as much as $150 a year.