Comparing Costs between Schools

OK, so we’re in the home stretch for the college decision. As we compare costs for the final two choices, I’m concerned that we may not be considering everything we should be in our cost analysis.

Essentially we are only looking at costs for tuition/fees and room/board.

I am assuming that personal spending will be similar at both schools (both are in college towns.) Travel costs will likely be similar – both are a drivable (but long!) distance from our home. I am also assuming that book costs will likely be similar as she would be pursuing the same major at either school.

Anything else that should be in the spreadsheet? What are we missing?

Health insurance is one, if you’re not including that among fees. If your child is considering study abroad, the costs for a typical program through each college. And if your child will be taking studio art classes, fees for supplies, if not included in tuition (many of them weren’t at D1’s school).

Medical insurance. It will be required, and some schools have more stringent requirements as far as whether or not they will accept the coverage that you (probably) already have. If you have to pay for a separate policy at one school but not the other, that could be a big cost difference.

We spoke to the health centers at both schools while on visits and know that they do accept our insurance. I’ve tried to find the insurance requirements for each school. For one I can’t actually find a requirement. The other says that insurance is ‘recommended.’ Does that seem to indicate that we would not need to pay any additional fees?

For study abroad fees – both seem to say ‘it depends’ on what type of program you choose. Looking at the options in the major for which she is currently enrolled, costs seem similar.

Studio art fees unlikely.

@rosered55 and @BelknapPoint Thank you so much for bringing up these points! Any other thoughts?

It might be worth checking out non-parent-driving transportation options. There could be times when your child will want to come home and you won’t be able to pick her up or drive her back. You might also want to look into off-campus housing costs, if you think your daughter won’t want to or have to live in residence halls all four years. And will she be able to be on the same cellphone plan no matter which school she chooses?

One big difference for my kids is that at both their schools, everything is included with their student IDs. One is at a D1 school and gets into football, basketball, and all other sports for free with ID. The school also has activities every Friday night for free, ranging from movies to concerts to ice skating. She’s really loved a few of these like a hypnotist. Other is at a D2 school, but often just goes to a soccer game or swim meet because she’s walking by and it’s no charge. Neither school is highly ranked in sports, but 30 years ago I had to pay to see my school football team go 1 and 10. My kids wouldn’t buy the football or soccer game tickets if they had to pay, but they do occasionally go because it is free. That makes them more involved in their schools.

Special activities that your student may want. Both my kids are in sororities, and both are at schools where it doesn’t cost much (one is about $800/yr as she doesn’t live in the house, the other’s is cheaper than living in the dorm for room, board, and dues). At many schools, sororities cost a small fortune. My daughter plays club hockey at her school, and it is the cheapest team she’s ever been part of, much less than I paid for youth hockey. The school subsidizes it. Her school also offers very reduced prices for outdoor adventures like bike or kayak trips. Band, robotics clubs, club sports, special travel?

When comparing costs, is the tuition price locked in for 4 years? Does the merit aid increase with tuition increases? Are increase precent ages at schools about the same or does one jump 5% while the others are at 3%?

Both my kids are way under the COA quoted as they have few other expenses. Room and board for one (sorority house girl) will stay about the same but the other has already had a reduction of $1000 for her meal plan from frosh to soph year and can really reduce costs living off campus for the final two years as the COA in her college town is low.

The room & board costs after freshman year. We are down to two schools. At both you typically move off campus after the first year or two, but one area has a lot more variety of price-points.

The other difference is how much I think my daughter will eat from her meal plan. Both college’s freshman meal plan costs about the same, but one has better reviews, more eateries that are included, longer hours, to-go options, and “campus cash” that can be used at nearby restaurants.

Finally, one school has a much better reputation for paid internships. So, the revenue side for that option might be better for our budget.

Good luck & aloha!

Past history of tuition increase rates?

Graduation rates?

Does she have merit scholarships at both schools, if so what are the GPA requirements?

@twoinanddone Thanks for the suggestion! D is hoping to be involved in a sorority. Costs are very different between the schools. I’ve added that item.

@palm715 Great idea! D will definitely be moving off campus at both by at least junior year. That will be my research project for tomorrow…

@mommdc D has merit scholarships to both. Each requires a 3.0 to keep the scholarship. One of the schools seems to be known to be a little stingier with the As. It is of course her favorite of the two. We have had many discussions about the importance of keeping the scholarship.

@Madison85 Neither guarantees tuition price for all four years. One scholarship will cover tuition no matter the cost. At the other she will receive a fixed amount of scholarship money regardless of increases. I’ve tried to research past tuition hikes. School seems to have raised tuition about every few years for the past several years, but I don’t necessarily see a pattern to the raises. Any suggestions on how better to determine this?

We know that she prefers the more expensive choice, which we believe to still be within budget. I just want to be as certain as possible that we have considered exactly how much the more expensive one will cost before we allow her to commit.

So if there are any more thoughts?

Check for departmental scholarship opportunities after freshmen year. Also check if there is a higher upperclassmen tuition rate (besides annual increase) in both schools.

Great ideas. Another one would be: is a car needed? My daughter found out she really needs a car on campus starting her Sophomore year for a practicum. So this is an extra expense as will be the car permit. What about laundry costs. Many colleges are 1.50 for each load to wash and another 1.50 to dry. That really adds up over the year. Other campuses have some dorms with free laundry and some, apartment style, have units inside the apartment which are, of course, free. We’ve seen multiple types on on campus.

If you are concerned about the cost of laundry, the school is too expensive. Take a figure, maybe $20 a week, and call it misc , and figure on that. Whether it is laundry or Starbucks or pizza, that $20 is going to be gone.

My daughter rarely washed clothes. I think she has about 50 panties and i know she got a new tshirt from the school abut once a week… She did her laundry for free at a frIend’s house. To have more money for starbucks.

@twoinanddone I respectfully disagree. My oldest is on a full ride, excluding books, for NMF and she pays for all incidentals, including laundry. That did factor into her school and housing decision. For some families, like ours, the expenses that can’t be covered by our 529 funds have a big impact on our or our daughter’s monthly budget. It’s just something else to be aware of. I think the OP wanted to know expenses that might differ between schools. Laundry, clothing needs for different weather, all add up.