MOORE — Graduation season is creeping up on us and while many Oklahoma high school seniors are excited about the prospect of heading off to college in the summer or fall, their parents may be wondering how they are going to pay for their child’s higher education.
Eileen St. Pierre, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension personal finance specialist, said tuition and books are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the expenses parents need to keep in mind.
“To begin with, create a realistic budget and stick to it. It’s important for parents, as well as the child, to fully understand the entire cost of attending college,” St. Pierre said.
Some of the large expenses include tuition, books, housing costs and a meal plan. Some meal plans may not include three meals per day, seven days per week. Remember other costs such as lab and technology fees, or, depending on the selected major, equipment fees. Housing costs can vary widely depending on whether your student lives in traditional dorms, apartment style campus housing or off campus in an apartment or house. Housing costs can be reduced if your child has roommates to help share the monthly rent.
Depending on where your child goes to college, is a vehicle necessary? If so, keep in mind the cost of parking fees, gas, vehicle maintenance and insurance. Some students may be able to get by without a vehicle if there is adequate public transportation. Other students may opt for a bicycle.
“Living expenses can add quite a chunk to overall college expenses. Your child will most likely need a computer,” she said. “He or she will need an alarm clock and other electronics as well. A refrigerator is a must in the dorms. Off campus living may require an apartment full of furniture if the unit doesn’t come furnished. Even if furnishings are available, consider the cost of sheets, towels and bedding, along with toiletries and laundry supplies. While individually these items may not be too expensive, when you add them all up they can total quite a sum.”
Other monthly expenses to consider are cell phone bills, renter’s insurance and even health and dental insurance coverage. Fulltime college students can remain on their parents’ policy until age 26. Also consider utilities such as Internet and landline phone, cable, water, electricity, gas and trash. Depending upon where the student is living, these expenses may be covered under housing expenses or they could be additional expenses.
St. Pierre wants to remind parents that an emergency savings fund should be established to help cover unexpected expenses such as vehicle repair.
“Going off to college is very exciting for both the student and the parents, but it’s also a big expense,” she said. “Make sure your child fully understands what expenses he or she is expected to pay and what you’re willing and able to cover, and stick to that plan. Be sure to explore scholarship and grant opportunities to help offset some of these expenses.”