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24 August 2006

Keeping College Bills Down

Everyone knows college tuition costs have been soaring. If you’re going to college this fall, presumably you’ve already worked out how you’re paying for tuition.

What you may not have fully grasped is how much the other costs of college have risen — costs for things like books and supplies, travel, room and board, and other incidentals.

According to the College Board, in the past five years, for resident students at four-year public universities, tuition and fees have increased by more than 50 percent. At the same time, the costs for books and supplies have increased by one-fourth, and room and board and transportation have each risen by one-third.

Fortunately, savvy students know there are ways to save. And they know that successfully managing your finances in college is one of the most important lessons you’ll come away with.

“When kids are living at home, they are used to certain things,” says Cindy Bailey, executive director of education finance services at the College Board. “At college, things are different. ... There are standard-of-living costs.”

The national average for personal expenses at four-year public colleges is about $200 a month, not including books and supplies, according to the College Board.

You can spend more. Or you can spend less. But you have to live within your means.

“Think of it this way,” says Steve Loven, director of the College Planning Center in West Des Moines, Iowa. “You want to live like a college student today so you don’t have to live like one when you graduate.”

The main decision that will have a big impact on your spending is where you will live.

Living in the residence halls with a seven-day meal plan is the most frugal move, because your basic needs are taken care of. But there’s no point to buying the meal plan if you’re going to break down and order a pizza several nights a week.

Robert Alviar, a University of North Texas senior who lived on campus for his first two years, dealt with that issue.

“When people wanted to go out to dinner, I stayed in because of my meal plan,” he said. “You figure out what works best for you.”

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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