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College Fees: What You Pay - and Why

Oct 1, 2010 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

Think tuition is expensive? Often the sticker price is only the beginning of college costs. Many colleges tack on hefty fees in addition to the floor tuition cost—and these fees can raise your bill by thousands per month. Use of fees is rising, and many colleges admit to raising these fees in order to avoid tuition increases. There’s no question that fees are a profit center—but you can avoid paying some, if you’re careful. Here’s an overview of fees you may be charged at your college.

Application fees

Many colleges charge—sometimes as much as $50—for you to submit an application. This can really add up if you’re applying for more than one college. However, you can sometimes get these fees waived. The National Association for College Admission Counseling offers a form that allows you to apply for a waiver from participating schools if you are financially eligible.

The College Board offers a fee waiver service that is intended for SAT fees,
but can also determine your eligibility for college application waivers at certain colleges.

Pay Here Sign

Keep on top of the fees and deadlines, and hopefully you can keep your fee costs down while you’re in school.


Room and board

Cost for on-campus living can as much as double the cost of your college tuition. And while it can be tempting to save money by living off-campus or with parents, some colleges require students to live on-campus. Most colleges quote room and board per-quarter or per-semester, and many offer a variety of meal plans, ranging form a limited number of meals per semester to unlimited meals.

Late fees

At many schools, you’ll incur late fees for everything from paying college tuition late to choosing your classes after the deadline. Rollins College, for example, charges $75 per month for every month your tuition payment is late. If you decide to drop a class, you could be billed for the entire class at some colleges if you fail to drop before the deadline. These late fees can add up to hundreds of dollars or more.

Parking fees

If you have a car on campus, expect to pay to park it. Colleges may charge a monthly fee, which charges $36 per month); by semester (such as Fresno City College, which charges $17 per semester) or yearly (such as at Elmhurst, which charges $200 per year).

Technology fees

Some schools tack on a charge that goes to fund school technologies—such as computer labs, printers, setup and maintenance, Internet networks, science lab equipment, and so on. This fee can be as little as $5 or as much as $200.

Out-of-state fees

If you’re going to a public school, it’s much cheaper to go in-state. The reason for this is that public colleges are financed by state taxes—which are paid by in-state residents. Because, in a sense, every in-state resident has already financed the college through tax payments, the college charges them less. Out-of-state residents who haven’t been paying taxes all these years are charged more. Going to college outside your home state can cost you a few hundred to a thousands of dollars more.

Capital improvement fees. Colleges sometimes levy capital improvement fees to collect funds to improve college grounds and facilities. These fees typically aren’t that much—Miami Dade College charges $17 for out-of-state students and $7.30 for in-state, for example—but it can be a bit much on top of all the tuition you pay and college solicitations for donations.

Student Activity fees

Student activity fees are applied to support student extracurriculars and organizations such as intramural sports and other clubs, as well as certain student support services. Some fees also pay for student insurance, on-campus health care and other services.  These can be considerable; at Queen’s University for example, mandatory fees are $620, plus additional costs for health and dental insurance as well as other “optional fees.”

Electronic Materials fees

You’ll see this one more often at online colleges. An electronic materials fee is assessed to cover the costs of delivering online content. At the University of Phoenix, for example, you’ll be charged $90.

College fees can cost a lot—and you may not see them coming. Check with your school to get a list of all the possible fees, as well as deadlines that could cost you money if you miss them. In addition, talk to your financial aid office to see if they’ll allow you to waive some fees—this is usually allowed on basis of financial need. Keep on top of the fees and deadlines, and hopefully you can keep your fee costs down while you’re in school.


Buddy Garrett Over a year ago

College has always been expensive. There are lots of different fees. I guess I am like most people. I didn't realize that you could ask for waiver of certain fees. I paid the fees without question. I realize colleges are for profit but parents and students face difficulties paying for college. Too many colleges try to be too many things. It is important to shop for colleges.

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