Understand tuition and college costs
The main costs of college and how to lower them.
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How much does college cost? To answer that question, you might immediately think of a school’s tuition. While this is usually the largest expense, there are other costs you should be thinking about. We’ll learn about each of these costs and how you can lower them.
Tuition and fees
Tuition is what universities and colleges charge to take courses. College tuition costs can change quite a bit based on which state you’re a resident of and the learning format you choose. Similarly, fees will change depending on the school. Some may charge for parking, access to certain amenities, or other activities.
How can you lower tuition costs?
- Attend college locally. Many colleges charge different amounts based on the state you have residency. Each school defines its residency requirements, so make sure you check. In general, colleges list the following rates:
- Out-of-state: Out-of-state tuition is the most expensive option schools offer. They offer this rate if you are not residing in the same state as the school. For example, if you’re an Arizona resident and you attend a Texas university, you’ll be charged out-of-state tuition, unless you can get a tuition waiver.
- In-state: Many universities and colleges offer in-state tuition, which is lower than out-of-state tuition. Schools offer this rate if you’re residing in the same state as the school. For example, if you’re a Texas resident, then you should qualify for in-state tuition at most Texas universities.
- In-district: Community colleges usually offer an in-district tuition, which is even lower than in-state tuition. This rate is offered if you’re residing in the same tax district of the school.
- Take online classes. More and more schools are offering online classes. Because online classes are cheaper for schools, they can offer lower rates for this format. Some schools may let you take a mix of online and in-person classes. Others may only offer a 100% online option.
- Apply for grants and scholarships. Both the federal government and Texas offer grant and scholarship programs. Grants and scholarships are types of financial aid that can cover your cost of tuition and fees. Unlike loans, these options provide money you don’t need to pay back.
Room and board
Room and board are the cost of housing and food while attending school. If you plan to live on your school’s campus, they may offer dorms or apartments you can rent as part of your fees. Many schools also offer meal plans to their campus’s dining halls and restaurants.
How can you lower the cost of room and board?
While there’s no simple way to lower your school’s room and board, you can avoid it. Many students choose to commute to school from their home instead of living on campus. You’ll want to plan your class schedule to match your commute. This could mean grouping your classes together in the morning, evening, or weekend.
If you take online classes, you can dodge both commuting and housing costs completely.
Books and supplies
You’ll most likely need to buy a textbook for each college course you take. With the price of a textbook ranging anywhere from $80-$400, the cost might catch you by surprise. You should also budget for day-to-day supplies:
- Pens and pencils
- Book bags
If you don’t already have one, you’ll need a computer too. Some classes will use an online system to complete and upload assignments.
How can you lower the cost of books?
Luckily, you’ve got a few options to make college textbooks more affordable. Try the following tips:
- Buy used books or rent your books. Your school’s bookstore may offer this option, or you can find an online bookseller.
- Sell your books after the semester. While you won’t get all your money back, you can recoup some of your cost by selling your books back to your school or through an online bookseller.
- Use an older edition. There are usually small changes in textbooks from one edition to the next. Be sure to ask your instructor if a previous edition will be okay.
- Apply for book scholarships. Certain scholarship programs will let you use your scholarship money to cover the costs of your textbooks.
If you’re taking in-person classes, make sure you consider the cost to get to the classroom. If you plan to commute to campus, this cost will be higher, but much less than it would have cost for room and board. Estimate your cost of public transit, a parking permit, if applicable, and gas for your car.
Even if you plan to live on campus, make sure you include the costs to get to and from school during breaks.
How can you lower the cost of transportation?
Try the following options to lower or avoid travel costs:
- Take public transit. Public transit is often cheaper than the cost of gas and doesn’t put wear on your car.
- Carpool with a classmate. Some schools may offer rideshare or carpool programs to help split the cost.
- Take online classes. Of course, online courses allow you to study from home and completely avoid traveling.
Finding the cost of Texas schools
If you’re still trying to find the right school for you, cost is probably a major factor. Our Program Explorer can help filter Texas schools by cost to help you find the right fit for your budget. Once you find a school, you can use the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) Net Price Calculator to get an estimate based on your situation.