6 Unexpected College Fees to Budget For

Quick Answer

Aside from tuition, college students may encounter additional costs, like parking fees, testing fees, lab fees and more. Researching fees at your school can help you plan and budget for extra expenses.

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When discussing the cost of college, most of us think about sky-high tuition prices or the notoriously high costs of textbooks, but there are other costs to consider before heading off to campus. Unexpected costs of attending college can include fees for clubs, parking, test registrations and more. Let's uncover some lesser-known college expenses so you can prepare for them this school year and beyond.

1. Test Registration Fees

Universities may charge exam and proctor fees to administer tests. Depending on your chosen career path, you could also encounter other admissions-related testing fees that are required for acceptance into advanced degree programs. For example, the LSAT test fee for law school is $215 plus the $195 fee for the Credential Assembly Service, which electronically sends information to schools. The registration fee for the MCAT for medical school is $325, and $130 for test takers who qualify for financial assistance.

2. Lab, Studio and Technology Fees

College courses that have a lab component may charge an extra fee for the lab, which covers supplies and special facilities. Art programs may charge studio fees for courses that aren't theory-related. Taking several courses with labs or studios per semester can add up to a substantial sum. Plus, schools may charge technology fees for the upkeep and purchasing of hardware and software that's available to students.

3. Student Health Care and Insurance

Universities often provide on-campus health services that students can use for routine care or health education, and this doesn't come free. For example, the University of Southern California (USC) charges a $527 fee per semester that goes to cover its health programs.

On top of the health care fee, universities may require that students purchase health insurance through the school if they aren't otherwise insured. Again, fees can vary by school. For the USC fall 2022 semester, the on-campus insurance rate is $805 and the spring 2023 semester's rate is $1,468. In comparison, Delaware State University has an $855 annual fee for its insurance plan.

4. Parking Fees

The cost to park your car at school can add up day after day and month after month. However, rather than paying a daily rate, you may be able to get a long-term rate that's cheaper. For example, Temple University's parking fee is $11 for each entry, which can rack up if you enter and leave often. However, buying an overnight parking pass for a flat $420 fee each semester could save you some cash, and a five-day-per-week commuter pass is just $260 per semester.

5. Dues for Clubs and Greek Life

Typically, joining sororities and fraternities means paying fees for pledging and then ongoing fees for maintaining membership. Clubs and extracurricular activities, such as intramural sports, may also come with a fee. Fees can vary by school and by the organization you join, and some schools offer a cost breakdown so you can prepare for the expense.

For instance, the University of Arizona lists Greek membership costs on its website, and historically Black sororities and fraternities at its school may charge an average intake fee of $850 and active dues of $200. TikTok sensation the University of Alabama Panhellenic Association, in contrast, states its new member fees range from $4,100 to $4,900 for the first year—and that doesn't count fees for living in Greek housing.

If you can't find prices on your school's website, reaching out to local Greek chapters and clubs can help you get a more accurate idea of how much you should budget for before joining.

6. Graduation Costs

Perhaps this is your last year of school. Congrats! You're in the home stretch. But there are a few fees to pay before you walk across the stage.

Schools might charge graduation-related administrative fees that can range from $25 to $100. Besides those fees, you'll need to purchase your own cap, gown, tassels or hoods. And if you're planning on getting a class ring or other graduation gear, you'll have to factor that into your budget.

How to Pay for Extra College Costs

When the money you have saved up for school can't cover your education costs, the first step should be to explore grants and scholarships, which usually don't have to be repaid. Federal student loans can help cover additional costs and offer low interest rates and borrower perks that can make payments manageable. Students can apply for federal loans and other student aid by filling out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form online at StudentAid.gov.

If you need more money to cover school bills, here are other options to consider:

  • Get a part-time job. Making money at college no longer has to mean working outside of your dorm or apartment for another four to five hours after an exhausting day at school. You may be able to find a part-time remote position, or you could even consider offering freelance services in an area of interest, like photography, writing or tutoring.
  • Apply for private student loans. If you've exhausted federal aid, applying for private student loans could help you pay for lingering costs. Keep in mind that lenders check your credit score when you apply for private loans, and having limited credit could make it harder to qualify. However, applying with a cosigner could help you get approved and secure a better interest rate.
  • Carpool to school. If you carpool with someone you know, you could split the cost of a parking space, saving you some cash each semester.
  • Buy a long-term parking pass. Investing in a monthly parking pass could be cheaper than paying for parking at your school each day.
  • Take public transportation. Some colleges provide free or subsidized public transportation to students. If your college is in an area with reliable public transportation, consider leaving your car at home.
  • Get on your parent's health insurance. If you're under 26 years old, staying on or joining your parent's health insurance plan could help you avoid having to pay for the insurance offered by your school.
  • Explore financial assistance for testing. In some cases, students who demonstrate financial need may be able to qualify for reduced fees for admissions tests for advanced degrees. For example, if you're preparing to take the GRE for grad school, you could qualify for a 50% discount on the test.

The Bottom Line

Tuition costs aren't the only college expense students have to worry about: Miscellaneous fees charged for certain classes, tech fees, parking costs and other administrative fees can add up as well. If you're considering private student loans to finance education costs, shopping around to compare rates and terms can help you find a good deal. With Experian CreditMatchTM, you can get personalized loan offers after filling out one form, and it only involves a soft credit inquiry that won't affect your credit score.

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