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College Student Fees To Know And How To Pay Them

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

A pair of hands opening a black wallet.

As a college student, there are many expenses you have to deal with. 

Personally, paying expenses after moving out of my childhood home was particularly daunting. I suddenly had to go from simply worrying about having enough money to pay for DoorDash takeout, to worrying about rent, electric bills, internet fees, and income taxes. 

The best thing you can do is prepare for these fees. Overestimate your expenses, underestimate your income. This is the key to managing your fees as a college student.

Prepare for larger costs first

First, anticipate your big fees – the most common one being your tuition. According to CollegeBoard, the yearly costs for school are as follows:

Public Two-Year College (in-district students): $3,440

Public Four-Year College (in-state students): $9,410

Public Four-Year College (out-of-state students): $23,890

Private Four-Year College: $32,410

These fees can vary greatly. At Rutgers University, I pay $12,230 in tuition as an in-state student.

Always anticipate student fees as well, which are fees used to fund resources around campus, such as transportation costs, library fees, and maintenance. For student fees, I pay about $3,177, which adds up to over $15,000 total! 

So, how can you prepare for tuition costs?

One thing you can do is see if your university offers a payment plan. Not all colleges expect you to pay their tuition in one day. Many schools work with students individually to break up their payment into monthly or bi-monthly installments over the course of a semester or calendar year.

These payment plans are offered for not only fall and spring semesters but also winter and summer semesters as well. While most payment plans are interest-free, schools charge more for monthly payments or charge an enrollment fee or down payment for a percentage of your tuition fees.

Some colleges work with external companies to provide this kind of financing. Ask your school’s academic or financial advisor for more information on starting a payment plan.

One of the benefits of payment plans is that they give you time, which may allow you to find work or apply for external scholarships and grants to help fund your upcoming semester.

If a supporting party is helping you pay for school, payment plans also make it easier for them to contribute. They can then anticipate the fees themselves, and it gives them time to split up their finances per month rather than take a huge hit to the bank account one time.

However, don’t wait until the last minute to start! The sooner you start before tuition payments are due, the smaller your payments will be. 

Be persistent

You should also keep in touch with your school’s financial aid office. Are you disappointed with your financial aid package?

Although your financial aid office already issued your package, it doesn’t mean they can’t help you more if you contact them. Many schools have scholarships and emergency financial aid available for students who have unmet financial needs or are experiencing financial difficulties.

Financial aid offices are great resources to get more information on applying for scholarships and grants, and they know about being smart with student loans. They can also help you apply for a work-study program on campus!

Should You Take Out A Student Loan?

Look into loans

Private student loans are also an option that may be right for you. Luckily, many student loan lenders take applications year round, so they are an option for unanticipated emergencies.

Private student loans can be ideal to put together what you can already pay out of pocket and what you still need to pay your school. Even if you have already borrowed money from a private lender this year, you might still be eligible to apply for more loans and funds.

Private student loans can offer lower interest rates than credit cards, which may also be a reason why you should take out a student loan instead as many schools don’t accept credit cards as a method for paying college tuition.

Those that do often charge additional processing or convenience fees, which is usually a hefty percentage of the total transaction. If you add that fee to the high interest rates that you’ll be charged on your balance, it will make your tuition way more expensive than it needs to be.

There are also options to defer your private student loans. This means that you won’t have to start paying them back until after you graduate with your degree, giving you less to worry about and more time to study and get the full college experience.

However, there are many pitfalls to student loans, especially since student loans are a top contributor to debt. While the student loan route is convenient, you should still make small, affordable payments while you’re in school to lower the overall cost of your education.

Applying for student loans is straightforward and easy, often needing only a simple online application and a credit check. Some loans require a cosigner, so make sure whoever cosigns with you is dependable and has a strong financial background with a good credit score. This will make it more likely for your student loan application to be approved. 

Apply to as many scholarships as you can

Applying for scholarships and grants is a sure way to gain some funds for tuition. There are so many scholarships and grants for a variety of subjects: the only limit is how many you actually end up applying to!

While some scholarships require an application fee, there are thousands of scholarships that do not. Scholarships and grant applications are open year round, so it is never too late or early to apply.

Scholarships and grants aren’t just limited to your academic ability (although a good GPA and an impressive transcript would open up more doors). 

Do you play a sport or an instrument? There are plenty of private scholarships as well as university scholarships that offer money to those trying to perfect a craft.

While some scholarships require you to participate in your scholarship’s event when you go to university, many private scholarships are given to those simply through application, tryouts, audition, or portfolio.

What makes you unique? Many private scholarships are given to those who are from specific ethnicities or for those who speak certain languages.

There are scholarships specifically for those with physical or mental disabilities that offer opportunities for members of the community to fund extra money for needed services at their designated university. There are also scholarships for those who are LGBTQIA+. 

There are even scholarships for doing absolutely nothing. If you are a person who is not excited to write essays or put together portfolios, then these scholarships are for you.

Simply send in an application and you’ll win a chance to receive the scholarship! Niche offers a $2,000 “No Essay” College Scholarship, which is open to all high school and college students. Simply make an account and apply!

Find College Scholarships

Don’t forget smaller expenses

Another expense to anticipate is room and board fees. Don’t forget transportation fees as well. There are plenty of ways to get around your campus without having to pay for a $10 Uber trip every time!

Many campuses offer bus systems at no cost to the individual student. These bus systems are mapped to go to your campus’s biggest landmarks, so make sure you learn and dominate the bus system before starting school to save the extra buck!

For more ideas on affordable transportation, exercise can actually help with that. Have you ever considered running or biking to your classes?

One positive with many campuses is the option to take secluded sidewalks to go from class to class. By running, biking, skateboarding, or even scootering to your classes, you can save on gas and parking fees.

Textbooks and school supplies can eat up a lot of your finances, so planning and budgeting for them is crucial to maintaining your finances.

Course materials can take up a large chunk of your budget. On average, the overall estimated cost of books and supplies for in-state students living on campus at public four-year institutions was $1,250.

Plan for purchases like notebooks, a laptop, a printer and a backpack, and read the do’s and don’ts of back-to-school shopping for money-saving tips.

Another surprising money grabber as a college student is clothing. Yes, clothing.

If you are an out of state student, this one can apply to you. Out of state education means limited travel space. Between bed sheets, electronics, and other equipment you may need, there may not be much room to take all of your favorite pairs of shoes.

Prepare to spend money on clothing in college so you don’t feel like you’re wearing the same outfit every 4 days.

Another thing to consider if you are an out of state student is climate! Let’s say you’re traveling from sunny Atlanta, Georgia to study at the University of Maine.  Although you’ll have some gorgeous evenings, it can get quite cold, and your closet may not be filled with many warm winter coats.

Prepare for all climates by adjusting to it once you arrive at college. You’ll be glad you were financially ready!

If you are an in-state student, maybe you know your area’s climate well enough to know exactly how to fill your dorm room closet. However, remember that there are other events you will attend aside from your nightly Monday math classes.

Take into account physical activities, festivities, and career opportunity events you may not expect to attend. Make sure you are financially prepared to purchase any clothing you might need last minute.


Speaking of “unexpected expenses,” make sure you fit those “treat yourself” expenses into your budgeting plans. This is the hardest one to document.

However, set aside a bit of your earnings to have fun. Whether you decide to take a day trip off campus with some college friends,  get some takeout with your roomie after a long day of studying, or get yourself a music subscription to help you relax on your way to class, make sure you plan to be financially comfortable enough to afford necessary luxuries. Do not deprive yourself of having fun, simply plan for it!


Keeping college fees in mind aside from managing the ones that may sneak up on you is crucial to making sure your finances as a college student are successful.

You’ll be glad your finances are so organized when you can spend less time borrowing money and more time living your truest college life!

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