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July 17, 2019

3 Hidden Costs to College

As a student, I wish I had known about these hidden college costs.

Students should know about these 3 hidden college costs

Students should know about these 3 hidden college costs.

Carry-on baggage fees, seat selection charges, boarding pass fees.

Airlines are known for nickel and diming their patrons, which makes understanding the true cost of a flight that much more difficult to understand. An affordable $200 boarding pass can balloon to over $300 pretty easily.

Breaking down the true cost of college is no different.

When I went to college, I was not allowed a car on campus my Freshman year. I was upset. I ‘deserved’ to have my car to travel to and from school, which was over 3 hours away. At the time I did not realize that my school was doing me a favor.

I was saving on a substantial hidden college cost. I did not properly factor in gas, insurance, parking into my college equation.

That got me thinking – what are the other indirect costs of college?


The average airline ticket in the domestic US is $379. Typically, a student will make 6 trips back and forth from home – Thanksgiving, Christmas break and again at the end of the year. Maybe tack on something for Spring break, too. Call it 8.

This adds up substantially, especially when considering what we already mentioned – boarding pass fees, seat selection costs, meals at airports. It adds up in a very significant way.


I remember buying my books Freshman year. I was going to keep them forever. Accounting 101, Finance 101. Little did I know that those books would collect dust and would be obsolete for my actual profession after college.

The median price of buying books & supplies is a whopping $1,400/year. So, the dusty books in my closet, which have very little resell value, are a huge cost. Consider these hacks to paying less for books.

Fraternity/Sorority Dues

College is about learning and education, but it equally about networking and building strong bonds with your peers. A popular and easy way to do this is by joining a group.

The cost of this ranges substantially. Let’s call it $500. With the median personal expense cost is $2,212 (kegs of beer, GrubHub deliveries included).

At the end of the day, these costs are mostly necessary college costs, but ones I know I did not consider or recognize as I ventured to college.

Maybe flying to California from New York 6 times a year adds up too much. Maybe renting books is cheaper than buying. Maybe making dinner a few nights a week will help with weekly personal expenses.

These indirect costs are necessary to factor in to your college decision, and will help you better understand the true cost of college.

Photograph of Mike Zappulla
Mike Zappulla
Vice President, Customer Acquisition

Mike Zappulla is proven digital marketing expert, with experience managing over $150MM in direct response ad spend on both paid social and paid search. 

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