After you decide to go to college, whether you are a high school senior, or have been serving in the military for ten years, you will need to figure out the costs of college as well as how you will be paying for everything. The costs associated with going to college differ based on the school, your living situation, and if you are going to go to school full or part-time.

Here is a breakdown of the costs associated with school and how you can help pay for them:

College Tuition

Your tuition is the cost of instruction. Colleges can charge this by semester, quarter, or even credit hours. Public universities have an in-state rate and an out-of-state rate. To be considered in-state you most likely will need to have been living in that state for a full year. Tuition rates can be different based on your major too.

Fees

College fees are for services associated with the college or university. They usually include things like the library, student government, and activities. They will vary based on the school and what they have to offer.

Often schools combine the tuition and fees into one amount. You should make sure to check out the breakdown, so you know exactly what the money’s for.

According to the College Board, the average tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 year were:

  • $34,740 for private schools
  • $9,970 for in-state public schools
  • $25,620 for out-of-state public schools

For Veterans, or members of the military community using the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

The Post 9/11 GI Bill is going to be one of the primary ways you can pay for your tuition and fees. The GI Bill should be able to cover the cost of going to any public college and up to $23,671.94 for a private school

Note 1: That is the rate as of August 1st, 2018. Prior to August 1st it’s $22,805.34.

Note 2: As of Veterans Day 2015, all 50 states provide in-state tuition to veterans regardless of official state of residence.  So there is no out-of-state cost of tuition for veterans using their GI Bill.

If you, however, need them to pay for more than that, you can look into the Yellow Ribbon program which will allow you to have the school and the VA pay the difference between the annual maximum cap that the GI Bill pays and the actual cost of the school.

Tuition Assistance is also a way to have your tuition paid for. The terms vary by your branch but all of them include paying up to $250 per credit hour, and the money is paid directly to the school.

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Room and Board

No matter who you are, you will have to pay to live during the time you go to college. For a more traditional college student, this can mean living on campus in the dorms. If this is what you are planning to do, there will be a certain amount that you would have to pay per semester or year to live there. You might have different options based on the school and what they have available to you.

If you are a freshman or sophomore, there could be a requirement to live on campus at your school. This will depend on the rules of the college or university. In other cases, there could be a waiting list to live on campus.

If you decide to live off campus, instead of room and board you would pay for your rent and any living expenses. If you are trying to decide what is cheaper, you would want to take a look at the cost of rent in the area, what your share would be if you had a roommate, and compare that to the school’s room and board costs.

Dining plans are also a part of room and board, and those can be flexible. You might want to get a full plan paying for three meals a day or a smaller plan assuming you won’t have all of your meals in the dining hall.

The average costs of room and board for the 2017-2018 year was $10,800 for a four-year public school and $12,210 for a private college or university.

The Post 9/11-GI Bill will give you a monthly housing allowance based on BAH rates for the state you are in. This money will go straight to you and you could use it towards room and board, or living off-campus.

 

Books and Supplies

Another college expense would be books and supplies. These sometimes include a computer or other required equipment. You can buy used textbooks to save money, and some schools allow you to rent them.

The average costs for books and supplies for the 2017-2018 school year was $1,250 for a public school and $1,220 for a private school.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill will give you $1,000 a year to help pay the cost of books. Due to the averages listed above, most likely that will cover all or almost all of your books and supplies.

 

Personal Expenses

You will have personal expenses while going to school such as the cost of transportation, a cell phone, and entertainment costs. These are usually costs you would have anyway, even if you were not going to school, but they are good to be aware of when planning your budget for the school year. If you live on campus and only have to go on a short walk to get to your classes, you will be paying a lot less than if you live 30 minutes from campus and have to commute.

Scholarships can be a good way to find the pay to pay for your schooling beyond the GI Bill and Tuition Assistance. This is even more important for military spouses. While some military spouses can qualify and receive MYCAA, not everyone can, and that might not be enough.

There are scholarships such as the AMVETS, which gives $4,000 each year, Fisher House for Military Children which gives $2,000 or Pat Tillman which can give you an average of $10,000 for school. Scholarships usually always pay for tuition and fees and sometimes for room and board, and books and supplies. There are different terms based on the award on what you can use the money for.

CLEP and DSST are exams you can take to receive college credit. Taking these exams means not having to take as many classes. This can lower your tuition rates, and if you can take enough of them, you can even shave off a semester or even a year from your college plan. You can also get college credit for your military service through ACE, which is the American Council on Education that evaluates military service for college credit.

Using the data from CollegeRecon.com, here is a comparison of costs based on a few different educational options:

 

The University of Maryland – Public

Tuition and Fees: In-state-$10,399, Out-of-state-$33,606

Room and Board: $12,004

Books and Supplies: $1,250

Other Expenses: $2,440

Total: In-state-$26,093, Out-of-state-$49,300

 

Baylor University – Private

Tuition and Fees: $43,970

Room and Board: $12,163

Books and Supplies: $1,200

Other Expenses: $3,080

Total: $60,413

 

San Diego State University – Public

Tuition and Fees: In-state-$7,460, Out-of-state-$19,340

Room and Board: $15,966

Books and Supplies: $1,854

Other Expenses: $2,944

Total: In-state-$28,224, Out-of-state-$40,104

 

Yale University – Private

Tuition and Fees: $51,400

Room and Board: $15,500

Books and Supplies:$3,670

Other Expenses: $720

Total: $71,290

 

Although seeing the full figure of admission cost for colleges and universities can be overwhelming, as a military service member, spouse or dependent, you do have many options. There are a lot of ways to pay for school that doesn’t include having to pay 100% of the costs yourself. Make sure to take advantage of any program you qualify for so you can have the best experience when it comes to paying for college.