Post-secondary education is expensive, and the cost is continuing to rise. These expenses are usually more than what people expect. That’s because they don’t think about the additional costs on top of tuition. 

According to Knowledge First Financial, in 2022, the cost of a 4-year university degree on average is $50,414 without student residence, and $93,284 with student residence. Add to that the costs for books, food and transportation. That is a lot of money to pay out of pocket, and a lot of debt if your child needs to take out a student loan. 

This article will help you and your child identify additional considerations when estimating the cost of their university or college years, so you can begin planning how you're going to save.

Factors to consider when your child goes to college

There are many variables that determine the cost of your child's education. Every student's situation will be different and may change throughout the years. 

Will they attend post-secondary school in their home country or away? 

There will be a significant cost difference for a child who pursues post-secondary education in their home country vs. one that goes across the border or overseas for their studies. 

An international student will almost always pay more than if they were to study in their home country. The average tuition cost for a U.S. college is $10,388/yr for in-state public college students and $22,698/yr for out-of-state public college students, according to U.S. News & World Report.  A Canadian student would pay between $35,000 and $45,000/yr for public college as an international student, according to IEFA.org. On the other hand, if an American student is studying in Canada, they would pay approximately 5x more than a domestic student. On average, a domestic undergrad student pays $6,693 for tuition in 2021/2022, while international undergrad students are paying on average $33,623, according to Statistics Canada.

What degree will they take?

Different types of undergraduate programs have different costs. For example, arts degrees, such as psychology, sociology, and criminology are typically lower in price than engineering, dentistry, and commerce programs.

Maybe your child won't be going to get a bachelor's degree, but will instead get an associate’s degree from a community college. In this case, the program would usually cost less and be for a shorter period of time - maybe two years instead of four. 

If your child finishes their bachelor's degree and decides to go on to get a master's degree or PhD., it will add additional costs since they’ll be studying for a much longer period of time. It could be up to 10 years of higher education.

What institution will they attend?

The institution that your child chooses to attend will also impact the cost of tuition and other education costs. For instance, community colleges often don’t have a lot of student facilities, such as residence and athletics, or large research departments; therefore, the tuition is less than at a university. Further, each post-secondary institute isn’t the same cost. Private schools usually have much higher tuition rates. For example, in the U.S., private colleges charge on average $50,000 to $75,000 per year, according to IEFA.org.

Where is your child going to live?

There are multiple living options that your child will have to choose from when. If they attend a university with student residence, depending on the institution and residence options, it could cost up to $20,000 to live on-campus for the school year, including a meal plan, internet, etc., according to PearsonPTE. If a student decides to live off-campus, then the monthly costs to think about are rent, groceries, internet, utilities, and transportation to classes. The student may only need to pay a portion of the off-campus living cost if living with roommates. For students living off-campus, if they will be going back home for the summer and have a year lease, it’s important to remember that they may still need to cover rent during the summer months, even though they aren’t living there. It’s possible that students may want to stay on-campus for their first couple of years, and then off-campus on their own or with friends.

How much will books and supplies cost?

The high cost of textbooks usually shocks people. For example, a single textbook can cost more than $200 for a course that lasts four months. However, it is possible to find a more affordable option, such as getting the digital version, renting the book, or buying it second-hand. It's a good idea to look at your child's classes, figure out what books will be required and their costs, and ensure there are some funds available for those books. 

School supplies are also an additional cost, which can be similar to what you were paying when your child was in primary and secondary school. Notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, and sometimes specific calculators will be needed, depending on the classes they'll be taking. 

Another cost that sometimes gets overlooked is the cost of technology. Having a reliable laptop is almost essential for a university or college student. Of course, students can use a computer in the school's library and study rooms, but having their own that they can take anywhere, and ensure their work is properly saved is best.

How will they get to class? 

Fortunately, most universities have discounted bus passes built into the tuition costs, but not all. It's possible that your child’s transportation to and from classes will add some extra costs to your funding plans. If your child lives off-campus, they will need to take the bus or drive to school, unless they live close enough to walk. If they already have a car, they will have to pay for gas and parking, which can add up to a significant amount.

Will they be travelling home for holidays and breaks?

Though this is not a cost that is directly related to attending a college or university, it is something that will come up if your child is going to school far away from home. Travelling during the holidays, and when students are beginning and ending the school year usually has higher costs because these are peak travel seasons.

What extracurricular activities will they participate in?

Students, especially in their first year of university, may want to participate in extracurricular activities. Some are free, and some have fees. The first one you'll face is orientation week; plenty of universities charge a fee to participate in orientation week activities. Also, if students want to join a specific club, whether it's a sorority, robotics or debate club, they usually come with a membership fee. Access to fitness centers or the gym is usually an extra cost at most universities. 

Now that you know the types of costs that might need to be paid when your child goes to school, you can start figuring out which ones will apply to your child. Then, you can better estimate how much will need to be saved for their education, and can also ensure that you have a buffer for some of those unexpected costs that may come up. There are many saving options, and speaking with a financial professional in advance can help you find what works for you. If you’d like to learn some additional tips on how to prepare for the cost of your child’s education, check out our on-demand webinar: Financial Capability Series: Funding education.

Many students are willing to work part-time throughout high school and while attending post-secondary school to make their own money to help pay for their education. Awards, bursaries, or scholarships may also cover some costs of education.

You should also discuss these costs with your child, so they are aware of how much their education costs, and how it's being funded. It's good to start educating your child about financial literacy at a young age, so they know how to better manage their money once they become independent and are out on their own. 

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