Guide to College Fees

Guide to College Fees

The cost of college has risen dramatically over the last four decades, and this skyrocketing cost is often attributed to the rapid growth in tuition rates. Indeed, this is a major factor. But one of the oft-overlooked factors is the constantly rising cost of college fees. While much of what you pay for college goes to actual academic expenses such as instruction and learning facilities, you’re actually paying for a lot more than just your professor’s salary. Administrative, counseling, recreational, and residential expenses form a major part of your school’s infrastructure. This is where your fees come in. But how much can you expect to pay in college fees? And what exactly do these fees pay for?

What are college fees?

College fees refers to the additional costs for students beyond tuition and housing. While these latter two expenses form the larger basis for the cost of college, all students are also charged a collection of fees designed to finance a wide range of administrative functions, campus resources, student services, and more.

Every school applies college fees differently. Likewise, the array of fees that you will pay can vary depending on whether you are a full-time, part-time, on-campus, or online student. But generally speaking, you could pay fees for campus facilities like the student center, gym, and computer lab; for student services like intramural sports, live entertainment, and printing costs; for infrastructures like parking lots, athletic fields, and cable; or for administrative functions like enrollment, guidance, transcripts, and more.

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How do fees impact the sticker price of college?

While fees cover a lot of ground, they can also sometimes catch students and families by surprise. While every college advertises a sticker price, this does not always factor in considerations like college fees or financial aid packages. These factors taken together determine the actual net price of a college.

While financial aid can actually result in a lower net price than a school’s sticker price, college fees can do the opposite. Before factoring in your financial aid package, you can typically assume that college fees will raise your net price by anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars.

Increasingly, there are colleges who advertise “comprehensive fees,” which is just one way of saying that tuition, fees, and housing are bundled into a single sticker price. When colleges promote their pricing this way, they help mitigate the sticker shock that sometimes occurs when college fees are tabulated.

For a closer look at the real cost of college, versus the sticker price, check out our comprehensive Guide to Paying for College.

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How can I find out what my college fees cover?

You can find out what your college fees cover by reaching out to a financial office at your college or university. Ask for a ledger that shows exactly what your fees cover so you have a better sense of where your money is being spent.

As noted, every college breaks down its fees differently. Some larger colleges may invest more in certain amenities and perks. A small regional college may keep fees low by providing modest housing and by limiting its involvement in competitive sports. A wealthy private university serving a large student population may invest enormous sums in recreational facilities, event performance spaces, and state-of-the-art student centers.

Every college prioritizes its expenses differently. These priorities determine what you will be paying for, and how much it is likely to cost you. The type of college experience you desire will have an impact on the college fees you will need to pay. Keep this in mind as you make a list of exactly what you need out of your college experience because in most cases, you will be paying for it.

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How much will college fees usually cost?

College fees typically cost at least $1300, but may be much higher depending on the school you go to.

As noted above, college fees vary based on the type of school you choose. Schools with more amenities, stronger reputations, and larger administrative infrastructures will likely charge more in fees. In other words, the cost of your college fees will likely be proportional to the larger cost of attending your college.

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What are the different types of college fees?

The different types of college fees you will pay include orientation fees, campus fees, athletic fees, and more. U.S. News and World Report provides a basic overview of the types of fees you will likely pay.

Orientation Fees
Orientation fees cost $50 to $300. Your fees may include some designated amount for an orientation weekend or other activities which could include meals, overnight housing, informational materials, university branded paraphernalia, and more. Orientation customs and associated fees will vary by school.
Campus Fees
Campus fees typically cost at least $1000. This is usually the most expensive line item included in the list of fees. Campus fees can pay for various resources including student activity centers, fitness facilities, infrastructural maintenance, security, and more.
Lab Fees
Lab fees cost approximately $150. Most students will pay a modest fee for the use of laboratory facilities and other hands-on science resources.
Spirit or Athletic Fees
These fees can vary widely and may depend on the emphasis which each school places on its athletics programs. Students interested in attending schools with competitive national athletics programs should expect their fees to include some funding for athletics activities including stadium maintenance, rally events, coaching salaries, and more.
Assorted Fees
A wide range of other fees may or may not apply. Fees will vary from one school to another, but additional fees may include:
  • Technology fees
  • Environmental fees
  • Transportation fees
  • Health and wellness fees
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How do college fees contribute to the rising cost of tuition?

Growing college fees are contributing to the rising cost of college. According to Business Insider, colleges and universities are spending a greater proportion of revenue than ever before on non-instructional roles, particularly in the area of student services. Terry Hartle, a senior vice president of the American Council on Education, told Business Insider that Services such as academic support, personal counseling, and healthcare have been on the rise [and that] [t]hese services are always added because of student needs, and most schools, once they begin to offer them, are very reluctant to take them away.

Once again, this underscores the key point that your college fees will depend on the type of educational experience you seek. If you desire a campus experience with the full range of amenities, services, and recreational opportunities, expect to pay for it.

Tuition has certainly gone up over the last several decades, but to an extent, the growing emphasis on non-instructional costs is also contributing to the growing cost of college. For more on this trend, check out our Focus on Rising Tuition.

Otherwise, jump to our comprehensive Guide to Paying for College to learn more about the real cost of a higher education.