With tuition constantly on the rise and scholarship requirements rising with it, cost is becoming the deciding factor in choosing a college. But most students are comparing prices incorrectly. They are only comparing the price of tuition when really the basic cost of college consists of tuition, room & board, fees, and books. These are the costs that will occur every semester and the sum of these expenses will give you a better idea of the cost of your college education.

Not taking all these costs into account when choosing a college is how you go into debt. I know several people who had scholarships that paid for their tuition, but they went into over $10,000 worth of debt because they didn’t have the funds for room & board and fees.

You can easily find estimates and exact prices for these expenses online or in the college brochure. Books are the only cost you can don’t have to research and will be the same no matter where you go. (Thank you, Amazon and Chegg!) Also if you plan to attend college near your home and commute, don’t put your room & board costs as $0. Instead put in amount of gas money you will need.

Below is an example of the best way to compare with college is cheaper and how much money you need to finance college.

School Tuition Fees Dorm option #1 Dorm option #2 Total cost with dorm #1 Total cost with dorm #2
A College $30,000 $500 $2,000 $3,500 $32,500 $34,000
B University $5,500 $600 $4,000 $1,500 $10,100 $7,600
University of C $6000 $500 $3,000 $2,500 $9,500 $9,000

Now go forth and make better informed decisions.