January 2, 2015

Calculating College Living Expenses

The Chronicle of Higher Education examined the results of two recent College Board reports, “Trends in College Pricing” and “Trends in Student Aid.”  These reports found that the average list price of tuition and fees for in-state students at public, four-year colleges in 2014-15 ($9,139) is surpassed by room and board charges for the same students ($9,804).  The Chronicle explored whether and how cost of living should be calculated as part of the price of college.
When colleges and universities calculate the estimated cost of attendance, they add tuition, fees, room, board, and books, among other things.  This calculation is important because it’s used to determine (1) a student’s financial need and (2) a college’s net price, as defined by the federal government.

The Chronicle explores how institutions are free to make choices when adding up estimated attendance costs (i.e., calculating transportation by bus pass versus car maintenance), as well as how institutions located in the same city vary greatly in their estimates for housing and food, especially for off-campus students.  Such freedoms and variations raise questions about whether students and their families can rely upon an institution’s estimation of living expenses when making consumer-driven choices.

The full article can be read here.