Will college cost you more than you think?
By Gavin Sullivan
The cost of college defies gravity: It has outpaced inflation by about 2 percent for public universities, and increased 12 times over since 1978, according to a 2012 Bloomberg report. Even as some universities have shattered the $50,000 mark in annual tuition, students are increasingly burdened with additional fees and costs throughout the admissions process. The Mash takes a look at the true cost of getting into college.
Standardized test fees
As if the ACT and SAT weren’t fun enough, students face a maze of fees related to the tests. Expect to pay about $50 to test, but add $22-27 if you register late. Each test includes four free score reports for colleges or scholarship agencies, but each additional report is $11. Note that the $11 SAT report includes scores from every test sitting, while the $11 ACT report only includes one test sitting. Sandra Riley, spokesperson for the College Board, says “all revenue [from these fees] is invested back into programs” such as the CollegeEd guidance program or the SAT assessments. She adds that during the last year, the College Board awarded $113 million in free programs. Fee waiver information is available online at
actstudent.org and collegeboard.org.
U.S. News ranks Stanford No. 1 in highest cost for application fees at a whopping $90. So, where does the money go? Stanford declined a request for comment, but Stacey Kostell and Allen Lentino, admissions directors for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern, respectively, agree that schools typically use the fees to cover processing costs. Before submitting applications, students should first check if their school offers a fee waiver to eligible candidates.
Time: A precious commodity
The Common Application makes applying to multiple colleges as easy as checking a box, with one catch: some schools require supplemental essays. Scott Southern, a 2011 New Trier grad and sophomore at the University of Chicago, says early action programs helped him save time. “I applied probably on the lower scale of most people: five or six schools.” Because he received an acceptance letter in December, he didn’t fill out more applications. “Some kids go really crazy and do 20,” Southern says.
Spend money to get money
Colleges often tout their financial aid programs, but it’s not always easy for students to dip into those funds. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) costs nothing to fill out, but some universities and scholarships also require the College Board’s College Scholarship Service PROFILE, which helps students find financial aid that doesn’t come from the government. Applicants must pay $25 to send their PROFILE to one institution, and $16 for each additional report, although some students may qualify for a fee waiver.
“New student” fees
Schools spend money to teach students the ropes, and many pass along these expenses through “new student” fees. Kostell of U. of I. says her school’s $150 charge helps provide “student orientation and that first-year experience.” Many Chicago-area schools, including DePaul and Loyola University Chicago, charge comparable fees.
Sticker price vs. real price
College students face soaring costs for books, transportation, meals and more. Lentino of Northwestern explains that the university’s financial aid office conducts surveys of current students to gauge their actual expenses to determine an average. “All of [the extra costs] become a part of the budget that we use for financial aid consideration,” says Lentino, and give financial aid officers a more realistic idea of how much aid a student needs. Some students’ aid packages, however, might not cover all of their costs. Georgetown University, for example, allots only $650 for transportation per year. If you fly home to Chicago for the holidays, you might bust your budget.
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