Largest College Expenses Broken Down

Graduation hat and dollar banknotes on table. Tuition fees concept

As the world seems to be getting back to some semblance of normal, many incoming college freshmen are preparing to start their Fall and Spring semesters of college. Although many universities opted for remote learning over the course of our global pandemic, in-person classes are starting up again all over the country.

Those who are attending college are coming off of a time of uncertainty to say the least. While many industries thrived during the pandemic, many suffered during this time as well, which means that some students have more financial resources than others to pay for college.

Below, we go over a few of the major college expenses that students can expect to pay over the course of their college careers.


Tuition is always going to be one of the biggest expenses, especially the more prestigious the school. The average in-state tuition in Colorado, for instance, is $10,800 — and that’s only for a seat in the classroom. Students spend hundreds (even thousands) of dollars on other expenses.


Even if you’re living in a dorm, you can expect to pay around $11,500 per year for room and board while you attend college. Rent is pretty much the silent killer when it comes to most college expenses. You have to have a place to live — and living close to college is rarely cheap.

Some students are able to dodge the rent trap and end up living at home and attending colleges in their hometowns, however, some might view this as a social compromise of sorts.

Those who live off-campus can expect to pay somewhere around the same amount as they would living in a dorm — less if a student houses with roommates, more if they decide to live alone.

Living Essentials

Some students will have to invest in laptops while others will have to get new furniture for their college living spaces. All students will have to think about paying for food, beverages, and any creature comforts they’ll need over the course of their college years. If a student insists on going to the organic food store, they might expect to pay somewhere close to around $500 a month on groceries or more, while a student looking to save money might be able to get away with $100 or less in grocery expenses each month.


Books are another sneaky expense for college students. While in high school maybe a student can expect to shell out some dollars for one or two books, a college student is responsible for supplying their own reading materials for each course they take. Some science and history books can cost $75-$150 or more — and many classes require more than one book (some even several — like 7-10). 

Many students end up working jobs to pay their college expenses while others might be fortunate enough to have a scholarship or family support. Students looking to make and save money can work remotely and cut down on car expenses by walking and taking public transportation. If a student gets in a bind, money-wise, student loans are viable options, while less traditional options are available as well, such as car title loans.

While it’s a hard fact of life that college expenses can often end up standing in the way of an optimum college experience, there are ways for students to cut back on cost and get out of college without a hefty amount of debt.