Decorating that first dorm or sitting down to the first meal in a dining hall are both exciting parts of the college experience. But a recent survey by the College Board shows they may also make up one of its biggest costs. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us what parents and students can do to help keep those expenses down.
OSWEGO, N.Y. -- It's not just the prospect of living with a stranger for the first time that can rattle students' nerves before heading off to campus life. The price tag can also be pretty intimidating.
"Families are really struggling with, 'How are we going to make this happen?'" said Mark Humbert, SUNY Oswego Financial Aid Director.
A recent survey from the College Board shows the cost of food and housing at public universities can actually outweigh tuition prices. Students at four year schools paid an average of $8,655 in tuition, a five percent jump from the previous year. But food and housing beat that by about $550.
It's something SUNY Oswego's seen, too, in part because the state sets tuition rates for SUNY schools.
Humbert said, "As costs of feeding and maintaining buildings and energy have gone up, we've had to raise those costs."
The difference is even bigger for two year schools. There, room and board costs beat out tuition by about $4,000. Financial aid officials urge students and parents to speak up if they need help meeting those costs.
In addition to state and federal financial aid, some schools are adding their own programs to help keep costs down. For instance, the Oswego Guarantee sets one rate for room and board for each incoming class for their entire college career.
"So we may be a hair higher on the front end, but as a family, you know exactly what you're going to pay for the next four years and so that's a real benefit for a family to know the predictability," Humbert said.
Another prediction: The rising costs aren't something that's likely to go away. The survey shows tuition and fees for public and private schools are up 13 27 percent above inflation over the past five years.