Understanding the hidden costs of attending college

By Alex Bavosa

Jack Donovan, a junior political science major at the University of Georgia, is a part of UGA’s Army ROTC program, which means he’s not the typical student when it comes to paying for college.

The U.S. Army program pays for his tuition, while also providing him a monthly stipend of $420 with an additional $600 per semester. But even with that financial support, Donovan has discovered there are many hidden costs associated with the life of a college student that can make the experience an expensive one.

Donovan said, based on his experience, food has emerged as his biggest expense of being a college student.

“You are either on the meal plan or getting groceries, and neither of those are cheap. When I got to college, I didn’t realize I would be eating out as much as I do either, because of all the freedom that comes with being in college,” he said. “It’s turned out to be a ton of money.”

While food turned out to be a major expense Donovan wasn’t expecting, he also said he’s confronted other expenses that most students do not realize are significant until they get to college.

“Textbooks are very expensive… [But] it’s the little things that add up. Tate Center print and copy, school supplies and parking,” said Donovan. “I think parking should either be free for students or a significant discount. You should not have to pay for a spot in a parking lot that may not even be near your classes… I don’t even know what the parking fees are, but I know they are probably too high.”

According to the UGA parking services’ website, the school offers three different permits for students who want to park on campus: red zones, blue zones and yellow zones. Red zones, which are closest to campus, cost $360 for the fall and spring semesters, while blue and yellow zones charge $270 and $180. Yellow zones are completely off campus while blue zones are mostly on the outskirts.

Parking is just one of the many fees students must face when they step on campus.

Ben Jacobs, a financial planner and a part-time instructor at UGA, said students consult with him for financial advice mainly about student loans, but the amount of those can depend on how students understand and address their fees.

Jacobs said students should investigate students’ fees and understand how they can add up.

“So, looking at the parking fees and then the student activity fees, and books add on top of that too. Also, if you want to join clubs or organizations those are going to cost you as well,” said Jacobs. “I remember in college I was a part of the rowing team and our dues were $500 per semester.”

The UGA Bursar and Treasury Services office provides students with a table of the fiscal year 2020-2021 mandatory fees per semester on its website. There are 10 fees in total, including a health fee of $206 and a special institutions fee of $450, all of which add up to $1,145 per semester for students at UGA.

These fees give students access to many things through the university. The health fee allows students to use the University Health Center at a highly discounted rate, while athletic ($53) and recreational ($15) fees allow students to attend sporting events and have access to the student gym.

Alex Bavosa is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.

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