Guest Blog: College Course Costs Not Always What They Appear to Be


Budgeting for college can be tricky business. Students and families must take into consideration tuition rates, living expenses, books, transportation and more, but even the most diligent financial planners cannot be fully effective when undisclosed costs are imposed.
 
This summer, I enrolled in an online class at Ivy Tech to fulfill a requirement before fall semester. As Ivy Tech reports, undergraduate in-state tuition is $116 per credit hour, so I anticipated a bill of roughly $350 for the course.  However, including fees and homework access, the course has cost roughly $550.
 
Where did the extra $200 go? Roughly half went to mandatory fees including a technology fee and student life fee, which are listed below the tuition chart on Ivy Tech’s web site. The other half purchased access to MyMathLab, an online portal that houses required homework and quizzes. This course is not $116 per credit hour but closer to $183 … and that doesn’t include the book or exam proctor fees.
 
Unfortunately, students (at most, if not all, colleges and universities) are all too familiar with these additional, often hidden, costs of school, both institutional and course-specific. While institution-wide mandatory fees are generally listed on a bill statement, they are not always included in the per-hour tuition figure. Furthermore, course-specific and professor-specific costs – such as access to homework and class participation clickers – are often unknown until the first day of class. For many students, finding a couple hundred more dollars for each class simply is not a financial possibility.
 
But Indiana colleges and universities can make a few minor changes to assist students in their financial planning. First, institutions must make tuition and mandatory fees more transparent by reporting them as one figure. While most institutions combine tuition and fees for estimations of annual cost of attendance, fees are often left out of per credit hour figures, making the tuition rate misleading and confusing to students. Second, professors should report any additional fees required for their classes at the time of enrollment to allow students to make the best financial decision for them.
 
As college costs continue to rise, students and families must have accurate and complete information to effectively budget. Transparency in all fees will help them financially prepare for school.

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Hannah Rozow is the student representative on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. A senior at Indiana University in Bloomington, she is pursuing a double major in economics and political science with a minor in Spanish.

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