Preparing for Unexpected College Expenses

Some college costs can catch you off guard, especially if this is your first time sending a child off to school.

Once you’ve made plans to cover college tuition for your child — either through savings, student loans, or scholarships — don’t overlook these types of expenses when budgeting for the academic year.

Campus Parking and Transportation

Depending on your child’s college campus of choice, you may need to purchase a bicycle with a top-notch lock or plan to budget for public transportation.

If your student is taking a car to school, know that parking on most campuses is at a premium. As a result, universities require students to purchase parking permits for lots that are assigned based on where the student lives. Build the cost of the parking permit into the budget. These vary by university but can be as high as several hundred dollars per year.

Parking tickets are also problematic. Students, especially those who live or work off campus, are often tempted to park in unassigned lots. Campus parking fines typically start at $5 each but can quickly escalate into double digits. Awareness, planning, and a bit of self-discipline can eliminate this added expense for you and your college student.

Campus Printing

University fee structures usually include printing in computer labs, but most have a quota or charge 10 to 25 cents per page to a prepaid account. After the quota is met or funds are used, the student will be charged an additional fee. Make sure you and your student are aware of the printing limit and plan for bulk printing needs.

Campus "Bucks"

Most universities require students to purchase a prepaid debit card that can be used only for purchases at on-campus food outlets, book stores, vending machines, and select off-campus stores and restaurants.

It’s important for students to remember that these spending cards are funded with real money. Take into account the cost and value of these cards in both budgeting and monitoring expenditures.

Organization Fees and Expenses

Savvy students know that participation in campus clubs and pre-professional organizations will enhance career prospects. Although dues are relatively nominal for each club, they can add up.

Students who plan to join a Greek or similar social organization should expect dues and housing fees. While those expenses may be expected, membership in these groups can also lead to unexpected expenses for t-shirts and events.

Most pre-professional groups host conferences and networking events during the year where students can hear from a variety of speakers and participate in resume review workshops and career development activities. Event registration may be free or low-cost for student members but may require travel to a nearby city.

Conference and other travel expenses can be hard to nail down in advance, but it can be helpful to include a few hundred dollars in the yearly budget for these types of activities.

Athletic Events

Athletics are a major part of the college experience for many students. Most universities offer subsidized or free tickets to students for on-campus athletic events. Big-name football schools usually require students to pay for tickets, sometimes as much as $100 or more per season for home games. Game-day merchandise and school logo apparel can also add up, as can tickets and travel to away games.

Specialized Supplies

Some majors, like nursing and other health care disciplines, may require uniforms or special equipment. Students in other majors may benefit from buying special student-discounted software packages. Include a category for these extra academic costs, depending on your student’s anticipated major.

In addition to budgeting for college, learn how your student can save money while in college.


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.