College Costs Overview

College costs are more than just the price of tuition. Living arrangements, books and meals can raise the sticker price.


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To effectively measure how big or small your student loan and student budget should be, consider the following:


Tuition prices vary and will depend on your school's classification and location. Sometimes the "sticker price" isn't what your family will actually pay. Consider this:

  • Is your school public or private?
  • Is it in-state or out-of-state?
  • What is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?
  • Are you applying for grants and scholarships?

How much will you be expected to contribute to your education? Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a customized figure that, based on a federal methodology and your family size and finances, details what you will be expected to contribute on a yearly basis to tuition costs. Your EFC is made available after you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Room and Board

It seems obvious enough, but be sure to include room and board in your college budget.

  • Will you live on-campus, off-campus or commute from home?
  • Compare your school's on-campus living costs with the city's off-campus living costs.

Keep in mind that most colleges incorporate meal plans into the room and board fees, with three meals a day. Ask for meal plan details from your school if they aren't provided with the information in your application packet. Some colleges will require you to live on campus for the first year. Also be aware that off-campus living costs will include rent, local and state taxes (if applicable), energy bills, groceries, electricity, gas or fuel, transportation, cable and more. Check with your school for cost-saving and low-budget room, board and meal program options.

Books and Supplies

A big part of the college student budget is textbooks. Also include the costs of notebooks, binders, supplies, lab equipment, course fees and a computer, if you need one.

Used textbooks are typically less expensive than new ones, but they're not always available and there is often a limited supply. Check into book-swapping programs at your school. Some schools also have book rentals or option to choose eBooks instead of traditional textbooks.


Savings Tip

If you're taking out unsubsidized Stafford Loans, you may want to send interest payments each quarter while you are in school or if you choose to delay loan payments by requesting forbearance. During these periods, you will receive quarterly interest statements. Paying the interest as it accrues each quarter will save you money over the repayment term of the loan because any accrued interest that you do not pay will be added to the principal balance at the end of the forbearance period.

When the loan re-enters repayment, interest will be calculated on the higher principal balance. Therefore, the total amount you will repay over the life of the loan will increase.

Important Legal Disclosures and Information

You are encouraged to explore all scholarship, grant and federal borrowing options before applying for a private loan.

Private loans are subject to credit approval. Certain restrictions and conditions apply.

PNC does not provide accounting, tax or legal advice. Any calculators provided are intended for educational and estimation purposes only, and their accuracy is not guaranteed. The calculators, and any results displayed, do not constitute the advice of, or reflect actual products, services, rates and/or terms available from PNC Bank or its affiliates, and nothing contained in the calculators shall constitute an offer or solicitation of a product or service by PNC Bank or its affiliates.

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