There's no denying that college and university are costly. From tuition and books to room and board, the bill for post-secondary education continues to rise higher and higher.
And that's before you factor in some common — yet relatively unknown - costs. Faced with their own budget shortfalls, schools are increasingly looking for ways to collect money from students through activity and facility charges. From orientation to amenity charges, here's a look at 10 fees that could throw your first semester budget for a loop...
Many freshmen students find it difficult to meet new people during the first few days of class. That's why most schools hold a mandatory orientation week whereby students are required to attend a variety of social events on campus… and pay a mandatory orientation fee. This can range anywhere from $100 to $250 depending on the school.
Practically every Canadian university or college offers a school-run insurance plan. What's more, students are typically enrolled automatically into this health and dental plan upon registration. Enrolment is most often mandatory, however if you're covered by another plan (i.e., through a parent or a spouse), you can often opt out of the coverage and receive your money back. Just don't forget — most schools require you to opt out by a certain date, normally a few weeks after the semester starts.
3) Dorm fridge
What's a college dorm room without a well-stocked fridge? The cost to purchase a bar fridge is roughly $200 depending on the make and model. Alternatively, you can choose to rent a fridge and have it delivered to your room and picked up at the end of the year. At McMaster University, for example, an eight-month fridge lease from Coldex costs about $115, plus a refundable cleaning deposit of $25.
4) Student cards and other documents
Just because you paid to get there doesn't mean you're entitled to any free documentation. While most schools will provide you with your first student card free of charge (which doubles as your meal card and bus pass in most areas), a replacement will cost you $20 to $25.
Transcripts and diplomas also come with a price tag: generally $12 to $16 a copy, plus courier fees.
Greek life can put a real dent in your wallet. Charges vary depending on the house, but most Canadian pledges can expect to pay at least $500 in order to join. And that's just the beginning. Ongoing costs for social events can add up quickly, so be mindful when considering your options.
6) Lab costs
Think that lab fees are built into your tuition? Think again. From nursing to biology, expect to dole out additional cash for material-intensive courses. Someone studying archaeology at Simon Fraser University, for example, is looking at roughly $500 in additional lab fees.
7) Dropped classes
Not quite sure if advanced astrophysics is for you? Then you may wish to hold off on finalizing your enrolment. Most universities allow a grace period of roughly two to three weeks from the start of the semester whereby students can opt in and out of courses without financial punishment. Fail to complete the proper paperwork by the specified date however, and you're sadly outta luck — the school will keep your class enrolment fee, regardless of whether you take the course or not.
8) Student union fees
Just because you're completely oblivious to student politics doesn't mean you're off the hook when it comes to union fees. You'll need to set aside roughly $400 to cover your bus pass (many schools offer discounted bus passes), as well as student government fees, and other campus-run projects.
Having a car at school is a huge asset. It's also a huge expense. Students who keep a car on campus will need to budget upwards of $600 for parking. And let's not forget about parking tickets. Campus policy can be ruthless when it comes to ticketing; in fact, some universities have been known to hold diplomas hostage if a student has yet to pay up.
10) Sports and gym memberships
From water polo to broomball, students are encouraged to participate in a number of fun extracurricular activities during their time at school. Unfortunately, very few of these opportunities are offered for free. Expect to pay $20 or more depending on the activity — often every time you play.
The extra ten percent
The average Ontario university student pays roughly $15,000 in tuition, housing, and book fees each year. Additional costs, like those mentioned above, will add roughly $1,500 more to your budget, depending on your level of engagement. That's an extra 10% at minimum.
So be wise and budget accordingly, especially if student loans are helping to pay your way through school. Ultimately, you want to hit the books...not the chequebook.
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