Watch Out For Hidden University Costs

Watch out for these hidden university costs

Off to school this fall? Having a good idea of how much your post-secondary education will cost can help you prepare financially… But expect some surprises.

On average, undergraduate students can expect to shell out something approaching $6,000 in tuition fees this year. Add to that book costs and, if you’re planning on leaving home for a few years, living expenses, and you could be looking at another $10,000 or so.

But that’s not actually the end of things. Like annoying airline fees, you need to tally all the miscellaneous charges you’ll face to really determine the full costs of heading off to school.

Admission Fees

Chances are, if you’re a first-year student, you’ve already paid your admission fees. The University of Alberta, for instance, expects $115 before it will consider your application.

However, even if you’re returning from a leave of absence or perhaps transferring to another faculty within your school, you can expect to get hit with a similar fee again at most institutions.

Health Plan

As part of registration, you’ll be automatically enrolled in a school-run health and dental insurance plan, similar to plans offered to working employees. This generally covers supplemental health procedures, out-of-country travel insurance, and most routine dental work.

Usually enrollment is mandatory but if you’re covered by another plan (i.e. a parent or spouse), you can get your money back. You must opt-out by a certain date, however – generally a few weeks after school starts. Don’t let this one slide. At Wilfred Laurier, for example, that would mean leaving about $210 on the table.

Late Payments

Not paying your bills on time is as costly at school as it is in the real world. Penalties for late payments are stiff, generally ranging from $50 to $100 for processing (at Memorial, for instance, expect a $75 hit). If you’re really delinquent, expect to pay interest at credit card rates for the period the university is willing to carrying you.

Dropped Classes

A little preparation can mean significant savings in change of registration fees. If you change your mind about going altogether this term, expect administration charges. Western, for instance, will charge you $290 as an exit fee.

Generally, if you decide to switch classes, you can get all your course money back within two to three weeks of your start date, but little else. And the longer you wait, the smaller the refund. In any case, most institutions hang on to any registration, lab and facility fees.

Lab Costs

You might assume that lab fees would be built into tuition, but most materials-intensive classes will saddle you with additional costs of a few hundred dollars.

Someone studying archeology at Simon Fraser is looking at close to $300 whereas, at McMaster, nursing students pay roughly $55 to be screened and fitted for a respiratory mask.

Joining Fraternities

Charges for Greek life vary widely, depending on the school and chapter. Fees are set by the individual group and range from $350 to $500 per year. It costs about $400 to join Theta Delta Chi at the University of Toronto, for instance.

Don’t Forget Your Documents

Even though you paid to get here, don’t think you’ll get any of your records for free. Transcripts and diplomas all come at a price – generally $12 to $16 a copy (it’s $25 for a rush job at Simon Fraser), plus courier fees.

Expect to pay the same for ‘good student’ auto insurance certification or supporting documents for bursaries.

Insurance Away From Home

Most homeowner policies cover the personal property of all members of the family, even those who are temporarily living away from home to attend school.

There may be a limit on the coverage, however, possibly as low as $2,500 on any property used by the student. That may not be enough to cover valuable items that you might be taking with you – an iPhone r laptop, for example.

In that case, you’d need to arrange for additional coverage for these items before you leave. Modest tenant insurance policy premiums start around $170 a year.

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Personal Finance / Your Budget

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