Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 8, 2021

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College costs a lot more than you might think. The expenses required to obtain a 2- or 4-year degree are much more than simple tuition. Rather, student need to think about tuition, books, school supplies, living expenses, transportation, and even entertainment.

This college cost calculator is meant to assist students (and parents) in identifying exactly what all those costs add up to be.

To use this student loan calculator, first identify which college you hope to attend. Then find out what sort of academic term that college runs on (semesters or quarters) and how many years you think it will take to acquire the degree of your choosing.

After entering that information into the topmost fields, begin entering the predicted costs of each of the listed items.

Please pay special attention to the instructions for each field, as each field asks for either a monthly expense, a yearly expense, or a term expense. Failing to follow those instructions could lead to a skewed and inaccurate calculation.

The miscellaneous expenses category is meant to allow borrowers to enter in custom expenses that the pre-fabricated fields don’t yet cover.

Leave any of the college calculator’s fields blank if they don’t apply to you.

Once all of your expenses have been input, click on the calculate button at the bottom and review your costs. If the calculations appear to be too high, refer to the visual bar graph that’s generated and decide on which area should be cut back. Then you may edit the fields appropriately and sculpt the ideal costs and expenditures for an affordable college career.

If this college calculator reveals a budget that looks acceptable, feel free to continue with the student loan application that will be generated at the bottom of your results.


Are there any ways that I can reduce college expenses and get financial assistance?

Consider taking online courses instead of attending classes in person. Online courses tend to be cheaper because they aren’t subject to room and board fees. However, make sure that the coursework is rigorous enough so that you won’t fall behind when you transfer to a four-year university.

Another important thing you can do is search for scholarships before applying to schools. If you have already been accepted and enrolled in a school, then look at the scholarships offered. Most colleges and universities have links on their student portals to scholarship information.

There are also government grants to consider, specifically the Pell Grant, which is offered to most people below a specific income level. Pell Grants alone are often enough to cover the tuition, fees, and book expenses at most community colleges.