Paying for College

Financial Thoughts from a New Student College Orientation (with Some Actual College Cost Numbers)

June 30, 2014

Last week, Tom and I accompanied Grant to his new student orientation at Saint Louis University (SLU).

It was a day and a half event, so we drove down on Wednesday evening and back on Friday afternoon. St. Louis is a four hour drive from Kansas City and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the three of us chatted the whole way up and back. We didn’t turn on the radio and Grant didn’t put in earphones. I was so grateful for that since our time together is quickly coming to a close. Tom decided to go with us at the last minute and it turned into a great time together.

In St. Louis we stayed at the Hotel Ignacio, which is a fun and funky boutique hotel with an art theme, just off the SLU campus. That view above was the one we had of campus from our hotel room window.

During our time at orientation, Tom and I met with the financial services office to get a look at what our costs will be. They provided us with an estimate, which will be pretty close to actual numbers.

Since I was transparent with the costs of putting our daughter through college (I still need to do a fourth year update) I thought I would share these numbers for our son here. These are the estimates for his freshman year.

Tuition after scholarships $17,350.

Required fees:

    • Student Union Fee $100
    • Student Technology Fee $100
    • Student Wellness Fee $180
    • Student Activity Fee $110
    • Athletic Fee $30
    • Orientation Fee $200
    • Readership Fee $5
    • Res Life Application Fee $50
    • Lab/Course Fees $120

Room & Board $8966

Total: $27,211

We paid Lindsey’s college expenses in full, a semester at a time. Her lower costs enabled us to do that.

This time around we’re going to take advantage of a payment plan through the school, which will divide each semester’s costs among five equal payments. The fee for doing that is $75/semester, and each payment will be in the neighborhood of $2700.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we have college savings equivalent to a bit more than the first year’s costs. Some of that is in a 529 account and some is in one of our Capital One 360 found money accounts.

But just like we’re doing with our HSA, we’d like to leave our college savings alone for now and try and make those payments by redirecting the money for some expenses we won’t have anymore, namely Lindsey’s college expenses and Grant’s parochial high school tuition, and then adding in my bookkeeping and blogging income.

On paper the numbers for this work, but like with the HSA, we’ll see how it will work in practice.

Another difference this time is that we plan to take out tuition insurance, which would reimburse us for the semester if Grant were unable to complete it due to medical reasons. That’s unlikely, of course, but the cost of just $45/semester, seems reasonable to protect a $13,000+ investment.

One thing we won’t have to purchase is a computer. Grant bought an Apple laptop for himself a couple of years ago and he’ll be taking that.

Of course we’ll have books, some transportation costs, and spending for incidentals, which Grant will be responsible for.

And speaking of incidentals, one thing on our summer to do list is to have Grant open a checking account at US Bank, which is SLU’s banking partner. This will allow him to bank right on campus. In fact, it’s possible for him to link his student ID to his checking account and use the ID as an ATM card and debit card, in addition to all the other things that students use their IDs for. That should simplify his life quite a bit.

So those are some of the financial takeaways of our college orientation. I’m still kind of amazed that we’ve managed to pay cash for Lindsey’s education and are in a position to possibly do it again for Grant. We were late to the college savings game so we’ve had to kind of make this up as we’ve gone along. You can read all of my paying for college posts here.

Have you been to a new student orientation recently? What were your thoughts?
















  1. That’s a bit more expensive than your daughter’s, and I know exactly how you feel. When my first daughter went to college tuition room and board was just over $10,000.
    We had orientation for our third daughter last Thursday. We will be paying cash each semester when the money is due, which will equal close to $9300.00. We didn’t save very much in her 529 plan, so we will have to come up with most of the money. That would be fine, except my son is now a senior in high school. Can you say $$$$$? Anyway, by the time he goes to school, we will have to come up with almost $40,00 a year for three years, which is exactly what they will overlap. Talk about a money shock. We are already feeling it by not vacationing this summer, as I’m hoarding cash for college.

    1. Oh, Sharon, I so get it. You’re the second parent I’ve heard from today who has some college savings but is cash flowing the rest. I’m guessing there are a lot of us out there. And if I remember right, you have a wedding in the mix too.

      Hope your summer is going well. Nice to hear from you!

  2. Knowing how many times that I thought I had lost my university ID card and other students I know who did lose their ID cards I am somewhat leery of the idea of linking the ID card to a bank account. What are the safeguards?

    1. Pretty much the same as with a debit card, Kelli. You need a password to use it and you should report it as lost or stolen right away if that were to happen.

  3. I’m so glad I read this blog! I had no idea there is tuition insurance. I plan on looking into this option. We’re right at the same financial commitment as you are this year. We used the monthly payment plan with our first daughter. We pay a portion of the tuition up front each semester and then the rest is on a monthly payment plan. It has worked out very well.

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