Considering College Costs Beyond Tuition

thumbnail_adulteducationIf you’re heading to college this fall, you may be focused on the major costs—tuition and fees, possibly room and board. We have examined some of the other costs of college, such as textbooks and college debit cards, that can really add up if you’re not looking out for them. Here’s some information to help you manage those costs.

Textbook Information Availability

There’s now more information available on textbooks than ever before. As we reported last year, almost all students attend schools that provided information about textbooks online. You can use this information to make decisions about what textbooks to purchase and where to get them. One piece of information you’ll especially want to take note of is the International Standard Book Number (ISBN). Knowing that number will allow you to compare price and quality across multiple retailers, whether you’re renting your textbooks or purchasing them new or used, in print or digital format. Hear our podcast on textbook information availability for more:

Pros and Cons of College Debit Cards

Your school may offer a college debit card that could:

  • provide you with debit or checking account services;
  • provide access to prepaid accounts;
  • allow you to receive financial aid payments; and
  • serve as your student ID.

Earlier this year, we reported that 39% of students attend a school that offered these cards as of July 2013. These cards can be convenient because they link school and banking functions and offer quick access to funds. You should know, however, that some college card fees were slightly higher than credit union fees, though we found that college card fees were generally comparable with those for similar banking products (see the table for details). Further, we found that schools may have a financial incentive to influence your choice, so be sure to weigh all of your options before choosing a college card.


Excerpted from GAO-14-91

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