What College Costs Beyond Tuition

What College Costs Beyond Tuition

money and college graphicCalculating the Real Cost of College…

We conducted a survey of Trinity students in all units to find out more about your living costs while attending Trinity.  These costs include rent and housing expenses, food, transportation, books, personal expenses, child care, care for elders and family members, and assorted other expenses.  Many thanks to more than 250 students who completed the survey!  Your answers are helping us to understand more about the kind of support you need as well as to plan for improved ways to support your financial needs.

I will be publishing the survey this week in installments on this blog — follow every day for more data and recommendations at the end — and please add your comments!

Here’s who answered the survey:

CAS 136
NHP 60
SPS 36
EDU 16

Where Do Students Live?

Of all who answered 50 live on campus and 209 live off-campus.  Of those who live off-campus, 125 live in homes with parents and family, and most of those are students in CAS and NHP.  Here’s more on student residential patterns:

Live On Campus Live Off Campus Live with Parent/Family Live with Partner/Friends Live Alone
CAS 36 100 88 8 4
NHP 11 47 22 13 8
SPS 0 34 5 5 17
BGS 0 5 2 2 1
EDU 1 15 4 3 8

How Much Do Students Pay in Rent Off-Campus?

While 95 respondents said they do not pay rent because they are living with families or partners, the majority do pay rent.  Of those who pay rent, the majority — 64% — pay more than $700 a month for rent, with a sizeable group — 40% — paying more than $1,000 per month for rent.  Here’s how rent breaks out by student units:

NO Rent, lives with family/friends Rent = $300-$600 Rent = $700-$1000 Rent =
$1000 +
CAS 69 31 7 12
NHP 21 7 13 11
SPS 1 6 8 18
BGS 1 0 1 3
EDU 1 3 3 8

What About Food Costs?

Less than $100 $100-$300 $400-$600 More than $600
CAS 2 91 33 7
NHP 1 27 25 3
SPS 0 15 16 3
BGS 0 2 2 1
EDU 0 8 7 1

The majority of students are spending $100-$300 per month on food, and many spend as much as $600 per month depending on how many persons are included.  Many students on the higher end of the scale cited their costs to feed children and family members as well, and we have a section below on caring for children and family more generally.


Regarding transportation costs, Trinity students take a wide variety of transportation modes, with a substantial majority — 73% — spending $100-$300 per month on transportation.

My Car Metro Bus Uber/Taxi Share Ride Walk $100-300 $400-600 $600+
CAS 38 78 48 54 27 21 87 32 7
NHP 41 16 8 15 7 6 47 5 2
SPS 24 8 8 11 2 2 25 5 3
BGS 3 3 1 2 1 0 3 2 0
EDU 12 3 2 3 0 2 8 7 0

A question was posed in the comments section about why Trinity does not have the subsidized Metro pass program like the program at American University.  In fact, we looked at that program but we determined that it was not fair to all students since it requires every full-time student, whether the student rides Metro or not, to pay a hefty mandatory fee to support the program.  The university does not pay for the Metro cards, student fees pay for them regardless of whether a student uses Metro.  It’s not really a “free” program at all!  Plus, the current program offered through WMATA is only for full-time students, which leaves out our very large population of part-time students who also ride Metro.  Additionally, the cards issued through this program can only be used on certain days and times, and not in the summer.  All in all, the program is expensive without being particularly advantageous for Trinity students.

Child Care Expenses

26% of the respondents indicate that they have child care expenses, and the respondents are across all units with more proportionately in BGS (80%), EDU (50%), SPS (47%) and NHP (32%) than in CAS (13%).

While 46% of all respondents indicate that they spend $300 or less on child care expenses per month, 40% spend up to $600 per month and 14% spend more than $600 per month.

Trinity students report children ranging in ages from two months through age 38, and while most report one or two children, several report as many as 5-6 children.  Child care is expensive, with payments for various programs ranging from $240 to $500 per month, with extra expenses cited for sports, dance, gymnastics, ballet, field trips, lunch and snacks, diapers, and care for special needs children.  Many respondents praised grandparents, spouses and other relatives for helping with child care duties.

Caring for Elders and Family Members

Many Trinity students also care for elder parents or other family members.  These costs add to the complexity of figuring out a “living expense” budget while attending college.

65% of those who reported caring for elders or other relatives say they spend up to $300 per month on this care; 19% spend up to $600, and another 17% spend more than $600 per month on relative care.

Students report that they care for grandparents, parents or spouses with serious medical conditions, or siblings if the parents are unable to care for them.

What emerges from these responses is a profile of a student population that has significant financial burdens that are quite different from the stereotype of a traditional, relatively care-free college student of yesteryear.  ALL Trinity students have one or more “non-traditional” characteristics, and all are adults, regardless of age, with adult responsibilities beyond their studies.  Figuring out how to balance these responsibilities, and how to manage the financial challenges while also succeeding academically is a major challenge that most Trinity students meet with courage and determination.

NEXT:  BOOKS! And other expenses associated with attending college….

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