Controlling Costs Over a College Career
When I was in high school, an English teacher of mine would tell us how he lived rent-free on federal land for much of his college career, while cruising around in a VW Beetle with only a driver's seat. Most students today, while hearty, aren't looking for a true back-to-the-land college experience. On that note, here's a look at some of the biggest ways students can control the costs over a college career.
Choosing Where to Live
Rent in Arcata averages about $800 per month (according to City Data.com), which frankly is a lot for a college student to afford. That's at least $9,600 a year, or $8,000 per year if your student only resides in Arcata for the 10-month academic year.
Surely there's got to be a cheaper way. And it turns out, there is. As most college movies are quick to tell you, roommates can bring a host of joys and problems, but a big advantage of sharing a living space with others is saving money. A three-bedroom house in Arcata goes for $1,500 per month on average (according to Walkscore.com), which drops the cost per room to $500. That's a savings of $3,000 over the cost of a one-bedroom apartment for a full academic year.
Living on campus has its obvious advantages; students are closer to the center of campus, student services and social and entertainment opportunities. However, students often cite a desire for more privacy and space when moving off-campus. Another benefit might be a greater sense of independence and the opportunity to learn more life skills.
Become a Textbook Guru
The Humboldt State University Bookstore has undergone a major facelift and now serves the needs of HSU students better than ever. One way the bookstore is constantly improving is by offering more ways for students to get the textbooks they need. Book rentals are increasingly popular and the HSU bookstore website makes it easy to sort books by major and course. Books can be reserved online and picked up in the bookstore or shipped directly to the student's home. Digital textbooks offer potentially even more savings and online vendors promise savings of 60 to 80 percent over standard book prices. eBooks have the added advantage of being computer-based: note taking, highlighting and sharing are all done easier with digital texts. However some problems persist with eBooks: readers require power, whether from a battery or the wall; with so many operating systems and devices to read digital content, formatting can be an issue; finally there's no such thing as a used digital text book, whereas a used print textbook might offer significant savings. Knowing that, be sure your student is sure if digital textbooks are right for him or her.
Regardless of digital versus print, students should shop around for the best deals. Websites like affordabook.com and Internet stalwarts like eBay and Craigslist are good places to start.
A final tip is to be upfront with professors about the cost of books. Many will work to find the lowest cost textbook for a particular subject, or help a student identify an older edition of a book that might be a lot cheaper but still relevant to the class.
Food & Drink
Striking the right balance between affordability, healthiness and tastiness is difficult enough for everybody, but it's especially challenging for on-the-go students .Did you know science majors spend an average of two hours studying for every one hour (unit) of class? That means a student with a 16-unit course load will spend a weekly average of 48 hours in class and studying alone! That doesn't account for time spent in a lab, working, extracurriculars or other recreation!
To help keep students fueled through their busy days, HSU offers the mini meal plan. For a little under $2,000 an academic year, off-campus students can dine at any campus eatery. Coupon clipping and comparison-shopping are some easy ways to cut costs. A look into Humboldt State's own history shows how Depression-era students saved money: beans. Bulk dried goods store well, are very affordable and can be highly nutritious. Former dean of students Dr. "Pop" Jenkins is rumored to have kept a pot of beans in his office at all times for hungry students. Finally potlucks, a way of stretching food for the community since at least the 16th century, are an ever-popular way to cut food costs and spend quality time with friends.