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University Cost How Much ?

Back in 2005, long before my oldest was going to start University I wrote University is Going to Cost How Much? Outlining from an article from the University of Waterloo, possible University costs over the four years of my daughters’ careers, little did I know how much was missed by me. This Throwback Thursday I will reexamine the naive view I had of the costs that were going to face me (financially), and hopefully help those still wondering how much this might cost, when their children go to a post secondary school.

Surprisingly the numbers quoted by the University of Waterloo Web Page aren’t really that out of whack (at the time):

  • A student in the Co-Op program living on campus would pay $10K-12K
  • Living Off-campus they’d pay $7K-$8K
  • If they lived at home $4K-6K

Now remember this was about 9 years ago, and the numbers quoted are for a 4 month stint (so the real annual numbers are doubled).

Graduates Moving
Doesn’t Look Expensive, does it?

The interesting extra costs that I learned about (the hard way) are:

  • Computing device of some kind, be it a tablet, laptop, desktop or all of them, is going to cost you and you had better make sure you have a reliable I.T. set up (all 3 of my daughters had their laptops blow up during final exams). You will more likely than not have to replace those devices after about 2 years. That is about a $400-$2000 cost (every two  years, not including any I.T. issues, like hard drive failures and the like).
  • Trips home, if the kids are not living at home, they will want to come home, and depending on how far away they live this cost could add up to more than $1000 per 4 month term. Yes, we can all say, “They should just stay there for Thanksgiving!”, and other hard-line statements, but until you have lived the life, careful about your comments.
  • Fees and such are an interesting add-on that most universities charge. Some you can try to get refunds on (if your Health insurance covers your kids, then don’t pay for the University’s Health insurance as well), however there are many “activity fees” that are non-refundable as well, so watch out for those they can add up.
  • Living off campus can be cheaper, unless you have to furnish that apartment, and supply plates, pots, pans, etc., as well. A one time cost, but still not an expense to forget about (yes used furniture places are great for this to save money). Other incidental costs like Internet Access and heating bills add up as well, figure out a monthly budget with your kids so they learn how to live within their means.

What about Co-Op Programs ?

If your child is looking at a Co-Op program, talk with them about the importance of learning to be self-sustaining, and how proud they might feel paying for all of their education themselves, they might fall for that ploy too.

Feel Free to Comment

  1. I am freaking out! Oldest didn’t go to post-secondary (yet) and we just let that fly by without thinking too much about youngest. He just started grade 12 and has now indicated that not only does he plan on post secondary (which I figured he would go to college) but now he’s talking about going to Carleton or U of Ottawa (BTW, we don’t live in Ottawa). We are slowly digging ourselves out of debt. Still have $40K to go. Cars are old and crappy so could go at any moment. Retirement is not funded. I am fully committed to not going into debt (hence the crappy cars) but I don’t see any way to stay committed to that position for school. I don’t want to discourage him from going at all by saying he can’t go yet or that he has to pay. But I don’t want to force him into debt either. The chickens have come to roost. The only solution may be to sell our house and pay off everything and start over from scratch. Thoughts?

    1. OK, so before you go to the extreme think about the following points:

      • Must you support them going to school? Grants, OSAP can cover a lot of this, and there is nothing written down that parents must pay for University, just that it might be nice. Keep this in mind
        You can effectively “disown” or say that you will not be supporting your child to go to University, so they can get more grants.
    2. Nothing is written that you must go further into debt for your kids. Nothing wrong asking your child to wait a year, work on their own and go to school next year. Lots of different ideas here, but keep up paying off debt, if that is your goal. Only you can decide what is best for you.

  2. If someone knows their child/ren are likely to move away for school, they can keep an eye out for garage sales, church sales, and estate sales a year ahead of time. You can often get many of the things needed to furnish an apartment, especially kitchen stuff, at almost-free prices.

    I hate to say it but it’s true that my siblings and I got most of what we needed to start from the homes of our elderly relatives when they died. Lamps, chairs, small dining room sets, kitchen stuff, it was all going to end up donated to charity if we didn’t want it. We certainly didn’t have new matching stuff from IKEA!

  3. These numbers look pretty high to me.

    My daughter spent $1000 on a laptop in high school and is still using it 5 years later in University. It’s a little under powered now and she is starting to think about replacing it. She upgraded the RAM and just this year replaced the battery.

    Greyhound bus tickets Waterloo to Ottawa are $60 each way. It’s actually cheaper to buy a ticket Montreal which always goes via Ottawa and just get off in Ottawa. Not sure how to spend $1000 on trips home, flying? I guess if they were too far away for the bus to be practical.

    I don’t think it’s very hard to go to university away from home for less than $10,000/semester. You just have to live like a student: cook for yourself, live in not so nice places with lots of room mates, and do free or nearly free things for entertainment.

    1. Depends on where you go, as you pointed out. If the only way home is flying that is a problem. The laptop issue, from my small sample size they don’t make them like they used to. I am not saying this is how it will be for everyone, just giving folks a heads up to plan for some expenses they may not have bargained for.

      As for the U of W, their big attraction has been that as a Co-op student you really only have to fund your first year, and then you can make the whole process a zero sum (i.e. make as much as you need to go to school).

      Yes kids can live for cheap(er), but it’s interesting to see the number of parents who buy their kids cars, for school and such. Wow, I thought a laptop was extravagant.

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