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September 02, 2009


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They don't need campus health insurance? If they're not covered under their parents plan (or if their parents don't have health insurance), they sure do.

Having campus health insurance might be a good idea even if they are covered "at home".

Significant health issues including obtaining birth control and dealing with STDs or mental health problems can arise while kids are at college.

Wouldn't you want your child to be able to see someone when the issue comes up instead of waiting for the quarter break when they can see their usual doctor at home? Also, the child might be more likely to go to the campus medical service due to privacy concerns.

MC --

If something sounds strange in a summary, always click through to the article for details. In this one, Kiplinger says:

"If you have family health coverage, your child may still be covered under that plan when he goes to college. If your plan does not cover out-of-network costs, a campus health-insurance plan may be a more cost-effective option. Be careful, though: Some college policies have low coverage maximums, which could leave your child with thousands of dollars in uninsured expenses."

Agree with you on text books - seems like some schools are getting better and allowing ebooks which are at least 50% off.

As far as the health insurance, I disagree - that is highly dependent on your situation. Too often college is set up to assume that there is a traditional family behind the student providing support when for a lot of us there isn't.

Now the biggy in my book is the community college route. Sure it's cheaper, but it's very discouraging to arrive at a 4 year school with AA, AS, AAS in hand and thinking that you've got 2 more years to get a BA/BS... only to find out that half your credits don't transfer and you've really still got 3+ years to go. That's what happened to me, and I got so discouraged that I still haven't finished almost 5 years later!

My son is starting as a freshman, we just moved him into the dorms this past weekend.
1. He got his own books, some used and some new. (Some you cannot find the proper version in used form).
2. He got a decent laptop for a graduation present, (from his parents).
3. We got him a printer, very nice combo printer/scanner/copier for around $50.00, these have really come down in price. The copier and scanner functions will probably be used the most.
4. He's been there for 3 days and explored the campus and surrounding areas, read a book and surfed the net and still said it gets boring at times so I searched and found good deals on HDTV/DVD combo sets in the 19"-22" range and got him one. Cable service is supplied by the university. Hopefully he won't spend too much time in front of it, but hey, he is an adult now and needs to learn to mange his own time.
5. No cars allowed for freshman, a rule his younger brother loves.
6. No credit card, he does have his own debit card which I can monitor online.
7. Local branch of bank is very close to campus so there should be no ATM fees.
8. Still covered under our insurance.
9. Basic meal plan.
10. Government issued loans.
The only thing I may regret in the future is the TV. But probably not, it depends on the individual. My son has taken his academic life very seriously since early in high school so it should not be an issue.

Back when I was in college, I would wait a week or two into the class and see how badly needed the textbook really is. In math classes where they're assigning out of it every night, definitely. But in a lot of other courses, the textbook turns out to be highly optional. It can be a little tricky to play the game that way though, because if it does turn out you need it, the used ones are probably all gone.

Especially for my graduate school, almost every book was purchased used on - only if I needed it.

And especially around Week 6, when I find out I might need it for something, the price is a lot lower. It's great.

I'm glad I'm done, though.

--my undergraduate dorm was a refurbished Holiday Inn, so all of our rooms had bathrooms - I was in a three-person dorm room (which was likely in its day a two-doubles room at the Holiday Inn). It worked out well.

I was a commuter student, so I needed a car. But at least I didn't have to pay for dorm housing.

Hmmm... seems like a fair list, but I disagree with the idea of not needing a printer. In my experience, a printer has been a definite necessity, especially if you're in the humanities field. There is lots of written work in those programs, and if a student doesn't have easy access to a campus printer (which from past experience, aren't always reliable even when you do have access), he/she could be in big trouble when approaching a deadline.

As Tom noted, printers have really come down in price, and you can get quite a bit for little cost.

They also don't need a cellphone. If communication is a concern, then let me rephrase that to a "high-end" cellphone. Cellphones distract the students using them, and the students around them within the classroom (not to mention the professor, who it really irritates!)

What do students need? Here's my two cents:
1. Flip flops for the shower (if in residence)
2. A shower caddy (again, if in residence)
3. Outerwear that can handle the elements (they'll be doing more outdoor commuting than they've ever done before)
4. Canvas bags - for books, for groceries, for shuttling to and from class
5. A map (campus and city)

... most importantly, a support network at home.

The credit card thing is big. I knew a lot of people in college who were in credit card debt because they charged everything and didn't realize the consequences of what it would add up to. I think that these new credit card regulations will hopefully help with that. (details here We will have to see!

Depending on where and with whom I lived during my collegiate years, I alternated between having cable TV and not having it. In Houghton, no cable basically meant no TV at all.

I don't remember off the top of my head which term was which, but I could tell you with a little research. See, after graduation, when I started applying for jobs using my college transcripts, I noticed that the no TV terms were easy to pick out. They're marked with a special notation on the transcript.

It says Dean's List.

I agree with a lot of this list but not all of it. I think it depends on the person and the college which they attend

New text books are required sometimes. I remember a professor that wrote test questions based on the captions of photographs, so if your edition was different, you were out of luck. I did however have a lot of books that didn't change from edition to edition. I remember that one of my engineering books was about $250 for a new edition but the previous one was $2 used. I bought the used one.

As far as printing and computers go, I regret not having one in college. I lost all of my work because I had no computer, and printing was always a problem. The university printers were out of service, or no computer were available, etc.

I had to take out a lot of private loans. I am not sure how someone can get through college without them unless parents are paying for school. I however, made sure that the amount I took out in loans was going to be manageable on my salary after college. In my entire life, those loans are the BEST investment I have made. Its the only one that hasn't gone down in value and never will.

New textbooks - Sometimes necessary with new versions
A high-end laptop or desktop computer - It needs to be reliable.
Printer - Needed, primarily for the scanner/copier portion
A car - If you intend on having a job, it is needed at most places.

I thought cable/satelite tv was standard at nearly every dorm.

The textbook publishers try to screw everyone by printing updated editions of their textbooks every few years. So you can often get the previous edition online for a few bucks.
I had a number of "international edition" textbooks when I was in college. These are softcover books intended for sale in places like India. They have text identical to the US version, but cost around $25-30 instead of $100-150.

New textbooks.--Were required for many courses. Often, revisions change every year exactly for this purpose and then the campus bookstore "buys back" at 10% of purchase price if you're lucky.
A high-end laptop or desktop computer.--Agreed, a standard computer is a requirement though.
Printer.--Agreed, use the college's.
Cable TV.--Yep, but there are worse things to waste your time with in college.
A car.--Same as an above poster, freshman weren't allowed to have cars where I went to school. It was terrible. Had to wait 30+/-15 min for the campus shuttle, and it turned a 5 minute drive into 45 minute bus ride. Abosolutely terrible, made me really appreciate my own car.
A credit card.--Agreed, unless they're trying to build a good credit rating. If so, then I would monitor it closely to one of my own linked accounts.
ATM fees.--Why would anyone use an ATM with fees?
Campus health insurance.--Again, was required by my university. Otherwise agreed if covered by parents' plan.
Big meal plan.--Unless the student is in a dorm and there's no way to cook store-bought food.
Private loans.--Yes, completely agree. Student loans are bad enough. My wife an I owe ~35K in student loans, but it is managable because we have no consumer debt and a mortgage we can afford quite easily as DINKs. But with consumer debt on top of that...ugh, don't want to think about it.

JJ --

Maybe it is. When I went to school, back in the stone age, we were lucky to have working electricity. :-)

I actually disagree with not needing a credit card. Having that first credit card is essential to building credit. Of course, it may depend on the individual as some college students are irresponsible, but if they can manage to use it minimally and responsibly, building their credit history can greatly help their credit score for after college.

The list sounds good. But there is one thing students do need, and that is vitamins.

I got sick four times my first semester. I started taking 1000mg of vitamin C and a multi vitamin every day starting the second semester. I managed to finish the next 3.5 years of college without getting sick once.

Not only do they not need new textbooks (unless an updated edition is out), they often don't need many of the textbooks for a class. Many times in college I bought expensive texts at the beginning of the year, only to discover later that the prof spent one or two classes on them.

I recommend serious math on the printer thing. My university had a tech center with printers where you scanned your ID and your print job started. A certain amount of "free prints," were included per year, which was more than I ever would have used. Free actually meant a "tech charge" anyway, which paid for prints and use of the lab, and it was a mandatory charge, so you may as well use it. Also, digital dropboxes and email assignment turn in is becoming so much more popular, it's worth it to ask in the first class, and then decide how much you will actually use a printer. It may be cheaper to use kinkos than pay for the printer and ink, if only one class has a print out turn in system.

Also, I was covered under my parents insurance throughout undergrad and grad school, and even though I lived 6 hours away in another state, plenty of doctors took my insurance, even the crappy campus health center (get a real doctor kids, seriously). Information like that could probably be found on the company's website

Where I went the dorms were wired for cable, but it was not provided by the university. You had to buy it, and unlike the rest of the town, the full package was the only option - a blatant case of extortion if you asked me (there were no over-the-air channels available in the dorm).

" actually disagree with not needing a credit card. Having that first credit card is essential to building credit. Of course, it may depend on the individual as some college students are irresponsible, but if they can manage to use it minimally and responsibly, building their credit history can greatly help their credit score for after college."

Agreed. There are some good student credit cards that give good rewards. I wish I had built up my credit during school instead of waiting until I graduated.

Also - the printer thing is just a calculation. My major had free printing for anything/everying (otherwise those 100+ page labs would be prohibitively expensive).

I couldn't have gotten through college without a printer.

And at today's prices, it could cost less than a week's food.

New textbooks: True, as long as you can find used ones in the correct edition...gotta get there early.

A high-end laptop or desktop computer: Is it absolutely neccessary? No. Good ideas yes! But you don't need an expensive one. In grad school especially it is very nice, if not essential to have a laptop for notes/presentations

Printer: Almost every campus as a 24-hour lab or two. But the printers may not be reliable, and for safety as a woman it may be better to have a printer so that you don't have to worry about walking at night for those late-night writing sessions. I have to admit, I was lucky because a) I worked for the computing services, so I had the key to the lab and therefore could always print on the nice printers, and b) I had a roommate with a computer and printer so she would let me use her computer sometimes, so didn't need to walk to campus.

Cable TV: Definitely not in the dorm-room, if at all. My undergraduate dorm had cable and TV's in the common area of each floor. Most people didn't have TV's in their room, and I don't know if they had access to cable.

A car: Ummm...commuter-Yes!. Otherwise not necessarily, usually can walk even if you live off campus and will save a ton in parking permits/tickets.

A credit card: One with a low limit is nice to establish credit history and help learn money management.

ATM fees: Hard to avoid this one sometimes...

Campus health insurance: Need insurance either family's or campus.

Big meal plan: Need something, maybe not the big one but need to have some plan otherwise you subsist on chips and candy.

Private loans: Does this mean bank loans?? Regardless, student loans are hard to avoid sometimes if you don't qualify for much financial aid and/or can't find a job to pay for everything. Or for grad school, since after 4-5 years at school you no long qualify for certain financial aid.

I couldn't have made it through college without a job. To actually get out and do something phycical outdoors was great. Not to mention the financial assistance a job can provide!

I don't see the big deal about having cable TV. It's not *that* expensive. And I disagree with no need to have a good laptop. You don't need a top of the line one, but a decent one is much nicer for doing research and writing papers on. Way faster, and is more likely to actually support newer software (or be able to run it efficiently).

I used to just print at school so that was ok. I think having a credit card in university is wise if you use it properly - smart to build up a credit history.

I as current graduate student there are some things i agree and disagree with on the list.
1-Printer is a neccessity. A good printer would cost $50. Save you time and money.
2-Health insurance is a must if you don't carry it yourself or from your parents. It takes only one hospitalization to send your education goals off course.
3-Your need either a laptop or a desktop computer but you don't need both. Most of your assignments and extra course information will be supplied via university web services. This also saves you from having to wait for a school computer or working while they are open.
4- Textbooks---that is the BIGGEST ripoff on campus. Used textbooks are the only way to go. Even if it is a new textbook i will still search online for the best price. I never buy my textbooks on campus. Book Buy back is the second ripoff...on a new textbook the school will give you 40% of what you paid...than resell the book for only 10% less than what you paid. I resell my books online also.
5- One thing not on list was a cellphone charges. I see students walking, talking and surfing the web on hi-end cellphones. All I can see is minium $100 a month down the drain.

There are alot of ways to save money while sending you kid off to college. It is up to the student and parents to become savy consumers.
That's my two cents. :)

I think the printer, health insurance and meal plan all depend on the situation.

Printing at college labs isn't necessarily free. I recall having to pay for printing at school. I'm sure it depends on the school. Plus a printer is a big convenience for sure.

Health insurance is needed in some form and if the parents don't have insurnace or theirs isn't good/cheap or reliable insurance then a campus plan can be a bargain.

A big meal plan might be better than running out of food credit and then eating out or squandering money on junk food.

My daughter just started at the local community college and in one of her classes the resource is a cd that another teacher at the college wrote. She can't buy it second hand or get a copy.

The school does have an excellent nursing program and she has checked to make sure her credits transfer, learning from my mistake in not doing that!

I would recommend getting a nicer laptop computer with a decent screen and foregoing a regular tv (or paying for cable if the university doesn't provide it). I'm a professor, and each year, more and more of my students spend less time watching tv and more time watching streaming or downloaded videos on their computers. During the past school year this trend became especially noticeable. I even asked one of my classes, "Do you people even turn on a television anymore?" Those that did used their tv for gaming, not for flipping through channels.

Another PSA: regardless of whether you buy your student a printer, please buy him/her a stapler. It is a small expense, but you'd be amazed at how many don't have them. I think it's a good lesson to teach them to be proud of the work they turn in and to go into class prepared on the day that an assignment is due.

Keep in mind that all those cheap printers you're buying aren't coming with full ink cartridges. Those often cost more to replace than the printer did in the first place.

I just sent twin girls to college, one on a full athletic scholarship and one to a junior college out of town. The dorms are incredible. Their own room (these two shared a room for years), cable TV (I cancelled mine this week after they left), unlimited air conditioning in Texas (I lived in an un-air conditioned dorm for 2.5 years in south Texas), shared bathroom with one other student (I walked down a hall to a room with shower heads), great meal plan (okay, mine was okay until I saw the milk carton that said, "Grade D But Edible" on the back), and all kinds of campus and dorm activities.

The costs are much higher, however, but it's really just an arms race by colleges to compete for kids. No kid from my upper middle class community would imagine or think about tolerating what I did to get a bachelor's degree. Then again, the kids I'm hiring don't have the desperation I had, fear of unemployment I had, or general thankfulness I had, either.

Times change.

Well I had a full ride scholarship to UCLA so my situation would have been different...
* New textbooks.
Scholarship paid for them.
* A high-end laptop or desktop computer.
Scholarship gave me one.
* Printer.
* Cable TV.
Came standard with the dorm! :-)
* A car.
Not until my senior year when I moved out of the dorms.
* A credit card.
Did research and got a great rewards credit card when I was 18. Rewards paid for one free flight every year home without ever paying interest or fees. :-)
* ATM fees.
Credit union all the way and online banking rocks.
* Campus health insurance.
Scholarship paid for it (not covered under parents).
* Big meal plan.
Scholarship paid for it also so I had the biggest meal plan (made many friends this way lol).
* Private loans.
None needed.

I guess a lot of these things solve themselves if you get scholarship money.

Just going to high light the credit card thing with an anecdote. I got a credit card with a $500 limit and strict instructions to pay it off every month. I did and after college, it was really easy for me to sign with for a different card with rewards. My younger brother, for whatever reason, didn't get a card in college despite the bazillion offers. When he graduated he had a really hard time getting a credit card, as in tried with different companies for months. I think finally my parents had to help him out someway.

A high-end desktop computer isn't necessary and could end up being a distraction. The main thing a high-end machine can do that a $219 eMachine from Costco can't is play modern 3D games. For running a word processor and a spreadsheet, you're going to notice very little (if any) difference.

Granted, an HP/Compaq computer probably has a better chance of lasting four years without breaking (although eMachines is owned by Acer now, so they're better than they used to be). You can still get an HP or Compaq for well under $600 with a monitor. Watch for a sale, and you may be able to get one for $500.

I can tell you, as someone who worked his way through college fixing computers and still works on them professionally today, that today's PCs are much more reliable overall than they used to be.

Now, as for a printer... What you want is a monochrome laser printer for the best bang for the buck. My sister just bought a Samsung for $59. Third-party replacement cartridges cost $33 and are good for 3,000 pages. The cartridge that comes with the printer should be good for 1,000-1,500 pages. I only printed about 1,500 pages getting my undergraduate degree, and that was in journalism so I was printing a lot. It would still be good to keep one spare on hand just in case you run out of toner at a bad time--I say this as someone who turned in some papers when they were still literally hot out of the printer.

And unlike inkjet cartridges, the toner won't dry up in the meantime. (They state a shelf life of 1 year, but I've used 12-year-old toner cartridges without issues.)

Textbooks: Buying them used is definitely a big plus. If possible, talk to someone who took the same class from the same instructor recently to get an idea of what books are and aren't necessary. Buy only what's necessary. Buy them early in the semester, or a few weeks prior if possible, when the supply of used books is higher and prices are down. The week after finals is a good time to be ordering books for the next semester. Prices will be lower because a glut of them just got dumped on the market, and you'll have plenty of time for them to arrive before class starts.

My son is a freshman also, and because he's living at home while he goes to a state school, he has a beater car with over 130,000 miles on it. It gets him from point A to point B. He bought all of his textbooks online from and saved a bundle. No credit card or ATM card, or student loans for that matter.

yes, textbooks seem fairly exorbitant. It's quite ridiculous, actually. I found myself wondering who was doing all the mark-up of prices. Anyhow, determined I could do better, I looked up the same books and bought them brand new on amazon, for almost half price. If I was willing to buy used it would have been even less. And the shipment came in less than 4 days, and postage was free because I bought over $39... so it was definitely a good deal.

My son, who is a freshman at the University of Michigan, just bought a printer (Craigslist). He didn't think he needed one, but actually did. He bought used books as much as possible. In a pre-co-college workshop, he was advised to get ONE credit card, buy a pack of gum each month and charge it, and then pay off the bill every month. It's supposed to be a great way to build up credit. I wonder how many college students can be disciplined enough to just charge something like gum and then make sure they payment is on time each month?

Are students required to purchase meal plans?

* New textbooks.-agreed, unless the prof requires it or its not available used. I also try looking online first. With some books I've found its cheaper to just buy new at the bookstore then to buy used online because of exorbitant shipping costs
* A high-end laptop or desktop computer. I agree a fancy macbook isn't necessary unless maybe you're a graphic design major, but my first semester of college I had a used laptop that crashed and would no longer turn on two weeks before finals with many papers and projects I'd started on it and study guides I made for myself. My parents bought me a brand new Toshiba for Christmas for around $500, and it works just fine.
* Printer. It's really inconvenient not to have one at my school, because all of the computer labs after midnight(major print out finished assignment times) before 8 am, and on the weekends. Plus they'll break down sometimes. But you can always bum a friend's.
* Cable TV. My dorms don't allow it, at first I didn't like it but I should be focused on studying anyways. Sometimes I'll watch episodes of my favorite shows online.
* A car. Actually depending on your school and your major a lot of times you do need one. A lot of majors make you do field education and provide your own transportation, and there's really no public transportation where I am. Education majors have to start student teaching hours their sophomore year. And if you want to live somewhere other than the dorms,which you will by the time you're a senior if not junior, my school really doesn't have any other housing withing walking distance.
* A credit card. You need to build up good credit so that you can rent an apartment and buy a car and whatever else later. Do you want to have to ask someone to cosign when you're 25? Take advantage of being a student while you can. But I NEVER charge more than I can pay in one month, and always pay off the full balance.
* ATM fees. Yes. My nearest ATM is twenty minutes away and I won;t have a car til next year, so I walk to Walgreen's and get cash back
* Campus health insurance. Yes, you should be covered under your parents.
* Big meal plan. Yes. I have the smallest meal plan and I have trouble using it. I don't think i'd get one at all if they didn't make me.
* Private loans. I don't think its a good idea, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

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