Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Education Has Never Been Cheap, and Now the Burden of Books, Meals, Rent and Transportation Is Stressing Parents and Students; It's Not Just Tuition: College Costs on the Rise

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Education Has Never Been Cheap, and Now the Burden of Books, Meals, Rent and Transportation Is Stressing Parents and Students; It's Not Just Tuition: College Costs on the Rise

Article excerpt


It's no secret that college tuition has been on an upward climb for the better part of a decade.

What might be a surprise for college students and their parents, though: the rising cost of everything else, from books to cafeteria food to transportation.

The College Board, in its annual survey of college pricing, is reporting big increases on all those incidentals college students can't live - or study - without: textbooks, supplies and a room to call their own. It's a national trend that has touched most every school, from community colleges to four-year universities, both public and private. And while Southern states fared better than, say, the Northeast, books, supplies, transportation and room and board in recent years have all been hit by upticks in price.

Case in point: Average book and supply costs at the University of North Florida, where classes started this week, jumped $200 from just two years ago, said Sharon Ashton, a UNF spokeswoman. The school advises in-state undergraduates to budget $14,170 for the year to cover everything - tuition, fees, room and board, supplies and transportation. Students living off campus will probably spend $15,855 this year, according to the school's figures. That's about $500 more for both on-campus and off-campus students than was recommended last year.

Rent around the UNF campus has increased, too. Melrose Student Suites, an all-student apartment complex on Kernan Boulevard, has seen yearly rent increases of up to 5 percent in the last few years, says Patrick Pettitt, Melrose's executive regional director. (To allay the financial pressure, Melrose gives rent discounts for good grades or students who do community service.)

And while UNF doesn't keep track of transportation costs, the general consensus is that climbing gas prices are affecting students shuttling back and forth from their classes, apartments and hometowns.

UNF freshmen Ben Mandrick and John Dickens got a dose of sticker shock when they shopped for their books and supplies last week. Mandrick, a civil engineering major, dropped $114 for his precalculus book alone.

His roommate, Dickens, is pinched on the supply end; as a music major, he'll be buying $15 guitar strings every few weeks. He's softening the blow with money from scholarships, and Mandrick is using cash he earned as a lifeguard.

After years of public school and parental help, both were taken aback by the prices of everything on campus, from books to the $1,200 meal plans.

"And that's just for 10 meals a week," Dickens said.

William Abare, president of Flagler College, says students at the St. Augustine school are feeling the crunch. Yearly room and board has risen nearly $1,000 in just three years, a sum that doesn't include a required meal plan for dorm-dwelling students.

Additionally, Flagler students who opt for off-campus living are seeing rising rents in St. Augustine, as well as noticeable increases in parking and textbook costs, says Flagler spokesman Brian Thompson.

"Housing costs have just skyrocketed," he said. "Kids are having to room with more and more fellow students. And in smaller and smaller apartments."

And because the majority of Flagler's student opt to live off-campus - only 825 of the 2,100 students live in dorms - it's a reality many have to face.

The cramped conditions of his residence hall made Flagler senior Bill Weedmark decamp to a rented room in Palm Coast - more than 25 miles away from campus.

For Weedmark, the biggest expense is transportation. He estimates he spends $35 per week on gas. And to guarantee that he has a parking spot once he gets to campus, he forked over $200 for a spot in the city's new garage.

Jacksonville University students feel the burn, too.

In addition to a hefty tuition increase, spokesman Derek Hall says students will need to budget nearly $3,000 this year for books, transportation, personal expenses and required medical insurance. …

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