Should You Choose Your College Classes Based on Expense?

Tuition and living expenses aren't the only costs associated with taking college classes. You'll also have to pay for books and, in some cases, lab or materials fees. How much should cost influence your class selection priorities?

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By Sarah Wright

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Staying Within Your Means

It makes sense to try to economize as much as possible in college. Selecting courses that don't require additional expenses on top of tuition might be a smart way to accomplish that. Chances are that most classes on your campus don't really require a lot of additional expense, if any at all. Additionally, most classes give students the option to purchase used books or check class texts out of the library.

There is a point at which it doesn't make sense to avoid a class just because you don't want to spend additional money to take it. After all, you're already shelling out for tuition - may as well get the most out of your college education. But if there's a class you're on the fence about, it doesn't seem too unreasonable to ultimately decide against it because of the cost.

Taking the Class Anyway

However, it can be worth it to decide to take the class regardless of additional fees. Some majors tend to have more classes with expensive textbooks and lab fees than others - that shouldn't stand in the way of you pursuing the kind of education you want. It doesn't make sense to alter the entire course of your college education just because you have to spend some extra money in a handful of classes.

Plus, at a certain point, you don't necessarily have control over your ability to pick and choose based on cost. You may be required to take a certain class, like a science requirement, that has an expensive required textbook and a lab fee. Or if you're an art major, you may need to provide your own equipment, like a camera or paint and brushes.

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How to Cope When You Take an Expensive Class

There are a few things you can do to cope when your class requires an expensive textbook, student-provided materials or a lab fee. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Buy used books. Sometimes, exorbitantly priced textbooks are considerably less expensive if you buy used. If you can't find it used, see if another student who has already taken the class will let you borrow their book. You can also see if any friends who plan to take the class are willing to split the cost of the book with you.
  • Rely on the library. If a class requires you to spend money on supplies and other materials, trade off by refraining from purchasing any books for that particular class.
  • Talk to your professor. Professors sometimes have access to discretionary funds that they can use to help students out, so you might be able to get some help there. If that option isn't available, your professor may be able to suggest cheaper alternatives than what they suggest on the syllabus. Additionally, you might be able to be reimbursed by the college for supplies that you use for things like a thesis project.
  • Apply for textbook scholarships. Some college bookstores have textbook scholarships that they give out to students in need who fulfill other criteria. There are other grants and scholarships for supplies and other necessities. You might have to look to find the right one, but it's worth it to try.

You can make room in your monthly student budget for things like class supplies.

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