4 Ways Colleges are Ripping Students Off

colleges are ripping students offHigh tuition, meal plans and parking feesâ”college life sure adds up!

When students see a college campus, they see possibility for a better future. However, when those running colleges see students, they often see walking, talking ATMs. It’s true; college life is expensive and barely affordable for the average student. Myself, I ended up leaving university with $41 thousand dollars in student loans. I started my professional career in so much debt, that I’m just starting to see the light at almost 40.

It doesn’t have to be that way for current students however. Most of the high priced items on campusâ”such as textbooks, meal plans and student parkingâ”can be avoided if you know about the alternatives. And because I don’t want you leaving college with a huge student debtâ”beware of the following high-priced college cons on your student campus:


1. The textbook rip off

Truly one of the highest and most unfairly priced items you will encounter on campus are textbooks in the good old campus bookstore, which is where you would assume to find the best student prices, right? Hardly, you’ll be lucky to leave the campus bookstore with your shirt if that’s where you expect to buy the semester’s required reading. This is the college’s way to make an extra buck. Did you know that most of the required❠textbooks in your courses were actually written by your instructors? On top of that, many include accompanying lab notes, CDs, and supplementary texts that only inflate the price moreâ”oh and by the wayâ”you probably won’t even crack the cover. Avoid the campus bookstore and seek out books from these sources:

  • Rent textbooks online
  • Purchase used textbooks from last year’s students or post an ad on eBay, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, etc.
  • Split the price of textbooks with a friend or group and make photocopies to study from

2. The student credit trap

You see it every frosh week, credit card companies just lining up to give students their first credit cardâ”tempting you with their free gifts and promises. You probably won’t believe how they are just throwing themselves at you so you sign up. Did you know they are just hoping that you’ll max out your credit card? That’s why they want a parent to cosign after all, so they’ll bail you out when you can’t afford to repay the debt you’ve racked up. Credit card companies prey on ignorant college students who are living independently away from home for the first time, just hoping that you’ll go on a shopping spree with your free money❠or buy take out every night. If you’re responsible with money and you want to sign up for one credit card, it will support you as you build your credit score for the future by:

  • Making your credit card payments on time
  • Resisting the urge to sign up for multiple credit cards
  • Using one credit card to pay off another
  • Ask credit companies to freeze your credit limitâ”they will raise your credit limit without notifying you

However, if you’re not responsible with money, avoid credit card companies and their promises like the plague.


3. The high priced meal ticket

Campus dining usually works by issuing all students a dining card that works via a point system. So whenever a student purchases a drink, a meal or a snack at the cafeteria (or one of the campus restaurants) your card has points deducted. My university had a cafeteria, but the more delicious options, e.g., Harvey’s, Wendy’s, Starbucks, and Dominos, were not included so if you wanted a Starbucks coffee and muffin you paid out of pocket. Doesn’t seem fair does it? To avoid having to buy extra food on top of the meal plan card you’ve already paid for:

  • Read the campus meal plan rules and know what restaurants are included
  • Be aware of cafeteria hours and eat within them or you might be hungry after hours
  • Put a small dorm fridge in your room so that you have breakfast and snacks on hand when needed

4. The campus parking trap

When I ask friends who have college-aged kids how much they pay for campus parking, I’m told between $300 and $500 per year. However, if you don’t arrive early to campus, you won’t find a spot. The truth is that campus parking authorities sell more passes than they have spots allotted. And if you get caught parking in a no parking zoneâ”the campus cops will slap a ticket on your vehicle. Avoid being ripped off by campus parking by:

  • Commuting to campus by bus, bike or walkingâ”it’s much cheaper
  • If you need a car, strike up a monthly parking deal with a business who will probably allow you to park much cheaper

(This has been a guest post by Tina Jacobs, a registered nurse and freelance writer who has written for numerous print and online publications on topics ranging from education to money saving tips for college students such as how to find cheap textbooks. Tina is a proud Georgetown University and plans to expand her portfolio while she waits to take her nursing licensure via the NCLEX exam. Most days, Tina can be found studying or writing in her beautiful bay window with her cat, Oscar, for company.)