How Much Do College Supplies Cost for a Typical Student?

When people talk about college costs, they're usually referring to tuition, fees and room and board. However, the cost of books and supplies can run well over $1,000 each year. Learn more about the cost of college supplies for typical students and how you can keep them down.

Textbooks and School Supplies

Although tuition, fees and rent (or room and board) have the largest sticker prices, the costs of textbooks, course materials and other school supplies can quickly add up. According to the College Board (www.collegeboard.com), the average cost of books and supplies for an American college student during the 2010-11 school year was $1,137.

Those funds typically cover textbooks, lab books, notebooks, pens and pencils and other miscellaneous course supplies like calculators for math students and paints for art students. The figure doesn't incorporate the cost of a computer or tablet PC, which is a necessity for most college students these days. If you don't already own a computer, you can expect to pay as little as a couple of hundred dollars for a netbook or as much as a couple of thousand dollars for a high-end laptop.

Keeping Costs Down

There are many ways that college students can cut back on book and supply costs. These include:

Buy used books: You should be able to find a used copy of most of your textbooks at your college bookstore. You can also find good deals on used books on websites like Half.com or at large local book retailers. Just shop early, because used books tend to sell out quickly.

Rent books: Textbook rental is becoming a popular alternative to buying books. There are many websites that allow students to use a book for a fee that is typically much lower than the purchase price, then return it at the end of the term. This is a great option for courses outside your major or books that you just don't ever expect to use again.

Use campus resources: If you're still saving up for a computer, don't worry - most colleges offer an on-campus computing resource center with 24/7 access for students. You may also be able to find specialty supplies available for use in study centers, classrooms and departmental lounges.

Reuse supplies: Don't succumb to the temptation to just throw everything away when you're cleaning out your room at the end of the year. Many supplies can be saved and reused for the following school year.

Check the free bin: Many dorms and other campus gathering areas put out free bins at the end of the school year for students to drop off unwanted items. Check these bins for useful supplies and goodies like unique clothing.

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