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How Much Does College Cost?



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How much does college cost these days? If you’re preparing to go to college and will need to find a way to finance your own education, this is one of the first steps to figure out.  Then you’ll want to find out all of your options and create a plan. Here’s a quick breakdown on the typical cost of college.


Tuition is the cost of your classes and instruction, and is usually broken out by units, or credit hours. For example, it may be $400 per credit hour, or $1200 for a 3 credit hour course. If you’re attending a state school and live in that state, you’ll most likely get a break on tuition. Tuition may also vary based upon your major or campus chosen. To get a good idea of tuition costs around the country, check out this calculator from CNN Money.


Everyone’s favorite part of living – FEES! Some schools add in fees to the tuition, while others break them out separately. Typical college and university fees include parking fees, lab fees, activity fees, internet fees, general and administrative fees, and fees to graduate.

Room & Board or Housing

Room and board is another bucket of college expenses that each college or university may handle differently. Some schools require freshmen to stay in their dorms during their first year of school, while others may not. Some schools add in the meal plan into this category while others don’t. If you’d like to live in the campus dorm, your housing costs will be based on each semester, and you’ll need a place to go during the summer and winter breaks. If you’re living off campus, make sure to add in cost of rent and utilities.


According to The College Board, the national average cost for textbooks at four-year public college is about $1200 per year. Many students pay less for their books from buying used, online, or at an off-campus bookstore.

School & Living Supplies

You’ll also need to budget for supplies and equipment, like a laptop, smartphone (and data plan), pens, paper, folders, books, and other class essentials. If it’s your first year on your own, you may also need to pay for some basic living supplies, like dishes, linens, clothes and small appliances for your dorm or apartment.

Personal Expenses & Transportation

The last category is more of the personal expenses that go along with attending school. Will you have a car on campus? Make sure you can pay for your car, insurance, and gas. Or allocate some money for public transportation. Do you ever want to go out and blow off some steam or don that branded college hoodie? What about the gym? Make sure to take these personal expenses into account when planning your budget.

Crunching Your Numbers

Want to see a visual explanation of the average budgets for public and private colleges and universities? Check out this Average Estimated Undergraduate Budgets (2013-2014), and then compare it to yours. College can cost a pretty penny. But the value of a college education is invaluable.



Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is the Head of Financial Education at BankMobile and Editor-in-Chief at Paradigm Money. The views and opinions expressed are those of Ash Cash and not the views of BankMobile and/or its affiliates.

Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Do What You Love for Free – Here’s Why



This is ParadigmMoney.Com, right? So, speaking about a paradigm shift should come as no surprise. In science and philosophy, a paradigm is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field. When speaking about money, most believe it is something you work for and not something that works for you. In all truth, the one percenters understand this concept quite well. In order, to wake up and do what you love, you too must shift your thoughts when it comes to finances.

Doing what you love for free allows you to create freely. You can come up with disruptive, out of this world, never seen before creations that will rock this planet. Take Elon Musk from South Africa, founder of which went on to become PayPal and sold to eBay for 1.5 billion dollars. Musk is also the CEO of SpaceX which designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. You may say, of course, he can do this, he is a billionaire and co-founder of Tesla.

Not true. PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX are all products of Musk doing what he loved. As a child, he was an avid reader and taught himself computer programming leading to the creation of He dropped out of college to start a company with his brother and here’s what he had to say about that PayPal deal… “My proceeds from the PayPal acquisition were $180 million. I put $100 million in SpaceX, $70m in Tesla, and $10m in Solar City. I had to borrow money for rent.” Elon Musk’s current net worth is estimated to be at about $13.3 billion. No bad at all.

The reality of the matter is the less you are attached to money the more money flows to you. Pay more attention to creating things that move the culture forward. Starting at doing what you love with ultimately position you for financial success and happiness.

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

My Biggest Financial Mistake



Happy Financial Literacy Month…the month where we shine a spotlight on financial education and the importance it plays in our lives. I talked before about my financial bounceback and received a few messages from readers about how that story showed them that anyone can have financial hardships.

Now it’s time to be even more transparent. To kick off Financial Literacy Month, I want to share my biggest financial mistake to date in hopes to further inspire people.

Whenever I want to accomplish something, I start with a plan and follow it no matter what. Some people called it stubbornness, but I like to call it persistence. One day, my persistence bit me in the ass-et, causing all kinds of grief and hardship. Having a plan can be great, until it’s not.

At one point in my life, I decided to leave a great-paying job to become a full-time entrepreneur. I was on a quest to follow my dreams. I knew the pitfalls and risks that came with my decision, but I felt like I was immune because, well it was my calling. Within a few months of taking the leap, I fell behind on my mortgage and almost lost my home.

Letters from the bank — and ultimately, their lawyers — came pouring in. In no time, my family was facing foreclosure. This was the first time anything of this magnitude had ever happened to me. I didn’t know where to start or what to do.

My family and I braced ourselves for what seemed like the inevitable: we packed our bags with nowhere to go. Just when I thought all hope was lost, I learned about less extreme ways of handling and resolving missed mortgage payments.

One option was a short sale. I could sell my home for less than I owed on the mortgage, if my lender would approve the transaction. The outstanding balance would then be forgiven. Another option was a deed in lieu of foreclosure. This would allow me to voluntarily give up my rights to the property instead of going through the stressful and costly legal foreclosure process.

Ultimately, I didn’t have to do either because I found one more option. At the time there was a federal government program called the Making Home Affordable Program which helped homeowners avoid foreclosure. I was able to do a loan modification where my lender changed the terms of my loan to allow me to make lower payments so my family could stay put. It made staying in our home a reality.

The loan modification began with a three-month trial period. After I successfully made the first three payments on time, the modification became permanent. While that was great news, the delinquent payments remained a blemish on my credit report. However, time does heal all. As I continue to make on-time payments toward my mortgage, the delinquencies will eventually fall off. Lesson learned. The next time I follow a dream, I’ll do it a lot more carefully.

Now that I put all my skeletons on the table, what is your biggest financial mistake? Use the comments below to tell us about your biggest financial mistake, what you learned from it and how you overcame it.

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Should You Have an Emergency Fund?



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You may have heard that you should save at least six months of your income saved in your savings account to cover any future financial setbacks. But it’s easy to wonder why you can’t just use credit or help from family when extra cash is needed for an emergency – especially when saving for an emergency fund seems overwhelming. But what does that really mean, and can’t you just use credit or family when you need the extra cash for an emergency?

Here are some common excuses that people tell themselves about why they don’t need to save an emergency fund:

  • I can barely pay my bills, how on earth could I save on top of that?
  • I can ask my family for money if I really need it.
  • There are options to help me in a bind, like a credit card or payday loan.
  • I’m too young to need to save that much money right now, and can do it when I’m older and making more money.

Let’s say you decide to go one of these three routes instead of saving your own money…

  • If you can barely pay bills now, you will have a hard time catching up with your debt after the emergency is over.
  • If you borrow money from your family or friends, you will put a strain on that relationship, and they may become resentful of you if you don’t pay them back quickly.
  • If you use credit or loans irresponsibly, you may ruin your credit or fall into a debt spiral.
  • If you don’t start saving when you’re young, you’ll miss out on the benefits of compounding your cash and won’t have the luxury of having planned ahead.

So what is an emergency fund anyways?

The Simple Dollar breaks down what an emergency fund should be with their definition:

“An emergency fund is cash that you’ve saved up for the sole purpose of helping you maintain your normal life through the emergencies that life hands you.”

What are some emergencies people prepare themselves for by making an emergency fund? Check all that could apply to you.

  • You get a new job and can now afford to pay your bills and debt while you await your new paycheck cycle to start by transferring some of your emergency savings into your checking account.
  • Your car dies and you must get a new one, but you have money to put down a large down payment, getting you a new car and keeping your monthly payment at an affordable rate.
  • Your new car’s check engine light goes on, and now needs extensive work. You need your car to get to work, and have saved enough to fix it quickly, while using your insurance to get a rental car during the downtime.
  • You twist your ankle from playing basketball and can afford to cover the bills while you’re out of work for weeks.
  • You buy your first home, and during the winter your furnace breaks, costing you over $6,000, which you’re able to afford to keep the heat on for you and your family.
  • You finally get a meeting with the board to pitch your big idea and can afford to go out and buy yourself a nice suit.

How many did you check? Can you see yourself in any of those situations in the future, or did you come up with your own? And I know your next question… Where do I put my money to receive the biggest bang for my buck? recently published a comprehensive comparison guide by surveying 4,800 banks and credit unions across the country to give you the ability to make the best decision on where to put your money. This comparison will help you maximize the yield from your deposits. Here’s a link to that guide:


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