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Section 1 - Academic Costs

These are expenses directly related to the programs and courses you choose. The numbers may change depending on how many credit hours you attempt each semester, your major and your choices for textbooks and supplies.

  • Annual tuition rate - Tuition may be a flat rate or charged per credit hour. At Northern, the flat-rate applies to all students taking 12-18 credit hours per semester. When looking at other schools, do a Web search for the word "tuition" to help you find the information.

  • Tuition surcharges by major - Majors such as business, engineering, technology, pre-med or art and design may have a per-semester charge. At Northern, only nursing and art and design have additional fees to cover the additional cost of specialized equipment. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the departmental Web pages for the major you are interested in.

  • Course fees for specific majors - Lab, studio and other hands-on courses sometimes require additional course fees or lab fees. Ask an academic adviser if your major will include one or more of these classes per semester. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the departmental web pages for the major you are interested in or in the university bulletin or course catalog. At Northern there is a $25 fee for each biology laboratory course and a $40 fee for each chemistry laboratory course.

  • Upper division course fees - Some schools charge more for advanced courses in some majors. Be sure to talk to an admissions counselor or academic adviser to anticipate these fees for your junior and senior years. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the page that tuition rate page. Do a Web search for the word "tuition" to help you find if a school has a different tuition rate for upper and lower division courses.

  • Specific course fees - Lab, studio and other hands-on courses often require additional course fees or lab fees. Ask an academic adviser if your major will include one or more of these classes per semester. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the departmental Web pages for the major you are interested in or in the university bulletin or course catalog.

  • Anticipated textbook supply costs - Your costs will vary widely by major, with the natural sciences, engineering and business being more expensive. You can save some money if you’re willing to buy used books. Many college bookstores also buy back books at the end of the semester, so you can recoup some of your investment. Some majors will spend more on supplies and tools.

    Savings tip: When you make your campus visit, stop by the bookstore and look for the books for your major. This will give you an idea of how much to budget for. Wait until you get a syllabus before buying. Your professors may have specific requirements.

Section 2 - University Fees

In addition to the direct expense of faculty and instructional facilities, colleges and universities collect fees to cover the cost for student services and activities necessary for running an educational institution. Some of these fees may be voluntary, but many are mandatory. Each university has a unique fee structure. Ask an admission counselor or financial aid officer to clarify any institution-specific fees you don’t understand.

  • General university or comprehensive fee - There is usually a mandatory fee charged to all students that supports student services, instruction and academic support. It is not dedicated to one particular need. Some scholarships may pay your tuition, but not the general university or comprehensive fee. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the tuition and fees page. Do a Web search for the word "tuition".

  • Health center fee - A health center fee may be mandatory on some campuses, or it could be voluntary, like at Northern. It’s the fee you pay to use the on-campus health center for illnesses and injuries. Many times a pharmacy is available at the health center that will fill prescriptions from the health center or other physicians. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the health center Web page or on the tuition and fees page.

  • Requirement for student health insurance - Some universities require proof of insurance coverage or require that you purchase a health insurance policy from the school. At Northern, student health insurance is available if you are not already covered through your own or your family’s policy, but student health insurance is not required. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the health center Web page. Do a Web search for "health center."

  • Library fee - There may be an additional fee to fund library expansion projects. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the tuition and fees Web page. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the tuition and fees Web page, although the library’s site may also include this information.

  • Athletic fee - Some universities charge an athletic fee that goes to support intercollegiate athletics. It may be an elective fee set by the student government that you can request to be waived. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the tuition and fees Web page, although the athletic department’s site may also include this information.

  • Student activity fee - Virtually every college will have a student activity fee. It is usually a fee voted upon by students during the student government elections. It is allocated to student organizations, programming and activities. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the tuition and fees Web page or on the student activities or student enrichment departmental sites.

  • Parking permit - Whether you live on campus or off, if you plan to park a motorized moving vehicle (car, motorcycle) on campus, you will need to buy a permit. Some schools have day-rate parking options. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the public safety, police services or parking office Web pages. Do a Web search for "parking."

  • Recreational facility fee - A recreational facility fee may be optional, like Northern’s PEIF pass, or may be a required fee. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the recreation services department site. Do a Web search for "recreation."

One-time fees - Orientation, non-refundable housing deposit and other one-time fees you will only incur once, not every semester or every year. For example, NMU charges a $225 one-time athletic fee that entitles students admittance to all home intercollegiate athletic events at no additional charge until graduation, as long as you graduate within six years. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the tuition and fees Web page.
  • Orientation
  • Housing deposit
  • Athletic events
  • Other

Section 3 - Technology Costs

In addition to your own computing power, you may be asked to support the technology infrastructure at your college through a technology access fee. The cost and level of sophistication of your computer system will depend on your major, if you take online courses and your personal preferences.

  • Purchase or lease a computer - Many colleges have guidelines or requirements to buy a certain model of computer. Before you buy anything, check you school’s technology policy. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the admissions Web site, as well as departmental sites for specific majors.

    Northern includes a notebook computer as part of your tuition. Click here to learn more about NMU’s comprehensive technology program

  • Software purchase - If your machine doesn’t have an office productivity suite installed, you may need to buy one. Specialized software for individual classes may be required such Premiere Pro CS3® for a media production course or SPSS® for a statistics course. Northern provides all required software for programs and courses as part of its technology package.

    Savings tip: Wait until you have your college ID to purchase software, if needed, because you may qualify for academic pricing on most major software titles.

  • Internet access fee - This may be a university-wide fee unrelated to Internet access at your residence. There is no fee for on-campus Internet access at NMU. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the technology services site. Do a Web search for "technology."

  • Computer lab/printing lab - This may be a per-semester blanket fee or may be a per-hour fee to access computer labs. Printing services may be available in computer labs or the library, often for a per-page fee. This information should be available on a school’s Web page describing its technology plan. Do a search for "technology."

  • Printer/paper/ink - For the sake of convenience, you may want to buy a ink-jet printer in addition to printing at on-campus labs.

  • Other - Devices that look like remote controls called “clickers” are used on some campuses to facilitate interactive lectures. You may need to buy or rent one. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the departmental site of the major of interest.

Section 4 - On-campus Room and Board

Many universities have a housing requirement for full-time undergraduate students. At Northern, freshmen and sophomores are required to live in residence halls (a few exceptions apply – see Housing). Apartments are often available for upperclassmen and students who are exempt from the housing requirement. Check with the universities you are comparing to learn of their housing requirements.

  • Housing rate -

    Some colleges have a variety of residence halls that vary by age, condition and location. Most halls also offer single and "super-single" rooms for a premium. When you’re taking your campus tour, ask to see a sample room in the hall where you will live, not just the one on the tour. At NMU, nine out of the 10 residence halls are primarily suites – two bedrooms connected by a bathroom. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the housing or residence life sites. Do a Web search for quot;housing".

    Savings tip: As soon as you find out who your roommate/suitemates are, get in contact to plan who will bring what furnishings. You don’t want to get stuck with two mini-refrigerators and no TV.


  • Meal plan rate * - Some schools have fairly complicated plans where you can customize how many meals you pay for, with or without a variable amount of “dining dollars”. At NMU, the standard meal plan includes three meals a day (all you care to eat) for seven days a week. If you have special dietary needs such as like kosher, halal, gluten-free or vegan options, be sure to ask before purchasing a meal plan. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the dining services, housing or residence life sites. Do a web search for "dining" or "meal plans."

  • Housing deposit - May be required in advance. At some schools this is partially refundable, but at others it is non-refundable. If the housing deposit is applied to the rate listed above, do not fill in this line. If this is an additional fee beyond the published rate, put that fee here. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the housing or residence life sites. Do a Web search for "housing."

  • Phone, cable TV and Internet access fee - Land line phone, in-room cable TV and Internet access fees may be mandatory or optional. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the housing or residence life sites. Do a Web search for "housing."

    Savings tip: An increasing number of students are choosing to skip the land line phone and just using a cell phone. Be sure to include your mobile phone rate plan when developing your budget plan each semester.

  • Estimated cost of laundry - Laundry facilities in residence halls may be available at no charge or there may be coin-operated machines. Northern provides free access to laundry facilities in each hall. When looking at other schools, you will most likely find this information on the housing or residence life sites. Do a Web search for "housing."

    Savings tip: If you attend a school where you’ll have to use coin-operated washers and dryers, you’ll have to save your quarters for laundry day. Prices vary, but estimate $3.50-$5 per commercial-size load. Be sure to remember the cost of detergent and softener when developing your budget plan each semester.

* constant meal plan. See other options at www.nmu.edu/housing.

Before moving on, one additional note about living expenses. The chart above only focuses on on-campus room and board costs because at my colleges and universities, some students are required to live on campus. If you will be living off campus at any of your institutions of interest, while you need not build them into your out-of-pocket costs comparison, it is important for you to consider what it will cost you for housing, utilities and food. Cities vary in their cost of living rates. Please do some comparison exploration as you continue in your process to choose the right school for you. You will want to consider rent, security deposits, utilities, furnishing (if necessary), groceries and laundry as some examples of off-campus living costs. You can use the on-campus living expenses portion to input your off-campus living costs, if it will help you understand your overall out-of-pocket costs.

Another aspect of on-campus living versus off-campus living costs may include transportation to and from your place of residence and the campus. Some other miscellaneous expenses to budget for are tickets to campus and community events and other entertainment activities.


Section 5 - Financial Aid - Grants and Scholarships

Now, let's look at the sources of financial assistance available to cover some of the costs of attending a university.

The process for applying for financial aid is multi-faceted and each school handles the process a little differently. Because of that, we'll have to approach some of the financial assistance discussion from a broad perspective. Along with this tool, Northern Michigan University also has an online step-by-step tutorial of its financial aid entire process. To use this tool, go to the NMU Financial Aid Pathfinder.

Regardless of the different institutional approaches, all schools will suggest that students should start the financial aid process by filing out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form which is required for most federal and some state and institutional aid sources. to learn more about the FAFSA, go to www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Once you have received your financial aid award letter from each college you are considering, enter the scholarship and grant awards below. Grants and scholarships are money for college you never have to pay back. Self-help such as work-study and loans will be entered on the next page.

If you are in the very preliminary stages of choosing a college or university, you may not know what level of financial aid you might receive. Most institutions publicize their "average financial aid award" on their common data set Web page (do a search for "common data set"). For estimation purposes, you may want to use this number in your comparison. Use NMU's cost calculator to determine your potential financial aid eligibility.

Let's begin inputting financial assistance information.

  • Estimated financial aid grant award - Grants and need-based scholarships you never have to pay back. This may include tuition waivers or Pell grants. If you are in the admissions process at an institution, the school will send you an "estimated" financial aid award prior to your first semester. If you are not in the admissions process, you may want to look for the school’s published "average financial aid award." You will most likely find this information on the financial aid office site or do a search for "common data set" and then go to the financial aid section of that data information. At NMU, the average financial aid award per student is $9,000. Please input this number if you do not have an estimated financial aid award figure from the NMU Financial Aid Office yet.

  • Merit scholarships not included in financial aid award - Payoff for getting those great grades in high school and super scores on the ACT/SATs are merit scholarships. Congratulations! Check to see if these scholarships are renewable or for one year only.

    If you are a non-Michigan resident, you may qualify for NMU’s National Academic Award if your re-calculated high school grade point average is 3.00 and your ACT score was 19 or higher. Input $3,750 for NMU if you believe you will qualify for this merit award.

  • Scholarships not included in financial aid award - Your parents may work for a company that offers dependent scholarships or you may win a scholarship through a service organization such as Kiwanis or Rotary. Be sure to check with financial aid officers to see what institutional scholarships you may qualify for.

  • Veterans Benefits not included in financial aid award - If you qualify for the GI Bill or dependent tuition assistance, you’ll need to coordinate with the Veteran’s Affairs office and your school’s financial aid office to make sure all the correct paperwork is filed on time. Veteran Student Services Office

  • Other grants and aid not included above

Section 6 - Financial Aid - Self Help and Student Loans

Most students pay for part of their education by working or through student loans. Student loans must be paid back over a period of time following graduation or the point when you discontinue attending the institution. There are two types of student loans, federally guaranteed loans and private lending. Be sure you and your parents completely understand all the terms of any loan you sign. Contact the financial aid office for help in learning about the different types of student loans.

  • Estimated federally guaranteed student loan award - Your financial aid award letter may include these loans you won’t have to pay back until you leave school. While the lower interest rates and ability to delay payment until graduation is tempting, students should take out only the amount of loans that they truly need. Dependent freshmen, those who are required to have parents listed on the FAFSA, are eligible for $5,500/yr in the Stafford Loan program.

  • Work Study student employment award -

    Your financial aid award letter may include work study. This is what you can earn in an on-campus job (and sometimes off-campus job) to put toward your college expenses. To learn more about work study, go to the financial aid office Web sites of the schools you are considering.

    NMU does not assign work study positions. Students can visit Career Services to view employment opportunities.

    Savings tip: Work study status can make it easier for you to find a job on campus. In Michigan, you’ll earn at least $7.40 per hour (as of July 2008). Examples of on-campus jobs are office assistant, campus food service, grounds-keeping or even as a campus tour guide. NMU Student employees are ussually limited to a maximum of 20 hours per week. Remember to account for the weeks you’ll be gone (winter break, spring break, summers) or the times you’ll be able to work more than half-time (semester breaks and summers).


  • Alternative loans -

    Terms on parent and private loans may vary. Repayment on the principal usually starts after the student leaves school. Interest payments may begin sooner. Interest rates may be variable or fixed. Check with your lender for details. We suggest you discuss any parent or private loans with your personal financial adviser. While the lower interest rates and ability to delay some payments until graduation is tempting, students should take out only the amount of loans that they truly need. Generally federal loan options come with better features, such as lower rates and flexible payment options. We recommend you look into them first. 
    More information on alternative loans.


  • Student employment on campus or off campus - Part-time work is a fact of life for many students. If you know you will have a job to assist you in covering expenses, you may want to include that information here.

  • College savings - Personal savings, liquid or cash assets you have set aside to pay for college. Enter the amount you plan to spend each year, not the total amount.