A recent report by KQED found that incorrect estimates for living expenses often leave college students scrambling. 

When students enroll in college, the school gives them a breakdown of what they can expect to pay for their tuition, fees, and basic living expenses. But many new college students are surprised to find that the actual cost of living expenses are not what they had anticipated.

That’s because the many colleges provide incorrect estimates for the cost of living expenses. Experts say this is a real problem in areas with very high costs of living.

Incorrect estimates affect students’ ability to budget for monthly expenses and pay for school, according to a report by KQED. For example, San Francisco State University and Cal State Fullerton provide the exact same estimated cost of living expenses. But renting an apartment in San Francisco is nearly $1,000 more per month than renting in Fullerton.

Overestimating and underestimating costs are both a problem for new students. When colleges overestimate the cost of living, students will usually take out more student loans than they need. But when colleges underestimate the cost of living, students find themselves in a bind where they have to find other ways to support themselves.

Financial aid calculations are partly based on the school’s total cost of attendance. So if the school underestimates the cost of living, many students will find that they are capped out on their ability to take out student loans. Many of these students are forced to work harder to make up the difference in their finances.

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For students getting ready to start college, there are ways to accurately plan for the upcoming year. But it isn’t always easy to budget for the cost of living expenses, especially if you are moving to a new area. Online cost of living calculators can help students figure out how much they should plan to spend on food and housing costs.

Generally, living off-campus could be more affordable than living in a college dorm room. Living with a roommate can help cut down on those costs as well. College students can also live close to campus so they can save money on gas and parking. Fortunately, most college campuses are designed for students to be able to operate without a car.

Students that budget and are careful with their money during school will be able to reduce the amount of time they have to spend working. And this can help students take out fewer student loans to cover living expenses in addition to tuition.