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Hidden College Costs

By Tom Nicholas

April 13, 2018

Admission decisions are out, the long months of anticipation are over, and it is finally time for our newly admitted students to choose a college home. The ball is in your court, future Spiders!

As exciting as it is to envision attending a new school for the next four years, a lingering question holds many families back: how do we afford it? Comparing financial aid and scholarship offers across multiple colleges is often so complex that it can be easy to zero in on tuition, room, and board as the sole costs of a college education. While these expenses comprise the bulk of college cost, and warrant most of your attention, there are a number of out-of-pocket costs that you should be prepared for (or — spoiler alert — not have to worry about so much, if you enroll at Richmond). While many are small or seemingly incidental, they add up over four years to a pretty hefty additional outlay. For students considering Richmond as a slightly larger investment, accounting for the ways we cover those smaller, hidden expenses can actually make UR the better financial deal when you factor it all in.

Here are a couple of the most common areas you might find yourself accruing unwanted financial add-ons over the next four years — and, more importantly, how Richmond subsidizes many of these extra costs for our students:


Let’s start with room and board. You’re never going to have to worry about buying extra bucks to be able to eat (extremely well!) at Richmond. Richmond’s basic meal plan, with unlimited swipes into D-Hall and $800 dining dollars per year to spend at other locations on campus, is more than sufficient for most students. As you look carefully at what’s included in first-year meal plans at other colleges, be sure to make sure the quantity meets your needs and doesn’t send you searching elsewhere to supplement your sustenance.

There are a number of other ways students see cost savings at Richmond.

What about having a car on campus? About half of Richmond students do. It’s not necessary, but it can be a nice convenience. In general, college parking fees are notoriously expensive — among our most common competitors, the pricing ranges from $260-$1,684/year. Yet Richmond’s annual student parking permit is a paltry $130/year. When I mention that to colleagues at other institutions, theirs jaws practically hit the floor. In college terms, that’s dirt cheap. Just two years with a car on campus costs you, on average, $1,944 less at Richmond

And then there are the add-ons. Take that bane of every college student’s busy schedule: laundry. No, we don’t do your laundry for you. But at $2.00 per load, doing three loads per week (welcome to adulthood!) you’re looking at $768 over the course of four years. At Richmond, however, use of your hall’s laundry facilities is included in room and board, so that additional cost would be $0. That’s approximately 3,000 quarters you’ll save yourself from carting around. I’d tell you to go take your savings and buy yourself a latte, but no need — remember, that cost is included in your meal plan!

Division I sports tickets? Free, for all sports, for all students. Performing Arts tickets? Free or significantly reduced for all students. Student activity fees? There’s no general fee, and some of the areas that often run up the highest additional fees (like club sports) are heavily subsidized by Richmond. Have you seen our beautiful turf intramural fields? Or the awesome, branded gear our sport clubs have? The average $30/year dues aren’t paying for all of that, I can assure you.


You won’t find extra costs like Orientation Fees at Richmond (and none of our amazing pre-orientation programs carry any additional expense. You get to move in early with no financial strings attached.) Our living-learning programs don’t carry extra fees, either. So if you take part in The Richmond Endeavor as a first-year, or our Sophomore Scholars in Residence (SSIR) program, or one of our Chaplaincy’s Pilgrimage journeys, you’ll have a variety of additional experiences — and likely a spring break trip to destination(s) across the U.S. and abroad — completely funded. These types of programs can run thousands of additional dollars at other institutions.

Recent SSIR and Chaplaincy programs have taken students to destinations ranging from Los Angeles to Indonesia.

Studying Abroad

This is a big one. 60% of Richmond students study abroad, often for a semester or more. Study abroad carries all sorts of additional costs — but one of the reasons so many Richmond students go is how affordable Richmond makes it. For one thing, Richmond reimburses you for a variety of expenses, including U.S. passport fees (up to $145), student visa and residency permit fees (typically ranging from $100-$300), part of your airfare ($600-$1200, depending on where you’re going), and up to $500 in cultural experiences like museum tickets or performing arts events.

This is an image of a passport.

There are no application fees, no general study abroad fees, and no fees to transfer course credit back home. Richmond also provides comprehensive international health insurance for you, pays for a gym membership or athletic activities while you’re abroad, and provides an extra financial allowance for locations where the cost of living is exceptionally high. Any financial aid or scholarship you’re receiving — including room and board — carries with you, and there are additional study abroad grants and scholarships for which you can apply.

Summer Experiences

I hope, by now, you’re familiar with the Richmond Guarantee. For most students considering Richmond, some form of summer experience in college (internships, research, service, study abroad) is definitely on the horizon. These experiences are hugely impactful during your college years and increasingly critical for post-college success in a global marketplace. So Richmond doesn’t just help you find these opportunities — we fund them as well. As a Spider, you’re guaranteed up to $4,000 for at least one summer (the average grant last summer was $3,500). Many students will apply more than once and complete multiple funded summer projects.

From Capitol Hill internships in D.C. to research on the African savanna, Richmond has you covered.

These are just a few examples among many of how Richmond uses its resources to the benefit of undergraduate students. Just how much you benefit will depend on your experience, what you’re looking for, and how you take advantage of all Richmond has to offer. But in monetary terms, it’s not hard to see these benefits adding up to $10,000-$15,000 for the typical student — and even more for some.

Tags: Financial Aid/Scholarships Why Richmond?

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Tom NicholasTom Nicholas
Associate Director of Admission 

A Richmond alumnus (Class of 2007), Tom has been working and blogging for the Office of Admission since he graduated. He loves his alma mater and the city that shares its name.

Learn more about Tom

Beth Anne SpachtBeth Anne Spacht
Senior Assistant Director of Admission

Beth Anne was a double major at Richmond (English and Latin American & Iberian Studies) and now enjoys helping prospective students discover the best of her alma mater.

Learn more about Beth Anne

The University of Richmond is a highly ranked liberal arts university offering an extraordinary combination of the liberal arts with law, business, leadership studies, and continuing education. The university is consistently named a best value in higher education by leading publications.

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