Understanding Your College Bill

Breaking down what goes into your college bill and next steps
College Costs

What you need to know about college bills and payment plans

Costs like tuition, fees, and health insurance are included as part of your college bill. If you live on campus and have a meal plan, those costs will also be included in your college bill. Most schools require you to have health insurance but if you’re already covered under your family’s plan, you do have the option to waive that fee.

Tip: Your college bill will include costs not covered by your financial aid package you’ll need to pay directly to the college.

When can I expect to receive my bill

You can expect to receive your bill in July or August before your first year of college. Expect a bill around this time each year of your enrollment. Colleges often offer pay-as-you-go payment plans which enable you to spread out payments over the course of a quarter, semester or the full academic year.

Avoid course registration delays by paying your bill on time

Determine when your payment is due and be sure to arrange a payment plan before the due date. If you have an outstanding balance, your course registration may be put on hold. Courses fill up fast, so don’t get stuck with a delay!

How to begin bill payment: start by accepting all of your financial aid

Before you sign up for a payment plan, make sure your scholarships, grants, and loans are correct in the financial aid section of your college’s student portal website. After you’ve accepted your financial aid package, your college bill will comprise a remaining balance, depending on school costs. 

Not ready to make a decision on loans? Check out “Ultimate Guide to Loans for Parents & Students”.Not sure how to accept your aid? See a walk-through in “How to Accept Your Aid”.

Find the right office to handle payment plans

Offices that handle payment plans vary depending on the college. Any of the following offices may handle payment plans: Student Accounting Office, Bursar, or Financial Aid Office.

If you think the college might not have a payment plan, make sure to check with all of these offices before giving up on this option.

Ask the college for plan details

Payment plan options vary at different colleges. Try googling the name of your college and the words “payment plan” to find the page on the college’s website that can tell you specific details for your school.

If you can’t find clear information online, make sure to contact the appropriate office and ask for details. Here are some questions to ask:

  • “Do you have multiple payment plan options or just one?”
  • “How many payments will there be? How much will be due and on what exact dates?”
  • “What is the fee for enrolling in the payment plan? Is it a flat fee or is it a percentage of the total tuition and fees?”
  • “Are there any other fees I should know about?”
  • “Do I need to have a checking account or credit card in order to enroll in a payment plan?”
  • “Does the payment plan apply to the housing/meals part of my bill or just the tuition part?”
  • “What do I need to do to enroll? By what date?”
  • “Do you offer a way for my family to enroll in automatic payments?”
  • “If additional money becomes available suddenly, is there a way to cancel the payment plan? Will the fee be refunded?”
  • “Is there a penalty or fee for a late payment?”

Put payment dates in your calendar

Put due dates and the amount in a calendar to remind you and your family when payment is due. Talk about who will be making each payment and make sure that person has reminders set up so that they don’t forget.

Contact the college if you can’t make a payment on time

If you or your family cannot make a payment on time, it is critical to talk to the college and let them know your situation as soon as possible. The college will usually try to work with you, but they will become much less cooperative if you wait until after the payment is late.