Controlling costs

Explore these tips for making your UC experience more affordable.

The most important factor controlling the cost of college is finishing your degree on time – ideally, within 4 years. You can do this by managing your academic plan wisely: take required courses before electives, and take more than the minimum full course load each term.

There are other ways to save money while you’re at UC. Remember, the cost of attending UC each year includes tuition and fees, room and board, books, transportation and health care.

Here are some tips from real students about how they save money on these expenses:



Tips on saving $

Housing/Dorm & room expenses

  • On-campus housing rates
  • Off-campus rent & utilities
  • Internet (off campus)
  • Sheets, towels, reading lamps
  • Laundry
  • Live with roommates to share the rent and utilities
  • Borrow appliances from family or friends, or buy them used
  • Be mindful of turning off lights to save on electricity
  • Use A/C and heat sparingly


  • Meal plans on campus
  • Groceries
  • Restaurants
  • Snacks
  • If you're living on campus, research your meal plan: Figure out how much you want to eat on campus vs. off campus and choose a plan that will be right for you
  • Share big item groceries with roommates
  • Plan ahead and bring lunch and snacks with you to campus if you know you're going to be away from your room/house for a while.
  • Limit the number of times per month you go out to eat

Books & school supplies

Books can vary per class and per major.

School supplies include:

  • Book bags
  • Notebooks
  • Pens & pencils
  • Paper & computer paper
  • Computer & printer
  • Rent textbooks, or buy used books
  • Borrow books from friends that have been in the same class before you
  • Buy online - sometimes you can find a better deal
  • Use a book from the campus library, especially if you need a new edition
  • If you buy new books, consider selling them back to the bookstore (if they have a buy-back program) or online
  • Rather than buying a printer, try printing on campus


  • Public transportation
  • Car (insurance, gas, repairs)
  • Parking permits
  • Walk or bike to class/campus
  • Many campuses offer a free shuttle service to and around campus
  • If you can, consider sharing a parking permit with roommates
  • Consider carpooling with friends or roommates

* (Approximate; costs vary per campus and circumstance)

Source: Items and descriptions modified from

Payment plans

Many campuses offer deferred payment plans to help make payment of tuition, fees and on-campus housing costs more manageable. Under these plans, you spread your payments over a period of months, rather than paying all at once at the beginning of the term.

Participating is easy. You will need to complete an application and pay a fee to use a deferred payment plan. The plans don't charge interest, but you may be assessed a late fee if your payments are overdue.

To learn more about deferred payment plans, contact the campus you wish to attend:

Credit cards

Some UC campuses permit use of certain credit cards to pay tuition and fees via a third party. Credit cards charge interest, so be aware of potential long-term costs.

Tax credits and savings plans

Federal tax credits and savings plans are available to help families manage the cost of college — particularly if they don't qualify for aid.

  • Federal education tax credits: If you or your parents pay for your tuition and fees, you may be able to recover some of the expenses through federal tax benefits. The American Opportunity Tax Credit is available for four years of college, and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit is available for college enrollment at any level. To take advantage of these benefits, you must be in a qualifying income bracket. Talk to a tax expert about your eligibility for the credits — and visit the Internal Revenue Service website for more information.
  • Tax-advantaged savings plans: There are numerous tax-advantaged savings plans (also known as 529 college savings plans) around the country with a variety of terms and fees charged.