Beyond the College Bill

The Hidden Hurdles of Indirect Expenses

Indirect expenses, non-tuition costs like textbooks, laptops, transportation, off-campus housing, and food, make up more than half the cost of college, yet colleges fail to give students essential information about them. These unforeseen costs can create financial hardship that prevent students from earning a degree, especially those from low-income backgrounds and communities of color who face affordability gaps nationwide.

Beyond the College Bill: The Hidden Hurdles of Indirect Expenses examines how colleges calculate and communicate indirect expenses, how students struggle to understand and afford them, and the impact on students. The study draws on primary and secondary research, along with data analysis from over 800 colleges and the lived experiences of more than 150 students.

Explore Report

Policy Recommendations

Student-Created Indirect Expense Glossary

Examples: Helpful Explanantions on College Websites

Promising Practices: Institutions Reducing Indirect Expenses


The Office of Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) sponsored a briefing on June 25, 2020, where uAspire staff and student fellows presented findings and policy recommendations from our report, Beyond the College Bill: The Hidden Hurdles of Indirect Expenses..


The ‘Indirect’ Costs at College Can Involve Nasty Surprises, The New York Times

Report: Students Struggle to Find Accurate Estimates for Non-Tuition Costs, Diverse Issues in Education

Inconsistent Information on Indirect Expenses, Inside Higher Education 

Indirect Expenses for Students Often Outweigh Tuition, But Are Hard to Identify, Report Finds, NASFAA

Thank you to Lumina Foundation for supporting uAspire efforts on this project.