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Students, responsible for themselves for the first time in their lives, can be easily tricked into paying exorbitant prices for necessities. (Image via DebtWave Credit Counseling, Inc.)
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Students are one of the easiest groups to take advantage of, and university systems have turned doing so into a science.

When in college, students tend to overlook the fine print when signing their name to paperwork involving apartment complexes or places that buy and sell books, a reality especially true when exams, study sessions and mountains of homework are also competing for their attention. As a result, they often look for the quick fix, whether or not that solution is the most efficient.

When looking at schools’ estimated costs of attendance, whether you’re a high school senior, optimistic transfer student or prospective graduate applicant, it is easy to misunderstand exactly what your tuition will be paying for. Clearly, you expect your money to pay for classes and housing, but college often comes with a variety of less visible fees as well. Expenses you do not think twice about, such as transportation fees, student union dues, advising charges, recreation center memberships, athletics attendance, student services expenses and medical service bills, add up. However, because their student debt is often a much larger, more intimidating number, many undergrads tend to focus on minimizing their post-grad loans, meaning these subtle, in-school charges often go unnoticed.

University-related businesses, the main beneficiaries of these fees, have been taking advantage of this for some time now. A college blog for Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, talks about the difference between private and public schools, saying that “for-profit institutions must provide adequate financial returns for their shareholders and stakeholders. Making a profit is an absolute priority.” So what does having a profit as a priority mean, exactly? It means that school-related businesses are allowed to maneuver their way into finding loopholes to charge kids as much as possible without their understanding.

University Books and Their Bookstores

With time, textbooks have gotten more expensive; in fact, required classroom readings are often a single expensive book with an access code, and other classes may require multiple small books. This is damaging because, oftentimes, classes do not even use these highly priced texts, thus costing students dearly for something they won’t even look at.

In an article published by CBS News’ Kathy Kristof, she discusses the corresponding rise in the price of these textbooks, saying, “The average cost of college textbooks has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation over the past 10 years. That has caused 65 percent of students to skip buying required texts at some point in their college career because of a lack of affordability.”

Bookstores have the advantage of being near universities, as well as understanding the demand for their text. When demand rises high, these businesses thrive by jacking up the prices, which students will inevitably need to pay. That being said, bookstores are a minor aspect to look into when it comes to students getting finessed out of their money.

Housing

At a university, housing is the biggest complication that students worry about. Knowing this, apartment complexes shoot up their rent costs for students who are late to sign a lease. In fact, leasing is highest in August nationwide, because landlords know that students are looking for a place near their school to make the commute bearable. These places have various ways to attempt to get more money from these students who are simply trying to receive an education, but the lack of sympathy is apparent when there is a chance for more money to go to the land owner.

However, in the search for decently priced housing, an aspect some students overlook is the aspect of towing. Towing companies partner with apartment complexes to clear up spaces when a visitor is parked in the wrong spot.

But how would a towing company know to tow a vehicle near a university if not acknowledged? These towing trucks circulate through complexes as often as every 45 minutes just to check and look at every car in the lot, in order to make sure that they have been authorized to park there. If not, the vehicle will be towed. Friends of students will then have to go to the apartment’s front office, or wait until it opens up to get the information needed to locate the towing company, in addition to how much the process is going to cost them. The towing company will give back each car for $150 or more after going through the towing protocol.

Another protocol that students need to be cautious of is the apartment’s conditions when moving in and out. When a student moves into an apartment complex, they must fill out a paper that documents what areas of the apartment are damaged. This paperwork allows management to know what damages were caused before the student moved in, so they won’t be charged unfairly for said damage when moving out.

Here’s the catch though: Students only get 24 hours to complete this form.

The form generally consists of the student’s room, bathroom, closet and common area. What makes this so bad is that oftentimes, students experience a flurry of emotions moving into a new place. The feeling of freedom and new opportunities, as well as anxiety of moving far from home, can tend to excite students so much that they overlook minor details such as stains on the walls or a scratched-up floor. Failure to mark these damages will come back to haunt them later when they try to move out. The company will go in once everyone is gone, and the slightest damage or hint of wear and tear that management sees will be charged to their past residents.

Move-out statements are sent to each tenant that lived at a complex at the end of their residency. Charges that go into janitorial and replacing furniture are sent to the former resident, which are sent out to all roommates of residents who are charged the same tab on separate bills, multiplying the costs.

How to Beat the System

Do not let these examples discourage. There are ways to “beat the system.” Nowadays, students look into e-books, Amazon, Chegg and other sites like these in order to find the cheapest, easiest accessible ways to find the reads that they need for their courses.

For those who worry about the chance of being towed, make sure to warn friends and family to park carefully when they visit. When it comes to housing, the best way to get out of having to pay for these move-out statements is pictures. Take pictures when moving in, before cleaning when moving out, and after the last cleaning before checking out. Documenting the appearance can help gain leverage on companies that may try to get more money before the resident moves on.

When receiving this information, you may feel overwhelmed, but it is better to be knowledgeable of these injustices. These small tips can go a long way in the pursuit for saving money. As students who attend university, it is better to understand and know what is going on ahead of time, in order to avoid being taken advantage of by these university-based businesses.

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