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        The Real Cost of College

        This lesson teaches the basics of budgeting, including understanding how revenue and expenses interact.

        Lesson Summary


        This lesson teaches high school students the basics of budgeting, including understanding how revenue and expenses interact. Students learn about budgeting for college expenses and apply what they learn to real-life scenarios. They watch a segment from What’s Up in Finance? where Eddie, a college student, consults a financial planner to help him with strategies to manage his budget. Students then create different budget scenarios reflecting what it really costs to go to college, using online resources that they research independently.


        Students will:

        • Identify the components of a budget
        • Apply principles of financial management
        • Summarize the nature of opportunity costs
        • Understand the importance of self-regulation
        • Evaluate the costs associated with going to college
        • Research different college cost options
        • Compute the cost of college

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time:

        (3) 45 minute class periods

        Media Resources:

        Moving Out QuickTime Video

        In this segment from What’s Up in Finance? a college student consults a financial planner for strategies to manage his finances.


        Web Sites:

        Before The Lesson

        1. Bookmark the Web site used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.
        2. Preview all of the video segments and Web sites used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students, currently available, and accessible from your classroom.
        3. Download the video segments used in this lesson onto your hard drive, or prepare to stream the clips from your classroom.
        4. Print out the "College Budget Terms" Teacher Organizer, to copy the terms and definitions on the board.
        5. Print out the Student Organizers: "Data Page" and "Budget Scenarios" and make enough copies so that each student has one copy of each organizer.

        The Lesson

        Day 1:Introductory Lesson

        1. Introduce the lesson by asking students if they have plans to go to college and if they have any idea how much it costs. Write the amounts the students guess regarding the cost of college on the board.
        2. Then, discuss with students how they plan to pay for college. Some possible answers: parents, job, student loans.
        3. Next, ask students if they know anything about keeping a budget. Also ask if they plan to use a budget while in college. Write the budget terms from the College Terms Student Organizer on the board, and discuss the definitions with the students.
        4. Tell students they are going to watch a video segment from What’s Up in Finance? that features Eddie, a college student who is having challenges managing his spending. Ask them to look at Eddie’s story and think about how they might use a budget to help save money for college, or to manage their expenses once they are in college. Play the video Moving Out for the class.
        5. When the segment is over, have a discussion with students about some of the costs Eddie had when he moved out on his own to go to college (Answer: rent, food, gas, entertainment, tuition).
        6. Also discuss with students different college scenarios that might affect the costs of attending college. For example, two-year versus four-year programs; living in the dorm versus living off-campus versus living at home. Write the options on the board.
        7. Distribute the Data Page Student Organizer.
        8. Next, ask students to identify possible revenue streams to pay for college. Examples: parents, student loans, part-time jobs, etc. Ask students to record these options on their Data Page.
        9. Then, ask students to identify a list of basic college expenses on their Data Page Student Organizer. Costs can include items like tuition, room and board, books and supplies, cell phone, transportation, and entertainment.
        10. Ask students to start to research the costs of going to college using the web sites provided with this lesson.

        Day 2:Complete Budget Research

        1. Students continue to research the costs of college and incidental living expenses, using the web sites provided.
        2. Hand out the Budget Scenario Student Organizer. Explain to students that they will be completing three different budget scenarios, with a different set of expenses for each. Scenario 1 will be "The Dream" which means students can come up with any type of college and expenses they would like. Scenario 2 will be "Middle of the Road" which means that the student should try to be careful with spending, but can still attend any college they would like. Finally, Scenario 3 will be "Frugal Student" which means that students should attempt to spend as little money as possible.
        3. Ask students to fill in the expense side of their Budget Scenario Student Organizer.

        Day 3: Discuss Budget Outcomes

        1. Ask students to review the expense side of the three budget scenarios they created in the previous class. Then, ask students to add up the expenses in each scenario.
        2. Once students know how much revenue is needed, ask them to begin to brainstorm different revenue options. Write the students' ideas on the board.
        3. Next, ask students to complete the revenue side of each of their three budget scenarios.
        4. As a class, discuss the different scenarios that students came up with. Ask students to explain the least expensive and most expensive, and what were the major contributing costs. Ask students if they think they were able to moderate costs in different ways, and to explain the most effective way they did so.


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