The Unexpected Costs of College in the Performing Arts

Surprises That Can Hurt Your Wallet

Your student is accepted into the college of their dreams. They received scholarships and a decent financial aid package. You have the invoice for the first semester and feel good about the balance of tuition, fees, books, room, and board. Except for some out-of-pocket money, your student is all set, right? Perhaps not.

The High Unexpected Costs of Performances

Whether your student is a performing arts major or is only participating in college ensembles, you might be in for some financial surprises. Your student could call you to tell you they need private lessons, suits, gowns, costumes, wigs, shoes, or travel expenses. But how much could these additional items cost?

  • Students can expect to pay on average $2,000 a year for their three performance gowns
  • A 45-minute private lesson at a prestigious southern university is $260
  • A Midwestern school requires its orchestra to travel and give performances during the summer. Students are responsible for all travel, lodging, and meals while on tour.
  • If you see a marching band using silver instruments and your student has a gold-toned instrument, they will need to replace it with a silver one to march with the band.
  • Voice students need language, diction, vocal lessons.
  • Music education students need a quality baton.

In high school, the school or the booster club provides all students an equal opportunity to participate in performing arts. In college, there is no booster club. These are not optional costs; they are part of the degree plan. If your student does not get the needed lessons, materials, or instruments, they could be removed from their programs or ensemble.

Strategies to Help Plan Ahead

  1. Understand the college program catalog. The catalog is a legal document and explains nearly all costs related to your student’s attendance and participation in performance ensembles. The college catalog is almost always online. If the catalog is not on the website, call the department office and ask for a copy. Some colleges might only offer their catalog to accepted students.
  2. Ask questions and be mindful of additional costs. Speak with ensemble directors and studio instructors about fees not listed online. Look at the semester-by-semester schedule to help you organize your questions.
  3. When a fee is not included in a catalog, consider negotiating.

Negotiate Unexpected Costs

  • If the clarinet teacher shares that he or she will only teach students that have a Buffet Crampon R13 Bb Clarinet and also requires a Buffet Crampon R13 A Clarinet. You might negotiate to let your child use the Buffet Crampon BC123150 R13 Series A Clarinet which is less than half the price.
  • The voice teacher requires that you make two trips to New York and one to Chicago to see three operas, two at the New York Met and one at the Chicago Lyric. These three trips for the semester could cost over $6,000. Negotiate one to New York and one to Chicago and then one in a 1/2 day driving distance like Atlanta or Houston.
  • If you need a silver horn for marching band, get your own horn dipped in silver rather than buying a new horn.

If you find that these costs of college might put your child’s education out of reach, look into non-institutional (third-party) scholarships. Most communities have several scholarships available for local students. Great places to start are your student’s guidance office or your local library. Both typically carry listings of scholarship opportunities. Check out our listings here too!

College is expensive, but knowing unexpected college costs upfront will help you plan and make paying for college more manageable.

Keep Practicing!