For many high school students, the next step after graduation is to head off to college, but paying for college can be an obstacle. With the cost of secondary education on the rise, you may want to examine some of the ways you can cut college tuition costs in order to achieve your higher education goals.
College tuition prices in the United States have skyrocketed in the last thirty years. It seems like every family is paying on average between $40,000 and $60,000 a year for their children to go to college — but in reality, the savvy families and students are paying much less than that. They know that there are ways to cut the cost of college tuition, and we know that too.
Here are a few helpful hints and sophisticated strategies to help you save big bucks on a college education:
Research Grant Opportunities –
Grants are an excellent way for private organizations and big businesses to look as though they are giving back to the community, while only investing a small amount of actual capital. Because businesses are so eager to hop on board the grant and scholarship train, there are more grants out there than there are students to claim them.
Begin by researching grant opportunities in your town, and then branch out to the surrounding areas. See if the company that one of your parents works for sponsors a grant or scholarship opportunity, or check to see if an aunt, uncle, or family friend can point you in the right direction. If you don’t mind writing personal statements and essays, this strategy could be very lucrative for some candidates.
Work at Your University –
Many students do not like to work during the school year because school is a major commitment by itself. However, you can decrease the cost of attending school by participating in a work-study program. Most work-study programs require that you only work 10 to 20 hours per week. The extra money that you have in your pocket can make a big difference in your finances. Part-time gigs at colleges are often easy, close by, and relatively decent paying jobs. Finding a part-time job in the library or help in the cafeteria can assist with decreasing the cost of your education by paying for books, or the cost of your dorm room.
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Try to Attend School In-State –
Many people who take out student loans go to school out-of-state. Most colleges will give people a discount if they attend school in-state. You will not only be able to get a discount, but you will also be able to get financial aid. The difference in tuition costs for in-state students versus out-of-state students is often staggering. For instance, many in-state students at Rutgers University in New Jersey, an excellent (and nationally ranked) school, pay half as much as their Pennsylvania or Delaware-born counterparts. State schools also have a vested interest in keeping local students home, so they will often offer generous compensatory packages and other financial incentives to good students. If you play your cards right, you could receive an excellent education at a lower price!
Resell Textbooks at the End of the Semester –
Every college student knows that one of the biggest rip-offs in higher education is the price of textbooks. The worst part of the situation is, even after spending hundreds of dollars on materials that you only need for one semester, schools often refuse to buy them back or only buy them back at a highly reduced price. Instead, students can take matters into their own hands by setting up a school-wide textbook exchange or sales group. In this way, students can buy textbooks from or sell them to each other for a fair market price. Finding trade partners or selling your textbooks on this ‘black market’ could make the price of textbooks a negligible cost for you, which easily saves you hundreds each semester. Also, check out online book sales. There are a few websites that are dedicated to selling textbooks at reduced rates.
Consider a Public College vs. a Private College –
Private schools are significantly more costly than public schools. Many people who attend a private school end up with student loan debt that is over six figures. One of the best ways to save money on a quality college education is to consider a state university instead of a private institution. The loans you will need to take in order to pay for private colleges can land you in serious debt, and repaying student loans can become a lifelong headache whereas the price tag for public or state universities is far less than half the cost.
Take a Look at Community College –
You may even want to begin your college education at a community college. Community college credits can easily be transferred to public institutions and taking a year, or even two years, worth of credits at a community college means significant savings. Though the price varies by state, you can expect to pay somewhere around $100-$250 per credit hour at a local community college versus $400-$500 or so at a public college, adding up to thousands of dollars in savings.
Not only is community college a great way to earn credits to transfer to a public college, but they also offer degree programs. Though they are not four-year degrees, you may want to consider the benefits of a two-year associate’s degree or even a vocational certificate program. It all depends on what line of work you want to get into. The savings are considerable, and there are excellent job opportunities and earning potential available for people with associate’s degrees or vocational training. Really think about what you want to do as your career, and that will help you decide if you need to go to a 4-year college or if vocational training would be better.
Take Classes During the Summer –
Many colleges will cut the cost of tuition during the summer. In fact, some colleges reduce the cost of attending by 15 percent or more. That’s why it’s a good idea to take classes during the summer if you can. Ask your prospective college choices if they offer this money-saving option.
Pre-pay for College Expenses –
If you are able to pre-pay your school expenses, then you should consider doing so. Many colleges will give you a discount if you can pre-pay. In fact, you may be able to save thousands of dollars by pre-paying some of your expenses. It never hurts to ask!
Get Your Employer to Pay –
It is estimated that 80 percent of people work while they are in school. If you are working for a company, then you should ask if you can be reimbursed for the costs of going to school to continue your education. They may also pay for some of your school expenses.
Look for College Scholarships –
A scholarship can cover a large percentage of your school costs. It is important to note that you do not have to be a star athlete or straight A student to get a scholarship. If you do your research, then you will likely be able to find one that you can apply for. If you plan to obtain a four-year degree, do your research on any scholarships that may be available to you. Full scholarships will, of course, pay for your entire education, but partial scholarships are also available and result in significant savings. Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students with academic excellence, and athletic scholarships are awarded to students who excel in sports and wish to compete at the college level. Many scholarships have rules such as maintaining a certain GPA that you have to follow to continue receiving aid.
Cutting tuition costs does not have to begin with the college search. You can even begin the search during high school. If you have a history of strong academic performance, talk to your guidance counselor about registering for AP courses. AP courses will earn you college credits, and depending on how many courses you are able to take, you may even be able to start college as a sophomore, resulting in instant savings of around 10-20 percent.
College tuition is out of control, but students that plan prudently for each semester can reduce their financial burden tremendously. Preparing a detailed budget, taking advantage of scholarship and employment opportunities, and being a savvy seller on campus can drop tuition prices by thousands each year. These strategies are just the beginning — as a student’s college career blooms, he or she will surely think of more ways to save a pretty penny on campus.
Paying for college can be stressful, but there are several options available to help you. The professionals at Advantage CCS can work with you to map out a plan to make college education a reality. And if you’ve already taken out more loans than you think you can handle, contact us today. Our non-profit consumer credit counselors are available online, in person or via the telephone to help you create a budget management plan that can help keep you from becoming too overwhelmed.