Ten Ways to Make College More Affordable
Granted, saving for college is tough, and if you don’t have savings, then finding ways to afford college means you have to look at alternatives. Here are a few. The ten tips below are taken from our book, College Without Ramen Noodles.
1) Consider Starting at a Community or Junior College
In many states, you can get two years of college at the local level and save on the cost of going away to college. Community college costs are thousands of dollars cheaper per semester than the expenses of most universities. In addition, class sizes at community colleges are much smaller than those in large university lecture halls and can provide you with more personal attention when taking your required classes. Before enrolling at the local “juco,” however, check to make sure your credits transfer to a four-year college.
The sticker price for a year’s tuition at an average community college averages around $2,600, according to the College Board. But because of increased Pell Grants and tax breaks, the out-of-pocket (or net) price paid by community college students actually is often less.
The average community college student can receive enough aid to pay all tuition fees, with $460 left over to help cover books and supplies (which typically add another $1,000 to total college costs).
So be sure and check out your local community college as a place to start your college education. The first two years might easily be free, or at least a lot less than a four-year public university.
2) Take Advanced Placement Courses
High school students can also take Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses in high school that often translate to college credit, which is a big savings right off the bat. These courses, normally available in a student’s junior and senior year, are much more academically demanding than standard fare high school classes, but you are earning college credit while still in high school. A student who takes just six AP or IB courses in high school could start college with 18 credit hours. That’s means you have “paid” for one semester of college, before you even start college. With a bit more work, a student can shave a year off their college attendance, which makes these courses worth several thousand dollars in college savings.
To qualify for a particular course, a student typically has to earn a high grade in the content area (A or B), receive a written letter of endorsement from a teacher, and do well on the end of course IB/AP exam. Qualification requirements will vary by school and program.
3) Take College Courses While Still in High School
While attending high school, some students choose to simultaneously take a college course or two. This is possible at community colleges that don’t require students to have high school diplomas to attend. Typically, students who do this take college classes in the summer between their junior and senior years and one or two courses during their senior years.
A few college classes in your senior year can be a great option for students who may not qualify for AP courses at their high school, but still want to get a jump-start on their college education. By taking a class or two at the community college during two high school semesters, a student can eliminate one semester’s worth of general education requirements. Again, the savings can be several thousand dollars of university tuition.
Combined with the AP or IB courses, a student could start college with between 18 and 30 credit hours, which is equal to most of one’s freshman year. You may also be able to take college courses online.
4) Take Exams for College Credit.
It is possible to complete a year of college just by taking CLEP exams for credit on subjects that you either know or can study for. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program, a series of multiple-choice exams you can pass in order to earn college credit. Your passing scores on CLEP tests will demonstrate your knowledge of the subjects in which you are proficient.
Administered by The College Board, the same organization that’s behind the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), CLEP exams are designed to measure college-level knowledge of 33 different subjects, the same subjects that you would normally take in your first two years of college. Taking a CLEP exam is essentially the equivalent of taking the final exam of a particular course.
The best part of passing CLEP exams is that you can get credit for content you already know and save money on tuition. If you were able to pass ten exams, you could cut a year off the cost of college tuition. Each exam costs around $80 dollars, so ten exams would cost you about $800, plus the cost of any study materials you used. Passing ten CLEP courses is the equivalent of 30 credit hours, or a full year of college credits for somewhat more than $800. That’s one-fourth of a bachelor’s degree for less than the price of a single college course.
If you are still in high school, consider taking CLEP exams for the courses you are taking in high school. After finishing a couple of years of a French, for example, why not take the corresponding CLEP exam and earn college credit for a three-hour French class? There are many different resources available you can use to prepare for CLEP exams. You can find study guides for these exams by doing a search for “CLEP” in Amazon.
5) Take College Courses Online
Consider taking college courses online. While this may not be inexpensive, you can continue to work while you study and get many of the basic courses out of the way. You can complete a degree online or transfer credits to a four-year college.
6) Qualify for an Honors Programs
If you have a strong academic record and high ACT or SAT scores, consider applying to the honors program of the college you will attend. Depending on the college, you may find a program that pays all of your tuition, fees and books. In some cases an honors program only provides a separate dorm to live in, but for a serious student that could be worth it.
The other advantage is that if you take honors courses while in college, your degree includes the notation “Graduated with Honors” or a similar phase to note your achievement.
Requirements vary from school to school. You may need to write an essay and earn high test scores and a high GPA. An interview may also be required. Because some of these programs pay full tuition, they can be very competitive.
7) Live at Home
If there is a college nearby, start there and live at home to reduce your expenses for room and board. I realize that is not a great option for everyone, but you can save nine to ten thousand dollars a year that way, maybe more.
8) Get Relatives To Help
In a recent survey of college officials around the country, they report they are noticing more checks coming in from relatives like grandparents, aunts and uncles to cover student bills. A recent survey by the MetLife Mature Market Institute found that two thirds of grandparents had provided financial help to their descendants in the last five years. The average check: $3,000. A quarter of the generous grandparents said they had increased their gifts because of recent economic troubles.
9) Attend a Free College
Yes, you read that right: There are some colleges in the U.S. that are completely free. You will only pay room and board and living expenses, as the college or university covers all of the tuition and fees. For a list of 12 free colleges, check the list complied by US News . Most have an estimated tuition value of $15,000 to $35,000, and the acceptance rates range from as high at 40 percent to as low as 7 percent.
Some of these colleges, such as College of the Ozarks, require students to work on campus for several hours a week. Several are liberal arts colleges, but many have a specific focus such as engineering, music or naval engineering.
10) The G.I. Bill
Today’s G.I. Bill is an excellent way to pay for a college education and gain practical experience along the way. After fulfilling a term of military service, you are given 10 years to use your GI Bill benefits. The GI Bill pays all college tuition and fees for those attending public universities and colleges, and for those attending private colleges and universities, the limit is $17,500 per year.
In addition, the military reimburses you for housing expenses while in college. To earn this benefit, you are required to have been on active duty for 90 days.
There is often a stipulation that you served for three years and were honorably discharged.
So there is your top-ten list of ways to afford college, and we haven’t even looked at loans and scholarships.
To really learn everything you need to know about making your college education more affordable, be sure and read our ebook:
College Without Ramen Noodles.
It might be the best $1.99 you ever spend.