It Pays to Develop an Interest in Interest Part 2

Yes, College Costs Money

College, unless you are a on a full-ride scholarship for your unique ability to tap dance and play the ukulele while reciting the periodic chart of elements, will cost money. College expenses, however, vary with the type of institution you attend.

1) Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,990.

2) Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $27,293 per year in tuition and fees.

3) Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,713 per year in tuition and fees.4

Online college education has also become a great alternative to the traditional college campus, particularly when flexibility is essential. Taking classes online can help you earn college credits and gather momentum towards a college degree. Financially speaking, taking college courses online can be a substantially lower cost alternative.

Reduce your Upfront Costs

A way to lower your college bill is to make lower cost choices from the get-go, such as taking some college courses through online institutions. Sounds simple, but the lure of a lush college campus and daily face-to-face interaction with students and professors is hard for some to pass up. Know yourself, what you are looking to gain from the college experience, and whether or not the degree you earn, no matter where or how, will put you where you want to be upon graduation.

The financial advantage of online education is obvious: taking classes online allows you to avoid certain costs all together. If you are studying from home or work, you don’t have to worry about transportation costs, which on average is $1,073 per year at a 4-year public college, and other personal expenses, such eating out on campus and activity fees, which on average per year is $1,989 at 4-year public college.5

Obtaining transfer credits is also another way to avoid future costs. If you are able to transfer credit from previous education, you can reduce not only the overall tuition cost of going back to school, but also the duration you need be enrolled. Many colleges these days award college credit based on a Prior Learning Assessment , or PLA, for military experience, on-the-job-training, or even relevant life experience. That means you can move on to your career earlier than those without the benefit of transfer credits. Fully understanding a school’s transfer credit policy before you enroll is worth your time and effort-- the payoff for you in terms of time and money can be significant.

Reduce Opportunity Costs

Opportunity costs when it comes to college are those financial, and other non-monetary, losses one suffers when one spends time taking classes rather than doing something else, like working or spending time with family. Perhaps you see college or work as mutually exclusive. For most, they aren’t. In fact, regardless of age, gender, marital status, enrollment status, type of institution attended, 70-80 percent of students work while enrolled in college. Furthermore, one-third of working students describe themselves as employees who also take classes.6

Working while attending college, for many, is a financial necessity. Income earned while attending college can be used, for some, to pay for college expenses in lieu of obtaining additional loans. Some companies even help pay for educational expenses – so find out the tuition assistance policy where you work. No matter your financial equation, time can be the most limited resource you have. Again, online education may have the edge over traditional institutions in terms of flexibility. Online education may provide the only avenue for some students to return back to school and have time for work and family obligations.

4 College Board, What it Costs to Go to College, 2011

5 College Board, Break Down the Bill: College Expenses to Consider, 2011

6 Acenet Issue Brief, Working Their Way Through College, May 2006, p.1, p. 1