The Cost of Education: Trends and Options Part 3

Student Aid

Perhaps the most popular way to drive down the costs of college is student aid, which is available to students no matter what type of college they attend. In 2008, 52% of all undergraduate students accepted some sort of grant, and 34% received a college loan. All in all, 66% of students were receiving some form of college aid. Although a somewhat higher percentage of dependent students with a low family income received some sort of assistance, (around 80% of those whose family incomes were under $40,000), well over half of those whose family incomes exceeded $100,000 did as well.16 There are many programs that provide college tuition assistance, especially for students with special needs or military veterans. Here's a handy calculator that will be useful in estimating what federal aid you might receive.

The average amount received by each student who accepted assistance for 2008 was $12,740. The average grant was $8020, and the average student loan was $9480. The trend in student grants and loans has followed that of tuition in general. The total received per student is well over twice the amount granted in 1993, and enrollment has been increasing year by year.17

Other Options: online college courses that can be transferred to accredited schools

Another way to cut costs is to shop around for cost efficient (inexpensive) courses online that can be transferred to the college you are attending. For example, an entire 4-credit online Chemistry course with Lab can be earned from StraighterLine for $399 (or $100 per credit) and transferred to any of their partner colleges . You can sign up for a 10-course freshman-level college plan for $999. Depending on which school you are planning to attend, this will save you thousands of dollars – or even tens of thousands.

Today, a college degree is considered far more of a basic requirement for a well paying job than at any time in the past. As a result, the cost of education in recent decades has increased well beyond the rate of inflation. But there are more options available that allow today’s student to reduce and/or defer the expense. It is very important to check out the reputation and transfer policies of a college (whether online or brick and mortar), but with some careful shopping around it is possible to get a much greater educational bang for your buck. If a student takes advantage of available aid and loans, considers ACE accredited courses for transfer, and enrolls in a less expensive online university, a college education can come at a fraction of the cost of taking the conventional route. Regardless of what route you take, higher education is likely to be worth it, considering that the average college grad earns hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the average high school grad, almost twice as much over a lifetime.

16 Percentage of undergraduates receiving aid, by type and source of aid and selected student characteristics: 2007-08, Institute of Education Science, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education, table 338

17 Average amount of financial aid awarded to full-time, full-year undergraduates, by type and source of aid and control and type of institution: Selected years, 1992-93 through 2007-08, Institute of Education Science, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Education, table 344