You can really rack up college tuition savings by being smart and creative in taking classes and living simply while attending school. We've come up with ten proven tips to save you money and time on your journey to earning a college degree.
Get started early. You can get college tuition savings by starting college while still in high school and then attending a community college. Here are six college tuition savings tips to consider before you ever enroll in a single college course:
- College savings account - if you work after school or during the summer and other breaks, open a college fund account and put some of your take-home pay into it regularly, and then leave it there. Every little bit helps, so consider putting Grandma’s birthday money and all those cash graduation gifts away for your college education as well.
- Taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes - get serious early about saving on college costs by taking and passing AP classes that can be used for college credit in your degree program. In order to receive college credit, you must take the comprehensive test at the end of the course, and your grade on the test determines whether you receive college credit. These credits are applicable to most colleges and universities in the United States.
- Participating in dual enrollment programs - take college-level courses while in high school and earn as associates degree faster. Dual enrollment programs are growing and are usually taken through a local college in collaboration with your high school. You receive credit for both a high school course, which you need to graduate, and a college course, which you can transfer with a grade of C or better. Many dual enrollment programs are offered to high school students at low or no cost to the student, to keep them accessible to all students.
- Passing CLEP exams - take CLEP practice exams in the subjects you're really strong on, then pass the CLEP exams for college course credits. CLEP exams are low-cost options for students who may be able to exempt themselves from certain college courses based on prior knowledge. The exams are generally proctored through a college or university, and the scores you receive can be sent to any school to which you apply.
- Applying for grants and scholarships - begin applying for grants and scholarships while still in high school, and don't ever stop applying for money to get your college degree after you start college. Grants and scholarships are both termed “free money” because you don’t have to pay them back, unlike a loan. The more free money you pull in, the fewer loans you’ll need to take out to pay for school. Keep on applying until you're within a few classes of graduating. Inquire about scholarships at your place of employment, church, non-profits and honor societies, for starters.
- Going to community college or in-state college - a cost-effective way to get college tuition savings is by going to your local community college and/or attending an in-state school to get lower tuition rates. Contrary to popular belief, the level of instruction in community colleges is on par with four-year universities, but at a fraction of the cost (if you’re a Tennessee resident, you can even attend for free). If you have your heart set on that out-of-state university, find out if your school has any “reciprocal” agreements for students in your state. Sometimes, students from states near to a university in another state may grant in-state tuition if asked.
More College Tuition Savings Tips
You say you’ve done all of that and are well on your way of saving money for college? Here are four more ways you can reduce college costs and avoid large student loans after you graduate:
- Continue living at home - if you can live at home with very little cost, you can apply any money you earn towards paying tuition and other college costs and fees. If you have a good situation at home and your family is in agreement, living at home is a no-brainer for students whose first goal is to mitigate college debt.
- Using public transportation or sharing rides - save money on a car payment, insurance, gas and maintenance and put those savings towards paying for your college degree. The costs associated with car payments, insurance, maintenance and gas will put a dent in your income quickly, as will unexpected repairs, flat tires and dead batteries. With all the other options available, exploring your environment doesn’t have to break the bank. And if you have a car, offer ride sharing to pay for gas and be thoughtful about how often you use your car.
- Becoming a staff or faculty member at the college your child wishes to attend - parents, if you can get a job at the college or university your child wishes to attend, they can take classes at a greatly reduced cost. Just be aware some employment conditions may dictate that no family member can apply for and attend classes until at least a year or two after your employment start date. The tuition discount given by colleges and universities in a major reason to look for employment opportunities there.
- Completing online college courses - one of the most cost-effective ways to get a degree while saving time is by taking as many online courses as you can. While the tuition rate may or may not be lower, depending if you take them at a low-cost online course provider like StraighterLine or at your college, you definitely save on gas money (no commute) and textbooks and materials for the course.
While we've given you ten ways to save money on college tuition costs, there are many others you'll discover as you earn your degree. Start now to investigate money saving strategies for your college career. Here at StraighterLine, we do our part by offering high quality online college courses that are fully transferable towards associate and bachelor's degrees. What other measures can you take to put yourself in a great position upon graduation?