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Reducing College Costs

As a nation, we do not have a very good track record of saving for the future. With other huge expenses such as a mortgage, car payments, insurance, and planning for retirement, it is difficult to save for college on top of it all. If you find yourself short of funds for college, here are some ways of reducing the cost.

Community and State Colleges

You’re spending a lot for your education, so naturally you want to attend a well-known school with a great reputation. Showing a potential employer a degree from Harvard or Cornell will increase your chances of getting in the door. So, you look at Cornell University and find that tuition, room, board and fees will run you an estimated $67,613, and Harvard is $72,400 (2015-2016 school year).

University Students in Circle Photo


What many people don’t think about, however, is that they don’t have to attend these universities for all four years in order to get a prestigious degree. Instead of going to Harvard as a freshman, enroll in a local state or community college for two years, and then transfer for your junior and senior years. A typical state university costs approximately $9,410 a year in 2016, while a community college can cost less than $2,000 a year for tuition. It is a good idea, however, to check with the universities you eventually want to attend to see what transfer credits they will accept. Contact the admissions office and request guidelines. Also, some universities require you to attend their campuses for at least two years to get a degree there, while others only require one year, so check on this as well.

TIP…Attend community college or a state university with lower tuition rates for your first two years of undergraduate study, then transfer to an Ivy League or other prestigious school. Estimated savings: $40,000 to $80,000.

Who Should Try This: Undergraduate students

Even if you plan to get your degree from a state university, you can save around $7,000 a year by going to a community college first.

Distance Learning

With the advent of new technologies, innovative ways to earn college credit are being made available. One of these is long-distance learning, either via television or the Internet. You can take a few selective courses for credit, or even earn an associate or bachelor’s degree. This method is often popular with older, nontraditional students who work, but there is no reason why younger students can’t take advantage of this, too.

Earning credits through the Internet can be a great way to lower costs by eliminating miscellaneous fees such as commute expenses and traditional facility and campus fees. Due to this increasing popular form of earning an education many state universities have extended their curriculum to include online college degree programs. These public universities extend their financial aid packages to online students. More financial aid options are offered to online students the more this type of education is integrated into our society. If you are interested in earning your degree online check out the following site for more information.

Reducing Your Course Load

TIP…Take a distance learning program or earn your online college degree, saving you money on commute and miscellaneous traditional campus based fees.

Who Should Try This: Everyone!

Tuition fees are based on how many credit hours you take. By reducing the number of hours you need, you will decrease your tuition accordingly. The idea is to earn your degree as quickly as possible. In recent years, more and more students are taking five or more years to earn their bachelor degrees. This is a situation you should avoid at all costs, especially with tuition rates increasing every year, not to mention the extra costs of room, board, transportation, and other living expenses.

There are several ways to reduce the number of credit hours you need to graduate:

1. Take AP Exams

Advanced Placement (AP) exams are taken while the student is still in high school. Students who challenge themselves by taking accelerated programs in such areas as physics, calculus, art, languages, music, statistics, computer science, and chemistry can save themselves hundreds of dollars by placing out of college-level courses with a passing grade of 3, 4, or 5 (AP tests are graded on a five-point scale). The registration fee is $93 per test. Again, check to see whether your intended college or university accepts AP results and what scores will win you credits (some schools insist on a score of at least a 4). To find out more visit The College Board website at www.collegeboard.com/

2. Early College Course Work

TIP…Take Advanced Placement exams to place out of required college courses. Estimated savings: $300 to $1,500 per college course.

Who Should Try This: High school students

Some colleges and universities will allow high school seniors to take one or two courses at their campuses. Schools may offer either specially designed programs or scholarships to high school students (sometimes as young as high school sophomores) that can sometimes be used for future college credit. However, this is not always the case. The school may offer a program simply to broaden the experience of particularly bright students. If they do offer credits, they might be restricted to use at the school offering the program, or, if transferable, restricted to other in-state colleges and universities. Still, this is a wonderful opportunity for the best academic students who wish to challenge themselves, and it could save families hundreds of dollars in tuition.

3. Accelerated Programs

By taking more classes per semester (or quarter), some students can earn their bachelor degrees in three years instead of the traditional four, thus saving an entire year’s worth of tuition and fees. And for students intending to continue on for a graduate degree, a number of schools will allow you to combine a master’s and bachelor’s degree course of study into a joint degree. In this way, a student could earn a master’s degree in six years instead of the usual seven. Only a few colleges and universities offer this option, so check around.

4. Life Experience Learning Credits

If you have had years of employment experience already, you may know a great deal about certain subject matters that can help you place out of a college class or two. Ask your employer to check the College Board’s College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). You can take a CLEP test to place out of courses and earn your degree more quickly. Again, you can contact the College Board at 45 Columbus Ave., New York, NY 10023, or phone (212) 713-8000 to learn more.

Choose to Study in Your Home State

TIP…For the brightest high school students who are up to the challenge of college-level work, investigate whether your local college or university will allow high schoolers to take classes for college credit.

Who Should Try This: Academically gifted high school students

There is not a state in this country where you can’t find at least one excellent institution of higher learning. Although attending college is the first opportunity for many teenagers to move out of their parents’ home and begin to make a way for themselves, it is not necessary to move across the country to gain some independence. Another valid argument for attending a college or university in another state, of course, is to find a school with an excellent reputation in a specific field.

For example, if you have a strong interest in marine biology, you might want to attend the University of Hawaii; or if pre-law is your game, you might aim for Harvard or the University of Michigan. But remember, there is always the option of transferring later, too, and the first two years of college are spent filling prerequisite courses that can be found at any accredited university.

If you do decide that you must attend school in another state, you can try to establish residency at that state. You can usually do so by living in the selected state for at least one year. This becomes somewhat easier if you have some relatives in that area willing to take you in. Of course, for many students this would mean transferring to another high school, which can be difficult as well.

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be the difference between one and three or more years of schooling. For example, tuition and fees for a California resident to attend the University of California at Los Angeles is $12,918; for a student from, for example, Michigan, that same year of study would cost $39,600. Instead of going to UCLA, that student should try to get accepted at the University of Michigan, where he or she would only pay about $14,402, or Michigan State, where the tuition is even less at $12,576.

TIP…Find a high-quality institute of higher learning in your home state. Estimated savings: anywhere between $10,000 and $28,000 a year, in many cases.

Who Should Try This: Undergraduate and graduate students

Why do universities and colleges charge more for out-of-state residence? Well, primarily because they are supported by tax dollars, and anyone coming from another state has not been supporting the school with their taxes, so the higher tuition is designed to make up for that. There are, of course, many institutions that are privately funded, so tuition for these is the same, whether the student is a resident or not.

Taking Co-op Positions or Internships for Course Credits

Most people think of cooperative education (co-op) jobs and paid college internships as ways to earn money to pay for schooling, but you can also earn college credits by participating in these programs. Internships are typically programs that last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months and are usually geared toward giving the student a broader academic experience. Co-op programs can last for years and may even lead to jobs after a student graduates. There are three types of programs: alternating, parallel, and extended-day programs. In alternating programs, the student works a semester and then goes to class the next semester, switching back and forth until a degree is completed; in parallel programs, the student works part time and attends class part time; and in the extended-day program the student works during the day and then attends night class. The focus here is on practical, hands-on experience, so these jobs are more pay oriented.

TIP…Take CLEP tests to earn college credit for your work experience. Estimated savings: $300 to $1,500 per college course.

Who Should Try This: Adult, nontraditional students

It’s always a good idea to investigate co-op and internship possibilities before you pursue them to weigh the economic and academic pros and cons. Sometimes you’ll find that internships pay very little, or even nothing at all. But don’t let this dissuade you if the internship provides a good learning experience that might help you later in life. As for co-op positions, depending on the program, you may or may not be able to earn credits for your experience. Typically, the more credits you earn on the job, the correspondingly lower the pay, so you’ll want to decide what your needs are before choosing a co-op job.

For more information on co-op opportunities, contact your selected school’s cooperative education office. To get a list of colleges and universities with co-op programs you can contact:

National Commission for Cooperative Education and Field Experiences

TIP…Accelerate your studies to cut out one year out of your college expenses. Estimated savings: $3,000 to $25,000.

Who Should Try This: Undergraduate Students

360 Huntington Ave, 384CP
Boston, MA 02115-5096
Phone: (617) 373-3770
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.co-op.edu/

You can also read some of these other books for more information:

Conklin, Nikki, Brenda S. Seevers, Donna L. Graham, Julia A. Gamon,
Education Through Cooperative Extension,
Delmar Publications.

Directory of College Cooperative Education Programs,
American Council on Education/Oryx Series on Higher Education.

Re, Joseph M., Earn & Learn : Your Guide to In-School
Educational Employment Programs,

Octameron Associates.


Since they began in 1996, state-sponsored prepaid tuition programs have been growing by leaps and bounds. The number of states with these programs has grown to the point where most states have them.

A prepaid tuition program is just what it sounds like: students or their parents deposit money into an account at today’s rates and are guaranteed a college education for that price. You can either deposit the money all at once or in installments. When these programs first began, they were usually restricted to attendance at local state colleges, thus limiting the student’s option to use the funds to attend school out of state or at a private institution. But these programs are becoming more and more flexible as time goes by; however, they do vary widely from state to state, so it’s best to check your local program before deciding on this option. Each state also usually has several plan options. For example, they may offer one type of payment if you plan to attend a four-year university, and a lower-cost plan for attending two years of community college followed by attendance at a university.

Of course, prepaid tuition programs are designed primarily for parents with young children who are looking far ahead to the college years. But even if you are only a couple of years away from attending school, this is still an option. Most states allow participation in the program as long as the student is younger than 18 years of age.

TIP…Participate in internship or co-op programs to earn college credit and extra income. Estimated savings: These programs can earn you anywhere from nothing monetary (if you are focused on the educational opportunity) to as high as $10,000 or more for a graduate-level internship.

Who Should Try This: Undergraduate and graduate students

There are also tax advantages to prepaid plans. Typically, taxes on the investment are deferred until the money is withdrawn and then taxed at the student’s income level (usually 15%) rather than the parents’ higher rate. In some states, such as Louisiana, the state has even declared prepaid plans as tax exempt! Another bonus is that the fund will earn competitive rates that are better than putting the money in a savings account or CD, and it is more secure than investing in stocks. Below is a listing of contact information organized by state.

Alabama Prepaid Affordable College Tuition
Office of the State Treasurer
Rpp, S-106
Alabama State Capitol
600 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36130
Phone and fax: (334) 242-7514
URL: http://www.treasury.alabama.gov/pact/

Arizona Family College Savings Program
Attn: Toni Fleisher
2020 North Central Avenue, Suite 275
Phoenix, AZ 85004-4503
Phone: (602) 229-2591
Fax: (602) 229-2599
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.az529.gov/AZ529Website_2010/index.html

California Student Aid Commission
Attn: Scholarshare Trust
P.O. Box 419026
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9026 Phone: (916) 526-7590
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.scholarshare.com/

Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET)
P.O. Box 150499
Hartford, CT 06115-0499
Phone: (888) 799-CHET
URL: http://www.aboutchet.com

Florida Prepaid College Program
P.O. Box 6448
Tallahassee, FL 32314-6448
Phone: (800) 552-4723
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.florida529plans.com/

Indiana Family College Savings Plan
101 West Ohio Street
Suite 550
Indianapolis, IN 46204-1971
Phone: (888) 814-6800
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.in.gov/iesa/

Kentucky Educational Savings Plan Trust
Attn: Joe Carole Ellis
1050 U.S. 127 South
Frankfort, KY 40601-4323
Phone: (502) 696-7383
Fax: (502) 696-7345
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.kheaa.com

Louisiana Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust (START)
P.O. Box 91271
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-9271
Phone: (800) 259-5626, ext. 1012
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.osfa.state.la.us/START.htm

Maryland Prepaid College Trust*
Phone: (888) 4MD.GRAD
URL: http://www.collegesavingsmd.org/

[Massachusetts] The U.Plan
P.O. Box 1365
Framingham, MA 01701-9847
Phone: (800) 449-MEFA Fax: (617) 261-9765
URL: http://www.mefa.org

Michigan Education Trust
Treasury Building
430 West Allegan Street
Lansing, MI 48922
Phone: (517) 335-4767, or (800) MET-4-KID for calls outside the Lansing area
URL: http://www.michigan.gov/setwithmet

Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program
P.O. Box 120
Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: (601) 359-5255, or toll-free within Mississippi at (800) 987-4450
Fax: (601) 359-5234
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.collegesavingsmississippi.com/

[New Hampshire] The UNIQUE College Investing Plan

State of New Hampshire Treasury Department
25 Capitol Street, Room 121
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: (800) 544-1722
URL: http://www.nh.gov/treasury/Divisions/Unique/Unique.htm

New Jersey Betters Educational Savings Trust (BEST)
State of New Jersey
Office of Student Assistance
4 Quakerbridge Plaza
CN 540
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0540
Phone: (800) 792-8670
URL: http://www.njbest.com/

New York’s College Savings Program
Phone: (877) NY-SAVES
URL: http://www.nysaves.org

Ohio Prepaid Tuition Program

The Ohio Tuition Trust Authority
580 S. High Street, Suite 208
Columbus, OH 43215-5644
Phone: (800) AFFORD-IT
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.collegeadvantage.com/

Pennsylvania Tuition Account Program
P.O. Box 2235
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2235
Phone: (800) 440-4000
URL: www.makecollegepossible.com/

Tennessee’s Baccalaureate Education System Trust
State of Tennessee Treasury Department
P.O. Box 198786
Nashville, TN 37219-8786
Phone: (888) 486-BEST
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.treasury.state.tn.us/best/

Texas Tomorrow Fund
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
P.O. Box 13407
Austin, TX 78711-3528
Phone: (800) 445-GRAD
URL: http://www.texastomorrowfunds.org/

TIP…Hold down food and entertainment expenses by eating in and attending on-campus events.

Who Should Try This: Everyone!

PO Box 145100
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-5100
Toll Free: (800) 418-2551
Email: [email protected]
Local: (801) 321-7188
Fax: (801) 321-7299

Vermont Higher Education Savings Plan
c/o Vermont Student Assistance Corporation P.O. Box 2000
Winooski, Vermont 05404
Phone: (800) 642-3177 or (802) 655-9602
URL: http://www.vsac.org

Virginia Prepaid Education Program
P.O. Box 607
Richmond VA 23218-0607
Phone: (888) 567-0540; TDD: (800) 253-0737
URL: http://www.virginia529.com/

[Washington] Guaranteed Education Trust
Phone: (888) GET-TUIT; TDD: (888) 837-7991
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.get.wa.gov/

West Virginia Prepaid College Plan
1900 Kanawha Boulevard E.
State Capitol Building 1, Room E-122
Charleston, WV 25305
Phone: (800) 307-4701, or (304) 558-5000
Fax: (304) 558-4177
URL: www.smart529.com/

EdVest Wisconsin Program
Post Office Box 7864
Madison, WI 53707-7864
Phone: (888) EdVest-WI, TDD: (608) 267-9629
URL: http://www.wellsfargoadvantagefunds.com/wfweb/wf/ev/index.jsp

Wyoming Advance Payment of Higher Education costs
Phone: (307) 766-3214

TIP…Invest in a prepaid tuition program to lock in costs at today’s rates. Estimated savings: Depending on when you begin participating, you can save between a few hundred and thousands of dollars.

Who Should Try This: High school students and their parents

Cutting Living Expenses

Room, board, travel and other living expenses can make up anywhere from 25% to 50% of your college costs. With this in mind, cutting back on your living expenses can make just as big a difference in your pocket book as reducing tuition and fees. Here are a few strategies you can use.

Reduce Your Phone Bill

Most people today have cellular phones. Cell phone plans include free minutes, pay attention to when those are! By only making long phone calls during those free minute hours you can greatly reduce your cell phone bill. Additionally, pay close attention to what type of signal you are receiving, roaming charges can be a most unwelcome surprise when you receiver your bill.

Prepaid cards allow you to purchase time in advance at special rates (usually anywhere from 15 to 30 cents a minute.) The same rate is given no matter where you call from in the country, so the use of phone cards can be especially helpful for those students living far from home.

And, of course, many people now correspond using electronic mail. If you have an Internet connection at school and at home, then you’ve just managed to drastically cut your telephone bill.

TIP…Reduce cell phone bills by avoiding peak hour calls and restricting your longer phone conversations to “free minutes” time of day.

Who Should Try This: Undergraduate and graduate students

Room and Board

TIP…Research other alternative forms of travel, such as buses and trains, to get reduce your expenses as much as possible. Many companies do offer student discounts.

Who Should Try This: Everyone!

Room and board is a major expense for students and another good argument for considering the option of staying home until graduation. But moving away from home and learning to become independent is also a legitimate reason many students have for adding this expense to your college costs. If you are one of these people, there are a couple of strategies you can consider to hold down expenses.

First of all – and this is usually not even an option for most incoming freshmen – you can share a dormitory room with one or two roommates. Living with other students can be a challenge, and it’s sometimes trying on the nerves, but with a little planning it can save you money in more ways besides room fees. Try to find out as early as possible who your roommates will be and how to contact them. Then, with a little cooperation, plan what each of you will bring to the room, including stereo equipment, microwave ovens and popcorn poppers (check on dorm policies about cooking first), word processor or computer equipment, portable TV, small refrigerator, building supplies for a makeshift loft, and so on. If you organize this well enough, you won’t have to bring all the necessities to college by yourself.

TIP…To save on room fees (or apartment rent), share a room with one or two others and coordinate what each person will bring so you can save by sharing.

Who Should Try This: Undergraduate and graduate students.

There are even some ways to get your school to pay for your room and board. One way is to become a resident hall director or assistant. Resident directors are responsible for assuring that residents adhere to school policies, and they address conflict issues between residents, as well as serving as informal advisers and friends to incoming students. Usually, you need to attend the school for at least a year before you will be considered for such a position.

Room and board might also be something you can negotiate with your school when trying to optimize your financial aid package. If these added expenses represent a deciding factor between your choice of a local or out-of-state school, don’t be afraid to point this out in a letter to the financial aid adviser.

Food and Entertainment

TIP…Contact your school to find out about residence hall director and assistant positions, and see whether you can get free room and board for compensation.

Who Should Try This: Undergraduate sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Many students see going away to school as an excuse to party, but eating out and spending recklessly for entertainment can quickly add up. You can save yourself hundreds of dollars simply by cutting out needless restaurant, concert, and movie costs. Some alternatives you might choose include:

  • Stock up on groceries and make sandwiches and simple breakfasts in your room.
  • Rent some videos and have a movie festival party in your dorm room. Pick a theme to make it fun!
  • After visiting home for the holidays, take back some leftovers that won’t spoil.
  • Have a potluck party.
  • Attend on-campus functions that are free or cheap to students, such as plays, film festivals, and dances.

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