8 Effective Ways to Lower the Cost of a College Education

College students graduating in 2016 left school with an average student loan balance of over $37,000. The rising cost of college has many families stressed over how to pay for higher education without the burden of high levels of student loan debt. The average rate of a public in-state school at $25,290 and private schools charge an average of $50,900. If a student takes six years to graduate, college costs can easily exceed $150,000 for an in-state public school. A private school could cost twice that much.

Even with financial aid, many families find the cost of higher education out of reach. Parents and students are both looking for ways to save money, to combat this new reality. Living at home is one of the most effective ways to trim the school price tag for students attending an in-state college, close to home.

Aside from moving back in with mom and dad, there are other ways to decrease the price of obtaining a college education.

  1. Go Over Seas

    While attending an international school can seem counterintuitive to saving money, many countries offer English speaking programs geared toward attracting international students. Germany, France, and Norway are just three countries where Americans can attend tuition-free universities. Even after factoring travel, housing, and other expenses, students could potentially save up to $15,000 annually.

    According to the Institute of International Education’s Project Atlas, 46,000 students from the United States annually enroll in full-degree programs outside of the United States.

  2. No Tuition Colleges

    Zero tuition schools sometimes cover all college costs, while others still charge room and board, book fees, program fees, and other costs. Eliminating tuition reduces the price of attending school by nearly half. Over a dozen schools in the US do not charge students tuition. In some cases, students must work 15 to 20 hours each week as part of the program.

    Military academies also do not charge tuition in exchange for a service commitment after graduation.

    With a limited number of tuition-free schools, there is a high demand for acceptance. Some schools have an acceptance rate as low as 7%.

  3. Fixed Price Tuition

    One of the newest strategies colleges use to put the brakes on the rising cost of college is fixed price or guaranteed tuition programs. A few states, including North Carolina and Texas began programs applying to all in-state students at public universities. Private colleges are also experimenting with related curricula.

    The programs guarantee freshmen students the same rate every year, provided they remain in school and complete their degree within four years. Some policies allow students to leave school and later return while keeping the same tuition. Others extend the fixed rate beyond four years.

  4. Start at a Community College

    Attending a community college is an excellent way to lower education expenses. Most students remain at home, eliminating room and board, and tuition averaged $4,868 in 2017. After completing their two-year degree, students can transfer to a four-year college, and still get the benefits of a university degree.

    Most universities require students to repeat a round of high school courses the first two years of college, which students can complete at the community college level. Most schools have transfer agreements with other state colleges to maximize transfer credits.

  5. Capitalize on Tuition Waivers

    Tuition waivers benefit groups such as veterans, teachers, and peace corps volunteers. The waivers eliminate tuition costs. Some schools also offer waiver programs, which include a larger base. Other occupations potentially benefiting include police officers, firefighters, academic employees, or civil service workers. In some cases, dependents also qualify for the waivers.

  6. Take Summer Courses

    Enrolling in summer classes can speed up graduation, and schools often discount courses up to 15%, compared to the cost in the spring and fall semesters. It is also possible to complete a course online or through a local community college, that will transfer to the university and count towards a degree requirement.

  7. Increase your course load

    To qualify for financial aid, you need to enroll in at least 12 credit hours or 4 courses each semester. However, schools do not charge more for taking up to 22 credit hours a semester. It takes a minimum of 120 credits to graduate from college. Starting college with the intention of graduating in four years requires averaging 15 credit hours a semester. Taking only 12 credits per semester will take at least five years to take the same number of courses. Today, students often take six years to complete a bachelor’s degree. That extra two years can add over $50,000 to your college bill.

  8. Begin College Courses While in High School

    AP courses and dual enrollment are popular ways to beef up college credits for basic courses such as math and English, which students must complete in the first year of school. Getting these courses out of the way can eliminate up to a year of college. AP exams cost about $100 and can grant up to eight college credits per exam. The amount of credit a student receives depends on the score and the school accepting the credit.

    Dual enrollment occurs through a partnership program with the local community college. Students enroll half-time in the high school and half-time at the community college. All completed college courses count towards both high school and college credit. Most schools allow students to enroll during junior and senior years, giving students the chance to get complete the first year of college before graduating from high school. In most cases, the community college waives the cost of tuition and in some cases books.

Finding creative ways to lower college costs can lead to graduating sooner and owing less in student loans.

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