Saving Thousands in College Costs

by Tim on February 13, 2012

Last year, the average tuition costs for a private college increased by 4.3% according to College Board. Think that’s bad? The average public university saw increases in tuition equal to 8.3% in 2011. It doesn’t take a math major to see that the cost of attending college is getting quite expensive these days. At that rate, we can expect to see public tuition double in about 9 years!

So what’s been causing tuition and fees to increase in price so dramatically? Some blame it on less state and federal funding, while others point out that schools are spending more and more on technology to become more competitive, which increases the costs. Unfortunately we can’t control the reason why college costs are skyrocketing – but we can control some aspects of college costs.

If you or your child is considering attending college, don’t be completely discouraged by the hike in tuition. There are some alternatives and suggestions that will help you to lower your overall college costs. After all, who wants to be a part of the growing number of students trying to pay off student loans (at an average of $23,186 per graduate! – finaid.org).

Consider a Two-Year College First

The average cost of a two-year college is about $2,963 per year according to College Board. Compare that to a state school at $8,244 and a private university at a whopping $28,500 per year.

The numbers don’t lie folks. Going to a two-year community college can save you 60-90% for your first two years of college. For parents who are behind on saving for their children’s college, this could be the extra help you needed to get them through with as little debt as possible.

Just be sure you contact the 4-year school that you plan on attending afterwards. You’ll want to make sure they accept your credits – otherwise you’ll be wasting your time and money.

Complete College Credits in High School

Most high schools will allow students to take AP courses (advanced placement), which provide an opportunity to test out of a full three-credit college course. Based on the figures above, a three credit course at a public university will cost about $700-$1000. The fee for an AP exam is $87. Do I really have to do the math for that? Get creative and tell your child that if they pass the AP exam, you’ll split the cost of a college course with them. Whatever you do, take advantage of those opportunities while you can.

CLEP Courses When Possible

Even if you didn’t get the chance to take an AP course, you can still test out of classes once you start college by taking a CLEP test. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program and gives you the opportunity to test out of classes ranging from English literature to biology. The cost of a CLEP test is around $85 and can save you thousands of dollars. There generally aren’t limits as to how many CLEP tests you can take, which means that you can trim off full semesters of college with these test (I’m living proof!)

Use Work Study and Campus Employment

Most schools will have work-study and campus employment opportunities available for students. You’ll need to apply for financial aid with the FAFSA to qualify for work-study, so make sure you get started on it right away. The FAFSA deadline varies for each state, but usually comes earlier than you think.

If you don’t qualify for work-study, you may still be in the running for campus employment, which is usually open to any student who applies. For graduate students, make sure you inquire about assistantships and fellowships that could lead to other scholarship opportunities.

Did you attend college? How did you pay for the tuition? What tips would you give readers?

Tim is a personal finance writer at Faith and Finance a Christian financial help blog that provides financial insights for individuals, businesses, and churches. Outside of finance, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife, playing the saxophone, reading economics books, and a good game of RISK or Catan. Find him on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to the Faith and Finance RSS feed.

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