Top 10 Ways to Pay Less for College
Do you know the average tuition and fees associated with attending college? For private colleges, the average tuition and fees is over $34,000 and just over $9,000 for in-state 4-year public universities. Given the financial heft involved, it’s time to make a plan to maximize your resources and curb college costs. It’s common knowledge for students and parents to apply for scholarships to help minimize costs but we have a few other suggestions to help you through this process. The top ways to reduce the cost of college include:
1. Establish a Firm Graduation Date
Investing your time and energy into college takes time, effort, energy, and resources. You will be best served to map out a graduation date and work backwards to register for a target number of credits. If your goal is to graduate in 3 years, research the credit hours needed and the number of classes you will need to take each semester (and summer) and ensure that target date is hit. Likewise, if your goal is to graduate in 4 years then working backwards from graduation to matriculation to ensure you stay on track to graduate in your designated timeframe.
2. Tax Savings
The IRS renewed a tax deduction this year for qualifying families. Effectively, this tax deduction allows taxpayers to deduct tuition and fees on their respective tax returns. Qualifying education expenses may help reduce taxable income by up to $4,000 which adds up over the course of a student’s college tenure.
3. Testing Out of Classes
Have you ever heard of a CLEP examination? CLEP stands for the College Level Examination Program and is yet another way for students to earn college credits. The CLEP program is administered by the College Board and students can register for tests here. Topics for a CLEP exam range from history and science to math and business. Current college students, high school students, and working professionals can take a CLEP test and qualify for an exemption from that specific course.
4. Applying for Financial Aid
College counselors and admissions advisors will strongly advise families to complete a FAFSA. The FAFSA is an abbreviation for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Get the facts about the FAFSA and insider tips in our recent article to help you understand the breadth of the application and its utility.
We have also published a report to help you understand if every college-bound student should submit a FAFSA and the most common reasons why student fail to apply for financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is utilized to determine financial aid, it is important to know that most colleges and universities use the application to allocate needs-based financial aid awards.
Applications for the FAFSA are accepted starting October 1st and the sooner a student applies the better the odds colleges have more financial aid awards to distribute.
5. Your College Choices
Strategically applying to targeted colleges can also save you and your family money. Experts agree that in-state public universities are often the least expensive route for applicants. However, it is important to note that the most expensive private colleges tend to offer the largest financial aid packages.
A recent study by the College Board reveals that tuition discounts at private colleges has reached 49% off the published rates on average across the country. The net-cost of attendance will be determined by each school so strategically applying to schools may yield differing results than published costs given your unique situation.
6. Early College Courses
An early college course is commonly known as a dual enrollment course which allows students to earn high school credit and college credit concurrently. Dual enrollment classes must be approved by participating institutions such as a university or community college. Early college classes can be offered at a reduced cost or for free depending on the program. The classes under the dual enrollment umbrella are taught outside a high school’s curriculum but may count towards both college and high school if approved by partner colleges.
7. Applying for the Best Student Loans
Parents and students that need to borrow money to pay for college should seek to secure a low-interest, fixed rate term. Many financial aid experts concur that Stafford Loans are the preferred borrowing mechanism. Stafford loans are federal loans with a fixed rate and a low interest rate. In fact during the previous school year, the average interest rate for a Stafford loan was around 3.75%. Private student loans tend to carry a higher interest rate as they are risk-adjusted by each lender.
8. Regional Exchange Programs
Have you ever heard of a regional tuition exchange program? Effectively this program is designed to allow students to qualify for in-state tuition for an out-of-state college. Tuition reciprocation programs can be found across the United States. In the West as WICHE, the South as ACM, the Midwest as MSEP, and the Northeast as RSP. Make sure to invest time up front to determine if these programs can help you save significant money through partner colleges.
9. Importance of AP Classes
Achieving high scores on Advanced Placement (AP) examinations can help students save money on college costs. Many schools will award credits to students for passing AP exams with specific score thresholds. More specifically, colleges may allow an Advance Placement test to waive an elective credit or general education class depending on the school and score attained. Ensure you discuss this with your college admissions counselor to determine which, if any, AP courses can be used to earn college credits.
10. Financial Aid Reconciliation
Did you know students can appeal their financial aid package? A formal appeal of your financial aid award is known as a professional judgement review. If you or your family has experienced a significant personal event such as salary reduction or the loss of a job, you may want to consider an appeal to attain reconciliation. College experts opine that students must provide demonstrable adverse impact to their finances after completing an application for financial aid.
Free Guide to Curb College Costs
Get our free eBook on How to Reduce the Cost of College to learn more about cost saving methods for your college education and curb college costs. As the most trusted name in college information, utilize the proprietary college matching services provided by MatchCollege to find the perfect college for you. Additionally, you can search by degree programs or online degrees to quickly find specific programs that make the most sense for you and your career.