Carefully choosing the type of institution, the area you go to school and how long you go can make a big difference in the total cost of attending college. Add in other cost cutting measures like purchasing used text books and equipment, choosing the right meal plan, earning money while in school or shopping your housing options and you can shave a lot more off the cost.
Here Are Some Other Great Ways to Help Keep Costs Down:
Save vs. Borrow
Every dollar you can pay for school upfront can equal more than two dollars your son or daughter won’t need to repay in student loans down the road. This can make saving one of the most cost-effective education funding options out there.
Take Advantage of Tax Savings with a 529 Plan
Because ScholarShare 529 is a tax-advantaged investment, your earnings will grow free from federal income tax. This means more money will be reinvested and your account will grow faster, so you can save more than most other non-tax advantaged investments.
Start with Community College
Community colleges are often far more affordable than 4-year state and private not-for-profit institutions. For this reason, they can be a very good choice for a student’s first two years, especially with many community colleges offering specialized programs and transfer agreements that complement a 4-year degree.
Choose Your College Wisely
Out-of-state tuition costs are typically more than double in-state tuition costs, so attending college within your state can save you a bundle. If your child or grandchild knows what they want to major in before starting school, you can more accurately plan ahead. If there’s a clearly defined occupation in mind, a technical or trade school degree might accomplish their end goals more affordably than a 4-year institution.
Apply for Scholarships and Grants
Grants and scholarships can be particularly helpful because they do not need to be repaid. There are many federal grants available to students, even if you already have some education savings. And there are countless scholarships — group-based and merit-based — available at the school level or through federal programs. While there’s a popular myth that competition makes applying a waste of time, many scholarships may have very few applicants, and winning just a few per year can help a lot. If your child is in high school they should talk to their counselor about this. Also, many companies offer scholarships to employee families — is yours one?
Minimize the Length of College Attendance
Achievement tests and AP coursework can reduce the number of classes required for a degree. And expanded course loads and accelerated programs reduce the time spent in school, which in turn reduces the cost of living — a cost that is often equal to or greater than the tuition itself.
Utilize Military and Veterans Benefits
If you’re one of the men and women who have given at least 36 months of active duty service, you’re entitled to financial assistance including 36 months of undergraduate or graduate tuition and fees, a housing allowance and a stipend for books. This applies to officers and enlisted men and women alike.