6 Tips for Reducing College Costs
Saving on the cost of college is important – if you don’t believe me, just check out the statistics. According to the College Board, the total cost of just one year at a four-year, in-state, public institution costs an average of $18,943. If you’re thinking about private school, make that $42,419. To counter the hefty price tag, students have to take advantage of every cost-cutting measure at their disposal. Check out the following six ideas to get yourself off on the right foot.
1. Research Free Money Opportunities
Scholarship and grant opportunities are nearly endless, so make sure you dig deep. They’re available based on gender, ethnicity, high school organizations you participated in, and so on. Even your religious institution or your parents’ employers might have programs for college money, so don’t leave any stone unturned. Just be sure to apply for scholarships as early as possible – some are awarded on a first come, first served basis.
2. Attend Community College
Attending community college for the first two years can save you thousands of dollars – and you can still graduate with a diploma from your eventual school of choice. Simply take basic core classes and have those credits transferred over. Just make sure the institution you plan on attending accepts them. Check out the website CollegeTransfer for help.
3. Save on Health Insurance
According to the Affordable Care Act, young folks can now stay on their parents’ health plans until the age of 26. Be sure to take advantage of that if you’re considering a health insurance plan offered by your university – you can usually save big bucks and have more comprehensive coverage.
4. Avoid the Cafeteria Meal Plan
Unless you’re a defensive lineman on the football team, you probably won’t be able to consume enough food to make the school’s meal plan worth your while. Instead, pick up a used mini-fridge on Craigslist and get food from your local grocery store. If your dorm has cooking facilities, use them. Start clipping coupons out of the Sunday paper and download a smartphone app like Ibotta or Checkout 51 to save even more.
5. Graduate Faster
If you’re still in high school, see if you can take classes to earn college credits. If you’re already in college, try attending summer school instead of taking those months off – the rates for classes are usually cheaper. The quicker you graduate, the less you pay for housing and transportation to and from home over the holidays.
6. Dramatically Reduce Textbook Costs
The last place you should be buying your textbooks is the campus bookstore. Instead, check out Amazon or eBay, both of which have plenty of college textbooks available. Look at used listings especially – just make sure you investigate seller feedback ratings and purchase from someone reputable. Bigwords.com is another cool website where you can buy and sell used textbooks for an affordable price. When you’re done with any physical textbooks, list them for resale on Amazon or eBay when the semester ends to get some of your money back.
Alternatively, you could download your textbooks from a website like Flat World Knowledge. If you’re downloading, make sure you’re comfortable reading your book from a computer.
Remember, every dollar you spend when you’re dependent upon student loans is one more dollar that needs to be paid back, with interest. Instead of automatically relying on federal student loans to fund your education and acting like it’s free money, take a more conservative approach. Once you’ve found work after you graduate and you aren’t saddled with debt, you’ll be glad you did.
Do you know of any other ways to save money on college costs?
Chris Lam is a recent college grad who writes about tips for cutting costs and getting ahead with education.