A new class of high school seniors is heading back to school with the all important decision of making a college choice just around the corner. Many will find the costs staggering, if not outright horrifying! Do not despair. Even if your college savings fund is woefully inadequate or you are leaning toward a private college over less expensive public institutions there are ways to bring the costs down. Here are a few basic steps that can save thousands.
Dare to be different and look at local colleges. You likely have several wonderful colleges in your area. I know, many high school graduate desperately wants to be on their own. Some foolishly would gladly accept a debt today for huge and cumbersome payments tomorrow! Let’s not forget the goal of a college education. It is a degree with life experience to prepare them for the work world. I know of no study that says those who go away for college do better than those who attend locally. Besides avoiding room and board, some schools will discount tuition for commuters because they don’t have enough dorm rooms. If your local college does not discount, ask them to consider it.
Don’t decide on a school based on how “cool” the visit was. List pros and cons on paper and make sure the cost of the college is one of the factors! Ask yourself, are the added “pros” worth the added cost. (Is it worth going to the same school as your friend if it means $40 thousand more debt?)
Never make your decision to attend a school based on how difficult it is to get in. Instead, look at your major and how well the college prepares individuals within that major. It is surprising that some inexpensive schools have very high ratings while some Ivy League schools have very low undergraduate ratings. If you want to save money, get over the designer tag syndrome and go for quality not cost.
If you really want the name brand college, consider a Junior or Community college for the first two years. My son went to a community college for one year. The same professors from the expensive college across the county taught at the community college!
Try the same “method” high level college bound athletes use. This method does not work with schools with waiting lists, but many schools would love to attract a few more students. Line up your top two choices of colleges and go back and forth between them to see which will cost less in the end. Let them know what the other school is wiling to do for you. See if hundreds or even thousands can be shaved off the cost.
If you do decide to go away to college avoid taking a car. Cars are a large, hidden (or not so hidden) expense to college. Besides insurance, gas and upkeep, students with cars are inclined to spend more because of easy access to shopping and restaurants.
Once your choice is made, negotiate your financial aid. We need to be smart about our debt. Just like we examine car loans, we need to examine financial aid packages. Tuition assistance officers routinely represent loans, both subsidized and non subsidized loans as “tuition assistance”! Can you just see the shady used car dealer saying “I can get you assistance, sir, to cover the entire amount. Just sign here and the car is yours.” Oh wait, the used dealers do just that and because they do they have become known as “shady,” but we view the tuition assistance officers as willing to help us. It is time to view “assistance” for what it really is – indebtedness. How much debt do you really want to incur? Ask the tuition assistance officer to separate out loans from grants and scholarships. Then have them separate out subsidized loans and non subsidized loans. Appeal for more grants and scholarship. My son was given $1,200 more just for asking.
Coming into college with AP (Advanced Placement) courses or a great knowledge in a certain subject? Look into getting credits for those AP courses or request to CLEP (College-Level Examination Program®) out of courses. This saved my daughter a whole semester worth of tuition!
College should be an exciting time of growth and preparation. With a little bit of planning and some extra legwork you should be able to reduce the cost of the college experience so that you are not paying for it for many, many years to come.
All articles are copyrighted by Thrifty Times, 2004 - 2011. You may not reproduce or share or repost without express written permission from the Thrifty Times except to quote up to 60 words of an article with a link back to this site. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Thrifty Times, 2616 Cynwyd Avenue, Broomall, PA 19008.
Disclaimer - Articles are intended for personal information. Not intended to be financial, tax or legal advice. All financial plans as well as financial decisions, tax decisions and legal decisions should be made carefully and with the advice of a professional.