Nobody ever said that attending college was going to be easy. In fact, with the downward spiral of the recent economy putting the crunch on public services across the board, schools are placing more and more of the burden of paying for higher education on the shoulders of students. Even in cases like California, where colleges and universities face caps on the percentage that tuition can be raised each year, schools are finding ways to supplement the money they are losing from the state by implementing outlandish fees (what exactly does a student union do that they need a hundred bucks from every student, every semester?). That said, it is now more important than ever to take advantage of the opportunities available to students looking to save money on their secondary education.
Save Money By Attending A Community College
If you are one of the millions of scholars that find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of coming out of college with thousands of dollars worth of debt, then you should know that there are still ways around paying full price. For starters, you can consider taking two years of general education courses at a community college. The benefits of this decision are more than just financial (although they can’t be overlooked, community college will cost you only a fraction of what you’ll pay at a state college or university). Most community colleges accept nearly everyone, so if you weren’t so studious in high school, you still have a good shot at acceptance. Furthermore, if you do well in a community college setting, it will increase your chances of gaining entrance to the university of your choice (not to mention boosting your consideration for scholarships). Finally, you should know that the general education classes offered at community colleges adhere to the same standards as other state institutions, so you are getting almost exactly the same education at far less cost.
Take Advantage Of Scholarships
If, on the other hand, you find yourself already attending a four-year program and piling up the debt, there is still help to be had. Many students can take advantage of federal financial aid by simply filling out the form (www.fafsa.ed.gov). Or if that route has failed to produce enough money to really help, consider using the internet to your advantage. Sites like www.fastweb.com and www.scholarships.com cater to students by offering a wide variety of scholarship opportunities. By filling out a profile, these sites will deliver a list of applications (mostly essay-based) that fit your particular talents and interests. And prizes can range from $50 to $50,000, with some essays being as short as a paragraph. It’s worth spending a little extra time to try nabbing one of these scholarships, and many of them have multiple awards, so you can apply more than once in a year.
These are just a few of the options available to the industrious student seeking money, but the main thing to remember is that help is out there. From deals on textbooks (www.back2college.com/library/text.htm, www.cheapesttextbooks.com) to discounts on food and movies (flash your student I.D. to find out which merchants offer student discounts), there are all kinds of resources you can take advantage of to save money during your stint in school. You may have to put in some time and effort to find them, but if you come out of college with little or no debt, it will be well worth the weight off your shoulders.
This is an article by Sarah Harris of Zen College Life where you can find accredited online degrees and browse top online colleges.
Do you have other suggestions of ways to save on your college education? Resources for finding financial aid? Places to save as a student? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
Become an RA (resident assistant) that saved me $12,000 / year in school. Never buy new textbooks. Always used, or share them or borrow them from the library.
Don’t shy away from private colleges just becasue their starting tuition is higher than the public universities. They tend to offer higher scholarship awards. My daughter was awarded over $15K in music and academic scholarships to a private university which brought the overall tuition $6K lower than the local public intitutions (who offered only $2k in awards).
I agree that Community Colleges are a great way to save money. However, from the experiences related to me from my 3 kids, it was hard to stay motivated to learn and faithfully attend classes. Unfortunately, so many of my kid’s peers at the CC kept dropping out of their classes. It is hard to stay focused and to keep up with the homework when your friends are slacking off. I’m not saying all the kids that go to CC’s are slackers…but the very nature of the CC system (ease of access and low cost) tends to atract kids who are unmotivated or unsure of their direction in life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad my kids attended a CC and we saved a ton of money for it….but just know ahead of time that there might be some motivational challenges awaiting you.
Peter Anderson says
There are certainly some challenges that go along with attending a community college – as you mention. My wife attended one for two years, and there are a lot of slackers, but she also found that there were a lot of very good teachers, and other motivated students. I think it all comes down to the fact that you have to be a self-starter and motivated to better yourself – despite your surroundings.
Mike Hoberg says
Good point Pete. I went to a CC and ended up getting a Ph.D. and a distinguised 38-year career. When I sent my daughter to a private 4-yr Christian college right out of high school, she quit after 2 years. She left about $60K in scholarships and financial aid on the table. So, in my experience, being a self-starter and having motivation to better yourself is the key.
Additonally, to me there’s nothing wrong with taking out a loan for school, as long as you make arrangements to pay it off FAST.
Like, maybe live at home your first year or so out of school, just to really pay it off or at least pay it down significantly.
Peter Anderson says
Getting a school loan is one of the very few times I would ever suggest getting a loan (that and a mortgage). At the same time, like you, I would try to pay it off fast, and if possible work your way through school to pay it off faster. Also, try to go to an in-state school and get lower tuition if you can.