The cost of education is on the rise. States are spending less on higher education, forcing colleges and universities to pass the extra costs onto students. Tuition and fees have nearly doubled at some institutions, and there’s no relief in sight. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are several ways to help allay the rising cost of college. Here they are, in no particular order.
Accelerate Your Degree
Essentially, accelerating your degree means cramming a semester’s worth of material into a six-or eight week session. Many schools are now offering these accelerated sessions, and while classes can be intense, the benefits are that they allow you to take classes more quickly and thereby move up your graduation date. By accelerating your degree, you spend less time in college and can start your career sooner, which saves you time and money. In addition to these accelerated sessions, you should also consider summer school or evening classes, which are often cheaper than regular classes and which also speed up the learning process.
Become a Transfer Student
One of the best kept secrets in higher education is that of transferring. The idea here is to earn as many credits as possible at a low-cost community college before transferring to a pricy, elite school prior to graduation. This way you can still get a diploma from a prestigious university but at a fraction of the price. Furthermore, because community colleges are less competitive, you will be a better candidate for scholarships and other financial aid. What’s more, by attending your local community college, you can also reduce room-and-board costs by bunking at your parents’ house.
Go Where You’re Wanted
Conventional wisdom says you should go to school you want. But if you’re trying to cut costs, maybe you should consider going to the schools that wants you. In other words, find the college or university that is dying to have you as a student, fire off an application, and then watch the discounts roll in. Star students get discounts on tuition as well as housing and other fees. The trick is to find the school that thinks you’re a star. Start by checking out the smaller, regional colleges in your area. Chances are you may be exactly the kind of student they’re looking for.
Apply For a Pell Grant
Every year, the U.S. Government provides millions of dollars’ worth of grants to help students finance their college education. A grant is an ideal way to help pay for college for two reasons: first, grants do not have to be paid back, and second, grants are awarded based on need. What this means is that depending on your financial need you can receive a federal grant or Pell Grant worth anywhere from $400 to $4000 dollars. Typically, Uncle Sam sends the money directly to your school of choice to apply directly to tuition. However, if your tuition is already paid for through scholarships or other financial aid, the money is dispersed directly to you to cover other expenses such as housing, books, and transportation. To apply for a Pell Grant all you need to do is fill-out a Free Application For Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, which you can do online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. The application will take about an hour, but you will need your Social Security Number, driver’s license, income tax return, bank statements, and investment records.
Never Give Up On Scholarships
Many students think you need a 4.0 GPA to land big scholarships. But that’s not always the case. Even with strictly academic scholarships, you have a fighting chance so long as your grades make the cutoff, which may be as low as 2.75. What have you got to lose? Furthermore, there are plenty of non-academic scholarships you can apply for, including scholarships for athletics, military service, community service, and leadership. Also, in addition to college or departmental scholarships, there are thousands of private organizations and religious organizations who also offer scholarships. And don’t forget about local or community-based awards. Although these scholarships are typically more modest, they are easier to win. What’s best is that you can apply for (and receive) multiple scholarships, which means if you don’t land a big, ultra-competitive, academic scholarship you can still get the same amount of money through a combination of smaller, less-competitive scholarships.
When it comes to paying for college, the important thing to remember is that education is an investment. And like the old adage says, you’ve got to spend money to make money. That being said, there are ways to curb the amount you’ll have to spend to get a quality education. You just have to be creative.