As financial aid packages begin to arrive, families are faced with just how much college will cost. At many schools, self-help is up and gift aid is down. That means that colleges are offering less in the way of tuition discounts or grants, and expect families to assume a greater part of the college financial burden. Parents may pay expenses from savings and wages, students through part-time employment, and both parents and student may meet some expenses through educational loans. No wonder families are eager to find ways to cut college costs. Here are some ideas:
• Plan to graduate from college ontime or even early. In order to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, students need to choose appropriate classes and stick with them. Dropping a class may leave you with too few credits and lengthen the time required to earn your bachelor’s degree. Changing majors or double-majoring may also add to the length of your stay at the school. The net effect: increased cost and lost wages.
• Get a jump on credits through AP classes or CLEP exams. Passing scores on AP exams taken in high school may lead to college credit, while high scores on the College Level Examination Program can shorten the time you need to earn your degree. Check out www.collegeboard.com for a list of schools that award credit through CLEP exams.
• Consider taking some of your credits at a nearby community college during summer breaks. Community college classes are generally less expensive per credit. Make sure that they’ll be accepted by your college before registering for outside courses.
• Get a job. Part-time employment (aim for a maximum of 10-12 hours/ week) provides extra structure to the college student’s day and yields extra money to meet college expenses. Students who qualify for work-study programs may find on-campus employment that fits well within the student’s class and study schedule.
• After freshman year, consider applying to be an RA (Resident Assistant). Resident Assistants help to develop community among dorm residents and counsel students regarding problems or concerns. In return, the RA generally receives free room and board.
• Buy used books whenever possible or explore digital options for study materials.