How to Lower the Cost of College
If the thought of paying for your child’s college education makes you nervous, try these 10 tips for a cheaper college experience.
6. Look for a Closer School
When you’re considering college, the miles away matter. There are four breaks in the typical school year—Thanksgiving, winter, spring, and summer—and traveling home for each of these can add up. “It’s less expensive to drive across the state than to fly across the country,” Minor says. “I’ve known people who decided not to go across the country to school because they couldn’t afford to visit family.”
7. Seek Out No-Loan Options
Some schools have adopted “no loan” financial aid policies, meaning that students receive grants instead of loans to help them attend. Unfortunately, these tend to be the big leagues: Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and Vanderbilt, for instance. If your child has the chops to get accepted to one of them, you’re set. “Princeton University started the trend,” Kantrowitz says. “And the average debt at graduation for a bachelor’s degree [from Princeton] is about $7,000.”
8. Have Your Student Work—But Not Too Much
The more money your child can earn during the school year, the less you (or your kid) will have to borrow to cover school costs. However, excessive work can torpedo academic efforts. “People who work one to 12 hours a week have a higher bachelor degree attainment rate than people who do not work,” Kantrowitz says. “But if you work more than 12 hours a week, the graduation rate lowers.” In our opinion, however, summertime is fair game!
9. Be Reasonable
“Half of your costs are going to be living expenses and miscellaneous things that come up,” Kantrowitz says. So be flexible, and remember that there are plenty of variables that will affect the final price you pay. For instance, your kid could live in student housing versus an off-campus apartment (if that’s less expensive)—or even live at home, if you’re close enough. You could also buy textbooks secondhand.
One cost-cutting tactic that’s risky: Hitting community college first, with the plan of transferring to a four-year school later. Among students who started their education at a two-year school, only about two-fifths obtained a bachelor’s degree within six years. “I don’t recommend it,” Kantrowitz says. “It’s a detour on your way to a bachelor’s degree that may ultimately cause you not to get one.”
10. Save, Save, Save
How old are your children? When are they going to school? If it’s not tomorrow, then you still have time to put money away for their education. “It’s cheaper to save,” Kantrowitz says. “Every dollar that you put away is a dollar less that you’ll have to borrow.” It generally takes about $2 to pay back every $1 in student loans, so that’s a big deal.
Plus, if you can sock money into a 529 plan, you may get a tax deduction in some states. Visit SavingForCollege.com for details in your area.
Related links from LearnVest:
- Saving for College 101
- Best Colleges for Return on Investment
- Sign Up for LearnVest’s Debt-Diminishing Financial Bootcamp