How to Save Money on College Tuition

Saving for college is important, but saving while you're in college is, too. Consider these tips to save money on the ever-increasing cost of tuition.

College is a big step forward for anyone's education and can comprise some of the best years of their life. But with tuition costing up to $56K a year, it's never too early to start saving for college and it's not too late to save while students are still in college.

While paying off student loans is sometimes unavoidable, there are things a student can do while they're in college to save money and plan better, so they don't end up with a mountain of student debt after graduation (maybe just a hill). Here are some options to consider to help your family save money on college tuition.

01 of 06

Apply to scholarships.

The reason you always see this tip in any college savings-related article is that scholarships are great money-savers and often get overlooked. While many bigger scholarships draw more competition, applying to multiple local, lesser-known scholarships increases a student's chances of winning. Finding the right scholarships and getting a few hundred or a thousand dollars can make a difference when it comes to tuition costs.

Brian Galvin, chief academic officer for the online tutoring platform Varsity Tutors, suggests treating the scholarship search like a job. "Most students who get all or most of college covered do so not with one full scholarship straight from the university, but with several smaller scholarships from corporations, nonprofit organizations, local civic groups, and other sources," he says.

Talking to professors and counselors can help a college student find scholarships that might be a good fit. And students should continue applying for scholarships while they are attending college to help with tuition costs.

02 of 06

Consider living at home.

Since room and board fees can range from $10,000 to $20,000, talk to your child about commuting to offset tuition costs. A similar option would be to attend community college for two years to take general education classes. "Taking your general education classes at a community college is a massively impactful way to cut costs," says Nadia Ibrahim-Taney, university career coach and owner of Beyond Discovery Coaching.

Other than the cost of room and board, living at home saves you money on shopping for dorm essentials, campus parking fees, and expensive meal plans. If your child is set on going to a four-year college, going to school from home can save thousands of dollars while still offering the experience of on-campus activities like participating in sports and clubs. Community colleges also offer student organizations and activities to help students build community.

03 of 06

Rent your books.

College textbooks are expensive, and chances are you'll probably never use the book again after that semester. Instead, look for sites where you can rent the book for the semester, buy it used, or better yet, see if you can borrow the textbook from someone who has already taken the class. If you have to buy it new, see if you can sell it to an incoming student to make some of that money back.

04 of 06

Take the CLEP exam.

Former university admissions advisor Kimberly Morse suggests taking the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam to decrease tuition costs. It's a set of standardized tests given by the College Board (similar to high school AP exams) that allow students to earn college credit if they pass. Each student should talk to the dean for their specific major to find out which CLEP exams they can take to test out of general education or elective credits, which allows you to save money on those courses.

As a tip before your child attends college: See if they can take AP classes and tests in high school so they can skip some of those general ed classes in college, saving them time and money.

05 of 06

Hold off buying a car.

Having a car in college can be exciting and convenient, but it really adds to your bottom line. Campus parking is often expensive, not to mention car payments, insurance, gas, and maintenance. Many colleges offer shuttles and discounted public transit, so a student can take advantage of that instead of getting a car right away. Forgo the car and put that money toward tuition and other college costs instead.

06 of 06

Get a campus job.

Colleges have tons of jobs open for students, such as at the campus library and administrative offices, as well as positions like campus tour guides and research assistants. Another option is to enroll in a work-study program, which allows students to pay for tuition through a campus job. Besides the experience, campus jobs help students network and learn how to save.

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