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College Costs – Here are 7 Ways to Ease the Pain a Bit

October 13, 2015 - Posted to Education

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College Costs – Here are 7 Ways to Ease the Pain a Bit

It is truly amazing that as many students go to college as do these days. Given the tuition and fees increases every year, and given that students are leaving college with an average of $35,000 in loan debt, so many students are just opting out. You, however, are not one of them, but certainly you are looking to cut costs anywhere you can. Because the more you can cut costs, the less debt you will have. Here are 7 tips that may help you save on some of those costs:

Stay in-State

Public state schools are still the best bargains around in terms of tuition and fees. This is because they are funded in part by the taxpayers in the state. The other draw of state schools is that they have a full range of academic programs, and you can find your major field in at least one of them.

Do Two Years at Community College

This is an even cheaper route than a state 4-year school. And living at home those first two years will also save a bundle. Plus, you will have two years to sock some money away to help offset the cost of your last two years when you finally get to the “big time.” The beauty of community colleges is that they are now all accredited and all state schools will accept all credits earned there. This was not always the case in the past. If you are considering transferring to a private college after your two years, you need to be certain that any school you are considering will accepts all of your credits. If not, they need to tell you up front which courses will not transfer so that you will not waste time and money on them.

Look for Scholarships Locally

Competition for scholarships that are advertised nationally is horribly stiff, and the odds of you getting one are pretty slim. However, there are a large number of local organizations that do give scholarships – the Kiwanis Clubs, the Knights of Columbus, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Chambers of Commerce, and more. Do some serious research here, because the competition is far less tough, and some of these scholarships go “wanting” for a recipient. The criteria are usually your transcripts, test scores, and an essay, but sometimes only an essay.

Make Sure You are on Track to Graduate in 4 Years

You really need to develop a four-year plan immediately upon acceptance. Many students have completed two years only to discover that they cannot get everything for their major in during the final two years. That means an extra semester or summer school, and all of that costs extra. Your goal is “four and out!”

Figure Out That Meal Plan

Meal plans are available whether you live in dorms or an apartment. Some of them are pretty pricey, and you and a couple of friends shopping together may be able to feed yourselves more cheaply. Lots of meals go wasted because students can’t get to the cafeteria during serving times, and they end up spending their own money at the student union or elsewhere. At the end of each semester, any money left on that card is gone, so if you take a meal plan, make sure you use up the entire card.

Look for Discounts and Savings Anywhere

Often, retailers in the town in which the college resides will have on-going and permanent discounts for students. Find these places and use them when you have a need for their products. Buying your texts at the bookstore is a big mistake. Get online and find used text websites that are clearinghouses for kids selling and buying. And now that a lot of texts are online, you can “buy” the e-version far more cheaply than that hardback. Other student websites also offer coupons and discounts so be sure to check them all out.

Find Creative Ways to Earn Extra Cash

Some students who have an entrepreneurial spirit earn some serious money while they are in college, and many of them use that income to pay for some of the tuition costs or to start paying down their loans before they ever graduate. What special skills or talents do you have? If you a techie, you can repair computers; if you don’t mind others’ filth, you can clean dorm rooms or apartments; if you have great English skills, you can edit and proofread essays and papers for those not so skill-blessed. You can also do freelance writing for sites and blogs. If you’re a math whiz, offer tutoring. If you can paint and do minor repairs, advertise your services to senior citizens in town – they always need things done.

Your goal is to graduate with as little debt as possible. When you use these tips and save money, you can apply those savings to your tuition cost and borrow less. At 7.5% interest on these loans, anything you can do to reduce that initial debt is a big plus.

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