7 Ways to Cut the Cost of College

There's no way to get around it: College is costly. Depending on the school, it can cost you, as a student or parent, anywhere from $7,000 (public school) to $26,000 (private school) per year in tuition and fees. That doesn't include room and board, and those dorm accommodations, apartments, pizzas, and occasional beers really add up. Worse still, these expenses lead many new graduates to commence their shiny new adult lives with hefty credit-card debt.

Fortunately, the sticker price of college is just that -- a sticker price. There are lots of ways that you can reduce your ultimate tab. Below are just a few.

  1. Aggressively seek scholarships. Plenty of them sit waiting for applicants, and they don't all target valedictorians. Some are for vegetarians, some for students skilled in woodworking, or who've volunteered a lot, who play particular instruments, or come from a particular ethnic background. You can search for scholarships easily online, at sites such as fastweb.com, scholarships.com, and others.
  2. Aggressively seek financial aid. Many students these days can get a big chunk of their tuition costs waived, thanks to generous financial aid. Besides outright grants from schools, there are loan programs that can help, too, charging reasonable interest rates. A student might want to apply to many schools, in order to see which ones offer the compelling financial aid packages and seem to be the better bargains.
  1. Choose a less expensive college. It's true that many of the top colleges, such as Ivy League establishments, cost many pretty pennies, but many excellent schools are relative bargains. Consider that while Harvard, ranked first on U.S. News & World Report's 2011 list of top schools, charges more than $38,000 for tuition and fees, that number is just $25,000 for out-of-staters at the University of North Carolina (ranked 30) and under $5,000 at Brigham Young (ranked 75). If you live in-state, Berkeley costs less than $11,000 and the University of Maryland less than $9,000. Many inexpensive state schools offer an excellent education.
  1. Put off college for one or two years. This might seem drastic, but it's actually a compelling option. If your student delays college a bit, he or she can work to save money for school, while parents can also build up the college coffers. Alternatively, let the parents add to college savings for an extra year, while the prospective student enjoys what's called a "gap year," volunteering or pursuing some passion that can make him or her a more attractive applicant and even a more studious student.
  1. Work during college. It's best if students focus mainly on learning while in college, but a modest part-time job on the side needn't detract too much from that, and can pay for many daily expenses, such as eating out or entertainment. For more financially pressured students, a part-time job at the library or cafeteria or tutoring might pay for essentials such as books.
  1. Look into being a resident advisor. At some schools, students can secure a free room for the year (or some other benefits) by being a counselor to fellow students.
  1. Be frugal with living expenses. Eliminate having a car at school, for instance, and say goodbye to the hefty cost of gas, repairs, and insurance. It's unlikely that any student would want to go without a cell phone, but you can opt for a low-frills plan. Developing frugal habits while still young can set students up to build rich retirements for themselves later. Students should also be extremely careful with credit cards, charging only necessities. Otherwise, they could be paying the price for their extravagance for the next decade or longer. Credit-card debt is one of the biggest threats to our financial security.

There are lots of other possibilities, especially if you get creative. Whether you're thinking inside or outside the box, a college education doesn't have to cost as much as you fear it will.

Related articles:

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian welcomes your comments. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.


Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 27, 2010, at 12:14 AM, kcgomez83 wrote:

    Being frugal with your expenses if def one way that I've been able to get through college and still be able to have a bit to spend on myself. It's really about being able to decide what's an important bill and what isn't - I did that quickly with my cell phone bill. I knew I needed a phone for work and keeping in touch, but spending well over $110 for a monthly plan and then selling out over $200 for a phone I thought was worth it was too much. I have a laptop and I figured that I just didn't need another mini computer so I decided to cut my losses and try prepaid. I was able to get a basic phone from Tracfone for $25 with minutes and I had to laugh because the deal was that good - it was a huge bit of savings and I did very little to get it. If more people realized how much they can save with companies like Tracfone, they would be shocked.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1309281, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/1/2014 3:11:58 PM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


Advertisement