4 Nearly Painless Ways to Save on College Costs

Watch stocks you care about

The single, easiest way to keep track of all the stocks that matter...

Your own personalized stock watchlist!

It's a 100% FREE Motley Fool service...

Click Here Now

If the idea of putting yourself into indentured servitude in order to obtain a college degree galls you, you should know there are alternatives to those gargantuan levels of debt many are incurring these days. A $35,000 debt load upon graduation is no small thing, so anything you can do to chip away at the burden that 70% of your college-graduate peers are taking on will put you ahead of the game.

With that in mind, here are four fairly straightforward methods to slash your college bills down to the bone, meaning you'll likely begin your post-graduate career virtually debt-free.

1. Start your college career at a community college, then transfer to a 4-year institution. Community colleges offer great educational value, costing thousands less per year than a typical four-year school, while giving students an excellent skill set and knowledge base. In fact, recent research shows that some two-year degrees enabled graduates to score higher salaries than their four-year-diploma-wielding counterparts.

If your goal is to attain a bachelor's degree, however, you can save a bundle by putting in the first two years at the community college level. For the 2010-2011 school year, two-year colleges averaged just under $9,000 per year, while four-year institutions charged an average of $22,000.

Know the rules before you sign up. Choose a major that fits in with a college transfer program, and find out whether the four-year school of your choice will accept your community college credits. You won't save much money if you wind up having to take several courses over again after you transfer.

2. Pick a state school over a private institution. The average yearly costs at a private college, at over $32,000, is more than double that for a public four-year school, which averaged just under $16,000 annually for the 2010-2011 academic year. If you can't find a college in your state that has the curriculum you desire, don't fret. Most states have academic reciprocity programs, which allow out-of-state students to attend schools in neighboring states without paying the higher costs.

Currently, there are the following programs to choose from: Southern Region, Midwestern Region, Western Region, and New England. Check out the details of each at

3. Save on textbooks. These necessities of college life are expensive, but you don't always have to buy new books at your college's onsite bookstore. Take that syllabus and book list and sit down at your computer -- and start shopping.

Websites that cater to college students and their textbook-acquisition needs abound these days, and I'm not just talking about Amazon and Alibris. Ebay,, and sites that specialize in book rentals can help take a big bite out of that huge textbook bill -- without your having to endure downtime while your out-of-stock books are back-ordered. Check out a passel of good hits on Mashable.

4. Use your student discount. Flourishing your student ID can net you discounts of up to 20%, depending upon the store or vendor . Many major clothing retailers, such as J. Crew and Banana Republic, offer discounts of 15%, while food vendors like Pizza Hut and Papa John's give students a deal that varies from one location to another. Many local businesses will give you a break on price, as well. Many specials are unadvertised, so get into the habit of asking about a particular store or business's policy beforehand.

Taking advantage of these cost-saving measures will cost you some time and effort, but the payoff is stellar: When you toss your cap into the air on graduation day, you'll be celebrating not only the attainment of your degree, but the fact that you also got the best value for your education dollars.

Start Planning for the Rest of Your Life
The best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich" names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (0)

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.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

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: 2636617, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/1/2016 4:54:16 AM

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...

Today's Market

updated 7 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,308.15 164.70 0.91%
S&P 500 2,168.27 17.14 0.80%
NASD 5,312.00 42.85 0.81%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/30/2016 4:00 PM
AMZN $837.31 Up +8.26 +1.00% CAPS Rating: ****
EBAY $32.90 Up +0.60 +1.86%
eBay CAPS Rating: ****