College life can present many challenges. Figuring out how to pay for higher education could be the most challenging aspect of all. Take heart, it is possible to both save on costs and make money go farther once enrolled in higher education. Here are some tips to help pay for college and cut costs while doing so.
Attending an in-state or nearby institution of higher learning could go a long way in cutting college costs. Going to an in-state college can amount to huge savings. The average tuition and fees for in-state students tallied $7,635 in 2011-2012, compared to $17,785 for out-of-state students, according to U.S. News data. If staying within the state is not an option, look into regional tuition breaks, which can also cut college costs. An additional potential benefit of attending college within the state is the lower costs associated with traveling home for breaks, holidays, etc. Some students might even decide to remain at home and commute to their institution of higher learning, depending on proximity. This aspect could prove very appealing to some and not so attractive to others, depending on the domestic situation involved.
Another tip to consider when money is tight but college is a priority, a local community college might be a good option. If a student plans to attend a four-year university, they should consider taking community college courses during high school or prior to starting college to accrue credits early for budget-conscious students. A student might also consider delaying admission to a four-year college or university a year or two in order to earn credits at a community college and save money for college. Many community colleges even offer free two-year educations for students who have excelled in their scholastic endeavors. This option also allows the student to live at home and save money on room and board, as well as other expenses often incurred once a student leaves home for college.
Most students look into financial aid tips when considering how to pay for their higher education. Scholarships and grants are a great way for all kinds of students to obtain money for college life, and local funding opportunities tend to be less competitive. The eligibility requirements for these financial aid options can vary greatly. It would also be wise for students to not overlook small scholarship opportunities available in their hometowns. Many companies offer scholarships and/or educational funding for employees and their families. There are also federal student loans and grants available for those who qualify (Stafford Loans, Pell Grants, etc.). However, the terms and availability of these college funding options vary, depending on the student’s economic and other circumstances. While economic circumstances generally play a significant role, scholastic record, any type of disability, personal history, and several other factors can affect financial aid determinations and amounts.
Another tip for cutting college costs involves staying on track. Nothing can contribute more to college costs like having to extend higher education by an extra semester, an extra year, or more in order to complete a degree. The best way to avoid this pitfall includes taking full class loads, keeping up with graduation requirements, and focusing on earning good grades in every course taken.
Student employment is another option for helping to manage college costs. Whether it is on-campus or local area employment, every little bit could prove beneficial to off-setting the substantial expenses involved in college life. Many companies welcome student self-starters and offer flexible work schedules to accommodate college class schedules.
While college life can present many challenges, figuring out how to pay for higher education could be the most challenging aspect of all. Another tip that could prove invaluable in cutting college costs is to avoid stocking up on everything a student believes they will need before they leave home. Bring only the necessities when making the initial move, and then, over the first few weeks, make a list of other items that are needed. It is best to minimize at first not only for economic reasons, but ‘wish list’ items might not even fit in a dorm room.
By Leigh Haugh
U. S. News and World Report
New York Times
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