With the cost of a college education continuing to increase at a pace twice that of inflation, many families are looking at how to pay for college and minimize or avoid the amount of student loan debt. There are several ways to lower the cost of a college education.
College in high school
Many high schools have relationships with community colleges that allow the high school student to take college courses for credit at a reduced cost during the day while attending high school. Most high schools have requirements that the student must meet before being allowed in the program.
Students who participate in this program can begin their on-campus college career with several general education classes already completed. This is a benefit in many ways:
- The student is able to experience how college classes work before being thrown into the entire college experience.
- The tuition cost is usually less than what the student would pay for the same class at the college.
- Presumably, the student is still living at home and, thus, saves on room and board expenses.
Before taking this course of action, the student and parents need to ensure the classes will transfer to the college the student hopes to attend. They should also determine the student’s ability and willingness to take on the extra academic load, if the classes are advanced-level classes.
Take classes online
A second option for saving on college costs is to enroll in an on-line college or take on-line classes through a local college. While the tuition cost is usually the same as for an on-campus class, the student who continues to live at home, which saves on room and board.
Before jumping into on-line classes, however, the student and parents should assess whether the student has the proper time management skills required for on-line classes.
The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) helps student earn college credit for what they already know, for a fraction of the cost of a college course. Developed by the College Board, CLEP is the most widely accepted credit-by-examination program, available at more than 2,900 colleges and universities. Some place a limit on how many credits can be earned through these test.
Exam fee is $80 per test, much less than the full cost of taking a class.
Another option that is becoming much more popular is to attend a community college to complete the student’s general education requirements and then transfer to a four year college to complete the degree. Generally, community college tuition rates are less than those of a four-year college. It is vitally important to check with the four-year college ahead of time to ensure the credits will transfer from the community college to the four-year college.
With some planning and guidance from school counselors, students can get a head start on college while saving money in the process.
Next week: Part 2: College financial aidJudith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.