- Part 1: Lowering the cost without lowering standards
- Part 2: Financial Aid and Scholarships
- Part 3: Alternatives to traditional college (coming soon)
We are at a milestone in life of graduating our oldest from high-school. He is planning on college. While we are not experts in this, we have a few things to share.
The cost of college today is much higher than 20 years ago. Even with financial-aid offers, a 4-year degree can seem out of reach for many and could potentially bury a graduate with mountainous debt. It’s important to know, today’s government-backed student loans are not normally forgivable, even after bankruptcy. This is potentially crippling debt – a bad way to start adult-life.
Hopefully, this collection of strategies and facts we learned will be helpful to your family as you prepare for college.
Part 1: Lowering the cost without lowering standards
Before you tap savings, scholarships and financial aid, there are some things you can do first to lower the cost of a degree.
Take college classes in high school
A good way to reduce the cost of college is to reduce the time you spend in college. If you can get a 4 year degree in 2 or 3 years, you save the tuition, room and board cost while entering the workforce and earning earlier. We had our son take a few low cost, dual credit classes at a local community college while in high-school. These classes were in English 101 or other subjects required for most 4 year degrees. Not only did this remove that requirement, time and expense from his first year of college, but each one-semester class counted as two semesters for high-school (in our state) and allowed him to graduate early. This head-start continues into college and should allow him to get a four year degree with fewer semesters and dollars. One caveat: check with the eventually intended college and make sure you can transfer the credits.
CLEP are college level exams in many subjects like English, history and math. The student learns the material on their own and if they pass the test it is counted as college credit. It’s another approach to reduce cost by reducing time in college.
A few things we learned about CLEP: Some colleges will not accept CLEP credits toward a degree. Schools may also limit the amount of CLEP credit they will take. Also, if you are planning on the 2+2 approach, even if the Community College accepts CLEP, the school you plan to transfer to may disqualify those credits later, forcing your student to take these classes again at the more expensive college. CLEP might be a good option depending on your college choice. Be careful to check first.
Consider a range of schools
A degree from a selective private university may be a nice dream but the cost may be out of your league financially. (Don’t let that prevent you from applying, they do offer need and merit-based aid.) But the degree itself may matter more than where it came from.
A study by Princeton economists Dale & Krueger suggests that motivated students (not the schools they choose) accounts for financial success.
“…students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges.”
Most States have a very good system of state and community colleges with reduced rates for residents. Make sure you compare placement rates for graduates and other issues. (See also 2+2 below.) These aren’t your father’s community colleges either. They have also changed in the last few decades from glorified high-schools to well equipped learning centers.
- USA Today Best colleges – search by category, cost and other criteria to find the perfect college
A simple strategy for reducing college cost is to take the first 2 years at a lower cost Community or State College, then transfer to the more expensive private university to gain your degree a this prestigious institution. In theory, that’s a good way to reduce cost. Again, check with the two colleges involved to make sure credits transfer and you don’t end up spending 5 years for the 4-year degree. Many universities work closely with local community colleges to enable this approach. If not, it’s up to you to sort out the requirements.
Live at home
I did this back in the day, when I was in college. We had a good university in my town, so I commuted to and from campus each day. I’m not going to say this was ideal because it quickly got to the point where I only went home to sleep (when I wasn’t doing all-nighters). It saved me room and board but was it worth it?
You have to decide for yourself but you can always try the first year at home and change later.
Side note: A friend’s daughter was eligible for needs-based aid to attend a very good local college in our town. Although they live nearby, she was required to live on campus in order to get the funding. Odd but true bureaucratic rules.
We have some homeschooling friends who had their oldest son go directly from homeschool to home-study through an online college. He did this for a variety of reasons including cost. But his most compelling reason was so he could watch his little brothers grow up. An added bonus, he could still go with the family on their off-season vacations (as long as he could get internet access). He didn’t get a taste of campus life, but some may consider that a plus.
Of course you save the added cost of room and board. But because these schools do not need to expand their campus to accommodate more students, the tuition is often much less.
Make sure the online college is properly accredited and has a good job placement record.
Books for Homeschoolers on Affording College
Homeschoolers’ College Admissions Handbook: Preparing Your 12- to 18-Year-Old for a Smooth Transition
The transition from homeschooling children to preparing them for success in college deserves both planning and preparation. As the parent of a homeschooler, you have many issues to consider besides academic excellence: fulfilling other people’s expectations and standards, tackling standardized tests and application essays, and introducing your homeschooler to the atmosphere of a college campus.
High school can be boring. High school curriculum can be frustrating and out of touch. So what is the answer for young people whose creativity, bright ideas, and boundless energy are being stifled in that over-scheduled and grade-driven environment? What would you do if you could go to college without going to high school? Would you travel abroad, spend late nights writing a novel, volunteer in an emergency room, or build your own company?
Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents
These days, most people assume you need to pay a boatload of money for a quality college education. As a result, students and their parents are willing to go into years of debt and potentially sabotage their entire financial futures just to get a fancy name on their diploma.
But Zac Bissonnette is walking proof that this assumption is not only false, but dangerous-a class con game designed to rip you off and doom your student to a post-graduation life of near poverty .
At some point, all of us will find ourselves facing the challenge of understanding and navigating the labyrinth of college financing. It’s a topic that is not very well understood by most people, unfamiliar to many and intimidating for almost all. “Cracking College Affordability” attempts to demystify this complex topic and make it easier to understand by starting from the fundamental building blocks, explaining each one of them and laying out how all of them fit together.
As the price of college tuition steadily increases, paying for it requires strategies to maximize financial aid and minimize costs. Paying for College Without Going Broke, 2010 Edition is thoroughly revised and updated to reflect current economic uncertainties and to take the stress, confusion, and guess-work out of applying for financial aid.
Every year, thousands of students are forced to postpone their education due to household finances. As overwhelming as the college experience can be, its anxiety intensifies for the single parent looking to send their child to college on an annual salary of $50,000 or less. Even on Your Salary is designed to reduce the stress associated with both the financial burden as well as the entire college experience.