The cost of college has steadily increased in recent years – right along with the need for higher education in the workforce. You may have already heard that people with a college degree earn $1 million more in their lifetime compared to high school graduates. Ironically, the cost of college is the top reason people drop out of college before getting a diploma.
Even if a student is getting help paying expenses, budgeting is a big factor. Parents can now easily send money online to anywhere in the world, but students need to manage their finances responsibly. If not, you can still end up with a pile of debt at graduation.
Common College Expenses to Plan For
The cost of college varies dramatically depending on the college you attend, the city you live in, your living situation, scholarship awards and how many years it takes to earn a degree. At some point many college students will run into these common expenses:
- Institution Fees
- Gas and Insurance
- Computers and Printing
- Dues (if you belong to organizations, a fraternity or a sorority)
- Extracurricular activities (like intermural sports)
One of the most important things you can do is create a budget and proactively manage it at least once a month. There are a lot of great apps like Mint that make creating a budget and managing it super simple. Often all you have to do is set it up once, sync it with your accounts and then make updates as needed. The app will generate reports for you and even identify ways you can save money.
Getting Through College Without Accumulating Debt
Taking on thousands of dollars in debt through student loans and credit cards can be avoided during your college years. You just have to watch your spending and make strategic choices to avoid going into debt as a college student.
Start at a Community College
The first couple of years in college include mainly prerequisite classes that have little to do with your actual degree. So, why not enroll in a community college first to get your AA? Community colleges typically have much lower tuition fees, and if it’s close to home you can live with your parents to save A LOT of money in the first few years.
Apply for Federal Assistance
Many students fail to apply for federal financial aid, leaving a lot of money on the table. The Federal government provides 69% of available financial aid for college. Fill out the FAFSA to see if you qualify for assistance.
There are a variety of internship programs, including some that pay you per hour while also providing college credits. Some employers also offer a stipend in lieu of a paycheck. Either way, you can make extra cash while you earn credits. BONUS – you’ll get job experience that can help you build your reference list and resume.
Join a Work Study Program
There are 4,300 education institutions currently offering work study programs. The Federal Work study Program is designed to help students cover the cost of college. The federal government helps fund part-time work for students, however there are financial eligibility requirements that must be met to enroll in the program.
Plan Out Your Coursework So You Can Graduate on Time
Too many students have had to take an extra semester of college only because they need one or two classes to graduate. Once you have decided on a major it’s time to plan out your classes so you can graduate as quickly as possible. One way of doing this is to knock out all your required courses first. That way in your final year or semester you only have electives, which are much easier to schedule.
Ask About Student Discounts
You’d be surprised how many places offer student discounts. It ranges from public transportation to movie theaters. It never hurts to ask, but you will be expected to show your student ID.
Accumulating debt during college can limit your job selection, delay home ownership and put your focus on salary rather than finding a job you’ll truly love. Manage your money during college so you can enjoy more of it after you graduate