Whether you’re getting ready to head off to college or are a parent planning for your child’s future education, here are ten ways to save on the cost of college.
Make sure you scroll down to the last idea. It’s a special offer for 529 day (get it – May 29th). Scholarshare is matching up to $50 for qualifying accounts. It’s free money for college, so check it out.
Take College Classes In High School
One way to not only get a head start on your education but to also potentially save yourself a lot of money is to take entry level college courses in high school. The first step is to take AP classes and pass the AP test each year. Then, you could even take community college classes in high school.
At my high school, students who tested high enough were allowed to take some of their courses at the local community college to count toward both high school and college credits.
Meet with your guidance counselor and see if there are any options like this available to you. If this is an option, be sure that credits you’ll be receiving are transferable to the college or university you’ll be attending in the future. As a result of my college credits, I was able to graduate early and save money.
Apply for Scholarships
While scholarships aren’t a sure-bet, they’re definitely worth looking into and can cover at least a small portion of your tuition. Heck, if you really work at it, they can cover all of your tuition.
There are thousands of scholarships available, many aimed at a very specific demographic. One of the first places college students should look when applying for scholarships is their parents’ workplace. After that look locally and search for any scholarships that are specific to your field of study.
Here’s more information on how to find college scholarships.
Don’t Forget Financial Aid
Financial aid in the form government grants are a great way to help pay for college since they do not have to be paid back.The fact is that most financial aid comes in the form of student loans. But there are options for grants, and even work study. Sometimes colleges might offer incentives as well.
To see how much financial aid you qualify for, you’ll need to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for each school year which can be found here.
Don’t pass this up simply because you don’t “think” you can qualify.
Use UPromise To Save
UPromise is a savings and reward program offered by Sallie Mae that can help families accumulate college savings without much effort.
When you open an account with UPromise you link your debit and credit cards to your UPromise account and are “rewarded” for shopping at UPromise partners. Your rewards can be deposited into a 529 account or used to pay down student loan debt.
While using UPromise isn’t going to fully fund a college education (or even close to it) it is a simple way to add more savings from doing the shopping you were planning on doing anyway.
You can open a UPromise account here.
Start With A Community College
The cost of community college is about half of a state university and almost ten times less than a private school. If cost of school is a concern attending a community college for the first two years could be a huge savings.
Plus, what many people don’t realize is that a community college is a great way to get a lot of your general education courses completed for cheap!
If you choose to start with a community college make sure that your credits will transfer to the university you’ll enroll in thereafter.
Apply For Work-Study Positions
Federal work-study positions are part time jobs that you can do on-campus. They won’t cover all of your tuition but they can provide you with some income. What makes these positions so appealing is the income earned through federal work-study programs will not affect your financial aid eligibility.
You can apply for work-study programs through your FASFA application.
Purchase Used Books Or Rent Your Textbooks
One you get to college one of the biggest unexpected expenses is the price of college textbooks. A single book can cost as much as $200 and it’s estimated that the average student spends almost $1,200 per year on books and supplies alone.
You can keep these costs in check by purchasing used books from your bookstore or purchasing online at a places like Amazon and BookScouter.com.
We made it easy to find the best place to get your textbooks by comparing all the textbook rental options for you.
Compare Housing Options
Aside from tuition the next largest cost is housing. While many universities will require students to live on campus the first two years this isn’t always the case.
If you can, consider living at home while attending college or renting a place with a group of like-minded individuals who can help you split the bill.
Use Student Loans Responsibly
If you are getting ready to enter college it’s important that you take out the minimum amount of student loans possible. Remember that your loans have to be paid back and should be used as an investment in yourself and your future earning power. (And not used as a way to fund a fun lifestyle right now.)
If you’re a parent it’s important to educate your child on the responsible use of debt sooner rather than later. Student loan debt is a burden to many and shouldn’t be used lightly.
Save in a 529
529 plans are college savings accounts that allow earnings to grow tax-free as long as they are used for qualifying education expenses. In addition, many states also provide tax breaks for 529 contributions.
If you’re a parent saving in a 529 plan is a great way to help your child with future college costs.
In honor of 529 day, ScholarShare is matching up to $50 to those who open up an account with at least $50 and set up an automatic contribution of $25 or more per month. This bonus offer is open to California families and the new account must be opened on May 25th from 12:01 am to 11:59 pm (PST)
You can learn more about ScholarShare 529s and their “You Start It, We Match It” bonus here.
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You Don’t Have to Go Broke to Go to College
I’m not going to lie, college CAN be extremely expensive. Luckily there are many ways to save on college costs and pay for college. You don’t have to go to the most expensive school and you don’t have to rely solely on student loans.
Instead look for creative ways to both save and pay for your education.
What is your favorite way to reduce the cost of college?
Robert Farrington is a brand ambassador for ScholarShare and this article was sponsored by ScholarShare. All opinions are my own and you really should be using some of these simple tricks to boost your 529 savings!
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.