“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” –Theodore Roosevelt
Although the President was not directly referencing applying to college, his words still hold true for the modern family. As tuition costs continue to skyrocket, finding an affordable college can be a daunting challenge for many. However, the following tips can help mitigate the costs of higher education.
Evaluate your resources: First and foremost, determine if you qualify for scholarships or grants, which significantly reduce the costs of higher education. In addition, determine if you qualify for financial aid. Both the federal and many state governments, as well as universities, provide financial subsidies based on your ability to contribute financially. Other resources, such as 529 college saving plans, are available to help you save for college, and tuition calculators can help you predict how much a college or university will cost.
Apply strategically: Instead of basing your application solely on a school’s rank, consider colleges based on return-on-investment (ROI) metrics. What you are looking for are colleges or universities which have low costs relative to their academic rigor and expected financial benefits. Colleges looking to improve their ranking will also engage in bidding wars to attract higher caliber students. To increase your chances for school funding, evaluate your personal strengths and target schools that may be seeking those qualities in their students. Diverse backgrounds and experiences, for example, can be a major consideration for colleges.
Public and foreign options: An affordable way to earn a bachelor’s degree is to transfer from a two-year institution. Community college can be significantly cheaper than a four-year program. Make sure to enroll in a transfer program early and closely follow a four-year university’s academic requirements. Alternatively, consider attending an in-state university as they are almost always less expensive than private schools. You also might consider pursuing an education abroad as many foreign universities are priced competitively against in-state public tuition.
Tenacity and frugality: Working summer and part-time jobs, living in more affordable housing, and utilizing a university’s free resources all can reduce college costs. A Resident Advisor, for example, can work occasional night shifts and eliminate housing costs altogether. These methods can reduce expenses upwards of $10,000 a year.
Applying for college can be daunting, but with some planning, you can significantly reduce tuition costs and make attending a university an affordable reality. As always, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional is skilled in managing college expenses and can help you create a reasonable plan for your future.