As college tuition rates continue to climb, many prospective and current college students are feeling the pressure of costly higher education. However, there are many creative ways to save for college.
High school is a perfect time to start planning for the future and the expense of college. High school students can earn college credit through a variety of special academic exams, the most popular of which are advanced placement courses, commonly known as “APs.” By earning college credits while in high school, students can take fewer classes in college, which then lowers the ultimate cost of tuition.
Another way to save money for college is to graduate as quickly as possible. In fact, some colleges have accelerated programs that allow students to finish university in three years instead of the usual four. Other programs combine an undergraduate and graduate degree in just five years. In the long run, these programs will inevitably save students a substantial amount of money.
College students can also save towards for own education either by working part-time throughout the school year or even by taking a gap year after high school to earn money. During a gap year, a student is able to work and save money for a full year before starting college. Some colleges, such as UW-Madison, may even offer the option for a “cooperative education” for certain degree programs. In co-op education, students alternate semesters of course work with semesters of paid work at internships. Although degrees from these programs typically take longer to obtain, the money and experience earned while in them can be beneficial.
An alternative yet common method of saving money for college is to enroll in a community college for two years and then transfer to a four-year college afterwards. Upon her graduation, a student who does this will receive a diploma from the four-year college, but her expenses will have been much lower than if she attended the four-year college for all four years. However, one downfall of this method is that not all community college credits are transferable to other institutions. So, it is important to plan beforehand if using this method.
A new style of learning that saves costs and is becoming increasingly popular is to take online classes for one year before attending the same school in person for the remaining three years. Otherwise, students also have the option of attending a nearby college and living at home for a year or two to reduce room-and-board expenses.
Some other possibilities to reduce tuition include joining the military or applying for a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship. With a ROTC scholarship, students receive a free college education in exchange for a mandatory period of active duty in military services after graduation. Similarly, students can also attend a service academy, such as the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, for free and then serve a minimum number of years of active duty after graduating. However, competition for these academies is high, so it is best to speak to high school guidance counselors or local military recruiting offices. Additionally, students can serve in the military after high school and then attend college for free under the GI Bill.
While university-level education can be expensive for many students, attending college is not fiscally impossible. With some creative thinking, and if students are willing to put in hard-work, dedication, and patience, the cost of college can certainly be manageable and worth it.
[Source: American Institute of CPAs]