How to Tame the High Price of College

Paying for college is pricey, with parents footing the bill becoming increasingly uncommon, hopeful students are getting creative with how to piece together the payment so that they can come out with as little debt as possible. Having a plan and being ahead of the curve are skills that are going to really help you feel as calm as possible when facing this major financial commitment. Since this is generally the first major spending experience in your life, it sets the tone for how you will handle these large purchases in the future, as well as begins to mold your relationship with money, and your comfort level associated with that relationship. 

Be Vocal

Do not assume that although you are the one responsible for paying for college, that you must go through the process alone. Use your personal network as a sounding board to gather ideas, and eventually make your plan, chances are there are people in your circle that have been through this before, and can give you guidance to make cost efficient decisions with a low of risk as possible. Parents, teachers, and advisors are all great examples of personal resources you have access to. If independence is something that you are after, keep in mind that you can still achieve that while allowing others to assist your thought process. At the end of the day, you will be the one pulling the trigger on your plan, but limiting yourself by not discussing your thoughts and options with people you trust beforehand can land you in some financial hardships that can take years to recover from. 

Plan to Borrow

It is safe to assume that you will need to borrow money in some way and amount to pay for your education. Understanding the different types of loans and which ones you will and will not qualify for is a good place to start. Banks and lenders constantly target hopeful students with offers and plans, and it would be easy to just assume one size fits all and go with it. But that lack of information and understanding of the fine print is a sneaky way that sometimes students get taken advantage of. You may have to explore private student loans with a private lender in order to pay for your education

This scenario is where having discussions with your trusted network is going to come in handy, because the need for a cosigner can be a major sticking point for lenders giving out this style of loan. And although your parents may not be able to provide actual cash towards your education, they might be willing to lend you their good credit standing as the added security for the bank that is associated with being a cosigner. Understanding the interest rates, how they affect repayment totals, and the repayment requirements are all things that you need to be comfortable with prior to signing for a private student loan. Shop around options and commit yourself to the lender that provides you with the best terms possible. It is natural to have to spend time on this part of the process because the details can be confusing, and you’ll want to have a firm understanding of all the terms and vocabulary associated with the loan. 

Find Free Money

This avenue does take a little extra work, but can shave off thousands of dollars from your total bill, and at the end of your journey you are going to be really thankful that you took the time to find free money when you did, when you see how it affects your overall repayment total. Grants, scholarships, and assistantships are common ways to receive money for college that you do not have to pay back. Take to the internet and start searching. 

Each grant and scholarship will have its own unique set of requirements and application process, so you can easily narrow down what you do and do not qualify for before you just start blindly applying. Assistantships are something that you will have to explore once you are officially a student, but essentially these are more of a barter system towards free money. Students exchange labor hours on campus for class credit. When considering this option be sure that the time commitment fits into your plan and coursework goals. Many campus jobs are flexible and are used to managing the schedule and work load of student employees, but if the job is taking precedent over your studies, you may have to reevaluate your plan, or dedicate yourself to new habits that facilitate success both at work and in the classroom. 

Spread Out Your Credits

A unique way to decrease the cost of college is to pay less for the credits that are less significant. Every university and program of study is going to have prerequisite classes, and electives that are necessary for graduation but might not be applicable to your specific major. Taking these classes at a community college, for a cheaper price, then transferring them to your four-year university can be a huge cost savings. Before you piece together your classes though, make sure you are clear on the transfer guidelines. Some schools are strict on which classes do and do not count and if they can transfer, so not knowing this information in advance could end up costing you more if you are not careful. 

Grades are another thing to pay attention to. Although you are earning your degree from a four-year university and not the community college, find out if the grades transfer as well as the credits, or if the credits transfer in a pass/fail style and do not have bearing on your GPA one way or the other. An added benefit of the typically lower price of community college credits, is the books associated with the coursework are generally cheaper as well. Finding used books and materials at the campus bookstore will help you to balance your spending since these classes are generally not ones that you will want to keep the books from, buying used is smart for your budget.

  Print this Article