By Sam Coren
Chances are if you’re reading this you’re one of the millions of people trying to figure out a way to deal with the rising cost of attending college. Even students who attend public colleges are feeling the burn as many states are under pressure to slash higher education spending to fight budget deficits. The Ohio State University is currently looking at a 3.3% increase in tuition and fees. Students at state colleges in Michigan are facing up to a 7% hike starting in the Fall. Oregon’s 7 public colleges are looking to raise their tuitions an average of 7.5%, with a proposed 9% increase at Portland State University.
Across the country people are worrying about these traditionally affordable higher education options beginning to seem out of their reach.
So how can college-bound students and their parents cope with the never-ending barrage of college tuition increases? Here 8 ways to reduce the cost of attending college:
1. Check Out Scholarships Offered By Schools
Most colleges and universities offer merit or non-need-based scholarships to academically talented students. Students applying to colleges should look into the scholarships availible for accepted students and which ones they may be eligible for. Take a look at StudentAdvisor’s Scholarship Secrets guide for more information on applying for school and third-party scholarships.
2. Take the PSAT Seriously if You’re Still in High School
The National Merit Scholarship Program awards scholarships to students based upon academic merit. The awards can be applied to any college or university to meet educational expenses at that school. The first step toward eligibility is to have a qualifying PSAT score, so be sure to practice before you take it your junior year when it counts.
3. Look Into State Scholarships and Tuition Assistance Programs
It’s common for states to offer tuition assistance programs in order to help grow certain sectors of the economy and help students in need. For example The Nurse Education Assistance Loan Program (NEALP) in Ohio provides funding for nurses who intend to serve as instructors or students who intend to serve as nurses after graduation. Students should obtain the eligibility criteria. Check with your state’s higher education office website to see what programs are availible.
4. High School Athlete? Consider Playing in College
Many colleges offer scholarships to athletically talented students. If you play or intend to play a varsity sport in High School, you may want to consider having a college athletic career. Parents and students should be careful, however, to weigh the benefits of an athletic scholarship against the demands of this type of award. Whether you get an offer from a NCAA D-I or D-III school, participating in college-level athletics is a major time commitment.
5. Start at a Community College Then Transfer
Another way students can save a lot of money on college costs is to attend a community college for one or two years and finish their education after transferring to a 4-year school. Some community colleges even have guaranteed transfer agreements with public schools such as the MassTransfer program for students in Massachusetts. Under the MassTransfer program, state community college students will automatically be accepted as transfer students at UMass-Amherst providing they have a 2.5 or higher GPA.
6. Take AP or CLEP Exams to Earn College Credit Early
If you’re mulling over high school course selection give some serious thought into taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes in the subjects that are your strongest. Not only does it help admissions officer see you enjoy academically challenging yourself, but scoring high on AP exams can help you save money on the cost of college courses. The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) serves a similar purpose but are better suited for non-AP Exam subjects or adult learners.
7. Forgo Dorm Life and Commute
Living on campus can be prohibitively expensive for some students. Deciding to stay home and commute to school can save you as much as $6,000 a year on room and board. Alternatively, if commuting from home is not an option, consider getting an off-campus apartment near your school. Many students find that living in an off-campus apartment and budgeting groceries is cheaper than living in on-campus housing and paying for a meal plan.
8. Consider Schools With Cooperative Education Programs
Cooperative education programs allow students to alternate between working full time and studying full time. This type of employment program is not based upon financial need, and students can earn as much as $7,000 per year. As an added bonus, students will graduate with relevant, full-time work experience when they enter the “real” job market. Some schools with major co-op programs include Rochester Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Drexel University, and Georgia Institute of Technology.