According to a recent NPR report, the cost of college has been increasing “faster than inflation, and family incomes can’t keep up.” In the 1970s, tuition at the University of California, Berkeley, was around $700. Today, U.C. Berkeley students pay around $15,000 per year, a 2,000 percent increase. We are stuck in a frustrating cycle: As tuition increases, the amount of student aid does as well. However, the more government aid is available, the more tuition rises.
This summer, President Obama signed an act to lower the interest rates on federal student loans. According to the Department of Education, 57 percent of all undergrads received some kind of federal aid in 2013, up from 47 percent four years ago.
As state governments cut back on their support for higher education, many public universities are forced to raise their tuition fees, but this has not decreased the number of college enrollments. All this is troubling at a time when more and more good-paying jobs require a college education.
This week, President Obama is touring New York and Pennsylvania, stopping at three colleges and a high school to talk about ways to make college more affordable. His first stop is the University of Buffalo, which has made a name for itself with its relatively low-cost tuition and high graduation rate.
The University of Buffalo, with 29,000 students, is regarded as one of the “next generation” universities that have found ways to keep costs down while still producing a large number of graduates. More and more colleges and universities are joining this movement, to help their students afford an education.
Here are three ways to help reduce the cost of your college education:
1. Go to a low-cost or online school
Schools such as Mount Washington College and Everest University offer online degree programs that are flexible and more affordable than traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Online degrees from these schools are around $6,000. Many traditional colleges are also beginning to offer online classes and programs.
2. Take a MOOC and transfer the credit
Massive Open Online Courses are free college courses available through prestigious universities such as Harvard and MIT. Before paying a full year’s tuition for a field of study you’re not sure about, you can take a few free courses to see if business or computer science is right for you. The American Council on Education recently gave the OK for 5 MOOCs to offer college credit, for a small fee, and it seems that more are on the horizon.
3. Apply for grants and scholarships
A recent study by Sallie Mae revealed that two-thirds of students rely on grants and scholarships to pay for college, as opposed to any other method of funding. A large number of grants and scholarships are available to students who apply for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA. Unbelievably, 53 percent of eligible families do not bother applying for aid. Use free search engines like ScholarshipAdvisor to find scholarships based on high grades, athletic ability, adults going back to school, religious affiliation, and much more.