College is expensive, and finding the funds to pay for a degree can be a challenge. With college tuition rising each year, it’s more important than ever to start saving early and identifying ways to reduce the cost.
You may be wondering how it’s possible to pay less for your degree, so here are five ways that you can get around college costs:
1. Advanced coursework opportunities
One way to save big on college costs is to earn college credits while in high school with advanced coursework opportunities, like Advanced Placement (AP) courses and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. These college-level courses are offered in middle and high schools and culminate in an exam that you can take to earn college credits, depending on your scores. The courses are free, but there may be a fee for the exam.
2. Dual-enrollment programs
Dual-enrollment programs can also save you money and help you graduate from high school with college credits already completed. These programs allow students to take courses for credit at local colleges while still working on a high school diploma.
3. Community college courses
Depending on where you decide to earn your degree, tuition at your local community college is likely far cheaper. To save money, you can consider enrolling in community college for the first year or two and then transferring to a four-year institution to finish your degree. You can also take courses at your local community college over the summer to earn credits.
4. State workforce training programs
One of the easiest ways to save on college costs is by simply graduating on time. Students who select a career path and a major before enrolling and stick with this plan tend to graduate on time. If you’re still trying to make up your mind, your state workforce board can be a great free resource to get advice about in-demand careers and on-the-job experience before you start paying for credits
5. Save, find scholarships, and compare loan options
Even if you’re getting a late start, saving money can still reduce the amount you will pay for college. That’s because education loans are borrowed money that must be repaid with interest. Interest rates may seem low, but they can really add up over time.
You can also look for scholarships, which are typically merit-based, as well as grant aid, which is typically need-based. Your guidance counselor can be a great resource for finding scholarships, especially local ones that are specific to your area. Local scholarships tend to be less competitive than national scholarships, so you have a better chance of getting free money for college, and every little bit helps.
Being an informed borrower can also help. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid early, and always exhaust any federal student aid first. If you still have a gap and need to look at private loans, do your research and compare interest rates, fees, and repayment terms from as many lenders as possible.
To save the most money on college costs, you might consider one or more of these five options. Be sure to talk with a parent or guardian, your guidance counselor, and/or another trusted advisor as you make your plan. You want to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your career goals, and that you are aware of any prerequisites that you’ll need to complete or meet.