Education is an expensive ordeal, and it is only getting worse.
The average cost of college for a single student in the United States is $35,436 per year, including tuition and other expenses. It’s also just a baseline, as the costs grow exponentially if you continue your education beyond an undergraduate program. For example, if you’ve figured out that research is what you are solely interested in and passionate about, getting a doctorate may be a perfect choice, but it requires a huge investment as the Ph.D. cost is really high.
The worst part is that it is getting more expensive each year—for the last decade, it has had an annual growth rate of 2%.
But even as education costs grow, there are ways to reduce their burden. They require some strategy or forethought but can positively impact your expenses.
From simple to complex, here are eight ways to reduce the cost of your education and make your journey toward that degree a breeze.
1. Buy or Rent Used Textbooks
The cost of textbooks changes according to institution and degree, which means some may be more expensive than others. However, the average cost of textbooks for a student in a 4-year program sits at around $1,200 per year.
Expensive? It sure is—even more so, considering you’re probably only going to find them useful for a semester. That is why you should buy used textbooks rather than brand-new ones.
You can find the cheapest textbooks online at BookScouter.com, gaining access to all your required textbooks for over half of their original price. You can search for the best offers from over 30 buyback companies, including popular vendors like Sellbackyourbook, Textbookrush, Booksrun, Ziffit, and others. Given the platform’s popularity, it has accumulated numerous reviews, allowing you to rely on other users’ experiences when selecting a company to sell your books to. For instance, feel free to read Ziffit reviews before selling your books to ensure it’s a credible buyback vendor.
You can also opt to rent instead, reducing the cost even further and allowing you to return the book once the semester ends. Simply enter the ISBN or title of the book and search for the best offer.
2. Look into AP Courses in High School
If you are still studying in high school, consider enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes to save some money on your future college tuition.
If you approve your AP tests with high grades at the end of the school year, some colleges will accept the credits as if you had approved the corresponding introductory college course. As such, you can skip those classes and save the money you would have spent on those credits.
However, keep in mind that this method requires academic excellence and dedication. Likewise, which AP courses are accepted or not varies according to college.
3. Consider Community College as a First Step
Another option to rake in credits ahead of college is to make a first stop in your local community college.
By enrolling for an associate’s degree, you can complete your general classes and acquire those mandatory credits much cheaper, as a community college is often the most affordable option. Once done, you can transfer to four-year universities and only spend money on the remaining courses related to your specific degree.
However, remember that you should check beforehand whether or not your community college has any deal for guaranteed acceptance and make sure the university you aim for accepts such credits.
4. Take Advantage of Student Discounts
Many everyday expenses can rake up fast if you are a college student. Luckily, being a student is not all bad—studying gives you many benefits and discounts you would otherwise not get access to.
Whenever you are purchasing anything, make it a habit to ask about student discounts or benefits. Technology purchases often include student-exclusive discounts for hardware and software necessities, while some restaurants include student plans and meals worth checking out.
While these may not impact your tuition or direct college expenses, student discounts can significantly soften the burden of everyday needs.
5. Study Your Housing Options Carefully
It’s not a secret that there is a housing crisis within the United States, and rent can often be a considerable percentage of every student’s expense. That is why, before starting college, you must evaluate your housing options.
If possible, the best option is always to live at home. It can save you housing costs and thus reduce your overall expenditure. This is viable if you go to community college first or if your university is nearby, and commuting is often worthwhile.
When staying at home is not an option, compare and contrast the benefits of living in a dorm or staying off-campus. While staying off-campus is often cheaper, aspects such as rent, utilities, and transportation are all worth studying before determining the best deal.
6. Avoid Using a Car
A vehicle can be expensive, and car ownership can quickly increase for college students.
Between gas, maintenance, insurance, parking, and other miscellaneous costs, having a car can easily be a few grand, which is a lot for a college student concerned about other payments.
Of course, sometimes, it’s an inevitable expense. But if your circumstances and campus situation allow it, consider relying on public transportation for as long as possible and reduce your car expenses until it becomes mandatory.
7. Research Tuition Reimbursement Programs
According to their policies, some businesses or companies offer tuition assistance, paying a percentage of credits towards a certain degree. However, a significant portion of eligible employees need to be made aware of this benefit. As such, if you are employed, always research whether or not you could enjoy this assistance.
If you would like to enjoy this benefit and consider it worth trying, you can apply for part-time jobs in some companies offering programs and research. UPS, Bank of America, Chipotle, and other options worth considering.
8. Apply for Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs
Left for last is the most obvious option, but the most efficient of them all: scholarships.
The most obvious and efficient option, which is often overlooked, is applying for scholarships. However, this should always allow everyone to apply to as many scholarships or financial aid programs as possible.
There are many options worth exploring. From complete financial aid programs to textbook scholarships, any of these programs can significantly impact your college expenses, so it’s a door worth knocking on.
Conclusion: Be Savvy and Resourceful
There is no denying that college expenses are burdensome and costly. However, the tips and tricks in this article can ease some of that weight on your shoulders. The secret lies, as always, in remaining cautious and thoughtful.
If you have a savvy mind, a proactive disposition, and a knack for budgeting, you can surf through college with fewer expenses than expected. It’s not a solution, but it is a help.