Cutting Your Costs

/uploadedImages/System/Images/countpennies.jpgThe cost of college can vary widely depending on where you choose to enroll, and there are many ways to lower the costs even more. By planning ahead of time, you can save on the cost of higher education long before you're ready to enroll. Get started with these 11 ways to save:

Learn about special college savings programs: You have many options when it comes to saving for college. Our side-by-side comparison chart of savings options will help you understand which is best for you or your children.

Get college credit for training you've already taken: The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service helps you gain access to academic credit for courses or exams, such as job-related training, you've already taken outside of a degree program.

"Test out" of subjects you already know: Take a College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) test and if you achieve the minimum score required by your college, you could earn credit and save the cost of taking the course. Plus, many colleges and universities offer their own tests that let you skip certain classes or earn credits if you pass. Ask at the school(s) you're interested in.

Prior Learning Assessment: If you have substantial life experience in one or more areas, you might be able to get college credit by developing a personal portfolio that documents your knowledge. You can even earn college credit by taking a course that teaches you how to develop a portfolio.

Explore financial help for career training: If you are unemployed and receiving unemployment benefits, you may be qualified to receive assistance through the U.S. Department of Labor. Call their toll-free Jobs number or ask your unemployment benefits office to see if and how you can receive their help for Workforce Investment Act Eligible Training in your state. 

Earn college credits in high school: Many high schools offer classes that earn you high school and college credit at the same time, and they are often free or very low-cost. Many states also have programs called Tech-Prep or Career Pathways that offer a sequence of courses in a career or vocational field that begin in high school and continue at a community college.  Subjects offered depend on where you attend high school, so check with your county school board or school counselor for information.

You can also take advanced courses in high school and pass a special exam to earn college credits. The two best known programs of this type are Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. Check with your high school guidance office to see what options exist at your school.

Save on exam and application fees: If you qualify financially, you may be able to get a fee waiver for the PSAT, the SAT, or the ACT. Your high school guidance counselor can help you complete the forms. Some universities will also waive your admissions application fee, if you ask.

Make sure you know if you qualify for in-state tuition: If you're thinking about a public college or university in your state, be sure to check the in-state tuition policy. Costs will be lower for a resident of the state who meets the minimum time-in-state requirements. Make certain you submit any required documentation to the school to prove your residency, so you don't end up paying unnecessary fees. Most schools will assume you are not a resident until you show that you are entitled to pay in-state rates.

Check out tuition reciprocity and exchange programs: If you don't qualify as a resident, explore the many state agreements that permit some colleges to charge in-state tuition to out-of-state students.

Apply for financial aid: Don't immediately rule out a particular school because the tuition is high. Apply for financial aid from each school that interests you and to which you have applied. Once you receive each school's offer of financial aid, you can compare the awards to figure out which option is best for you.  

Apply for tax breaks: No matter what school you attend, you may qualify for federal tax benefits for higher education that will reduce your net cost.