In case you didn't get the memo, college costs are going nowhere but up . Tuitions and fees have gotten so astronomical that even higher earners are struggling to send their kids to college.
If you'd rather not empty out your entire savings account and then some to start paying for higher education, then you'll need to do whatever it takes to keep your costs down, whether it be attending community college, living at home rather than in cramped dorm rooms, and avoiding the markups at the campus bookstore. With that in mind, here are a few money-saving tips to make college more affordable.
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1. Choose a cheaper school
The college you select can have a huge impact on your overall bill, so if you're looking to keep your education costs to a minimum, it pays to start with tuition. Here's what tuition looked for the 2017-2018 school year, according to the College Board:
Average Cost of Tuition
DATA SOURCE: THE COLLEGE BOARD.
Opting for community or in-state public college will shave a bundle off your total higher education costs. In fact, if you were to attend an in-state school over a private one, you'd pay an average of $99,000 less over the course of a four-year college career. So unless there's a private school out there with a compelling program you're interested in, limit yourself to lower-cost schools.
Remember, many universities have core requirements that you can fulfill at community colleges and transfer over. Do that for a year, and you'll spend less on college overall.
2. Skip the dorm
For the 2017-2018 academic year, the average cost of room and board was $8,400 at community colleges, $10,800 at public schools, and $12,210 at private universities. And frankly, that's a lot to pay for a tiny shared bedroom and mediocre dining room slop. If your school of choice is close enough to allow for commuting, you'll save a load of money by living at home and driving or taking the bus back and forth instead. This especially holds true if your parents have a car you can use, thereby sparing you a monthly payment.
3. Buy used textbooks
It'd be one thing if you could pay your college tuition, fees, and dorm expenses, and then call it a day. But not so fast -- to excel at your courses, you'll need the right materials, and that means spending a small fortune of money on textbooks. The average student spends around $1,200 on textbooks and supplies per year, with individual books often costing upward of $200 apiece. But if you're willing to do some legwork, you can get the materials you need for less.
For one thing, look into buying used textbooks, whether online or through friends. The downside is that you might get a book with somebody else's notations in it; the upside is that you might save yourself $100 or more a pop.
Another option? Rent your textbooks instead of owning them outright. There are several online companies that let you rent the books you need and return them by semester's end. Your estimated savings? Roughly 60% of the cost of those books when purchased new.
4. Expedite your studies
Though countless students enroll in four-year programs, it's estimated that the typical bachelor's degree will take 5.1 academic years to complete, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. If you want to save money on college, then a good way to do so is to finish your studies sooner.
You can accomplish this in a number of ways. First, aim to choose a major early on so that you don't waste time taking courses that add to your credit load, but don't actually get you closer to graduation. Next, tack one extra course onto each semester above the norm, which might allow you to complete your studies ahead of the popular four-year time frame. Will this mean having less time to hang out with friends and relax in front of the television? Of course. But it could also save you thousands upon thousands of dollars in the long run.
Saving money on college often boils down to making smart choices. Remember, there's no shame in taking out loans -- many students do -- but if you rack up too much educational debt, it could prevent you from meeting other financial milestones later in life. You're better off finding ways to pay less for college and saving the difference for whatever your future might have in store.
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