Does College Have to be Expensive?

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The high cost of college is in the news all the time. You may have heard scary statistics about how much student loan debt people have, and how hard it is to pay off.  These things are true. College can be expensive. Plenty of people have too much student loan debt. But college doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some ways to save yourself some money.

  1. Go to community college. One year of community college costs less than your Pell Grant for the year.  This means that your Pell Grant will pay your tuition and you will get a small refund to buy books and other supplies. You won’t need to take out loans for pay for tuition.
  2. Apply for scholarships. There are tons of scholarships. Some are huge, some are for smaller amounts, but they all add up.  Every scholarship has different requirements. Some require a minimum GPA, but others do not. Search Fastweb for scholarships. Set a goal for yourself to apply for one a week.
  3. Ask if your employer offers tuition reimbursement. Many large employers including UPS, Publix, Verizon, McDonalds, KFC, and Kohls offer tuition reimbursement. There may be some rules around tuition reimbursement. You may need to have worked with the company for a minimum amount of time or be working towards a certain major. Not sure if your employer offers tuition reimbursement or if you qualify? Ask your manager, someone in Human Resources, or look it up online.
  4. Avoid buying new textbooks. When possible, buy used textbooks. You can also rent textbooks. Shop around. Websites like slugbooks let you compare textbook prices across several popular websites, such as Amazon and Chegg.
  5. Choose campus housing carefully. You’ll need to do some math here to determine if living in the dorms and using a meal plan is cheaper than living on your own. Some colleges have beautiful on-campus apartments that are very, very expensive. They might be nice to live in, but are they worth taking out student loans?
  6. After your freshman year, consider becoming an Resident Assistant. Resident Assistants (also called RAs) live in the dorms and are responsible for overseeing residents in a dorm, usually in exchange for free housing.

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