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Reducing Expenses While in College

When looking at ways to pay for college, also consider the many ways, both large and small, that you can help reduce or help pay for your overall tuition and expenses while you are in college or graduate school. Let's take a look at some of these options:

Tax Breaks

Many students and their parents qualify for tax breaks or federal income tax credits for higher education tuition and expenses. The tax code changes frequently, so be sure to read the latest copy of IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, available at:

Community Colleges and Online Schools

You might reduce your overall tuition expenses by choosing a community college or online school for a year or two before transferring to a traditional four-year university. Lower tuition and expenses at community colleges and online schools can add up to substantial savings, but be sure your class credits will transfer. Speak with the admissions and guidance counselors at the community college or online school and also at the four-year school you may transfer to, and get all details you need about transferring course credits.

Housing Savings

There are several ways that you and your parents can save on housing expenses while you attend college:

  • If your parents are in a financial position to purchase a house near your college campus, they can then rent rooms in the house to you and other students to go toward mortgage payments. Consult a tax professional to make sure the house meets rental property requirements and will be a good investment.
  • You may be able to get credit toward your tuition or your room and board fees by agreeing to serve as a resident advisor (RA) in your dorm. Contact your student housing office for information.
  • If your parents live near your college campus, consider living at home and commuting to school to save up to $6,000 per year on housing costs.
  • Many colleges and universities offer free room and board to students in exchange for a certain number of hours of work on campus each week. Check with your student housing office or with the financial aid office for details.

Transportation Savings

  • Rather than using a car on campus (which requires gas, maintenance, and possibly monthly payments) find safe and walkable routes between classes and activities, or buy bus tickets from the campus transportation system.

Employment Opportunities

  • Consider cooperative education programs that allow students to work full time or study full time, alternating between the two. These programs are available to many students regardless of financial need and pay as much as $7,000 per year.
  • Your college or university is likely to have a placement office that can help you find part-time work on campus.
  • If you or a family member is employed by your college or university, you may be eligible to take classes for reduced or completely waived tuition. Check with your placement or financial aid office for information.


Taking Fewer Credits and Less Time to Complete Your Degree

By taking fewer credits you can save on college costs. There are several ways you can reduce the number of credits you need to take to graduate:

  • Take advanced placement courses in high school and take the advanced placement exams in those subjects. If your scores are high enough, you will receive college credit for that subject. See your high school guidance counselor or college academic advisor for details.
  • If you have significant or particular life experience your college or university may also grant you college credit. Check with your college's academic office for information.
  • Because most colleges and universities charge a set fee for the total number of credits taken in a given semester or term, it's a good idea to take the maximum number of credits allowed per term. This may help you complete your degree in less time, saving you tuition and fees.
  • Consider taking summer courses at a less expensive college to reduce your overall tuition expenses. Before choosing this option, check with your academic advisor to make sure the course credits will transfer to your degree program.
  • Some colleges and universities offer students the option of taking all the credits needed for a four-year degree within three years, which shaves one year of tuition and expenses from their full college bill.

Attending Your Parent's Alma Mater (or Your Sister's School of Choice)

Some colleges and universities will give you credit in the form of tuition reduction for attending the same school as your parents or for having a sibling at the same college at the same time. Check with your parents' alma mater to see if this option applies, or to the school your brothers or sisters are attending (or considering).

Being an Older Student

Sometimes it pays to be getting on in years, and one such case is going to college. Some schools will offer reduced tuition for older students, so be sure to check with the financial aid office of any colleges or universities you're interested in to see if you might get a break for being more mature.

Converting a Loan into A Grant

While it may sound like something achieved only with the wave of a magic wand, it is true that some colleges and universities will convert non-federal school loans into grants if the qualifying student remains in school and graduates. Check with the financial aid and admissions offices of all colleges and universities you are interested in attending to find out if this is a possible option for you.

Qualifying for Reduced Tuition for Economic Hardship

If the major wage earner in your household happens to be unemployed, you might qualify for a reduced tuition rate. Check with your college's financial aid office for information.

Qualifying for Funding Because You Don't Qualify for Funding

It may sound counter to logic, but in some scenarios not qualifying for state funding or federal funding can pay off at the college level. Many colleges and universities have certain funding set aside for students who do not meet the eligibility criteria for funding at the state or federal level. Check with your financial aid office for information.

Getting Tuition Assistance From Employers

Many employers offer tuition assistance for their employees or children of their employees, so check with your employer and your parents' employers for information.

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