The cost of college is a major worry for just about any parent. Relying on scholarships and financial aid doesn’t always work, which might leave you and your child looking for ways to make post-secondary education affordable. Here are four basic methods that might reduce your child’s college bill:
- Choose your meal plan carefully.
Meal plans aren’t usually seen as a big way to reduce college costs, but if you don’t pick one that fits your child’s needs, you could be throwing away hundreds of dollars. Most colleges charge a flat rate for each of the meal plans they offer, meaning that any unused meals are simply “lost” at the end of the semester. For example, suppose your child’s college charges $8 per meal. If your child signs up for a plan with 21 meals a week but only eats 15 on average, he will lose $48 per week. If there are 15 weeks in the semester, that’s a $720 loss.
Once your child can move out of the dorms (most of the time, you can do so after your freshman year), it’s usually much more economical to forgo a meal plan altogether and to cook at home. To make this work, of course, you’re going to need to teach your child some basic culinary techniques, if you haven’t already. After all, they need to eat more than just Ramen noodles.
- Start as early as possible with dual enrollment.
It’s often possible for kids to dual enroll in college courses while they are still in high school, or to take AP classes that are acceptable for college credit. These courses generally are offered free of charge or at significantly reduced cost through partnership programs between colleges and high schools. The more of these credits your child can get before they get their high school diploma, the fewer they’ll have to pay for at the regular college rate.
- Don’t go without a plan, and make use of the summer.
Many, many college students enter post-secondary education without having a clue about what they want to do for a career. They do the right thing in taking their general electives as they decide, but the issue is that many degrees are carefully outlined, having subject-specific prerequisites for every year. In some cases, courses are offered only one semester, so if your child doesn’t catch the one they need, they’re behind not six months, but twelve. The result is that people often stay on campus longer or end up extending their housing, transportation, and other costs. If your child isn’t sure of what he wants to do, it might be financially better to take a year off, think it over, and work a bit to defray the expense of the eventual enrollment. Being able to fulfill some requirements through the summer is advantageous for the same reason—you get done as much as a year sooner and therefore don’t have the costs associated with staying at the college the extra time.
- Look to the Internet.
In the beginning, online courses were seen as somewhat inferior to campus-based ones, in part because they simply were not as common and so few standards were in place for Internet-based learning. Today, all that has changed. With everyone hopping on a network for one thing or another, more and more colleges are trying to attract students with online degree programs. Employers are increasingly accepting of online degrees given the less stable economy, as they understand that many people must take online courses in order to learn while supporting themselves through a job. Online courses are not always cheaper than the campus classes in terms of price per credit hour, but because your child does not have to travel to or live on campus, it usually ends up saving him money in the long run.