For far too long, college students have spent money that doesn't have to be spent. Now, with the economy faltering and the cost of college at an all time high, more students are dropping out of college for financial reasons. Other students are leaving college with huge debts and a twinge of fear. That's why wise students are aggressively looking for every possible way to cut their costs and increase their income.
Here are a few ideas for students and parents to consider.
Seek out grants, scholarships and financial aid, not loans
Over the past thirty years, colleges have lulled parents and students into thinking that loans are financial aid. They are not. Loans have to be paid back. They place a large and immediate financial burden on graduates and often last for more than twenty years. True financial aid is money that doesn't have to be paid back. Since it exists in many forms, students and parents should start looking for aid in the junior year of high school. This doesn't mean that students won't end up with some loans. However, if good students start early and work diligently, more true financial aid will flow their way.
Start off at a community college
Students can dramatically cut their costs by attending a well respected community college for the first two years of college. At the same time, if they seek financial aid, work at a part-time job while in college and also work summers, they can completely avoid taking out loans. In this way, students can get through the first two years nearly debt free. Caution: Identify the two colleges to which you are most likely to transfer. Then, make certain that you take only courses that will be accepted by those colleges. Also, keep your grades up. Transfer colleges won't accept poor grades.
Start off at a lower cost four year college
The same advice about community colleges will apply to lower cost, four year colleges. Choose wisely and you will benefit.
Attend a college that offers an accelerated degree program
Some colleges offer you the opportunity to complete your college degree in less that four years. If you have the temperament and work ethic, you can save time and money. However, only highly motivated and dedicated students are usually suitable for such a commitment.
Increase or decrease the credits you take
At some colleges, students pay the same tuition whether they take 15 or 18 credits. If the student is both willing and capable, why not take 18 credits and get one course at no extra cost. By doing that, some students can cut out a full semester and graduate in three and a half years. For students who work full time and even for some part-timers, taking six or nine credits may be a way to get through college without college loans. This will greatly depend on your income.
Seek out and work for an employer that offers an educational assistance program
A number of employers still offer educational assistance programs for their full-time employees. Investigate their requirements. Most require at least one year of service and pursuit of a degree that is job related. Many reimburse a percentage of your costs for tuition and books based on the grades you achieve.
Attend a local college and live at home
At many colleges, room and board will represent around 20% of your costs, sometimes more. By attending a local college, you can nearly eliminate these costs. In some cases, the local college may also be less expensive. When you eat your meals at home and take a brown bag lunch, additional savings, however small, will result.
Sell your car and ride a bike
If you live at home, you can achieve a dramatic savings by eliminating your car during the college years. Yes, for many students, this is a psychological and emotional issue. However, a car can be a money pit (purchase price, maintenance, repairs, fuel, and insurance). If you make the sacrifice and find other less expensive means of transportation, this action can pay off.
Take some online courses
Many colleges now offer online courses. They eliminate your transportation needs and offer greater convenience. Furthermore, some of these courses can be taken as you have time because classes can be viewed at your convenience. This approach is expedient and a cost-effective alternative for people with busy lives.
Cut up your credit cards
If you don't have the cash to pay for something, don't buy it now. Wait until you have the money. Too many young adults graduate from college not only with college loans, they also owe money on their credit cards. Some owe more than $5,000.
Evaluate your spending
Some students have difficulty understanding the difference between needs and wants. However, almost anyone can chart their monthly spending to see where their money is going. Armed with that information, many students can cut their spending by 10-20%.
Get a part-time job
If you are attending college on a full-time basis, you should be able to find a part-time job that will cover some of your weekly expenses. When money is tight, a part-time job is more than an option.
A campus-wide lawn sale
With permission from the college, any student or student group can take the initiative and arrange for a campus-wide lawn sale/tag sale/street festival during the semester. Individual students and student groups will then have the opportunity to reserve lawn blanket space for the sale of their used electronic eEquipment, CD's, DVD's, books, clothing, and anything else that may be relevant. As appropriate, entertainment and food items may also be provided to attract buyers. For the most enterprising and businesslike students, this kind of campus event can result in a substantial amount of income.
When money is tight, there are only two prudent things that students can do. One is to reduce expenses; the other is to increase income. Since a college education is a requirement for many good jobs, serious students must face their financial challenges with a willingness to make the sacrifices that will get them through the tough times. It's those sacrifices that will strengthen their resolve and lead to greater success.
Bob Roth, a former campus recruiter, is the author of The 4 Realities Of Success During and After College and The College Student's Guide To Landing A Great Job. Known as The "College & Career Success" Coach, Bob also writes articles for more than 200 college career services offices, campus newspapers, parent associations and employment Web sites. Additionally, Bob has developed 20 Self-Scoring Learning Tools that help college students find success. He has been interviewed on numerous radio programs across the country and also by many newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal. Lastly, Bob has served as an Adjunct at Marist College, teaching a course in career development. For more, visit his site at The4Realities.com.© 2012 Bob Roth
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