6 strategies to pay less for a college degree
You can't price colleges like cars. Few pay the 'sticker' price and there are lots of ways to get discounts.
Judging by the headlines, it's easy to believe the cost of college puts it out of reach for all but the most affluent. According to the College Board, average annual tuition at a four-year private college now tops $26,000. If you just look at the sticker price, four years at a private university approaches the cost of a Rolls Royce.
- Bing:Most expensive cars
But that doesn't mean only the rich need apply. While the sticker price may be $26,000, the College Board adds that the average price actually paid at those private colleges is less than $9,000. How can that be?
Check out the following short news video, then meet me on the other side for more.
The lesson learned from this story is that while college is certainly expensive, it's often not as expensive as the "sticker price" you so often see in the popular press. As the expert said in the story above, while you can't walk into a car dealership and ask for discounts based on your achievements or your needs, with college you sometimes can, largely due to $168 billion of annual financial aid available to students.
Here are six strategies you can harness to get your degree at a discount.
Start with the Web. Here are some sites that can hook you up with free scholarship searches:
- College Board.
- College Answer.
And don't forget to beat the local bushes as well. Awards from the local Rotary, YMCA or Kiwanis Club may not be as big or as convenient to apply for, but there's also less competition. You can find out about home-grown awards at your local library or high schools.
Be careful: Make sure the courses you're taking at your less expensive school will transfer. Look for an articulation agreement from the school where you intend to graduate to see which schools they accept credits from, as well as the grades they expect you to maintain in order to transfer.
Why would a school make tuition more affordable for some students? Because they want those students. While Harvard might not be knocking down your door, there could be other schools that want you enough to offer enticing discounts, aid and scholarships.
What you have to do is look for the school that's looking for you. Obviously, the more you have to offer, the more of these schools you'll find. But consult college guides, comparing your grades and SAT scores with the averages at various schools. If you'd fit in the top 20% to 25%, consider applying.
While this strategy may not land you in the university of your dreams, there's still the option of transferring later -- and saving a ton of money in the meantime.
- Cooper Union (New York, N.Y.)
- U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, N.Y.)
- College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, Mo.)
- University of the People (Online)
- Alice Lloyd College (Pippa Passes, Ky.)
- Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Berea College (Berea, Ky.)
- William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY (New York, N.Y.)
- Webb Institute (Glen Cove, N.Y.)
- Deep Springs College (Big Pine, Calif.)
- Barclay College (Haviland, Kan.)
Admission requirements are all over the map: Some require you to work while attending school, some require excellent grades, etc. Learn more by checking out the article or visiting each school's website.
Debt-forgiveness programs are available for teachers, medical professionals, lawyers, nurses and others.
- For medical degrees, visit the National Health Services website.
- For teachers, see this Federal Student Aid website.
- Nurses should check out the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program.
- Law students should ask their law school about loan forgiveness or loan repayment programs, but here's an American Bar Association list of law schools that offer loan forgiveness.
- Peace Corps volunteers can get forgiveness of Perkins loans: Here's the info.
- Volunteer for AmeriCorps or Volunteers in Service to America and you can get educational awards of $4,725 for each year of service. These awards can be applied to student loans or future education expenses.
To learn more about loan forgiveness programs, see this summary sheet from FederalStudentAid.ed.gov.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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