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3 tuition-saving tips

More high school students are considering the economy when looking at colleges, and Congress is mandating better disclosure of the costs.

By Stacy Johnson Apr 7, 2011 12:46PM

This post comes from Karla Bowsher at partner site Money Talks News.

 

As the effects of the recession linger on, more high-schoolers are ranking their college choices based on costs and the return on investment, a new survey says. 

After polling 21,000 college freshmen-to-be, scholarship website Fastweb.com and consulting firm Maguire Associates found (.pdf file) that 68% say the economy has "greatly" or "somewhat" influenced their college application choices this year. That's four percentage points more than in 2010 and eight more than in 2009. Post continues after video.

"This is the third year in a row we've seen students' concerns about the economy at an elevated level," said Tara Scholder, senior vice president of Maguire Associates. "As the fallout from the recession continues, institutions that want to attract quality students and engage their families need to be experts at communicating the lifetime return on an investment in their school. That means focusing on the unique value proposition that they offer."

 

So, what exactly are these "unique value propositions"? According to the future college freshmen, the factors they now consider most important when choosing a college are:

  • Quality of major: 94%.
  • Value of education (quality and cost): 92%.
  • Employment opportunities after graduation: 91%.
  • Availability of need- or merit-based aid: 87%.
  • Total costs: 87%.

More than half also reported evaluating colleges based on their social media presence, and they also want to evaluate them based on net price calculators. Accordingly, Congress has mandated that all colleges provide NPCs (which help estimate a college's costs based on its financial aid opportunities) on their websites by October.

Until then, here are some of Money Talks News' top tuition-saving tips:

 

Scholarships. They aren't just for high school seniors anymore. Scholarships are something you should seek throughout your college career, and the search is something you should never pay a fee for. Here are some sites that can hook you up with free scholarship searches:

Accelerated degrees. While it's not easy, it's possible to earn a four-year degree in three years (at some schools and in some fields) by taking accelerated classes -- essentially stuffing a full semester's worth of work into six- or eight-week classes and/or going to school year-round. Not all schools offer this option, but those that do can save you a ton of tuition money.

 

Start at a less-expensive school. Consider a community college for the first two years, then transfer to the university whose name you'd like to see on your degree. This is probably the single biggest way to save on a college education. Not only do you save on tuition costs, attending a community college might also allow you to stay with your parents and save on housing too.

 

Be careful, though. Make sure the courses you're taking at your less-expensive school will transfer. Look for an articulation agreement for the school where you intend to graduate, which will list which schools it accepts credits from, as well as the grades you'll need in order to transfer.

 

More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:

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