According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition at four-year public universities is $8,244, with the typical private university charging nearly $30,000 a year for tuition. These costs are certainly high; even public university tuition can be out of reach for the average family.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the price you must pay for tuition and to make college affordable for you. Read on to learn more.
Step One: File the FAFSA
Filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first and perhaps the most important step to take if you want to make college affordable. You can file your FAFSA online at fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA form will require you to answer questions regarding your family’s financial situation, and it will help determine the financial aid for which you qualify. Filing the FAFSA is the first step in qualifying for grants, scholarships, subsidized loans, and work-study awards.
Filing the FAFSA before the priority deadline is essential; filing later may cause you to miss out on opportunities to take advantage of various scholarships, grants, and work-study awards. Filing the FAFSA early can even provide you with all of the resources you need to afford college. For example, you may find that you qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, which awards you up to $5,500 a year. Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be paid back, and they can make college much more affordable. In addition to grants, the FAFSA can link you with federal subsidized loans. Between grants and loans, you may be able to cover all of your yearly tuition expenses.
Find a Job with an Employer Who Provides Tuition Reimbursement
Employers in the modern workplace value schooling, and they want to attract and retain educated employees. Therefore, many employers are offering tuition reimbursement to their employees. If you must take out loans to pay for college, tuition reimbursement can help you to pay back these loans.
Before finding a job, thoroughly search job postings and company websites to find employers who offer tuition reimbursement. UPS offers tuition reimbursement of up to $2,000 per semester to part-time employees, and Staples offers generous reimbursement as well. Various retail stores offer reimbursement, even to part-time employees.
Most tuition reimbursement programs require employees to have been with the company for at least six months. Tuition reimbursement is typically given to employees after they complete their classes.
Additional Ways to Make College More Affordable
Aside from taking advantage of tuition reimbursement and financial aid opportunities, there are additional ways to reduce the cost of your college education. Some can save you a few hundred dollars here and there; others can dramatically reduce the cost of your college education.
If you want to cut thousands of dollars off the cost of your college education, for example, it is pertinent that you attend a school within your state of residence. The cost of tuition at a public school outside of your state can be more than double the cost of an in-state school. In fact, according to the College Board, the average yearly tuition for out-of-state students at public universities is $20,770, which is 152 percent more than the typical tuition for in-state students.
Another way to enjoy significant savings is to select a major or specialization as soon as possible and meet with an advisor to ensure that you know the requirements for your degree. You should outline a course plan based on your selected major and stick to it. This will prevent you from paying for classes that are not needed for your major; it will also help you to graduate on time so you do not end up paying for extra semesters of schooling.
Students who are concerned about costs may also benefit from selecting an associate’s degree program from a two-year college. The average yearly tuition at two-year colleges is only $2,693, as indicated by the College Board. This is significantly less than the tuition at four-year colleges. Students who obtain associate’s degrees in medical fields like nursing and respiratory therapy can find lucrative employment without going on to graduate from a four-year college. If you do wish to complete a four-year degree, you can begin at a two-year college to save money and then transfer to a four-year college after completing an associate’s degree.
You can save additional money, up to a few hundred dollars per semester, by purchasing used textbooks. A brand new textbook can cost upwards of $100 at campus bookstores, but at websites like amazon.com., you can find used, previous editions of your books for a quarter of the price of a brand new book.
Being wise with your money can also help make college more affordable. A recent study found that the average college student spends $361 a month on non-necessary items, such as clothing and entertainment. Creating a budget that reduces discretionary spending can leave you with more money to pay for college expenses.