Outside the Box Ideas for Managing College Costs

Once you’ve done all you can to maximize financial assistance through the admissions and financial aid process, you might consider the following creative options that may help reduce the cost of college for the family.

1 Alternative Payment Plans

Almost every college and university has some sort of payment plan to assist the family. These range from installment plans to prepayment discounts and stretched payments. When it comes time to decide if a payment plan is the way to go, check with the financial aid office of the institution being accepted for their optional plans. These plans may be administered by the school, or the college may have agreements with commercial companies who specialize in college financing.

2 Room and Board

Many schools have a variety of housing and meal plans. Money can often be saved by taking a smaller dorm room and a cheaper meal plan.

3 Resident Assistants

Discounts are often awarded to upperclassmen who get positions as resident assistants in the dormitories. There are requirements, so check with the college to see if the student qualifies.

4 Living Off-Campus

While freshmen are often required to stay on campus, starting his or her sophomore year the student may have the option to move off campus. Several students renting an apartment together and sharing the cost of food could result in substantial savings. Be sure to check the quality of the living conditions for what is being charged.

5 Special Discounts

Many colleges offer discounts to children of staff, even close relatives of graduates as well as school team managers or government leaders.

6 Americorps

It’s a new federally funded public service jobs program. The student works full-time for a year, in return receiving a living allowance. After that year there is also an educational award provided.

7 Cooperative Education

Some 900 colleges and universities have these work-while-you-learn and learn-while-you-work programs. It usually takes 5 years to complete the program, but it saves money. Furthermore, over 50,000 companies participate in cooperative education programs. There are scholarships available as well, through the National Commission on Cooperative Education

8 Military Programs

The military can help pay for all or some of a college education through ROTC, the Montgomery G.I. Bill, or taking classes offered while on active duty. There are also benefits available to current or former members.

9 Two for the Price of One

If you have two students who are only a year apart, the older may agree to wait a year to attend. In the case of the financial aid formula, the family may receive a break in the calculation. Remember that the Estimated Family Contribution will be calculated for each student, but the formula takes into account that more than one student is attending at least half time. In some cases, if both students attend the same college or university, the school will provide additional assistance to the family beyond what would have been received if only one student were to attend. Check with the financial aid and admissions offices.

10 Community College

Spending the first two years at a local community college and then transferring to a four-year college or university could save a lot of money. If you’re worried about getting into the four year college, don’t be. In fact, if you have good grades, it’s easier to transfer in than to get accepted out of high school. And remember, when you graduate from that four-year institution, nothing on your diploma will even suggest that you spent two years at a community college.


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