Creative Ways to Save Money on Tuition

While college costs continue to rise each year above the rate of inflation, studies show that college grads still earn more on average than someone with a high school diploma. This may be great news for those wanting to attend college, but if you can’t find a way to pay for it, no amount of wishing will help you get into school. Let’s look at some ways you can try to save money on tuition.

 Sure, you know you have to fill out the FAFSA and apply to scholarships, but what else can you do to reduce the cost of college?

Sure, you know you have to fill out the FAFSA and apply to scholarships, but what else can you do to reduce the cost of college?

Start Early

If you are in your junior or senior year in high school, you can look at various options for earning college credit. Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses will allow you to take advanced courses at your school and at the end of the year, you will be able to take an exam which may allow you to skip certain introductory college courses.

Just be sure to make sure your AP, IB or PSEO credits transfer. The College Board has an easy lookup tool that will give you some information on what schools allow or disallow. For example, through the tool, you can see if schools grant credits for AP exams or if they offer placement into higher level courses.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Minnesota or Ohio, consider taking PSEO courses – post-secondary education options. PSEO allows juniors and seniors to attend participating colleges as a part or full-time college student – at no cost. For an eager student, it is possible to both earn your associate's degree and high school diploma by the end of your high school career with no extra out of pocket costs.

AP and PSEO help students get a head start on earning their degrees and can save a significant amount of money if students have two years fewer to pay for.

Cost Cutting

Besides the usual advice of applying for scholarships and financial aid, be sure to evaluate your living situation. Be wary that room and board can be roughly the same cost as your tuition!

According to The College Board, 2017-2018 tuition and fees for a public in-state four-year college is about $9,970/year. Room and board is about $10,800. Look at off-campus housing or see if you can live with your parents or relatives while you attend.

Another common tactic is to plan on attending community college for the first two years. Non-profit community colleges offer high-quality instruction at a greatly reduced price. Why pay a private school’s tuition for basic introductory classes when you can get a similar education at a community college?

According to StudentLoanHero, the price per credit at a two-year public college is just $135. A four-year public college comes in at $325 per credit while a four-year private is at a whopping $1039 per credit.

Just make sure to research the college you attend and make sure your credits will be able to transfer!

Get Creative

Colleges realize costs are skyrocketing and have been looking for creative ways to help students afford college. One creative program offered by some community colleges is that of “Z-Degrees” or “Z-Courses” – courses that utilize open education materials to avoid you having to pay for expensive books and materials. While not widely adopted, it is something to inquire about. If your school doesn’t support z-courses, make sure to check out 2nd hand bookstores, Amazon and eBay for used versions of materials and books you may need.

Another program that is catching on recently is that of an income share agreement or ISA. ISAs allow students to request assistance in paying tuition in return for a set percentage of earned income following graduation. This amount can vary from just a few percent up to 15% of your salary.

Make sure to do your homework first though – if you think you’ll have a high paying job right after college, it may end up costing you more than a traditional loan would. However, if you think you’ll be entering the workforce with a low salary or hourly wage, this may benefit you in the long run. Purdue University is probably the highest profile college to offer this program – check out their website for program deals.

Students may face an uphill battle with rising costs, but with these costs come more flexibility in how to secure financing and colleges are going a long way to come up with creative solutions to these problems. 


Have you found the college that is the right financial fit for you?