From Special Guest Blogger, Mackenzie Cin
After high school, many students are filled with vigor. Excited for their new college life, they choose a place that fulfills all of their wishes. Between tuition, housing, and educational materials, college can cost an average of $25,000-$50,000. The pursuit of a higher education can leave students in loads of debt. Many 4-year public and private college graduates end their educational career with between $25,000-$33,000 of debt. This means that many people are still paying off college debt well into the middle of their lives. Taking an average of 18.5 years to completely eradicate these loans, individuals carry this burden for much of their adulthood. However, there are many ways to avoid such issues and get a higher education while continuing to maintain financial stability.
In-state colleges have lower tuition, comparable programs for most majors, and some of the best options for students looking to go to college on a budget. They offer an excellent education at about half the cost of out-of-state tuition. Although many public and private 4-year colleges are still very expensive, staying in state will lower the cost to something more manageable. Exploring this route alone will not help you graduate with zero debt but in-state tuition is much lower and still offers a positive experience. Another reason to choose an in-state college is that the state’s high schools will gear a student’s schedule toward the general education requirements and prerequisites needed to gain admittance into that same state’s colleges. This means that if a student takes the accredited classes offered at their high school, they may have already completed the recommended courses needed to gain admission to the universities in their state.
Finishing your first two years at a community college is also a great way to achieve a degree while saving money. Completing the General Education requirements at a lower cost will allow the student to be more financially secure and incur less debt. After that, a student may also have a clearer idea of the major they would like to pursue so that they won’t have to waste money on classes that don’t support their passion. Community college is a great alternative because, as an incoming junior, students will have had enough time to pick the college that is right for them. It also provides an opportunity to make themselves look more favorable to a 4-year college. The only catch with transferring is to ensure that the courses you take are accepted and transferable to the 4-year college. Another important point to know about inexpensive community colleges (CC) and smaller colleges in general, is that many have partnerships with larger, more prestigious colleges. Not only will these colleges automatically admit a student after they complete their first two years at the CC but, after completing the rest of their studies, the student will graduate with a degree from the more distinguished college.
Lastly, one of the most beneficial options for saving money on tuition is taking AP and dual enrollment classes during your high school years. This path allows students to earn the basic credits they would otherwise need to complete in their first two years of college. Instead, enrolling in AP classes in high school can cut 1-3 years off the total time it takes to get a degree and, in some cases, can allow a student to take higher level classes once they get into college. Most universities accept some form of AP credit. According to the College Board, AP’s in the fields of math, science, and world languages usually gain students the most credit if a 4 or 5 is earned on the AP test. However, almost every AP can earn credit if you find the right school. This is a great way to pick the college best suited to your future. Using the search engine built into the College Board’s website, you can identify the schools that will give you the most credit for the AP’s you have completed. Then, you can visit the college’s website to help you find more information about the specific courses needed to graduate with your intended major. From there, you can choose the AP classes that will help you earn the credits you need. Dual enrollment classes work in a similar way. Taking classes at a local community college is much cheaper and sometimes these courses are offered free of charge to public school students. Making use of resources such as these can be really helpful when trying to cut down on tuition costs. If a student knows they will need to take certain basic classes, they can use dual enrollment to get them out of the way ahead of time, allowing the student to enter college more prepared and at a higher level. Depending on the credits earned from either of these pathways, undergraduates can enter college at either a sophomore or junior level. Not only does this cut down the cost of tuition but it is also a great way to accelerate taking the courses of real interest to the student.
In conclusion, there is not one thing a student can do to graduate with no debt but each strategy helps to keep the bottom line more manageable. Using all of these tips to plan ahead can help to minimize the cost of college and everything that comes with it. It takes a lot of hard work and research, which may seem difficult, but if you use the resources offered, whether that is through school or on your own, it will be worth it. Although it may seem early, starting as a freshman in high school planning out, and understanding the college system can be vital to learning the steps you need to take to graduate with the degree you want. You’ll be one step closer to living the life you want to have in the future.
Hi, are there any good community colleges in Nevada? I am thinking of staying with family while I earn my associate degree to be able to transfer to UNLV.
Hi Ricky thanks for your question. There are a few community colleges in Nevada, but not many. If you are already a NV resident in the UNLV area, it may make more financial sense to try to go directly to UNLV than if you are considered an out-of-state student. Double check your residency requirements. Also, consider your course of study before deciding on the community college. While they are generally set up for completing general ed requirements, depending on your major you may find a better school for you. A common example of why someone would want to attend a NV school would be for one of the Hospitality courses of study, given the proximity to Las Vegas.
Man, I wish I had considered going to community college first or doing the AP classes. I’m halfway through college now, and already about $40k in debt! Thank God (or my parents) that I’m going to an in-state school. I have no clue how I’m going to pay for this once I graduate.
If you’re in highschool and going to go to college, please do everything you can to save money. Use dual enrollment if your school has it. Take those AP classes, they’ll look good on your transcript anyway. Go to the community college first and definitly go to an in-state school. Out of state can cost more than double!
Great article, and I hope they start finding ways to make higher ed cheaper soon.
“Community college is a great alternative because, as an incoming junior, students will have had enough time to pick the college that is right for them. It also provides an opportunity to make themselves look more favorable to a 4-year college.” This. I had a lot of problems in highschool, and my grades were terrible. I just barely passed most of my classes. I understood the material, but I was having some problems at home and not focused on school at all.
After I graduated I waited a year and went to my local community college. (Go CSCC!) Not only did they help me get set up in the college, but also with applying to four-year schools once I got near graduation. 90% of the schools cared a lot more about my grades there, not my grades from high school. I’m going to an in-state four year school now, and I’m so glad I went to the CC first. It will probably be great stepping stone for High schoolers who just graduated as well, letting them get used to college while closer to home.
All of these tips will be super useful for my little sister, she’s considering her college options right now and student debt is one of her biggest worries. Community college seems like the better option, but we’ll look into all the possibilities! Thanks for all the information 🙂
These are really good tips for students researching how they can afford college!
Why aren’t schools teaching kids real financial lessons? I’m not talking about theory here, but practical things they can learn from. Why are we perpetuating this “get in debt to educate yourself” philosophy? Nowadays you can educate yourself with free things found on the internet or you can even buy access to things like Skillshare or Coursera. In most cases, all you get from a school is the diploma. Anything else you can learn for free or surely for a lot less than $25000. Just my 2 cents.
I think schools have their advantages but I do agree that our current educational system is broken for a long time. Technology has reached a point where knowledge is easier to get than ever and this should be reflected in those educational costs.
I would rather get the cheapest inexpensive school education out there and at the same time, invest time and money in online sites and courses that specialize in certain areas. I would spend 10 times less this way and learn 10 times more from people who are actually walking the walk.
College costs have gotten insanely out of hand. I appreciate your practical advice on ways to reduce these costs. Do you have advice or sites on how to find scholarships that not everyone is applying to? It’s discouraging feeling like you’re applying to something that tons of people are also applying to…
I love that you suggest AP classes and community colleges. It’s time we remove any stigma associated with Community College because they provide good education at a fraction of the cost, and if you have better grades than in hs they can improve your odds for competitive four year colleges.
First off I just want to say I finally paid off my student loans after 14 years! I thought it would take forever. I never read about doing the community college for 2 years but that’s such a great idea! ive been helping my little sister with getting ready for the fall and pursuing a degree in criminal science. I will be checking if she can go this route to save money. I also know I did some work studies where I got paid in college. I don’t know if that’s still an option today. I also did my schedule so all my classes could be on the same days or as close together in time as I could manage so I could work shifts at my job. I always packed a lunch so I didn’t eat out everyday and bought textbooks online in used condition.
I think these suggestions are great and really I wish more took this route. My mother wanted me to go to community college after HS to mature a little before taking on the financial commitment of a university. Alas, I didn’t listen (wish I had). I felt like I was somehow being left behind by my classmates–that they might look down on me for not going to the ‘best school’ I could get into right away. What would you say to those who are worried about missing out on the 4-year college experience, or are worried that they might lose out on friends because of going the CC route for a year or two?