In another month or so, many students will start attending fall semester college courses. Some will be going as full-time students, hoping to graduate with their degrees as soon as possible. Some will be going part-time, balancing other obligations along with their academic responsibilities. Others are simply going back to school for their own personal satisfaction.
Everyone, though, would love to get their education cheaper if possible. Besides hunting for scholarships (which is a must), I wanted to share two ways to significantly cut down on college expenses.
Attend community college first
For some people, a community college may not seem to be a good choice. Community colleges sometimes get a bad rap for offering low quality educations. While there are certainly some bad apples, I think many would be surprised at the caliber of education you can get at a community college.
If you’re considering whether to attend a community college, let me point out some of the benefits.
Much lower costs to attend: Community colleges are usually significantly less expensive than attending a full-fledged university. If you have a great university nearby, you may be able to get a steal, as some professors may teach at both the university and the community college. In such cases, you can get a great education for a fraction of the price.
Flexible course schedules: Since many students have jobs, families, military obligations, etc., community colleges typically have much more varied class schedules.
Some may balk at attending community colleges because they think their classmates couldn’t make the admission requirements for a ‘real’ college. While there are certainly a percentage of many student bodies that fit into that category, many good students are going there for the convenience and low cost. In the end, it really is what you make of it.
You can always transfer to a higher quality university in the future – just be sure to check with your desired university so you’ll know what’s transferable. The great thing is that you’ll have significantly reduced your bill compared to many of your classmates.
CLEP some courses
The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests your knowledge in several subjects that many students take during their first two years of college. Depending on how well you do, you may be able to earn college credits by taking the test.
There are currently 33 CLEP exams offered, including:
- College Composition
- French, German, and Spanish (Levels I & II)
- American Literature
- American Government
- Introduction to Psychology
- Economics (Micro and Macro)
- Business Law
Each institution has its own guidelines on how much credit they will give to their students, so you might want to wait until after you’re enrolled and to take the CLEP exams that the school accepts and that you’re comfortable with.
Advantages of CLEP exams
Like community college, CLEP exams can give students an edge if they play their cards right. The key is being knowledgeable about what CLEP offers as well as your school’s policies.
- Costs: As of July 1, 2010, CLEP exams are $77 each. That’s much cheaper than taking an introductory class in either community college or a university.
- Time: If you know the material already, why waste the time learning it again? You can either finish your degree faster or enrich your education by taking more specialized courses during the time that you saved.
Likewise, if you have kids in high school, encourage them to take some AP classes and take the exam. It can put them ahead of the game when they start college and they can shave some time (and money) off their degree.
Your thoughts on cutting college expenses
College can be a very good investment. Just like with any aspect of your finances, however, you have to have a game plan to get the most bang for your educational buck. I’d also point out that some very expensive schools offer full scholarships for students with limited incomes so, even if the above tips don’t work for you, you may be able to get a great deal on a high end education.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on getting a good education without breaking the bank. What have you done to cut down on college expenses? Have you ever attended a community college? Or maybe tested out of required courses? Any other tips?