7 Best Ways to Save Money on College

7 Best Ways to Save Money on College

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  • Post last modified:April 9, 2020
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I have talked about some of these before, but I wanted to put all the best ways to save money on college into a single post. As a result, if you’ve been around awhile, you may already know most of these.

But, hopefully, the newcomers can learn something!

Although I don’t talk about myself often on the blog, my student debt was one of my main inspirations for starting a personal finance blog. After all, I had almost $100,000 in student loans, and I would like to help people keep their college costs under control.

The Rapidly Increasing Cost of College

Yes, college is getting more and more expensive. Inflation-ignoring comments from your parents about cheap college used to be notwithstanding, it’s true that costs are increasing.

And increasingly rapidly. But, again, we can’t just say, “Well, college used to be $250 a credit hour” or whatever. These comments ignore inflation, so it helps to understand the true increase in cost while taking inflation into account.

So, let’s consider the cost to attend Harvard decades ago compared to today. In 1970, the cost was $4,070; in 2020, it’s $46,340 – more than an eleven-fold increase.

That’s a lot, obviously, but that is also a 50-year difference. How much have wages changes in that timespan?

As that Harvard Crimson article mentions, the median household income in 1970 was $9,870. In 2019, it was $63,688. I’m not great at math, but I can already see this isn’t looking great.

Indeed, the cost to attend Harvard is 11.4 times higher than it was in 1970, while the median household income is only increased 6.5 times higher over the same period of time.

Put another way, the cost of Harvard tuition has increased nearly twice as fast as median household income.

As you can see, it’s more important than ever to keep college costs low. Will the college tuition bubble ever burst? It’s hard to say.

Either way, reducing our financial burden now is important. But how do we do that? Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to save money on college.

1. Attend Community College

You have probably heard this suggested before, but that’s because it remains a great way to save money on college. While the cost of these colleges can vary quite a bit, they are almost always a fraction of the cost of four-year universities.

For example, in-state tuition at one of the community colleges in my area is under $3,000 per year. In lieu of some of the other suggestions on this list, this is something I would definitely do if I had a do-over on college.

Admittedly, the biggest downside would be that I wouldn’t have been able to form the type of friendships I did while attending a four-year university with the same people, but I still think a community college would have been a good choice.

2. Apply for a Work-Study Job

Technically, work-study is more of an indirect way of reducing the cost of college since you have to work while studying at school (hence the name). Then, that money goes toward reducing the cost of your education.

One of the main requirements to be eligible for a federal work-study job is having a financial need. This helps ensure that work-study jobs first go to those who need them the most.

Work-study jobs vary widely from one college to another; students apply through the college for these positions.

Arguably, it would be better to get the fast-rising cost of college under control first. Still, work-study is a good option for those who need additional help.

3. Get a Part-Time Job

If you aren’t eligible for work-study, but still want to work a part-time job to help reduce the financial burden of college, then a part-time job is a possibility.

I worked at the university library while I was in college. There are always various jobs around campus, such as working in the cafeteria and other places. They don’t always require work-study programs (my job wasn’t part of one).

And, of course, if your school happens to be in a major city, you could always apply for a part-time job off-campus as well.

Apply for Scholarships

Next in line in terms of strategies that everyone should consider are scholarships. Again, what is available to each student will vary based on a multitude of factors.

However, many scholarships are tied to a specific program, meaning students must decide to pursue them before even applying for college. In this section, we will cover various types of scholarships and how much of the costs they can potentially cover.

4. Academics Scholarships

One of the most types of scholarships is the academics scholarship. That’s because they don’t require students to pursue a particular program or activity.

Instead, good grades and test scores are the only requirements to be eligible. These scholarships are only awarded to a small percentage of students and sometimes only cover a few thousand dollars worth of tuition.

In some cases, though, they might even cover full tuition and even room and board.

The other caveat to these scholarships is that they usually require students to maintain a minimum GPA to continue receiving scholarship money. Nevertheless, any student who does well in school should consider academic scholarships.

5. Athletics Scholarships

Athletics scholarships are, of course, another very common path for those looking to reduce the cost of college. If you are able to secure an athletics scholarship, you can reduce (or eliminate) the cost of college, all while attending a four-year university.

6. Military Scholarships

There are plenty of comprehensive lists of military scholarships online. That said, what you need to know is that there are a wide range of these scholarships, including the ROTC program.

This program will, in some cases, provide all-expenses-paid scholarships for college. Of course, such generous scholarships are hard to come by and are only awarded to applicants with an exceptionally high level of merit.

While not everyone will be eligible, this is a great scholarship that could also be a great experience for the right applicant. I say that because the military is not for the faint of heart.

7. Evans Scholarship

The Chick Evans Scholarship is one I definitely would have considered while I was in high school – if I had known about it! I had honestly never heard a thing about it until I was in school, but it is an excellent deal.

Note that this scholarship is only available at select universities (see the link above).

That said, the scholarship provides full tuition and is awarded to golf caddies. Sure, there are some requirements: you have at least two years of caddying service before applying and maintain excellent academics while in high school.

There are other things you need, too, like letters of recommendation. Significant financial need is also a requirement.

Still, it is certainly worth looking into as this is a very generous scholarship and worth a closer look.

Best Ways to Save Money on College: Conclusion

Saving money on college is very important because our finances early in life can set us on the right path – or the wrong one. This can affect how much we are able to save, invest, our credit scores, and more.

Some of the key ways to save money on college include attending community college, part-time jobs, and scholarships.

Do you have a great way to save money on college? If so, let us know in the comments.

Hey there. My name is Bob Haegele and I'm an expert at frugal living and saving money. I’m also an EV enthusiast and have recently become mostly-vegetarian. Another thing I started doing recently? Dog walking. I’m working toward financial independence making money via my own ventures. Interested in starting a blog of your own? Check out my post on starting a blog.

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