Affording college has become more and more difficult as college tuition costs rise and parents in tighter financial situations struggle with funding their college-bound kids. Knowing your options may help you plan better and ease your concerns.

Go to a community college for basic undergrad requirements and then transfer. You can live at home and go to community college while completing your undergraduate requirements for the first year or two and then transfer to a four-year school. Community college is much cheaper and if you focus on getting excellent grades, you should be able to transfer your credits and get admission to a good four-year university. This could save you as much as $30,000 a year in room, board and tuition for each of the years you spend at a community college.

Take advanced placement, or AP, classes in high school to gain college credit and to give yourself an edge in college admissions. If you succeed in your AP exam after taking the AP class, you will qualify for college credit and save on college tuition.

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Choose local state universities instead of private schools. If you go to school in your home state, you will pay in-state tuition, which is typically significantly cheaper than out-of-state tuition at a state school.

Apply for financial aid, grants and scholarships. Contact the financial aid consultant at the college you plan on attending and ask about the financial aid application process and cut off dates for application. Search out and apply for any applicable scholarships and grants early on.

Take on a part-time job to save money for college tuition. Create a separate college savings account specifically for college expenses after doing your research. You or your parents can choose a Roth IRA account, 529 account or Coverdell account for college savings. Choose jobs that are flexible and that will enable you to keep school and college classes your top priority. If you are in college at the moment, focus on on-campus employment so you can save on commute times. Don't let a job interfere with your academic standing. Work during summer when you are not taking classes. Plan on working no more than 20 hours a week when school is in session.

Choose to take a semester off and work full time. If you are in dire straits, get admission into your college of choice, and then ask to either defer your admission for a year before starting or take a semester off during your four-year program. Talk to your college admissions office about the process. If you take spring and summer off you will have a good six months to work full time and save money before starting school again in the fall session.

Consider US Army or ROTC programs that pay for college tuition. You can choose to enroll in Army college loan repayment programs that allow you to pay off your federally insured student loans upon enlisting. ROTC, or Reserve Officer Training Corps, scholarships are offered based on applicant merit.

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