Most middle-class families cannot afford to pay for their child's college tuition in the United States, which can place a lot of pressure on the student. In order to attend school, many families need to take out college loans and financial aid, which is a way to pay for college now but it will have to be paid back with interest later. In addition to paying tuition, students will have other expenses to cover while they are in school, such as living expenses, school supplies, having a car on campus, etc. This can add up quickly, therefore, students need to find ways to save on college expenses as much as possible.
Choose a More Affordable School or Degree Path
Because the average college expenses are $9,970 for public state schools, $34,740 for private schools and $25,620 for out-of-state residents going to a public college in another state, students need to think carefully before attending college. In many cases, college is not really a choice for most students, seeing as a degree is still needed for most decent-paying jobs. But, students need to consider all their options before spending money on the most expensive school.
First and foremost, students who want to go to a four-year college should consider applying to a state school before anything else. Public state schools are much more affordable than private universities, even if you are not a resident of that state. If this is still too expensive, then you can consider taking an alternative path to earn your degree. Some students may go to a two-year community college before transferring to a four-year school, in order to save money. Other students may consider going to a trade school to learn a specific skill.
Take Your Time Applying for Loans
If you do decide to go to a four-year school, there's a chance that you will need to take out financial aid and loans to cover your tuition. Before seeking private loans, you can save money on college expenses by applying for federal student aid. This can be done through FAFSA. Money is given to eligible students based on their need. Before accepting a loan, you should see if you qualify for a grant because unlike loans, grants do not need to be paid back.
If you get grants and loans from the federal government and you still don't have enough money to cover school expenses, then you can look into taking out private loans. This is where you need to be careful, as private loans typically have higher interest rates and less-flexible repayment terms. Shop around for different private loan options before committing to anything. See if interest rates are fixed or variable, and understand exactly how much you will owe when you graduate.
Consider Other Living Arrangements
Average college expenses usually include your room and board in addition to tuition. While it may feel like a true college experience when you live on campus, it's not always the best financial decision. Check the room and board fees that's in your tuition, you'll see that it's actually quite expensive. It might make more sense, then, to find an apartment with roommates off campus with a kitchen where you can cook your own meals.
Become an R.A. or Get a Job
Many schools have programs where you can do a work-study in exchange for saving money on college expenses. For instance, if you become a resident's assistant, typically your room and board are covered. If this isn't an option, there are other work-study experiences available, which will help discount your tuition by quite a bit. Otherwise, you can get a job on campus or off campus and put money aside for when you need it.
Keep Track of Your Expenses
The best way to save money in any situation is by keeping track of your expenses. This can be done by creating a college expenses spreadsheet. On the spreadsheet, you can note what your tuition costs are and other fixed fees, what you earn from your work or what you save from a work-study as well as any other income and expenses you have. This will help you get a visual of all your expenses, to see where you can save more. It also helps to provide good financial literacy for your future.
Limit Spending on Personal Expenses
Finally, the personal expenses for college students add up quickly. And, personal expenses is one area where most college students can have control over how much their college years will cost. College students tend to spend a lot on entertainment or food. Even school supplies can cost students a lot of money if they aren't aware of the fact that most supplies, such as textbooks, can be bought used or online. Be mindful of what you are spending on personal expenses, and always save what you can at every opportunity.