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7 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College

By Vida Jatulis

  • May 28, 2024
  • 3 min read


teenage girl in bedroom

With the average sticker price of college ranging from $28,840 – $60,420 per student per year, a college education can add up to a lot of money – especially for a family with multiple kids. But there are ways to reduce the cost.

If your child is 0-5 years away from college, the following strategies could help. And to maximize their effectiveness, most of them should be set in motion before your student applies to schools. Look at these 7 ways to reduce the cost of college, and if one (or more) seem like viable options, include your student in the decision process. Having a plan will make picking a college more joyful for the whole family.


1. College credits in high school

Your student may be able to earn college credits by taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school. Some students earn enough credits to allow them to finish college in three years instead of four.


2. Start at a community college

The first two years of college mostly satisfy core education requirements, which can be taken at a community college at a much lower cost. With careful planning, the student can transfer to a 4-year college to complete their degree.


3. Regional Tuition Exchange (TE) programs

Your student may be able to go to college out of state at a discounted price with tuition reciprocity. You will have to meet some criteria to qualify for this tuition-saving program. Learn more here.


4. Apply to generous schools

Some schools are more generous with financial aid than others. Choose colleges that meet 100% of student financial need and continue to award scholarships beyond freshman year.

When looking at the data, private colleges on average award more financial aid. According to College Board research, in 2020-21, 83% of undergraduate students at private colleges received institutional aid compared to 61% at public colleges.


5. Apply for private grants and scholarships

Looking for private scholarships takes time and patience, but there is free money out there for college. Large awards are competitive, so your student will need to have realistic expectations. It is more likely to win small grants that still help close the gap in funding.


6. Graduate on time

Apply to colleges that have a high graduation rate and help your student pick the best fit to minimize their chance of transferring schools, which is the leading cause of delayed graduation.


7. Prepaid plans

Prepaid plans can help you avoid rapidly inflating college prices. By locking in current tuition rates for future studies, you can end up paying less. One example of a prepaid plan is Private College 529.


Unlike student loans and work-study programs — which do not reduce the cost of college but help pay for it — these 7 strategies can save you a lot of money. The key to a successful plan is getting started as soon as you can.

My son will be graduating from UC Santa Barbara in a few weeks, and he did it in 4 years. I am so proud but also grateful that we set expectations for his success — a win-win strategy.

Source: Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2023

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