Affording College in the 21st Century

Affording a college education is becoming increasingly difficult as many of the wages available to college students with little or no experience adds up to barely enough to pay for books, transportation costs, and basic living expenses. Aside from the obvious considerations such as scholarships, grants, and student loans; there are other ways that students can make their college education more affordable. Planning ahead and managing time as well as finances can prepare an individual for the reality of their college experience and increase their chances of success. A student may find that their original plan was not going to work ahead of time and save a lot of potentially wasted time and money. There is no shame in going back to the drawing board as many times as necessary.

The “college experience” that students find on a university campus comes with a price. Attending a junior college or a local community college first might be far less attractive than living on a college campus, but it is also far less expensive. Often, when a student finishes an associate’s degree from one of these institutions the entire block of credits earned toward that associates degree can transfer to a four-year school. This means that the student would pay a much lower cost per credit hour for half of their four-year degree, but still earn their bachelor’s degree from the university where they finish. Not earning the associate’s degree prior to transfer greatly decreases the likelihood that all earned credits will transfer and each class will be scrutinized individually.

It is not a good idea to over-extend oneself by attempting to enroll in a private institution that is just far too expensive. Many state schools now attract a large number of recruiters from companies that have reduced their reach in order to save on recruiting costs. These companies are attracted to large schools because they have a greater number of candidates to choose from. This is an important factor given the current economic climate which no longer guarantees that a college graduate automatically has many choices of employers upon graduation.

Many schools now offer programs that allow students to pay down their tuition while working at the school. Some programs pay students a portion of their earnings in the form of a check and the remainder goes toward their tuition. While the amount earned in the form of a check may not be much, the schools are often generous with the portion of the earnings that go toward tuition costs. There is no one size fits all approach to figuring out a plan for every individual college student. Considering these options ahead of time will save a student from almost certain disappointment down the road.