Sticker Shock: Creative Ways to Lower the Costs of College

Roselyn Wilkinson |

Even with all of your savvy college shopping and research about financial aid, college costs may still be prohibitive. At these prices, you expect you’ll need to make substantial financial sacrifices to send your child to college. Or maybe your child won’t be able to attend the college of his or her choice at all. Before you throw in the towel, though, you and your child should consider steps that can actually lower college costs. Although some of these ideas deviate from the typical four-year experience, they just might be your child’s ticket to college — and your ticket to financial sanity.

Ask about tuition discounts and flexible payment programs: Before you rule out a college completely, ask whether it offers any tuition discounts or flexible payment programs.

Graduate in three years instead of four: Some colleges offer accelerated programs that allow your child to graduate faster than the standard time frame. Some colleges offer a similar program that combines an undergraduate/graduate degree in five years.

Earn college credit in high school: By taking advanced placement courses or special academic exams, your child may be able to earn college credits before they start.

Think about cooperative education:  Cooperative (co-op) education is where semesters of course work alternate with semesters of paid work at internships that your child helps select.

Enroll in a community college, then transfer to a four-year college: One surefire way to cut college costs is to have your child enroll in a local community college where costs are often substantially less than four-year institutions to satisfy their core requirements.

Defer enrollment for a year:  Your child might be aching to get to college, but taking a year off, commonly referred to as a “gap year,” can give you both some financial breathing room and allow your child to work and save money for a full year before starting college.

Live at home:  It’s not every child’s dream, but attending a nearby college and living at home, even for a year or two, can substantially reduce costs by eliminating room-and-board expenses (though your child will incur commuting costs).

Research online learning options:  Taking courses online is a trend that’s here to stay, and many colleges are in the process of creating or expanding their opportunities for online learning.

Work part-time throughout the college years: Part-time work during college can help your child defray some costs and work study programs are commonly included in financial packages.

Join the military: There are several options here. Under the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship program, your child can receive a free college education in exchange for a required period of active duty following graduation. Another option is serving in the military and then attend college under the GI Bill.  

Go to school abroad: Foreign schools generally offer an excellent education at a price comparable to that of an average four-year public college in the United States.

Look for employer educational assistance: Check with your human resources manager to see if your employer offers any educational benefits for the children of its employees, like partial tuition reimbursement or company scholarships.

Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable. We cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.