If You’re Creative, You Can Cap College Costs Using These 6 Strategies

A few weeks ago, the government let student loan interest rates return to 6.8%.  Sure, they could always retroactively put the rate down to 3.4%, and most people think that they will, eventually.  However, the fact remains that most students rely on student loans to get through college, and most of them have a hard time paying back those loans.

While federal loans now come with flexible terms that let you stretch out your payments for 20 to 25 years, the sad fact is that by doing so, you’ll still be making student loan payments after your children are born and growing.  For some, they may even be making student loan payments once they become grandparents.

However, there are ways to get a college education for a lot less, if you’re willing to sacrifice the college experience or be creative.

1.  Live at home while attending a local college.

True, you may miss out on some of the college social life, but you’ll save literally tens of thousands of dollars by not paying room and board.  If your parents are willing to continue to shelter and feed you, take advantage of this.  You’ll be able to become financially independent after college much more quickly than those who pursued the college experience.

2.  Look for free colleges.

Did you know that there are some colleges that are completely free for students?  You won’t qualify for all of them.  Some of the colleges require that you come from a certain area of the country.  Also, many of the colleges aren’t completely free as they do have a work study component.  Still, if you can get into one of these colleges, you can alleviate a huge financial burden.

3.  Consider alternative college arrangements.

Just recently, Oregon approved a measure that would let students go to college for free if they agree to give the college 3% of their salary every year for the next 24 years.  Whether or not this is a bargain for you depends on your degree and how much you anticipate making after you graduate.

4.  Let your employer pay.

If you get a job first, you may be eligible for employer sponsored tuition.  Ideally, your place of employment would pay all of your tuition.  If that’s not an option, even partial tuition payments can be a big savings.  Even better, attaining higher education may make you eligible for a raise later on.

5.  Work at a college.

You can create your own free tuition plan by working at a college full-time.  Many colleges offer free tuition to employees.  You could work as a secretary, grounds keeper, security guard.  It doesn’t have to be doing a job that you love or that you plan to do forever.  It just has to be a job you can do for 4 to 6 years while you get your degree.  Then, you can pursue other interests.

6.  Look for local scholarships.

Any scholarships help, but national scholarships can be very competitive.  You may do better to look for local scholarships.  I earned a local scholarship to our community college, so those first two years of my education were free.  That meant I had fewer loans to pay back after I got my degree from a large university.

No doubt, paying for college is getting more and more expensive.  However, if you (or your child) is willing to consider alternatives, you can find plenty of ways to lower tuition costs.

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Melissa works from home as a freelance writer, virtual assistant and blogger. Her blog, Mom's Plans, reflects her desire to plan life one step at a time while caring for and homeschooling her children (ages 9, 5 and 3) as well as paying down debt and saving for a house.


  1. says

    The costs of college education keep shooting up and now with the interest rates I doubt there will be a reprive for most students. I concur with you and think your tips are excellent. One ought to be really creative and sacrifice on some conveniences eg, living at home during college, but in the long run, they’ll might graduate college debt-free and achieve financial independence sooner.

  2. says

    These are great tips! I especially like #1 as around half of the cost could be room and board.

    One other idea I kinda see hinted at hear but not directly spelled out would be to attend a community college for the first two years, than transfer over to full fledged university.

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