The cost of college and student loan debt is a hot topic in both the state and federal government. While many efforts are underway to reign in these costs and the burden of student loans, there are some things that students can do on a smaller scale to help their financial situation each day.
Most college students are living on a budget. If not, they’re likely to begin a cycle of debt that will haunt them for years to come and, in some cases, a lifetime. Having a basic idea of how much you’re spending each month and where you can cut back is one of the most fundamental financial lessons you’ll learn while in college. A nightclub bar tab here, a dinner out there, and a book you didn’t know you needed for class and students can find themselves broke before their next cash infusion.
Room and board is a huge cost. In fact, aside from tuition, room and board is going to be the next biggest expense. To save some money, many students can become Resident Advisors to secure free or significantly reduced room and board in exchange for their work. Considering that an average full-time student may pay between $7K – 14K per year in room and board, working as an RA can be a huge money saver.
Clearly students will need textbooks. The College Board reports that the average student pays $1,137.00 for books and supplies every year, but you can check the same books out of your library for free. If the campus library isn’t an option, sites like eCampus, Chegg, and College Book Renter will rent you books for a semester and sharing with a friend can cut the cost of buying books in half.
Living in an apartment off campus may seem like a dream, but it has an additional price tag. Living off-campus can cost anywhere from 10 to 40 percent more than the dorm life. Remember that along with utilities, students who live off-campus also pay for phone, internet connection, commuter parking passes, furniture, a security deposit and summer months when they may or may not live in their apartments.
While the focus is on classroom and academic studies at college, everybody needs a break now and then. Entertainment options in and around school can be free or at least at a greatly reduced price with a student ID. Most colleges offer a number of free to low cost activities each week. Depending on the college, you can enjoy free movie rentals from the library, free or reduced gym membership, intramural sports activities, dorm dinners, guest lecture series and student clubs. Along with that, many retailers and businesses around colleges offer student discounts or specials as well.
In some cases, a student’s academic interests may lead them to consider an out- of- state school. Looking at an out -of -state school doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to pay out -of -state tuition. Learn about academic reciprocation agreements like the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Midwest Higher Education Compact and the Academic Common Market. These agreements maintain relationships with bordering nearby states that basically allow out-of-state students in partner states to attend college without paying the full out-of-state fees. While there are some restrictions on these reciprocation agreements, by doing some research and planning, you can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your college terms.
Be prepared for college! Your final years in high school are the time to really prepare for your college education. Take advantage of academic advisors not only at your school but by talking to those at some of the colleges you are considering attending. Remember, that only about one-third of full-time students seeking a bachelor’s degree graduate in four years. Every year you spend in college is going to cost you more money. Changing majors, having to take additional required classes or find an opening in a class you need can prolong your college tenure. The more confident and secure you are in your academic path, the less likely you’ll be to alter your plans.
Take advantage of your summers and take classes. Summer classes are a great way to save money on your college plans. Summer school, community college classes, internships and summer study abroad programs can save money by helping you graduate faster. Not only do many of the classes cost far less at a junior college when they transfer over, but you’ll have more time to focus on the subject at hand.
Not everyone needs to or should rush out to a big four-year college. Aside from making sure you’re academically focused and ready, starting out at a two-year school can save you a lot of money. Start small and save big by attending a two-year community college initially. With a set academic plan, you can get many of your necessary undergraduate classes out of the way at a junior college while saving anywhere from $10K – $30K compared to public and private colleges! If you can forgo the lavish campuses and deal with the bare bones amenities for a couple of years, you can transfer to the four-year school with a lot more money in the bank.