Before and During College: Ways to Cut Student Costs During and After College

Many Americans are starting a new year at college. Others are searching for the colleges they’ll begin attending next fall. One thing both groups probably already realize is that postsecondary education is very expensive.

College costs have skyrocketed. From academic year 1998-99 to academic year 2018-19 average total cost of nine months at college increased 133% for private 4-year schools and 148% for public 4-year institutions.

These costs typically include tuition and required fees, books, room and board, transportation to and from campus, and some personal spending. But there’s another cost seldom considered — student loan interest, which generally amasses every day but which customarily gets paid only after commencement..

Here are four great ways to downsize these costs:

    Quality Over Price! Some think that the higher the tuition and fees, the better the school. Not so! The government’s College Scorecard provides much more useful data about 5,800 postsecondary schools — average student loan indebtedness and monthly payments for graduates, graduation and retention rates, and post-graduation salaries.
  • Minimize Time-to-Degree. Less than 42% of undergraduates earn their degrees within 4 years. But graduating on schedule, or even early, can reduce in-school costs and diminish Federal Direct Unsubsidized and PLUS Loan interest accumulation. So enroll full-time enrollment every term, don’t drop classes, and avoid dropping or stopping out of school.
  • Live Modestly. Borrowing to support a professional lifestyle while in college creates loan payments that’ll limit you to a student lifestyle after college! Costs for food and shelter often exceed tuition and fee expenses — even though most students do just fine residing in modestly-priced apartments and dorms, living with roommates, choosing economical on-campus meal plans or, if off-campus, cooking at home instead of eating out. All these strategies are money savers.
  • Leave the Car at Home. Colleges, universities, and cities in which they’re located frequently let students ride free on their mass transit systems. Also, there are multiple ways — car pooling, mass transit, etc. — to go from campus to home and back. So cars at college are seldom necessary. They add costs for fuel, maintenance and upkeep, parking fees, and repairs for damage and vandalism — thereby increasing college debt.

There are many other tried and true cost-control methods, too. The College Affordability Solutions website has a Topical Index with Before College and During College sections, each with a “Cost Reduction Strategies” subsection. There you’ll find links to articles addressing more than 20 methods for cutting in-school costs and de-escalating student loan interest.

College will never be cheap, but it can be less costly. So do some homework. Set your strategies, and then stick with them!

Looking for help with strategies for controlling your college and your student loan expenses? College Affordability Solutions provides consultations to future, current, and past college students and parents — all at no charge. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or collegeafford@gmail.com if we can help!

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