Invest in your college tuition while you are in high school – As soon as they are able, most teenagers should be looking forward to working, and making money for their own benefit. At this time, students are about two to three years away from attending college, and have the opportunity to save money towards their higher education. To be prepared, students can save as little as $15 from each paycheck and put it into a high school savings account. Saving $15 a week is feasible, and by the time the student is ready for college in three years, $1100+ can be saved. This amount may not seem like a lot, but it will help pay for books for a few semesters.
Buy your books from a 3rd party vendor – University and college book stores will always sell their books at a higher cost. Instead of purchasing books in the campus bookstore, use a 3rd party vendor such as Amazon. Simply look up the SKU number that correlates with the class and purchase it at a cheaper cost. Used books are also another alternative, and some colleges have a community posting site online where students can communicate with each other about books they may have for resale.
Go to a college with a regional accreditation – There are thousands of universities and colleges located throughout the USA, and it can be confusing as to where students can transfer their credits without being penalized. When applying, locate the page that has the “Higher Learning Commission” seal and find out what accreditation the school carries. Students should be looking for “regional accreditation” rather than “national accreditation.”
Attending a 2 year college or university has plenty of financial benefits – For students who are uncertain about what they want to study, a two year associate degree program, like Chatfield College, can help. When a student enrolls in college for the first time, the first and second year will be dedicated to general study classes such as Math 101, English 101, and Public Speaking. During this time, students can take electives and discover if the path they are on really fits their interests. Some students realize that what they thought they wanted to major in, is not, in fact, where their true interests lie. It is better to come to this realization early on, while attending a more affordable two year college, than making costly changes at a more expensive university.
Be smart with your financial aid money – In 2013, 70% of all college students took out a loan in order to enroll in college. With rising costs of tuition and interest rates each year, it is important to spend the “free money” received from the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) wisely. Some first time students receiving financial aid choose to spend the money on non-school related things because the money is available. Financial aid is not unlimited, and can be used up in a few semesters if it is not budgeted wisely. Defaulted loans and a balance owed to the institution will cause delays in completing a degree. Taking out loans can be expensive so carefully monitoring your financial aid is extremely important. Students who constantly drop classes, but keep their financial aid funds, soon run out of options and have to take out private loans, which have higher interest.
Scholarships and grants – This is the easiest way for students to earn money towards their degree because they do not have to be paid back. When applying for school, find information on the school’s scholarship deadline. Also, research and find out if any grants are available. Even if the scholarship is only worth $400, it will help fund a semester of books.
Ohio high school students can take advantage of College Credit Plus (CCP) – CCP is a new program that was established by the State of Ohio. Students who are in 7th-12th grade are eligible to take college level courses for credit while still in high school. This program is paid for by the state, as long as the student passes the class. If the student fails the class, then the student will be billed by the school district for the course that they failed. Students are able to take up to 30 credit hours per academic year, which includes summer, and could be close to earning their associate degree by the time they graduate high school. This is a potential savings of thousands of dollars. Prospective students take a placement test or supply ACT scores to be eligible for the CCP option.
In-state tuition is always cheaper than out-of-state tuition – In-state tuition is always cheaper than attending college out of state. Unless the student is receiving scholarships to attend an out-of-state school, tuition can almost be twice the amount per year. Students should look into options such as attending a two year school to gain their general education credits and transfer to a four year program that offers tuition reciprocity, or other discounted rates.
Decision to commute or live on campus – This can be a large factor when it comes to saving money. If a student commutes to college, they will save money by avoiding room and board, meal plans and other costs included in living on campus. On the other hand, living on campus can be highly beneficial because a student has the opportunity to grow within the support system of the campus. As a 19 year old living on campus, life and school moves quickly, but at the same time, many important lessons can be learned. When I was a student, I lived on campus and started my own business, a business I still run today. I was an entrepreneur as a sophomore in college, and I was able to market my product to all the students on campus for free because we were able to discuss strategies in class. There, I was able to gain insight on what would benefit my business going forward. The same can be said for Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who started Microsoft and Facebook while attending college and getting help from other students/colleagues.
Stick to the plan- Higher education can be intimidating because of the cost, but it doesn’t have to be. Create an exit strategy and a time table to determine how long it will take to complete a degree. Try to stick to the time frame and budget. Use the resources available on campus, like free tutoring services and study groups. Live at home and pack a lunch.
I tell every student that walks through my door that their education is very important in regard to their future. With an associate degree, students are able to obtain an entry level job in their field, while bachelor degree recipients can find a lucrative career with advancement opportunities. I promise you, two to four years will be over quicker that you can say “I earned my associate degree from Chatfield College!”
Drew Donkin, Admissions Counselor