How to reduce your college costs

By Allstate

Last updated: January 1

While a college degree remains an important part of many career paths, it’s no secret that costs of a college education can be daunting. Whether you’re paying for college yourself or you’re a parent helping your son or daughter with the overall costs, it’s important to find a way to make the expenses related to a higher education easier to handle. Consider these tips to help reduce the cost of college.

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Consider community college

When you picture starting college, you may be thinking of packing up your stuff and moving a few hours or even a few states away. There may be another great option close to home, though — community college. According to College Board, tuition and fees at public two-year colleges are about two-thirds less than they are at public four-year colleges. That is a significant savings, and living at home can also mean saving even more.

Community colleges typically offer a number of options for students, from career degrees and certificates in specific fields to associate degree programs and preparation for a bachelor's degree. Many community colleges act as "feeder schools" for public universities and colleges, according to Forbes. By completing certain required credits, students can then transfer them to a four-year public college and continue their education.

Apply for financial aid

Regardless of your financial situation, apply for financial aid. Even if you don't qualify for federal financial aid, you may qualify through the college or university, says Forbes. It's up to each college and university to determine its own requirements for aid, and you may find that the school is able to offer a scholarship, grant or other aid that will reduce your costs. In comparing financial aid packages, though, be sure to ask if the aid is renewable each year or if there are any grade-point average requirements.

The Princeton Review also recommends applying for aid by the required deadlines, because this may help you out should your financial situation change, such as an unexpected job loss. There are schools who only accept requests to reconsider financial aid if you originally applied at the original deadline. Even if you did not receive financial aid, submitting that first application may help you in the long run.

Look at both private and state schools

Private schools seem synonymous with expensive tuition, but that's not necessarily the case. While the stated costs for private colleges and universities is typically higher than costs for in-state students at public schools, that may not actually be what you'll pay. As stated earlier, colleges have their own requirements for scholarships, grants and other financial aid. The Princeton Review notes that many colleges, particularly private schools, are increasing their financial aid budgets. So, don't pass on a school just because of the "list price." With a scholarship or a grant, it may end up costing less than you expect.

Earn college credits before graduating high school

If you have the opportunity to earn college credits while you're still in high school, take it. This can help lower the number of credits you'll need to take (and pay for) while you're in college, says Forbes. If it's an option, consider taking advanced placement (AP) courses and exams. While there is a fee to take the exam, Forbes notes that it is likely much less than the cost of the equivalent college course.

Another option is to participate in a dual enrollment program. Students in these programs, also called dual credit and early college programs, take college courses and earn college credits while they are still attending high school, says the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, many of these programs provide discounted or free tuition.

Work your way through college

From work-study programs to a full-time jobs, having a job as a student can sometimes help to reduce your financial obligations. At participating schools, undergraduate and graduate students with a financial need can apply to participate in the Federal Work-Study program, which provides part-time jobs, according to the Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid. You can be paid directly or have the money go directly toward your tuition, fees and room and board.

Another option is to work full-time while you attend college. The Balance states that some employers will reimburse employees some of the costs of tuition each semester. Before making this choice, however, be sure that your employer can assist with educational costs and that you understand how much they'll reimburse you each semester. Also, keep in mind that you may be obligated to work for them for a certain number of years after graduation.

College can certainly come with a large price tag, but taking a well-planned and thorough approach to funding your education can help reduce the costs. Finding ways to reduce the expenses may help make college more attainable and help you avoid large student loan debt once that diploma is in hand