Colleges of the Future And How to Pay for Them

college-planning-tipsCollege Planning Tips – The Colleges of the Future and Their Costs Compared to Traditional Campuses

There are several college planning tips in circulation. In a world that is exceptionally competitive, the education that is obtained by going to college is considered to be invaluable. Based on data derived from the Census Bureau in the United States, the annual earnings of an individual with a Bachelor’s degree is 60% higher than those earned by an individual that has only graduated from high school. Unfortunately, the costs associated with college are so immense that, since the onset of the 1980s, educational rates have been found to be increasing at such a rapid speed that it is even faster than the average rate associated with inflation. This information was pulled from data that is part of the Consumer Price Index. If those costs continue to rise just 5% on an annual basis, it has been determined that the average college tuition for a four year university could exceed $210,000.00 easily by the year of 2017. As a result of this fact, many are starting to turn to the colleges of the future – online colleges. In this guide, you will be introduced to a few college planning tips that relate to online colleges, their costs, and how those costs compare to traditional brick and mortar college costs.

What is an Online College?

An online college is a school that offers students the ability to engage in learning through classes that are offered through telecommunication venues and technology that harnesses the power of the World Wide Web. Many of today’s community colleges and universities offer classes and other learning materials through the internet so that students are no longer restricted to the confines of a classroom, a pre-determined schedule, and the hefty costs associated with attending a traditional brick and mortar campus. If you want to reduce the amount of time it takes to get through college, would like to receive a college degree during periods of time that are convenient to you and meet the demands of your schedule, would like to attend college without having to travel long distances, and would like to reduce the financial constraints associated with the traditional campus, the online college is likely an ideal option for your unique needs and desires.

The Average Costs Associated with Online Colleges

If you are searching for college planning tips, it is quite likely that a large reason for your search is that you are trying to determine how much your postsecondary education will cost so that you understand how much will need to be saved or acquired to attend school. The sticker cost of a college education typically varies from one school to another. Additionally, financial aid that is offered by the government and private-based donors may also have an impact on the costs. When reviewing online colleges, it was established that there is a large fluctuation in averages. While one year of school may be $6,000.00, another school may offer a year of tuition for $23,000.00. Compared to traditional schools, which could charge anywhere between $20,000.00 to up to $100,000.00 a year, online colleges are much cheaper. If you want a college education and are making notes that include all of the college planning tips that you are finding, you may find that an online college is the best option for your individual needs and your finances.

The Benefits

There are many challenges occurring at traditional brick and mortar colleges and universities. Examples include high tuition costs, cuts in the educational budgets, shortages of courses, and economic complications. Many students are starting to search for alternatives to their postsecondary education. Today, approximately 4 million students are enrolled in full-time online colleges. The main benefits associated with these colleges of the future include a wide selection of programs and courses, lower tuition costs, a self-paced and comfortable learning atmosphere, and convenience. A college education is essential. When it comes to college planning tips, you may find that it is best to opt for an online school. You will find that you have the ability to learn more, for less, at a pace that is appropriate for your unique situation.

Saving For College

saving for collegeSaving for College – Comprehensive Solutions Offered by Financial Officials

Millions of parents are consistently searching for college savings tips that will allow them to successfully cover the continued education of their children. These are parents that know and understand the costly nature of having children, raising children, and supporting children in the endeavor of pursuing a positive and productive life that will, eventually, transition into a lucrative experience. From the initiation of life, parents find themselves continuously plagued by a wide array of expenses from diapers, formula, clothing, to tuition, tutoring, and medical expenses. The child-rearing and support expenses are typically so immense that it is easy to overlook larger expenses that will occur later in a child’s life, such as college tuition, fees, and supplies that are associated with attending a post-secondary educational facility.

Currently, the average college tuition for a four year university at a public educational facility is approximately $40,000.00; however, it is estimated that, in another eighteen years’ time, the average college tuition will be approximately $100,000.00. This is why savings for college is imperative for parents – regardless of the current age of their child. Today, financial officials are offering many comprehensive solutions for parents that are seeking out college savings tips that will allow them to successfully create the money that will be required for their child to continue their education beyond high school. In this guide, you will be introduced to the top-rated solutions offered by today’s financial professionals.

The Expected Family Contribution

When searching for college savings tips, most families will encounter information on financial aid options. In fact, many families will receive some degree of financial aid in order to cover the costs associated with a college education. As a parent, you should always ensure that you research these options and apply for the programs that are available – regardless of whether or not you feel as if your family will qualify. However, before doing so, you must obtain a good working knowledge of what is referred to as the “Expected Family Contribution”. When colleges go through the process of determining if a student is eligible for financial aid, they always analyze the amount that the family is expected to put towards the college costs.

Not only should you learn about the percentages associated with the EFC, you should also learn about the assets that your family has and how they count towards what you are expected to pay. Currently, the percentages include 20% of the assets that a student possesses, 50% of the income that the student has, and anywhere from 22% to a whopping 47% of the income of the student’s parents. You will be pleased to know, though, that any value associated with 401(k) plans, individual-based retirement accounts, and various types of insurance policies are currently excluded from the EFC.

The 529 Savings for College Account

If you are actively searching for college savings tips to assist you in the funding of your child’s future educational costs, you should consider opening a 529 savings for college account, according to financial officials. This is a type of investment vehicle that offers a positive means of putting aside money for college. Not only do the earnings within this type of account accrue in a tax-free manner, but withdrawals may be made from the account for education expenses without taxation. You must simply evaluate the different plan options that are available and chose one that is most appropriate for your needs.

Once it is set up, you may then start contributing to the plan through manual deposits or automatic deductions. Keep in mind, though, that if a parent maintains ownership over the 529 savings for college plan, 6% of the total value is added under the Expected Family Contribution; however, if a grandparent maintains ownership over this plan, it will not be added under the Expected Family Contribution. Many financial officials advise keeping this little tidbit of information in mind if you expect to apply for financial aid for your child to attend college.

Get an Early and Aggressive Start

One of the most important college savings tips, according to financial experts, is to get an early and aggressive start when it comes to savings for college. A college savings should be treated in much the same way as a retirement savings. You should always ensure that you start as early as possible with the most aggressive savings techniques so that the money contributed has the ability to compound multiple times. As the years draw closer to a point where it is time for your child to start college, you may then transition into investments that are considered to be a bit more conservative.


There are many productive ways that saving for college will allow parents to get a jump start on their child’s future education. By learning about the Expected Family Contributions, investing in a 529 savings for college plan, and getting an early, aggressive start to saving, the money that is placed into a special education account has the ability to compound and grow tremendously over the course of several years. In a world that has over 7 million people trapped in part-time jobs due to full-time jobs being reserved for only those with a high educational background, it is imperative to save now. In doing so, it will set the course for a child’s success as an adult. A college education is more than just schooling where new skills are obtained; it is a step that is necessary to protect their financial livelihood, as adults.

How Studying Online Can Save You Money

Online learning has become a very popular option because it is so accessible and easy to work into your schedule. There is no need to commute or change your work schedule to take an online class, and you can generally study at your own pace. However, there is one perk of online learning that is often overlooked: substantial financial savings! Compared to traditional brick-and-mortar classes, online courses save you money in several ways:money

  1. Back to School Shopping– If you’re studying at home, there’s really no need to stock up on a back-to-school wardrobe. Other than a new pair of sweatpants, you probably won’t need to add anything to your wardrobe. Also eliminated are backpacks, pencil cases, and other accessories that you don’t need when you’re studying in your living room.
  2. Keeping Your Paycheck– Online courses can easily be scheduled around your work schedule. Instead of quitting your job to attend classes, which might require taking on student debt, keep your job and graduate in a better financial position. Starting your new career with a huge debt load to pay off might seem like taking two steps forward, and one step back!
  3. Rising Gas Prices– If you live within walking distance of your college, lucky you! If you don’t, chances are you’ll have to spend money on your commute to class. Between the ever-increasing cost of gas, parking fees, and the increasing cost of public transportation, getting around isn’t cheap. Studying at home will completely eliminate those extra costs!
  4. There’s No Rush– Studying online generally means learning at your own pace. If you are having a hard time with a topic, you have the option of revisiting it before moving on to the next topic. In a regular class setting, the instructor will have a more firm timeline to follow and more students to divide their attention between. As long as you meet any deadlines you might have, you can learn at your own pace to make sure you pass every class. Nothing would feel like a bigger waste of money than having to take the same class over again!
  5. You Can Start Working Sooner– On the other hand, having more control over the pacing of your studies also means that you could graduate more quickly. Depending on the program, you may be able to take your classes in a shorter period of time than the in-class schedule. This means you could be working in your new career- and earning your new wage!- even sooner.

As you can see, the flexibility of online education has real financial benefits. However, to succeed in an online course it’s important that you are the kind of person who thrives while learning independently. If you do best in a group setting, you might want to consider taking on campus classes. Whatever you decide, do what’s best for you and your career.

Discover The Best Part Time Jobs For Students

Many students want to know the best job that they can do to earn some money for their living. In this article, there are several best part time jobs for students. Many students are interested to take these jobs because these jobs can give a lot of opportunity for most students. By doing some part time jobs, students can learn how to earn money from their own efforts. Taking some part time jobs can be the best way to learn about things other than the regular classes that they take in their schools. Here are some favorite part time jobs for most students.

Part Time Jobs For Students

1. Teaching assistant

This is considered as one of the most popular part time jobs in any universities. Many students want to take this opportunity to learn about some specific subjects while earning some income for their living. However, students need to pass some tests before they can become a teaching assistant (TA) for specific subjects. There are several responsibilities held by this teaching assistant, for example proctoring test or handing out any assignments. It is recommended for students to discuss with their professors, especially if they are interested to this opportunity. This job can be a great opportunity for students who want to earn income from their favorite subjects.

2. Book store employee

Most universities usually have their own book stores. Most employees are usually hired from the students. This job can be another alternative for students who want to earn some money during their programs. Many students love to become a book store employee, especially if they love reading books and socialize with people. In some universities, all book store employees can get employee discounts on certain books, supplies, clothes, and any other items that are sold inside the university book store. It can be a perfect opportunity for people who love reading.

3. Barista

This is also considered as one of the most popular part time jobs for students. There are many students who want to take this opportunity as the barista. Many students are interested to become a barista because they can learn a lot about espresso and coffee. Some coffee shops may also give employee discounts on certain products inside their shops. In order to become a barista, students need to consult with the student employment office. Almost all students are able to apply for this job. The requirement is very minimal. Therefore, this part time job is very popular among all students.

They are several favorite part time jobs for students. Choosing the right part time job can be an important decision for all students who want to learn how to earn money. Doing some part time jobs is very important for students who want to improve their skills other than the knowledge from school. Most part time jobs can give a lot of useful things, such as networking, skills, experience, and many other things. Students need to take advantage by taking their favorite part time jobs before they leave their university. In some cases, their part time job experiences may play an important role in their future.

7 Summer Jobs for College Students

It’s springtime, and if you are a college student this is the prime time to be thinking about that summer job you’re hoping to get. There are the typical summer jobs out there  working in a grocery store, waiting tables, parking cars and cutting lawns  but there also jobs that offer both better pay and working conditions.

Here are just a few


Just because you are out of school for the summer doesn’t mean everyone else is. There are high school and college students who are either taking summer school courses, or are taking advantage of the long break to strengthen their understanding of subjects they are weak in.

If there are any subjects that you are particularly strong in, you can offer your services out as a tutor. You can do it through your own college, or through local high schools. Parents and students often need good tutors and turn to the schools because they don’t know where else to go. If you’re on the list, you can be making $30 an hour tutoring, rather than working in a burger joint at minimum wage.

Camp counselor

Summer camps are very popular, and they’re about a whole lot more than camping. They can be sports or recreation related, or they can even be instructional or musical. If you have an aptitude in any these areas and have the patience to work with kids, this can be a very rewarding summer job. The pay isn’t always the best, but the working conditions are usually a lot less stressful than most other jobs.

Lifeguard/pool maintenance

Summertime means swimming, and that means all kinds of job opportunities open up at pools and beaches all over the country. You can either work as a lifeguard, or doing pool maintenance. As a lifeguard, you usually have to have proper certification, and that will vary somewhat from one state or community to another. But if you’d rather be around a pool or at the beach during the summer, this could be the job for you.

Golf caddy

If you like golf, being a caddy would be an opportunity to spend more time out on the golf course, and get paid for doing it. In most places, summer is high time for golf, and there are plenty of jobs all around.

Movie theater attendant

With the possible exception of working at a pool or beach, there’s probably no better job in the summer heat than working as an attendant in a movie theater. You will be working in air-conditioned comfort with access to free or discount movies – while your friends are out pushing lawnmowers and painting houses in the hot sun. Movie viewer-ship tends to peak in the summer, so jobs are not hard to find.

Any job in a hotel

Since summertime is also peak travel season, hotels are looking for staff for virtually all positions. There’s probably some job within the hotel industry that you would find very agreeable. One of the biggest advantages here is that it could pave the way for a career in the hotel industry later on.

For the most part, you will have very pleasant working conditions  again, working primarily in an air-conditioned environment as well as the opportunity to meet a large number of very interesting people. If you’re close to graduation, working in a hotel may also be a good way to begin networking for the position that you’ll be looking for to start your full-time career – networking opportunities will be everywhere in a hotel.

House sitting

These jobs aren’t that common but they’re close to a dream situation if you can find one. Many people especially the wealthy take extended summer vacations where they will leave their homes for weeks, or even for the entire summer. You may have the choice of either looking in on a house several times a week, or even living at the house while the owners are gone. In the second scenario, you not only have a paycheck, but you also have free living accommodations for the summer.

Are there other summer jobs you have held in the past that you would recommend to others?

10 Ways Teenagers Can Earn Money for College

college jobsThere’s no reason why teenagers can’t make earning money for their college fun. These days there are so many things that young people can do to earn their own money be it to support their social life or to save up for college. With a little ingenuity, discipline, and hard work, teenagers can earn their own money for their college education. If you’re a teen who’s looking for a way to earn, these ten suggestions for earning money are for you.

Do odd jobs around the neighborhood.

This isn’t something new and teens have been doing it for years. Teenagers can earn money by offering to wash cars, mow lawns, babysit, walk the dogs, clean the house, or rake leaves. Teens can ask around their neighborhood if anyone needs help with any chore. These types of jobs can be hard work and can eat up a lot of time, but many people are willing to pay someone to do them.

Sell video game accounts.

Teenage video gamers can put those gaming skills to use by creating and developing video game accounts and selling them to other users. Video gamers who are good at developing the character and increasing the worth of their account can earn a lot of money when they sell their video game characters or accounts.

Find online work.

Teenagers can also put those Internet hours to good use by looking for online work. They can sign up for freelance writing jobs and write articles for money. They can also do online surveys and earn cash for every survey they complete. They can create accounts on freelance online job marketplaces and apply for easy data entry jobs or part-time virtual assistant jobs.

Tutor someone.

Students who are good at certain subjects like Math, English or Science can offer to tutor their fellow students or younger kids for a certain fee. With today’s technology, they can even offer online tutorial sessions to those who need help with school work.


Teenagers with a specific skill can offer lessons for a fee. If you’re a guitar player, you can teach others how to play. If you’re good at a specific sport, you can offer group or even one-on-one coaching sessions.

Sell stuff online or have a garage sale.

Another popular way to earn money is to sell the things that you don’t use anymore.  Teenagers can hold actual garage sales or sell their stuff online. They can sell old CDs, DVDs, collectible toys, and clothes. They can also negotiate with their parents and help them get rid of any old item in the house by selling it for them for a cut of the earnings.

Offer to run errands for other people.

Teens can offer to get groceries, deliver packages and what not and charge for their services. Offering this service can be especially helpful to the elderly members of the community. Teens can let everyone know that they’re available to help them with any work.

Find work in your community.

Check if there’s some work you can do in your area. Ask around in the local community center, the library or the senior center. You can try to find part-time work as a clerk, assistant or helper. Use your network to find out if any business or individual is hiring.

Sell things for a commission.

Check with local businesses if you can sell their products or services for a commission.

Save money.

Save the money you earned from your jobs. If your parents give you an allowance, make it a habit to save a percentage every week. Open a bank account if you can. Placing your savings in the bank makes it harder for you to spend them than just keeping the cash in your drawer. You may need an adult’s help in opening a bank account.

photo by sterlingcollege

How to Keep Student Loan Debt to a Minimum

college debtYou’ve doubtlessly seen, heard, and read the stories of people coming out of college with student loans in excess of $50,000, $100,000 and more  often much more. If you want to avoid the same fate, you’ll have to take action up front to keep your debt situation from getting out of control from the very beginning.

Work your way though school

Balancing work and school is admittedly difficult, but graduating with six figures in student loan debt will be even tougher, and will go on a lot longer than will take you to complete a college degree program. Moral of the story: take your bitter pill now, and work to offset at least some of your school related expenses.

This doesn’t mean maintaining a full-time job while you’re in school. You can work part-time, maybe primarily on weekends during the school year, and then do full-time during the summer months. In a part-time job if you earn several thousand dollars per year, that can either reduce your need for student loans for basic college expenses, or it can provide cash for living expenses. The more you can earn, the less you need to borrow.

Start at a community college

Plan to spend the first two years of your college tenure at a local community college. The savings on this one step can be greater than any other action you take. For example, let’s say it will cost $25,000 per year to attend college at an in-state four-year school. If instead, you spend the first two years at a local community college at $7,500 per year, you will reduce the total cost of your education from $100,000 down to $65,000.

That will translate into a reduction in student loan debt of $35,000. While you may not like this while it is happening, you’ll love yourself for the sacrifice after you graduate.

Two other benefits to attending a community college are that you’ll most likely live at home – saving a small fortune on room and board at school and as a result, it will ll be far easier for you to hold a job to help pay for some of the expenses. This is why attending a community college is probably the single best strategy for minimizing student loan debt.

Attend state schools – in your own state

The cost of attending a four-year state school is substantially less than what it will cost to attend a private university. The biggest savings happens when you attend a state school in your own state, so that you can take advantage of the resident discount.

The cost of attending a public university in your own state will generally be only about half the cost of attending an out-of-state public school. This should always be a consideration if student loans are expected to be a major part of your education funding.

Commute to school

A large percentage of the cost of attending college is for expenses for room and board while living away at school. By attending a school close to home, you can eliminate these expenses and take another big chunk out of your student loan debt.

Since room and board costs typically make up somewhere between 30% and 50% of the annual expense of attending college, eliminating them can reduce your ultimate student loan burden by tens of thousands of dollars.

If you want to graduate and enter the adult world with a minimum of student loan debt, you do have options. Will they compromise the quality of your education? Perhaps but they will leave you in a better position financially when you graduate, and you still have a degree to show for your efforts.

Have you used any of these strategies as a way to cut down the cost of attending college, and reducing your student loan obligations?

photo by fields of view

How to Balance a Job with College

collegeIf you’re trying to get your college education while taking on as little debt as possible, one of the best ways to do this is by working your way through. This can not only help in paying for school related expenses, like tuition, books and fees, but it can also cover immediate living expenses, like housing, transportation, food and entertainment.

But as good as that sounds, attending college full time and holding a job is a difficult mix. This is especially true if you’re taking a heavy course load or working toward one of the more challenging majors.

How do you balance a job with college?

Live at home where family runs the household

If you’re going to school and holding a job you probably won’t have time for doing much else. That will include running a household (cleaning, shopping, doing laundry, etc). By living at home, you’ll have family members to do most of the chores. After all, if you aren’t home much then no one can expect you to do chores!  Also, living at home will help you save money so you won’t have to take any quick loans out to cover your rent payments.

One other benefit hereâ”college campuses aren’t the most conducive environments for study and work. You can easily be distracted by other students who maybe don’t have to work their way through school or who prefer to rely more heavily on student loans.

Attend school at a local or in-state college

You’ll have to do this anyway if you live at home, but attending a school close to home has a major benefit when it comes to jobs. Where you’ve lived the longest is also the place where you know the largest amount of people. It’s also where you know the lay of the landâ. Simply put, you’ll probably find it much easier to land a job on your home turf than you will be in a remote college town.

Also, college towns tend to have high competition when it comes to the jobs you’ll be looking for. Thousands of kids in a college town will be competing with you for the jobs you want, and that raises the chance that you won’t find one. At home, you’ll have a better chance of finding a job, and a replacement job if you lose that one. Unless of course your home town also happens to be a college town.

Take courses in summer to even out the course load during the school year

During my college years I usually took a couple of courses over each summer. By doing this, I was able to take four courses instead of five during the fall and spring semesters, which made it easier to hold a job. One summer I even took four courses so that I could catch up from a very light fall semester the year before.

If you take summer courses, it’s best to take easier ones. Because they’re shorter, summer courses tend to by concentrated and that can be a problem with meatier subjects. A philosophy sequence would work well, but a physics sequence could defeat the purpose.

Get a job that blends well with college

The last thing you need when you’re a full time student is a job that requires a lot of hours and leaves you drained. That could lead to burnout in short order. The better course is to find a job that will blend better with school. That will mean a) considerable flexibility when it comes to scheduling, and b) one that isn’t physically, mentally or emotionally draining.

One job I found to fit the bill perfectly was being a security guard. I worked a lot of hoursâ”which meant a larger paycheckâ”but it was always on the weekends and in the evenings and never during school hours. There’s virtually no stress in that kind of job so it didn’t take away from my school efforts.

The job had another benefit that any college student can appreciate. Because of the low stress and long hours, I had plenty of time to do my homework! As a security guard, I was mainly being paid to be on site just in case something happenedâ”a mechanical breakdown or a fire for example. None of that ever happened, so most of my time was spent doing my homework. In fact, it was like getting paid to do my homework! I never did my homework at home while I was attending schoolâ”I did it all at work.

There was plenty of company at that job too. Most of them were other college students like me!

You don’t have to work as a security guard (though I highly recommend it for students) but if you can find a job that’s similar, it can really help you in paying for school. And it can do it without pulling you away from your studies.

How are youâ”or how did youâ”balance a job with college?

photo by jimmyharris

9 Tips to Graduate College Without the Chains of Debt!

graduate debt freeWith the costs of college tuition and living expenses skyrocketing, I hear a lot of people, particularly teenagers in high school, talk about whether it is possible to graduate from college without incurring any debt.

The truth is, despite the rising costs recently, it is possible for someone to obtain a degree without burdening themselves with student loans.

I myself was able to pull it off due to a combination of planning, saving, and generous assistance from family and relatives.

In order for it to happen, though, someone has to make it a priority, not merely wishful thinking or an afterthought. Avoiding debt in higher education requires thoughtful consideration and strategic decision-making.

To help out, here are a few things I learned along the way which could be of use to those who either are about to embark on their college journey or have children or younger siblings who have a few more years before they have to worry about it.

1. Get a job ASAP

I got a job as a sophomore in high school working as a birthday coordinator (yes, that was the actual title) for a local recreational place near my house. I then got another job as a clerk at the local grocery store and worked continuously until the week before I left for my first day of college.

Getting a job as early as possible is important not only because it helps pay towards your college, but it also teaches you skills which you help be successful in college. For example, my senior year I ran on the cross country and track team in addition to my grocery clerk job. This meant I had to be up at around 6 a.m,. , leave home at 7 a.m. in the morning, finish cross country practice at 5:30 p.m. and not get back home until 10 p.m.

To survive, I had to be organized and efficient with my time. I had to learn how to cram in study sessions in between lunch breaks at work or before school and sports practice.

The discipline I had acquired from that really helped me my final quarter of college, when I was working as the news editor for the university student newspaper while also taking 22 credits.

2. Save, save, save

When I first saw money trickle into my bank account, there was a terrible temptation to spend some of it. Occasionally, I did. After all, it seems as though you can afford to spend small amounts, especially when the number rises into the thousands of dollars.

The problem is it’s an illusion. Although your savings may seem like a lot, remember it’s going to pay for several years of college amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. You will need every penny.

After deducting a small amount of your paycheck for tithing and expenses, tuck the rest of it away in a savings account and don’t touch it. It won’t accumulate much interest, but you will be less tempted to spend it there, especially if you love your debit card. I made the mistake of making lots of small orders on, thinking I wasn’t spending much, until I counted up the total spending and realized how much it actually turned out to be.

Don’t let spending creep up on you by avoiding unnecessary purchases.

3. Take as many Advancement Placement classes you can where you have a realistic chance of passing the test

While in high school I took three separate AP classes, all of them social studies-related. And I passed all three tests and got college credit for it.

There was a reason I didn’t bother in math or science; I was terrible at both. Today, there is a strong push, depending on your school district, to take AP classes, and even more pressure to take the test. Don’t listen to anyone except yourself on this. As Dirty Harry said, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” Know yours. Take only the AP classes where you either have the time to study or the material comes easy to you and you won’t have trouble with the test.

I say this because when it comes to college, the test is all that matters. If chances are you won’t pass the test, you risk taking a class where you won’t receive any college credit, and all the hard work and studying will only take away time you could have dedicated to your other classes.

By taking AP classes, and passing the tests, I freed myself up from several requisite courses which, in addition to other decisions, enabled me to graduate two quarters early.

4. Do running start for the last two years of high school

This was one big regret of mine from high school. I never took running start, and looking back if I could have I would have done it in an instant. Aside from some extra costs, it is essentially two free years of college that also count as two years of high school. When you eventually go to the college of your choice, you will have two years already completed, freeing you up to pursue other courses. The downside to this option is that it will separate you socially from the rest of your high school peers, but if you’re participating in a sport of other extra curricular activity this won’t have as much of an impact. And frankly, sparing yourself two years financially of college is worth the juvenile social drama.

5. Be realistic about the colleges you can afford

I do say this with somewhat of a side note: this is for people who are interested mainly in obtaining a degree with incurring debt and don’t have a specific college in mind, or their financial capacity to afford it is the highest priority. If you aspire to attend a prestigious private university or Ivy League school, where the costs are substantially higher, or your career involves an extended education, i.e. doctor, lawyer, master’s degree, it becomes increasingly contingent upon your financial background and the scholarship money/financial assistance you receive if you still want to graduate debt free.

From the get-go, I selected colleges I could afford based on the amount of money I had saved, would make during the summers in-between school, and other financial assistance I received from my family. Depending on your circumstances, i.e. scholarships, financial assistance, family finances, you may have a greater range of colleges to attend than others.

For me, it was mostly confined to in-state public universities, so my options were somewhat limited. The university I ultimately chose, Eastern Washington University, had one of the lowest tuition rates in the state (tuition has spiked since, though). But I was realistic about what I could afford.

If you’re in college

6. Try to work a part time job during the school year

This is easier when you’re attending a college located within a larger city, where more jobs are available, but if you can, try to find some way to make money while you’re at school. Thanks to Craigslist, you can often find part-time or freelance work in your region, or apply for one after the school year starts. You can also apply for jobs at the university you attend. One popular job at my university for students was working in the library. Others tutored or taught music lessons.

This is beneficial because working year round, rather than merely during the summer, will help even if it’s confined to the weekends or a few hours in the afternoon each day. It can be difficult, though, for those with greater academic loads or more rigorous courses.

Additionally, if the job happens to give you career-related work experience, it’s two birds with one stone, so to speak.

7. Take classes you have to take to graduate, not ones you want to take

Most universities have a list of requisite courses you’re required to take in order to graduate. Some of them give you flexibility as to the course. Others do not. I took lots of literature courses, such as Shakespeare or Western Literature, but they all applied to my general course requirements.

What I’ve found after college, however, is that many classes I took, purely out of my interest on the subject, were a waste. With the Internet, you can not only study the subject just as thoroughly for free on many websites, but you can also check out the required reading for the course, order the books online or from a library, and then study at your leisure. This certainly isn’t the most orthodox manner in which to educate yourself, but it will certainly save you more than a buck.

8. Cut costs any way you can

I know you’re supposed to “have fun” in college, but “having fun” shouldn’t bankrupt you. This is the time to be frugal and not get harangued for it. Shop at thrift stores where you can buy second-hand items for dirt cheap. When you shop for food, buy inexpensive, but healthy products like fruits, vegetables, and pasta. And stay away from the liquor section of the grocery store.  Try to avoid things like cash loans.  Instead, work additional part time jobs!

Some universities require you to live on campus for the first year which include their meal plans; if you can, avoid it. Generally speaking, their “meal plans” are the equivalent of a coal mining company “truck system.” Since they control where you spend your meal plan dollars, they can set the prices as high as they like.

If you are required to live in the residential halls, get the cheapest meal plan you can and shop for the rest. When purchasing books for classes, there are dozens of ways to either avoid the eye-gauging prices at the university bookstore or paying for them at all. for the first two quarters my freshmen year, I had to buy only two full-priced books; the rest were either borrowed or the earlier edition, which is usually 10-20 percent of the original price.

If you aren’t required to live in the residential halls, be willing to settle for less than you’re accustomed to at home when it comes to your living situation. After living in my (Beta Theta Pi) fraternity house for two and a half years, I moved into a slightly renovated miner’s shack from the Great Depression after finding it on Cragislist. It was 300 square feet. No insulation between the single board walls. The temperature never got above 60 degrees even with the electric baseboard heaters on day and night. When the temperature outside dipped down to near zero degrees, I woke up in the mornings with frost on my side of the walls stuck to my blanket.

Was it a sultan’s palace? Not really. But it was cheap and a monthly lease, which is exactly what I needed. I wouldn’t recommend this for 99 percent of people, but if you can find a cheaper place with less amenities than usual, give it a thought before you turn it down.

9. Pray about your decisions before you make it, and keep praying

This is something I really didn’t do until my last year of college, and I very much regret, but before you make major decisions about what school to attend and what career to go into, the best thing you can do is to pray about it.

As a Christian, your life isn’t just about what you want, but what God wants, and often they are not the same. For example, you may wish to attend a certain college or get a certain degree, but God could have other plans for you. Or, they may be the same. The only way to find out is to pray about it.

I regret not praying over it because after I chose which university to attend I got anxious about whether or not I had made the right choice. I also know people who were dead set on graduating from a certainty university, only to find themselves, due to circumstances mostly beyond their control, end up elsewhere.

But prayer shouldn’t stop there. The desire to remain debt-free is biblical, so there is nothing wrong with asking God for help in that endeavor. Just remember to pray, not wish.

photo by smemon

How Can Your Kids Contribute Toward College?

collegeFiguring out how to pay for college is one of the most difficult choices facing parents and their kids right now.  The news is full of stories about crippling student debt.   Many families have no choice about asking their kids to contribute or taking out loans.  Another way is for people to give gifts in the form of UTMA accounts.

Even for parents who can cover all or most of the cost of a college education, there are still decisions to be made.    Yes, students have a lot to manage just with classes, but should they still be responsible for some of the cost?

If you want to make sure your kids have debt-free access to a college education, there are still ways to keep them responsible and make sure they understand the cost â“ and value â“ of their degree.

1. Working while studying

This is the most straightforward option.   You cover the costs of school itself and leave your student responsible for personal expenses.   If they want new clothes or beer money, it’s their job to fund it from their own earnings.   Your student can then decide how much they want to work â“ once day a week, twice a week, over the summer â“ based on how much spending money is important to them.   This is a great approach for students who have not had to be financially responsible for their own expenses before college.

2. Covering rent and meals

If your student has experience working through high school and some savings, putting them in charge of their living expenses â“ rent or dorm costs and meals â“ can be a great way for them to contribute.   Because rent or dorm costs are set amounts, and most colleges offer meal plans, your student knows exactly how much they need to contribute per semester and can budget accordingly.

3. Making up the difference

If your student has a high chance of getting scholarships, already has savings, or is able to work steadily without compromising their academics, try setting an amount that you will contribute per year and having them make up the difference.   By making it a yearly figure, the amount that your student has to contribute is predictable and manageable.   This is a great approach for students with work experience and teaches extremely valuable time management skills.

4. Finish in “x” years

If your student is entering college with a high number of AP or IB credits, already has an associates’ degree, or has already taken college credits, set a number of years that you will pay for.   If they only need three more years of courses to get a degree, make it clear that you will pay for those three years and no more.   The cost of any time beyond that is their responsibility.   This is a great approach for someone who has a strong academic record and is very school-focused, but with limited work experience.

5. GPA penalties

This can also be called the everyone works equally hard at different jobs❠approach.   You work to pay the bills, and your student works to keep their GPA at a certain level.   If their GPA drops below that level â“ say, a 2.5 â“ then they are responsible for paying for the next semester of college.   If their grades go back up, you resume paying.   This requires paying attention to your student’s grades and making the parameters very clear up front, but can also be a great way to motivate your student to stay focused on academics.

It can be tough as a parent to ask your kids to step up financially.   But having your student be aware of the cost of college and involved in paying for it â“ through hard academic work, a steady job during the school year, or working over the summer â“ will keep them invested in their studies.   Not only that, but you will be teaching them valuable work and budgeting skills that will serve them well once they graduate and through the rest of their lives.

guest post by Katharine Paljug

photo by jimmyharris