6 Ways to Cut Your College Costs

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019
college student with backpack looking at building

This is the time of the year when college hopefuls hover near their mailboxes, nervously awaiting the letter they hope is an admission. For teenagers ready to begin life as a young adult, the acceptance letter will change everything. But with a college acceptance letters comes college costs. Whether you’re a newly accepted collegiate or the proud parent of one, you’re likely asking yourself one thing: “How in the world am I going to afford this?”

And for good reason.

The sheer amount of Americans in debt from their student loans is troubling. Earlier this year, the financial experts of Forbes published the statistics that led them to put the total student loan deficit for 2019 at a staggering $1.5 Trillion owed by an estimated 44 million borrowers.

At this point, you’ve probably progressed to wondering how you can possibly afford the hefty college costs without having to take out any more than you absolutely have to in loans.

There are ways you can lower your college costs

The good news is that it is possible. You can mitigate college costs in a variety of ways, but here are the most important ones to tackle first. You’ll have to put in a little hard work and effort, but if you can avoid becoming one of the many Americans embroiled in the student loan crisis, it’s well worth it.

1. Get an early estimate of your FASFA

You should fill out the FASFA, or Federal Student Aid as soon as you send off your college applications. There is a section of the website called FASFA4cast that can give you an early estimate for the amount of aid you are eligible for. Having a rough estimate given to you can help you with planning out a way to cover the remaining cost.

As you fill out your FASFA, you’ll find out what types of aid and assistance you can receive. Additionally, the website itself is a fantastic starting point for tackling the financial hurdle of college costs. You’ll find a number of checklists, discussions, and helpful guides that can help you navigate through the myriad of options available to you.

2. Calculate all your college costs

When you have an accurate idea of cost, then you can make plans. But what makes a total cost accurate is when it includes:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Food or meal plans
  • Books and educational materials
  • Transportation
  • Personal expenses
  • Fees

Once you have an estimate on the total cost, you can subtract your financial aid from the total, and then formulate a plan to address the remaining total.

3. Scholarships and grants

After the FASFA, the next focus should be on hunting down any and all sources of “free money” offered for college, meaning scholarships and grants. There are countless scholarships and grants available from numerous organizations and entities.

One place to start the hunt is The College Board’s Scholarship Search. High school counselors will also be able to point you in the right direction as to opportunities found locally. Ideally, you want to start scouting for scholarships well before senior year of high school, but it’s never too late to begin applying!

4. School payment plans

Before writing out a check for one big lump sum, check your school’s website to see if they offer payment plans. Many schools offer these installment plans at low- to no-interest!

5. Low-interest federal loans

College students can take out low-interest loans from the Federal Government in order to help with education costs. You can opt for a direct subsidized loan or a direct unsubsidized loan. The direct subsidized loan is based upon your financial need, while the direct unsubsidized loan does not require proof of need.

You can determine which loans are an option for you by completing your FASFA form and sending it in by the federal and state deadline. For federal loans, your repayment will begin six months after graduating, leaving school, or your enrollment drops below half-time status. Further, there are numerous loan repayment options with federal loans.

6. Attend community college first

One savvy way to cut college costs is to attend community college first. By opting to attend a community college for the first two years, you can complete most (if not all) of the core classes for your degree at a greatly reduced cost. Most of your courses will be able to transfer to the four-year public college or university of your choice.

Another advantage to this approach is that you can get a feel for college life and to decide if your selected major is a good fit

Your Education Is Worth It!

A college education can open up many doors for you. If secondary education is your goal, then start your financial planning as early as possible. Take the suggestions provided and be resourceful and persistent in accessing as many resources as you can. It may not be possible to avoid taking out a student loan, but your goal should be to offset what you can from your total cost. The less you student loans you have to take out is that much less debt and stress to deal with once you finish your education.

If you are a member of BFCU, we can offer you our financial advisory and planning services. You can schedule a consult with us by visiting our Contact Us page or giving us a call at 806.273.9506

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