Home > Students > 6 Ways to Keep Costs for a College Degree Less Than $10K

Comments 0 Comments

Student loan debt has reached a record high of $1.3 million for Americans, and it’s rippling through the economy. Analysts say student loan debts are effecting everything from retail spending to mortgage loans because people have less spare cash.

But that doesn’t mean you should toss away the idea of going to college: College degrees still give you an edge in the job market. The average difference in lifetime wages of college grads versus high school grads is $1 million, according to a 2015 study by Georgetown University, and there is definitely a pay bump if you choose certain majors over others (the difference between the highest STEM field majors and lowest paying majors is $3.4 million).

Regardless of the salary you end up making, college tuition can be costly, and it’s possible to fall into debt if you don’t manage your finances and repayments carefully. But there are ways to bring down the cost of your degree to less than $10,000. Here are some of those ways.

1. Cut Costs by Cutting Classes

The first two years of college usually cover general knowledge. But if you already know something well enough, you may be able to get college credit for this knowledge and shave thousands off your tuition bills. Here are three ways to do that.

  1. College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams are $80 and are offered for 33 different topics ranging from history to college composition. They’re widely accepted at more than 2,900 colleges and universities, according to Adrian Ridner, chief executive and co-founder of the online education website Study.com. You just need to register and take the standardized test at a testing center to demonstrate mastery of a subject and earn college credit, Ridner said.
  2. Also consider taking advanced placement (AP) courses while still in high school. If you earn an AP exam score of three or higher, chances are you can receive credit, advanced placement or both from your college, according to the College Board website. Keep in mind though, that each college or university makes its own decisions about awarding credit and placement. Most have a written policy spelling out things like the minimum required score to earn credit for a given AP exam, the amount of credit awarded and how credits are applied. You can review this information by using the AP credit policy search tool but make sure to confirm it with a college representative because policies can change.
  3. If you’ve been in the military, some of your training may also align with your degree and can be transferable, Ridner said. “Prior learning assessments (PLAs) vary by school, sometimes requiring an exam, other times an extensive interview or portfolio depending on the nature of the competency being demonstrated,” Ridner said. It’s worth it to ask, as it could save you in the long run.  

2. Dual Enrollment

You can actually start college while still in high school through dual-enrollment programs that offer transcripted college credits. They’re usually less expensive than a traditional college enrollment and some students are able to graduate high school with associate degrees, which, of course, saves even more time and money. Another cost saving option is to attend a community college for your first two years of college studies. You won’t have to pay hefty room and board fees, and can transfer to a four-year school later on.

3. Scholarships

While internships are still very important to lining up golden job opportunities after graduation, that summer job at Wal-Mart or McDonalds might just pay itself off in scholarships. Companies such as Google, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Dell and Microsoft all have scholarship programs for employees, and sometimes, for dependents of employees, according to collegescholarships.org.

You can also look into government grants, which are basically financial aid that does not need to be paid back. Make sure you complete a free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify. You can get up to $5,815 for the 2016-2017 academic year.

You can also try the Scholly app to help you search, as more than $100 million in scholarships go unclaimed each year.

4. Tuition Reimbursement

See if your company (or your parents’) offers a tuition reimbursement plan. “Plan amounts may vary by company, the maximum benefit is $5,250 per year,” Ridner said. “If utilized for lower cost online courses, you can cover more of your education and reduce or eliminate your out of pocket expenses.” 

5. Investigate Employer Volume Pricing

This follows the philosophy that there is strength in numbers.

“Many employers are recognizing the value of helping their employees earn a college degree, and are partnering with schools and course providers,” Ridner said. “Given the volume of students expected to participate in the programs, the companies can often negotiate discounted course fees. Companies including Starbucks, Chipotle, JetBlue and more have established college programs for employees.”

6. Online Courses

If they are accepted by your college’s degree program, online courses present you with several advantages. For starters, they’re significantly less expensive – on average, students can save $1,000 to $3,000 per course (depending on your school and whether it is private or public), Ridner said. Many often don’t require expensive textbooks because their study materials are online. And they’re typically self paced, so students can earn credits faster and graduate sooner, or take them while working a full-time job.

“Supplementing the traditional college experience with low-cost online courses, puts a college degree within reach of millions of American workers struggling to find a place in today’s information economy,” Ridner said.

For example: For Thomas Edison State University (TESU), students can use Study.com’s College Accelerator courses for up to 75% of their required courses, and then transfer the credits to TESU where they complete their degree online, Ridner said. “A motivated student passing an exam a month, could complete their entire degree for under $10k,” Ridner said.

Remember, no matter how much student loan debt you might graduate with, it’s important to make timely repayments. Not doing so can affect your credit scores and your ability to get loans and mortgages in the future. (For a good barometer of where your credit stands, you can get a free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Image: SIphotography

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team