8 ways to help minimize college costs

It’s no surprise: The cost of a college education is the biggest concern of parents and students alike.1  With the median expenses for four-year institutions topping $36,000 per year2—and the average student financing 34% of those costs through loans each year3—there’s plenty of reason for anxiety. But there are many ways you can reduce the cost of your child’s education, including the following. 


1. Consider a local community college

Having your child attend a community or junior college for the first year or two could save you thousands—and may be especially appealing to students who haven’t yet decided on a particular major. The cost of credits at a community college can be significantly cheaper than those at a four-year institution, giving your child more flexibility to try different fields of study. It can also benefit students who are uncertain about being able to manage a full college course load. 


2. Look into state schools offering in-state benefits for out-of-state attendees

The state universities of Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and New Mexico are just some of the schools that offer in-state tuition for out-of-state students. Oftentimes these benefits are a limited to residents of neighboring states, but some schools will extend offers to students with a high grade point average, who plan to major in certain fields of study, or who participate in a particular 529 plan. 

3. Take extra classes—both in high school and college—to graduate early

Taking advanced placement or college courses while in high school could give your child a leg up on finishing sooner; however, be sure to check that your child’s preferred colleges will accept the credits earned. Taking courses during the summer semester is another key tip to help your child earn the credits to graduate early. 

4. Go local

If you live in an area that is close to one or more higher learning institutions, your child could live at home, saving thousands per year in room and board. You will need to factor in the commuting costs, such as bus/subway fare or driving expenses (including auto insurance, gas, and parking fees). 


5. Investigate scholarships and grants

There are thousands of opportunities available through universities, vocational organizations, family foundations, and businesses. Did you know that Duct Tape offers $10,000 scholarships annually to students who best use the product to create their prom outfits? Have your child list out their accomplishments, strengths, interests, and heritage. You might be surprised by the number of scholarships or grants there are for everything on his or her list.  

6. Get a job

Most universities offer their students a wealth of part-time employment opportunities. Thousands of businesses offer paid internships and temporary positions. Working while attending school is a great way for your child to build experience, gain contacts, and earn money.  

7. Join ROTC

Your child doesn’t have to want a career in the military to benefit from joining the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). An ROTC program can teach your child valuable leadership skills in addition to the financial benefits—including 2- to 4-year scholarships—they offer. Note that these programs require your child to serve at least 3 and as many as 12 years in their chosen service branch after graduation.  

8. Use student IDs to get discounts

Many retailers and cultural organizations offer discounts to students, including movie theaters, restaurants, gyms, museums, and more. Certain travel outlets, such as Greyhound and many city transit systems, offer fare breaks to students.

These are just some of the ways that frugal parents can help take some of the bite out of college expenses. Be sure to check with your financial professional for more specific suggestions on how you can lower your child’s college costs. 


1 2019 College Hopes & Worries Survey, The Princeton Review, 2019. 2 Trends in College Pricing 2018, The College Board, 2018. 3 Trends in Student Aid 2018, The College Board, 2018.