College isn’t getting any cheaper. And students working toward their degrees are often financially strapped, barely scraping together enough dollars to buy a pizza on a Friday night.
What can students do to save money during this pricey time of their lives? Fortunately, there are several steps students can take to reduce the cost of attending a college or university.
The best news? Many of the steps listed below are simple. By following these strategies, students might leave college with a few extra bucks stashed in their savings accounts.
Split Your Time
The easiest way to save money for college students? Be creative.
Robert Riordan, a certified public accountant in Columbia, South Carolina, recommends that college students take most of their general education courses at a lower-cost community college for two years before transferring to a four-year institution for their final four semesters.
This can save college students a significant amount of money. Tuition is far lower for students who attend their local community college. The key, though, is for students to make sure they are earning credits that they can transfer to the four-year college they want to attend. Taking this approach, then, will save money but does require planning.
Riordan also cites the Federal Work-Study program as a way for students to save money while taking classes. This program provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students who can demonstrate a financial need for help. They can then earn money through these jobs to help pay for their education costs.
Look for Alternative Credit
Adrian Ridner, founder of Mountain View, California-based Study.com, which provides video-based online courses for college students, says that students can save thousands of dollars while in college by earning their credits in different ways.
As Ridner says, students don’t have to earn all of their academic credits on campus. They can, for instance, test out of some general education requirements through the College-Level Examination Program, better known as CLEP.
CLEP offers introductory-level college course material in 33 subjects. According to CLEP, earning a passing score on one CLEP exam can save a student up to $1,200 in tuition costs.
“You can prep for these exams online and on-the-go, so it doesn’t interfere with your current class schedule,” Ridner said. “Or you can make use of summer or spring breaks to take those exams and earn college credit.”
Students need to check, though, to make sure their schools accept CLEP credits.
Get Creative with Textbooks
Priyanka Prakash, financial expert at New York City-based Fundera, an online platform for small business financial solutions, says students can save significant money by being creative with how they purchase required textbooks.
“Given that students spend nearly $5,000 on textbooks over the course of a four-year program, saving in this area really helps,” Prakash said.
Students can purchase used textbooks on Amazon or find a book buddy with whom they can swap out books. They might also purchase their textbooks with a credit card that provides cash-back bonuses, giving them the chance to earn at least some extra money on these expensive books.
Prakash especially recommends the book buddy idea. The goal is to find someone in your major who takes slightly different courses each semester. When book buddies are done with their textbooks, they pass them along to you. You do the same for them.
“This can save you hundreds each semester,” Prakash said.
Find a Paid Internship
Bryan Pattman, founder of the What The College blog, says that paid internships can be a financial help for college students struggling with the costs of earning their degrees.
These internships usually come with flexible hours, making it easier for students to schedule them around their classwork, Pattman said.
And those students who are especially fortunate can see those paid internships turn into full-time jobs once they graduate.
“The small amount of income every week gives you a head start on building wealth and can kick-start any investing efforts that you plan on entering into,” Pattman said.
Timothy Wiedman, a retired associate professor of management and human resources at Crete, Nebraska-based Doane University, said that finding paid internships has become easier for students. Private companies today are relying more heavily on paid internships and less on unpaid ones, he said, because those unpaid internships can cause companies to run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The best paid internships also keep students busy, and paid, during the summer months, Wiedman said.
“The modest pay can still build a pretty nice bank account, especially if students are working at full-time internships during the summer months,” Wiedman said. “But the real payoff for any intern is in gaining valuable ‘real-world’ work experience that can beef up a resume for a post-graduation job search.”
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