When I hear about skyrocketing tuition costs, I don’t envy today’s college students. Take a look at the average tuition rates, according to The College Board:
- Public Two-Year College (in-state) $3,131
- Public Four-Year College (in-state) $8,655
- Public Four-Year College (out-of-state) $21,706
- Private Four-Year College $29,056
I graduated from college 10 years ago with a bachelor’s degree in communications and psychology.
Despite having dropped out of high school the day before my 16th birthday, I was a good student. I liked college. My grades showed it. I had a 3.85 GPA.
What surprises people more than my GPA is the total price tag of my education: $10,000.
By one estimate, rates at the college I attended have gone up 60% in 10 years. But still, the strategies I used to save money can be applied today.
Here are six ways I kept my college costs under $10,000:
1. I STARTED AT A COMMUNITY COLLEGE
After dropping out of high school a few months earlier, I earned my GED and enrolled in a community college. The price was low and I lived with my mom.
I completed more than a year’s worth of credits by taking classes during the winter and summer sessions.
2. I TRANSFERRED TO A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
I transferred to a four-year college in my home state after the first year. They accepted all of my credits from the community college.
The tuition was higher than the community college, but still affordable.
3. I GRADUATED IN THREE YEARS
It was actually two years and nine months. Both of the institutions I attended allowed students to take between 12 and 18 credits for one set price.
I always took 18 credits and asked permission to take 21 credits during two semesters. Those extra courses were free.
4. I BOUGHT USED BOOKS (OR NONE AT ALL)
I never bought a book for a class until after meeting the professor. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to drop the class before investing in a book.
When I did buy a book, it was used. Rarely did I read them. Instead, I never missed a class and took good notes.
5. I LIVED AT HOME
The four-year college wasn’t located near my mom’s house, but it was near another family member who allowed me to stay with her. I commuted 45 minutes to school a few days a week.
Did I miss out on a traditional college experience? Yes. But remember, I was 16. It was never going to be normal.
6. I GOT A JOB
Even while juggling 18 (or more) credits, I found time for a part-time job. I waited tables at a restaurant located one block away from where I lived.
Not willing to settle for a $7 an hour job on campus, I earned more than $100 a day in tips.
I knew before entering college that I wanted to be in the TV business. I also knew starting salaries in the field were low, so I factored that into choosing a college.
If I were blessed with a mathematical mind, perhaps I would have made a different college choice.
However, it’s all about doing what’s best for you. Ten years after graduating, I feel as though my $10,000 education has more than paid for itself.
How will you make sure you get the most out of your degree?