In addition to starting a 529 college savings plan for our son, I also have been looking at alternatives if my wife and I couldn’t reach our savings goal. These alternatives may come in handy if we run into some unforeseen financial difficulties. Aside from the usual financial aids (e.g., scholarships, grants, work-study, student loans, etc.), here are 7 alternatives that can help us spend less for college.
Photo by Beard Papa via Flickr
1. Opt for a less expensive school
In general, state universities are the best value for in-state residents; representing a good balance between costs and quality. To look for the best value, Kiplinger’s Best Values in Public Colleges Database is a good place to start.
If our son wants to go to an Ivy League school, we would advise him to start with a cheaper school and transfer after two years.
2. Advanced Placement (AP) Courses and Exams
When I was in high school, I did well enough that I was able to take a few AP courses (i.e., English, Calculus, and Computer Science). I think this is an excellent way to get a head start on college-level work. Depending on the college and our son’s test scores, he might be able to use AP credits to satisfy requirement for some basic level courses.
CollegeBoard.com offers a good primer on Advanced Placement Program.
3. College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
Similar to AP, he can take CLEP exams to satisfy requirement for basic level courses and save some money. Personally, I took a CLEP exam to satisfy one of my foreign language course requirement
Here is a good primer on CLEP from CollegeBoard.com.
4. Take more credits per semester and avoid filler courses
A typical Bachelor degree requires 120 credits to graduate. This translate to 15 credits per semester for standard 8 semesters (4 years). If our son is willing to take 17-18 credits per semester instead, he could graduate one full semester early.
5. Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)
Joining the Navy ROTC was one of the thing I wanted to do, but didn’t get to do because the Navy program was not offered at my school. Aside from other benefits, ROTC programs also offer scholarships that reduce the cost of education. The scholarship program is different for each branch of the military as follow:
- U.S. Air Force ROTC Scholarships
- U.S. Army ROTC Scholarships
- U.S. Navy and Marine Corps ROTC Scholarships
6. Join the military
This option has a very serious implication, and I would not ask our son to leverage this option, unless he wants to join the military in the first place. I am not fully familiar with this one, so I will direct you to the FinAid’s US Armed Forces Recruiting Programs.
7. Work for a company that offers tuition reimbursement
Some companies in the U.S. offers their employee tuition reimbursement program. Our preference is to have our son complete a 4-year college before joining the work force full-time. However, this is a viable option for families that cannot afford college — the student can join the work force first and take advantage of tuition reimbursement program. Personally, I took advantage of this program for my Master Degree.
If the 7 ideas above is not enough, here is an inspiring story about how someone picked up a Masters Degree from Harvard for $500.
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance and a Realtor® licensed in Virginia and Maryland. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, financial literacy author, and Realtor®.