Manage College Expenses with These 4 Strategies

Manage College Expenses

When most future college students and future college-student-parents think about college they think about ways to find additional money to pay for college and college expenses.  As you’ll learn, especially if you go to business school, there are two sides to a balance sheet: assets and liabilities or, in this case, income and expenses. Why not also learn to manage college expenses the way a business would?

Be Sure

There are a number of ways to control college liabilities or expenses.  The first is to be sure if you want to go to college and why.  If you’re not sure why you want to go to college, consider taking a year or two off from school.  Get a job and figure out what you want to do.  It’s senseless to acquire major amounts of debt if you’re not sure why you’re doing so.

Be Reasonable

For many, college doesn’t make sense.  Be reasonable and decide if college is right for you.  As the LA Times suggests, the “college-for-all model isn’t working”.  If college isn’t for you, consider going to a trade or technical school.  These are often programs that take two years or less to complete and are less expensive than college.  For many, finding the right employer will provide the best education.  These are great options and help students avoid years of student loan debt.  Many very successful people, such as Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Richard Branson of Virgin, never graduated from college.  These are just the famous individuals who haven’t graduated from college.  Even more individuals who are not famous are successful without college degrees.

Community College

If college is in your future and you aren’t 100% sure what you want to do or if money is an issue, consider attending a community college for general elective (GE) courses.  GE courses are required for all degrees and taking GE courses locally can keep expenses down.  Do your research to make sure the courses you take at your community college are transferable to the colleges you’re considering eventually attending.  This requires strategic thinking and planning ahead, but it’s worth it. It is also a great way to stretch those grant, scholarship and essay contests you’ve won.

Satellite Campuses

Another strategy to manage college expenses is to look for alternatives. A great alternative when money is an issue and community college isn’t an option is a satellite campus.  These are branches of traditional colleges and universities.  Often the costs for these schools, especially with room and board, travel and other peripheral expenses, are cheaper.  For example, if you can live with your parents for your first two years of college while attending classes at a satellite campus before finishing your degree on the main campus, you can save a lot of money on housing, food and transportation expenses.  There’s, also, no concern with the main campus accepting all the credits you earn from the satellite campus.  All your course credits will be accepted.

In-State Colleges

Finally, avoid out of state colleges.  Out of state college tuition is extremely expensive and doesn’t make sense for most students.  Degrees from well-recognized schools may be enticing.  They’re also expensive and not necessarily worth it after factoring in student loan interest rates and the struggle to obtain a job straight out of college.

Be a Money Conscious Student

When you’re in school, be a money conscious student.  By this we mean, manage college expenses as a part of your daily habits.  Do your research, know what your options are and don’t be frivolous with your money.  Some suggestions are below.

  1. Never buy new text books.  Text books for major courses can be more than $200.  Even buying used books at the campus book store with the intent of selling them back at the end of the semester is expensive.  The campus book store doesn’t pay you nearly as much as you paid them.  There are used text books you can buy at a discount online.  Amazon sells used text books, often at a great price.  CheapTextBooks is another website that offers used text books.  Borrow text books for free from friends or book trading websites, such as TextSwap or StudentBookTrades.  Create your own book swap with others in your major or post wanted ads on your campus bulletin board.  Download textbooks to a tablet or eReader.  Not only are books on eReaders cheaper, they reduce paper-waste.  As you can see, there are a number of ways to reduce this necessary cost.
  2. Live off campus without a meal plan.  Another way of being a money conscious student is to decide if living in a dorm and buying the campus food plan makes financial sense.  These are often convenient because you are closer to class and don’t have to cook your own meals.  They’re, also, expensive.  Living off campus and cooking your own food may make more sense.  If you have roommates, you can buy in bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club and split your grocery bills.  Cook in bulk, and then you don’t have to do much more than reheat many of your meals.
  3. Have roommates.  Another way to keep costs down, as suggested above, is to have one or more roommates.  They will help pay for rent and other expenses, such as electricity, internet, cable and groceries.  Make sure the people you decide to live with won’t be a distraction to your studies.  For this reason, your best roommates may be your parents.  If you choose a college near home, living at home may be your best option for keeping room and board expenses down and still being able to focus on your studies.  Your parents may need to charge you for living expenses, though.
  4. Go to summer school.  Take courses offered during off-peak semesters.  Many colleges offer courses over the summer and during other breaks throughout the year.  These courses are on compressed schedules and are typically less expensive than traditional fall and spring semester courses.  Not only will these courses keep your costs down, they’ll help you graduate sooner.  This will allow you to start working sooner and start paying off expenses left over from college.

As with anything related to personal finance, think and plan ahead as thoroughly as possible.  Do your research by talking with friends and family who are in or recently graduated college, talk with high school teachers and guidance councilors and search online to learn about all the ways to keep the expense side of your college balance sheet in check.

The Scholarship System

Here are a few more posts about college and student loan debt:

If you want even more help learning how to manage college expenses, other education options and a plan to prepare your high schooler, check out the FREE Money Conscious Student ebook using the link below.

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