There are many ways to reduce the cost of college if you do your research, avoid the brand trap and apply strategically to a range of appropriate target schools.
Remember the fundamental college cost equation: Net Price = Sticker Price – Discounts
So, your cost reduction options fall into two general categories:
1. Increasing the Discounts
2. Reducing the Sticker Price
3. Both of the above
Strategies for Increasing Discounts
- Increase your chances for merit scholarship discounts.
Although admission selectivity contributes to a school’s prestige factor and “brand strength” it does not define the academic quality. This is a very important point: Selectivity does not equal quality! So, you should apply to some schools that rank a little lower in terms of prestige, where you will be a strong applicant, and increase your chances of receiving merit scholarships – without decreasing the quality of your college education. In the qualifying for merit aid section, we tell you where to look to see how much merit scholarship funding a college awards and how to determine where you rank in terms of academic credentials compared to the most recent entering class.
- Increase your chances for need-based grant discounts.
Reducing the calculated Family Contribution (often called the EFC) will sometimes increase your financial aid eligibility. Since the EFC is based mostly on family financial circumstances it is might be possible to reduce your EFC, thereby increasing eligibility for financial aid, by repositioning income and assets. But, increasing financial aid eligibility will not necessarily result in an increase in the amount of need-based grant that is actually awarded. Because this is a very complicated topic, we have provided a repositioning fact sheet.
- Get an early start on your outside scholarship search.
Applying for Outside Scholarships is a lot of work but worth the effort. The summer after junior year of high school is a great time to start.
Strategies for Reducing Sticker Price:
- Consider starting at a community college or junior college.
There is no shame in starting your college career in a two year program.
Where you finish is much more important that where you start.
The college that ultimately awards your degree is the school that employers see on your resume and the school that carries the most weight on applications to graduate school.
Some states guarantee transfer into their four years colleges for junior college students who take the right classes and maintain a required GPA.
Many private schools, including very selective and prestigious colleges, accept transfer students who graduate from community college and junior college programs.
- Explore all public university options in your home state and other states where you can attend at “in-state” rates.
Student who are worried about college costs should apply to at least two public universities in their home state. Tuition & fees for residents is quite low in most states and many flagship state universities are quite prestigious. But don’t limit yourself to the flagship campus. There are many quality public schools in every state.
Note: Although the sticker price is always lower at state schools than it is at private colleges, the net price might be lower at some private college once all grants and scholarships are applied.