College is very expensive – there is no doubt about that.
However, I want you to know that it IS possible to get a valuable college degree on a budget!
The average public university is over $20,000 per year and the average private university totals over $45,000 once you account for tuition, room and board, fees, textbooks, living expenses and more.
Even with how expensive college can possibly be, there are many ways to cut college expenses and create a college budget so that you can control rising college costs.
Continue reading below to read about the many different ways I cut college costs. While I was not perfect and still racked up student loan debt, I did earn three college degrees on a reasonable budget.
1. Take classes at a community college to cut college costs.
Whether you are in college already or you haven’t started yet, taking classes at a community college can be a great way to save money.
Earning credits at a community college usually costs just a small fraction of what it would cost at a 4-year college, so you may find yourself being able to save thousands of dollars each semester.
There is a myth out there that your degree is worth less if you go to a community college. That is NOT TRUE at all. When you finally earn your 4-year degree, your degree will only say where you graduated from and it won’t even mention the community college credits at all. So this myth makes no sense because your degree looks the exact same as everyone else’s’ who you went to college with. You might as well save money because it won’t make much of a difference.
I only took classes at a community college during one summer semester where I earned 12 credits, and I still regret not taking more. I probably could have saved around $20,000 by taking more classes at my local community college.
Also, you are most likely just taking general credits at the community college, so it’s not like you would be missing much by taking classes there instead of a college that has a better reputation for the major you are seeking.
If you do decide to go to a community college, always make sure that the 4-year college you plan on attending afterwards will transfer all of the credits. It’s an easy step to take so do not forget! You should do this before you sign up and pay for any classes as well as to make sure that ALL of the classes will transfer succesfully.
2. Take advantage of high school classes to lower your college budget.
Many high schools allow you to take college classes to earn both college and high school credits at the same time.
This is something I highly recommend you look into if you are still in high school, as it saves time and is one of the best ways to save money on college costs.
When I was in my senior year in high school, nearly all of my classes were dual enrollment courses where I was earning college and high school credit at the same time. I took AP classes and classes that earned me direct college credit from nearby private universities. I left high school with around 14-18 credit hours (I can’t remember the exact amount). This way I knocked out a whole semester of college. I could’ve taken more, but I decided to take early release from high school and worked 30-40 hours a week as well.
3. Take all the credits you can to stay within your college budget.
At many universities, you pay a flat fee. So whether you take 12 credit hours or 18 credit hours, you are paying nearly the exact same price.
For this reason, I always recommend that a student take as many classes as they can if they are going to a college that charges a flat fee tuition.
If you think you can still earn good grades and do whatever else you do on the side, definitely get full use of the college tuition you are paying for!
4. Apply for scholarships to lower your college costs.
Before you start your semester, you should always look into scholarships, grants, FAFSA, and more. You usually have to turn in any paperwork around spring time for the following semester, so I highly recommend doing this right now if you are going to college in the fall.
Another myth will be busted right now. Many believe that all scholarships are impossible to have or it means you have to win a contest. That is just a myth.
I received around $16,000 a year in scholarships to the private university I attended. That helped pay for a majority of my college tuition. The scholarships were easy for me to get as they were all just because I earned good grades in high school and scored well on tests. I received scholarships to all of the other colleges I applied for as well just for good grades, so I know they can be found as long as you do well in high school!
There are other ways to find scholarships as well. You can receive scholarships from private organizations, companies in your town, and more. Do a simple Google search and I am sure you will find many free websites that list out possible scholarships for you to apply to.
Tip: Many forget that you usually have to turn in a separate financial aid form directly to your college. Don’t forget to do this by the deadline each year!
5. Search for cheaper textbooks to lower your college budget.
Students usually spend anywhere from around $300 to $1,000 on textbooks each semester, depending on the amount of classes they are taking and their major.
For me, many of my classes required more than one book and each book was usually around $200 brand new. This means if I were to buy all of my college textbooks brand new, I probably would have had to spend over $1,000 each semester.
I saved a decent amount of money on college textbooks by renting them and finding them used. Renting them was nice because I just had to pay one fee and didn’t ever have to worry about what to do with the textbook after the class was done, as I only had to return them. There was no worrying about the book being worthless if a new edition came out, which was nice! Buying books used was nice occasionally as well just because sometimes I could make my money back.
I recommend Campus Book Rentals if you are looking for textbook rentals. Their rentals are affordable and they make getting the textbooks you need easy.
6. Skip the high price of living on campus to cut your college budget.
To save more money, I decided to live on my own. I didn’t have the option of living at home after high school and living on campus would have cost me a ton of money.
Instead, I found a very cheap rental house (the house was VERY small and probably could have been considered a tiny home) and was able to somewhat easily commute to work and college from it. I probably saved around $500 a month by living on my own instead of on campus, and I learned a lot by living on my own at a young age as well.
If you can live at home though and want to save money, I highly recommend it if it’s an option for you. You can save thousands of dollars a semester by doing this!
I understand that some are against this because it may impact your “college experience,” but I think most people would be fine not living on campus, especially if it’s not in the budget. You could probably save around $40,000 over the years on your degree by living at home.
How did you cut college costs and control your college budget? How much student loan debt did you have when you graduated?