For you juniors starting to think about your next
step, you’re realizing that your college search might boil
down to one thing: money. But if the sticker price on your dream
school isn’t realistic, don’t worry. The advertised
tuition figure isn’t always the bottom line. Hidden programs
could wind up saving you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Here are four sneaky ways to save.
1. Work colleges
For Rachel Davis, a senior at the College of the Ozarks (Point
Lookout, Mo.), balancing classes and a part-time job isn’t
always easy, but it does pay the bills.
College of the Ozarks is one of six work colleges
in the United States. And Davis, like every other student, is
required to work a minimum of 15 hours per week during the school
year and one 40-hour week during school breaks.
“I am at class or work nonstop,” Davis
says. “But you learn to juggle things that you have to do
in the real world.”
In exchange for students’ labor, College
of the Ozark’s work program pays students $2,884 toward
the college’s $14,900 price tag. With the work program,
grants and scholarships, Davis will graduate debt-free and with
a résumé packed with work experience.
Not all work colleges guarantee full rides. However,
they all do knock a significant chunk off your overall tuition
bill. “[In traditional schools], financial aid only goes
to 50 to 60 percent of all students because you have to qualify,
and many students don’t,” says Erik Hansen, dean of
work at Sterling College, a work college in Craftsbury Common,
Vt., that offers its students $1,800 to $4,000 per year for their
labor. “We offer financial aid to all of our students…100
percent participate, 100 percent receive aid.”
Cash in: For more information on work colleges
around the country, check out the Work Colleges Consortium at
2. Graduation guaranteed
“In nearly every college in the country, it’s hard
to get the classes you need because they fill up,” says
K. Wade Oliver, assistant director of university advising and
transfer services at Utah State University. “And it’s
usually the freshmen or sophomores that don’t get the classes
Every year, students get stuck paying for an extra
semester or even year of college because they couldn’t get
the classes they needed to graduate on time.
Schools like Utah State University (Salt Lake
City), Western Illinois University (Macomb, Ill.) and the University
of Colorado, Boulder are set on changing that. These schools,
as well as several others across the U.S., have adopted graduation-guarantee
programs that ensure that you’ll get registered for the
classes you need.
Though programs differ from campus to campus,
the concept is that first-year students work with academic advisers
to plan out their four years of classes. If you maintain your
end of the bargain (by taking a normal courseload every semester
and passing all classes), then the school will guarantee that
you will graduate within four years—or the extra tuition
expenses are on the house.
Oliver warns that this program “is not for
every student.” Graduation guarantee programs in most schools
only apply to incoming freshmen with declared majors and may not
accommodate students who study abroad or do an internship during
the school year.
Cash in: Call your prospective school’s
financial aid or admissions office to find out if there’s
a graduation-guarantee option available.
3. Fifth year free
“Buy four, get one free” is the mantra at Clark University
in Worcester, Mass. Clark University rewards undergrads who maintain
a 3.25 GPA with one full year of graduate school at no cost.
Nick Malizia, a fifth-year student in the geographic
information science program, wouldn’t even be in graduate
school if it weren’t for the fifth year financial aid program.
“The financial burden of [graduate school]
is something that I wouldn’t want to take on,” Malizia
Malizia is grateful not only for the $30,000 he
saved on tuition, but also for entering the business world armed
with a higher degree and a little more preparation to face a vicious
job market. “I feel more qualified because I have this degree,”
he says. “It’s definitely going to help me get a job
when I get out.”
Cash in: To get the inside scoop on the fifth
year free programs search your college’s Web site or ask
4. Tuition locks
According to Finaid.org, college tuition increases an average
of eight percent every year. That means a school that charges
$10,000 for your freshman year will probably wind up charging
more than $12,500 when you’re a senior.
To combat the inflation monster, schools such
as Huntingdon College (Montgomery, Ala.), Hiram College (Hiram,
Ohio) and Central Michigan University (Mount Pleasant, Mich.)
offer plans that lock in your tuition rate during your freshman
year so you’ll never pay a penny in inflation.
“The benefits to levelized tuition include
increased affordability, the ability to plan a college budget
and an incentive to graduate on time, as many of these plans only
guarantee the flat tuition rate for four years,” says Brandon
Rogers, author of the book Ten Things You Gotta Know About Paying
for College. “If you know which major you wish to pursue
and you have no intention of being a fifth or sixth year undergrad,
these plans are an ideal way of leveling the paying field.”
If you do opt for a tuition lock program, make
sure to read the fine print. Levelized programs may only apply
to certain majors or may require you to maintain a minimum GPA,
declare your major early or enroll in a degree program no later
than your freshman year.
Cash in: To find out if your prospective college
offers a tuition lock program, contact the school’s financial
This article is provided by The
Next Step Magazine (nextSTEPmag.com), a publication that helps
students prepare for life after high school.