It's a reality of modern life that many students no longer finish their degrees in the traditional 4-year window. While this may mean a more thorough or flexible college schedule for students, it also means a significantly larger debt load upon graduation. Because most students and their parents are not able to save enough beforehand to completely pay for college, you will need to seek other avenues to help cover the cost of higher education. Making a solid plan for your approach to education can help.
The cost-per-credit-hour increases at most schools happen yearly, so taking as many courses as soon as possible is one way to save money. The idea here is to chip away at courses necessary to earn your college degree as soon as you can, so it may be more cost-effective to fill up your schedule with required classes instead of working full- or part-time. This may also give you a more favorable FAFSA, since the student's income and savings are weighted more heavily than the parents'.
Below, we'll talk about some ways to avoid paying for extra semesters on top of your degree plan.
Take Summer School in High School
Taking summer classes while still in high school is a great way to help avoid the need for extra classes in college. Most degree plans have specific requirements for Math, Science, English and major-specific classes. While you usually can't knock out the latter, you can ensure you're up to speed on core requirements by making up any classes you're behind in during the summer. This can also help you graduate early so you can go to a community college or a 4-year college sooner (and save on yearly tuition increases), and can help with dual enrollment. Additionally, you can knock out lower-level subject requirements during summer so you can fit more AP® courses into your time in high school, then take AP® exams for college credit.
Graduate High School Early
When you or your child decides to graduate high school early, you have quite a few options. The student can work before entering school to save up money to afford school. As a student entering college, you can try to test out of college course requirements by proving you already know the material, and save money that way too. You could also enter college a semester early and save on yearly tuition increases that way too.
This is becoming a more popular way for students to take college courses (and earn credit) while in high school. By signing up for college courses at a nearby community college or university, you can earn credit toward your college degree before you even graduate high school.
Summer School in College
Summer school isn't just for high school. You can take it before Freshman year, before Sophomore year, and even before Junior year of college as well, either at a community college or 4-year institution. Just be sure courses transfer, and if you're going to be too far from home to commute, check if you can live on-campus during summer.
While college can be expensive, and unfortunately it isn't usually possible to save as much as you need beforehand, there are many options that help defray costs and shorten the time in school. When planning how you'll pay for school or for your child's college education, don't forget to use the above tips wherever possible.