Learn & Earn: Lower the Cost of College

lower college costs

Once you understand college costs, you will be better equipped to know how you can lower some of those costs.  This can include a wide range of things like living with relatives, cooking your own meals, sharing the cost of rent, and living frugally. One obstacle to paying for college that I see many students face, is their unwillingness to sacrifice, compromise, or lower their standard of living. Instead, they try to maintain the same standard of living that their parents have worked for years to achieve…and it just isn’t going to happen.  You need to make the sacrifices for a few years right now, so that you can live the way you want to in the future.

I learned a few things about lowering college costs when I was a student at BYU, and while my husband was a student at the University of Oregon School of Law.  My budget was really tight, but I was determined to complete college, so I made it work.  Here are some ways I lowered costs:

  • Transportation:  I did not own a car so I did not have to pay for insurance, gas, maintenance, or parking.  Instead, I walked, rode my bike, used public transportation, and carpooled.
  • Food:  I lived in apartments with kitchens and cooked with my roommates.  Eating out was rare and a treat.
  • Housing:  After a year living in a dorm, I moved off-campus to a small, but newly renovated apartment, where I shared a bedroom with one girl and a bathroom with three.  Everything was new and really nice!  We did not have a pool, gym, clubhouse, tanning beds, dishwasher, etc., but we did have access to a washer and dryer and a piano.  As a student, I did have access to gyms, pools, indoor and outdoor tracks, and tennis courts for free.  I also played on intramural flag football, volleyball, and softball teams, also free.
  • Jobs:  I worked on campus part-time during the school year, and full-time in the summer.  Besides an income and job experience, I also had access to a computer and printer, so I didn’t have to buy my own or use the library’s facilities.
  • Entertainment:  Most of my entertainment happened on campus and it was either free or very low-cost.  Dances and movies were my favorite, and I fell in love with foreign movies at International Cinema.  I went to a lot of really creative parties as well.  A few times each winter I scraped enough money together to go skiing.
  • Travel: I even had some money to travel.  Trips to California and St. George were fun and low-cost, and I spent an entire summer living and working at the beach on the East Coast.

That’s what worked for me, but there are many other ways you can lower college costs.  Federal Student Aid lists these suggestions:

  • Set a budget and stick to it!
  • Make sure to research all schools that may meet your academic and financial needs.
  • Ask your school whether it’s possible to “test out of” any classes.
  • Some colleges give credit for life experiences, thereby reducing the number of credits needed for graduation.
  • Most schools charge a set price for a specific number of credits taken in a semester. If academically possible, take the maximum number of credits allowed. This strategy reduces the amount of time needed to graduate.
  • Some schools offer combined degree programs or three-year programs that allow you to take all of the courses needed for graduation in three years, instead of four, thereby eliminating one year’s educational expenses.
  • Colleges and career schools may offer discounts on tuition for a variety of reasons.  Contact the college you plan to attend to see if you qualify for a tuition discount.
  • Reduce housing costs by living with family members, sharing apartments, working as an RA.
  • You can work part-time to pay part of your costs.
  • Lower the cost of textbooks by purchasing used books or rent textbooks (if you won’t need the books once you finish the class).

Review these lists, talk to your parents, and make a plan to lower your own college costs.  You will realize that you CAN pay for college!


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