My Story: Funding College

contributed by Terry

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My oldest son is about to turn 18. He is a senior in high school this year and he is starting to think seriously about going to college. I'm sad to say that while he was growing up, my wife and I were unable to contribute any cash at all to a college fund.

That's not to say he isn't going to go to college, or that he can't afford to go. No, we are not going to mortgage the house or sink him deep into debt with student loans. There are other ways for him to rack up college credit and eventually earn his degree.

This year, my son has signed up for AP or "advanced placement" courses. Once he finishes these courses and successfully passes his exams, he will earn high school and college credit.

He is also looking not at four-year state universities, but two-year community colleges. High school seniors too-often overlook two-year colleges as a serious education option. My son can earn the first two years worth of college credit, about 60 credit hours, at our local community college for about $45 per credit hour. The four-year colleges in the area charge about $150 per credit hour for the same type of courses that he would be taking during his first two years of school. Tuition savings: about $6,300.

He will also be testing out of the majority of his general education credits, about 30 credit hours, by taking the CLEP subject exams. Each exam costs about $80 each, so he stands to earn 30 credit hours for about $400. Total cost for tuition for the first two years of school: $1,750.

At this point, he will be able to transfer his credits to one of the state universities for the remaining 60 credit hours and receive a degree from a "name" university. Total tuition cost for the remaining credit hours: $9,000. Total tuition cost for a bachelor degree: $10,750.

For the past year, he and I have been contributing money to a state 529 account. This account allows students and parents to save some money for college, earn interest and then withdraw it and use it for college expenses. He will likely use this money for text books.

My son can further reduce his debt load of going to college by applying for grants and scholarships, but the bottom line is this is definitely doable. Even if he does take out a student loan for $10,750, the loan repayment should not exceed $200 a month if repaid over five years. A college education need not be out of reach for any family. There are always funding and study alternatives to help students reach their dream of receiving a college education.

Terry is a veteran news reporter who worked in radio and television for more than 20 years. He currently works in marketing and public relations and writes a blog on frugal living.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

Take the Next Step:

  • Start looking at Advanced Placement course opportunities for your high school student. It's a smart and free way to earn college credit.
  • Compare tuition costs in potential schools. Within driving distance from my home, there are two-year and four-year university extensions with a tuition difference of approximately $100 per credit hour. It pays to do your homework.
  • Read all things "college" in The Dollar Stretcher library.

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