Reducing the cost of a higher education

7 Ways to Keep College Costs in Check

by Paige Estigarribia

Paying for your child's college education can seem like a daunting financial task. Planning for this expense means not only adjusting your current budget, but also new forms, fees, payments, and deadlines. Is it possible to keep college costs affordable?

To help better understand college costs and affordability, we reached out to Kalman A. Chany, author of Paying for College Without Going Broke. Mr. Chany provided the below tips on making this major life expense a more minor financial burden on both parent and child.

1. Consider Community College First

Community colleges are typically less expensive than four-year schools. After attending a community college for two years, you can transfer to a more expensive school to finish your undergraduate degree. If you do this, your degree will end up being from the pricier school, despite having done some of your coursework at the community college. Just check on your credits so you know which ones will transfer.

2. Don't Wait to Apply for Aid

As you are considering applying for financial aid, be sure to check out the college's financial aid deadlines. Don't wait until you've been accepted at a particular school to apply for financial aid at that school. If you submit your financial aid paperwork after the deadline, you might receive a decreased amount of aid.

Related: 5 Things FAFSA Doesn't Tell You

3. Check the School's Financial Aid Rating

A school's financial aid statistics are on Be sure to review the school's financial aid rating. Often, you can get more aid from schools that offer bigger financial aid packages.

4. Earn College Credits in High School

Students themselves can actually be proactive in lowering their own college tuition bills! Many colleges award college credit for dual enrollment and AP classes taken in high school. When you are finished with the classes in high school, be sure to tell the college about the credits. Even if your school doesn't offer duel enrollment, consider taking CLEP exams to try and qualify for credits with high scores.

5. Check Your Aid Status Frequently

Checking your status regularly ensures that the college has all the documentation that it needs to process your aid application. If a school needs additional forms or documentation, it might update your application status to reflect that information. Stay on top of your application status to ensure that schools have all the information they need.

6. Complete all the Forms

If you are seeking financial aid, be sure to complete all of the forms required. There may be forms for FAFSA, state aid forms, the CSS PROFILE, or individual school-related forms. Make sure you are aware of each school's individual deadline, so that you know when the forms must be completed.

Student loan calculator iconCalculator: Are you taking on too much student loan debt?

7. Consider a Cooperative Education Program

Lastly, have students look into possible cooperative education programs at the prospective school. These college programs allow students to combine their college education with a job, and they typically result in less student loan debt after college and a higher chance of post-graduation employment.

Related: Why You Might Want to Go to Work before You Finish College

College can be a major financial expense. Kalman A. Chany's tips, and his book, are a wonderful resource for affording this education milestone.

Reviewed January 2018

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Paige Estigarribia is a writer for The Dollar Stretcher who enjoys writing about food, frugal living, and money-saving tips. Visit Paige on Google+.

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