17 Ways to Cut College Costs

I know first hand how daunting the cost of college education can be. So, saving every dollar on your college education can mean a lot to your bottom line. Here are some helpful ways for every college student to help cut college costs – no matter if you are gearing towards the criminal justice field, or not.

1.  Most schools charge one price for a specific number of credits taken in a semester. If academically possible, students should take the maximum number of credits allowed. This strategy reduces the amount of time needed to graduate.

2.  Some colleges give credit for life experiences, thereby reducing the number of credits needed for graduation. Students should check with the college for further information. You can also write to Distance Education and Training Council at 1601 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009, or call (202) 234-5100.

3.  A state college or university charges lower fees to state residents. Since public institutions are subsidized by state revenues, their tuition costs are lower than private schools’ costs. The college selection process should include consideration of a state school. Although cost should be a consideration, students should not base their choice of a school only on cost. If online education is what you’re seeking most try finding one that is through a state college or university. Trust me, there are many of them.

4.  Some schools offer combined degree programs or 3-year programs that allow students to take all of the courses needed for graduation in 3 years, instead of 4, thereby eliminating 1 year’s educational expenses. This usually requires a heavier class load, but it’s well worth it.

5.  Some students choose to attend a community college for 1 or 2 years, and then transfer to a 4-year school. Tuition costs are substantially lower at community colleges than at 4-year institutions. I highly recommend this method, especially if you’re not sure what you would like to study; thus not throwing away your money if you can’t decide within the first 2 years of your college education.

6.  Many schools provide lists of housing opportunities that provide free room and board to students in exchange for a certain number of hours of work each week.

7.  Another way to reduce college costs is to take fewer credits by getting rid of them. How? – you might ask. Students should find out their school’s policy regarding the Advanced Placement Program (APP), the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), and the Provenience Examination Program (PEP). Under these programs, a student takes an examination in a particular subject and, if the score is high enough, receives college credit. I have done this for a couple courses and it saved me several thousand dollars.

More Ways to Cut Your College Costs8.  In many cases, summer college courses can be taken at a less expensive school and the credits transferred to the full-time school. Students should check with their academic adviser, however, to be certain that any course taken at another school is transferable. When I lived in Chicago, many university students did this to speed up their graduation, but they were saving thousands at the same time.

9.  When transferring credits from one school to another make sure to fight for every last drop of the transfer credit. If you have taken the same or similar classes at one school, why should you be repeating it again and waste your dollars. I had to fight hard for the transfer of two 4 credit classes. I made phone calls, wrote emails, and even sent one letter via snail mail. In the end, those courses were successfully transferred saving me $752 per credit, or over $6,000 for all eight. It wasn’t hard and it was well worth it.

10.  Most colleges and universities offer their employees a tuition reduction plan or tuition waiver program. Under this type of arrangement, the school employee and family members can attend classes at a reduced cost or no cost at all. This type of program is based not upon financial need, but rather on college employment. I personally know of several police officers that have taken advantage of this perk and worked security part-time at a college or university they attended. One was able to offset all his expenses with a 60% tuition reduction and the help of Federal Financial Aid. The point is that university employees have a chance of eliminating the cost of their college education up to 100%.

11.  Some colleges and universities offer special discounts if more than one child from the same family is enrolled – make sure to ask. Did you have a brother or sister attend the university in the past? If so, you should also ask for this perk.

12.  Some schools offer reduced tuition rates to families if the major wage earner is unemployed. If available make sure to ask for details. Once employment is resumed the tuition reduction may be terminated.

13.  Some private colleges will match the tuition of out-of-state institutions for certain students. Check with your college to determine whether you qualify for this option.

14.  Some companies offer tuition assistance to the children of employees. Parents and students should check with the personnel office for information.

15.  Some companies offer tuition assistance to YOU. Find out if your company has tuition reimbursement programs. Military personnel should take advantage of the GI Bill.

16.  Buy used text books or get e-books which can often save you a good buck and eliminate shipping costs.

17.  Use open source software, like the Open Office Suite that nicely replaces Microsoft’s Office Suite and is absolutely free.

There are certainly more ways to cut your college costs, but these seemed pretty right up there. If you would like to add any I may have missed, please do so below. I’m sure everyone will appreciate any info that will save them mulah.

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Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

5 comments… add one
  • david

    You could also consider saving money by evaluating whether or not you really need a degree. There are certificate programs available that can offer training at a fraction of the cost while still getting you the skills to break into the field and start making money. (like this accredited school for instance http://www.uscareerinstitute.edu/crimjust.asp )

    It’s all about the return so if it takes too much money to earn a degree, you may never get the full value back in earnings.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I partially agree, but cannot fully endorse the idea. A certificate in criminal justice or a related field may get you the skills to break into the field and start making money, but carries very little weight with the rising demands of education. A lot of larger departments, as well as majority of the federal agencies require at least a bachelor degree, or education and work experience (rarely seen).

      In many police departments you don’t need a degree or a certificate to start, but that makes some police officers complacent and resentful, especially when a “hot shot” with a bachelor degree is trying to move up the ladder – “I’ve been here for so many years, and this guy is already making _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (fill in the position or salary of your choice).”

      I feel that college certificates carry value once you are in for a number of years and would like to move up or transfer to a special team. Most police departments like the idea of academic development and a certificate can give you a bargaining chip.

      About your idea on the Return on Investment (ROI) I truly disagree. If you employ some of the methods in this post, including attending your state university or a community college to offset some costs, you will have an ROI much sooner than an average high school grad who’s most likely living paycheck to paycheck. Many state colleges and universities offer courses online, so there’s really no excuse not to attend. Your application for FAFSA (financial aid) may even cover the ENTIRE cost of your education for, without the need of taking out ANY loans whatsoever. Moreover, those working in public service jobs can have their Federal Student Loans eliminated after only 10 years of payments. So even if you did go to a more expensive school you are still covered.

      In the end, it’s the perception of what an education can get you that is very important. If you know you would like to work in the Criminal Justice field there is no going about the fact that it’s one of the most growing fields in the U.S. and other parts of the World. An educated employee has much better chances of getting the position and salary they want. If money is one’s motive, than public service should not even be considered as a career path.

  • david

    You make valid points. . . and I agree with you on the barganing chip piece. Also the federal govt. piece since they will require advanced education to move up. However I still take issue with ROI. While it is true that a person with a degree will make much more over a career you unfairly (in my view) compared a person with only a H.S. diploma to a person with a degree and completely ignored the fact that someone could have a career certificate and earn more than someone with just a H.S. diploma.

    There are a number of federal programs that can reduce tution costs but not everyone has the luxury of time to complete a degree. For that matter not everyone wants a degree. I think your final thought is the best food for thought for people to consider.

    ” An educated employee has much better chances of getting the position and salary they want”

    Agreed! I would submit that a certificate is still worth considering since it is still a form of formal education and can be a great way to test the waters before committing to a 2 or 4 year program.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Very good points, David.

  • Kayn

    I want to go into studying criminal justice, I came across this blog, which is great. I was having problems knowing how to (or i guess i should say, the right way) to get financing for my education. I found the tip about the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) really cool, and I will be checking into that.

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