14 Tips for Cutting College Costs and Increasing Your Financial Aid

Over the past decade, public school tuition has risen at an annual rate of 5.6%. Getting a college education is getting more expensive and financial aid offices are giving out less grants, scholarships and loans. The combination of these two happenings can hurt your wallet if you aren’t frugal and smart. I have put together helpful tips for cutting costs and increasing financial aid.
1. First and foremost, make sure you’ve completely filled out your FASFA papers on-time online at  FAFSA.ED.GOV. You can’t get awarded any financial aid without this application.
2. Review your financial aid package with an employee in your college’s financial aid office. Under a “professional judgment review,” financial-aid officers can make adjustments to the aid package if there have been significant changes to the family’s income or assets.
3. Reduce the cost of college by living at home. Of course this tip only applies to those college students attending school near their hometown. If at all possible, commuting from home is another way for students to reduce college costs. A student living at home can save as much as $6,000 per year.
4. Enroll in a cooperative education program that allows students to alternate between working full time and studying full time. This type of employment program is not based upon financial need and students can earn as much as $7,000 per year.
5. 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.
6. Find out your 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 can take an examination in a particular subject and, if the score is high enough, receive a college credit for that course, allowing them to save themselves a lot of time and money.
7. Take the maximum number of credits allowed. This strategy will reduce the amount of time needed to graduate, allowing living costs to be reduced significantly. Be wise though. Remember, you don’t want to take on more work than you can handle.
8. Get a job on campus of your university or college. Most schools have placement offices that help students find employment, and all schools have personnel offices that hire students to work on campus. These employment programs are not based upon financial need, and working is an excellent way to meet college expenses. If you end up securing an on-campus job, most colleges offer their employees a tuition reduction plan or tuition waver program – Make sure to check into this and see if it applies to you!
9. Join the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and receive scholarships that will cover all tuition fees, textbooks, as well as a monthly living stipend. Students should thoroughly research the requirements and tasks that will be required once in the program.
10. If you join or are a member of the U.S. Military, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, you can receive a scholarship to attend college. The scholarships are competitive and based on a number of factors so research each branch of the military and the benefits/requirements before moving forward.
11. If your primary care giver is unemployed during your college years, inform your college or university. Some schools offer reduced tuition rates to families if the major wage earner is unemployed.
12. Buy used books in college. Friends that sell books on Facebook, eBay, Craig’s List, bookrenter.com, Amazon, buyusedcollegebooks.net, and much more are great resources to buying college books for half or a third of the regular price.
13. Attend a public university or college and this will minimize your college expenses significantly.
14. Attend an in-state school. In-state tuition is typically a third of the cost compared to out-of-state tuition, so when shopping around for colleges, it would be a good idea to consider schools in the state where you live.