Get through college without drowning in debt

Between paying for tuition and having enough gas money to visit home once in a while, college is a definitely a struggle.

But it just got more difficult.

The state of Florida is allowing its 11 public universities to hike a 15 percent increase on tuition this fall. Across the nation, the University of California is proposing a 10 percent increase in addition to their already implemented 8 percent increase. From the west coast to the east coast, schools everywhere are increasing the cost of a college education.

With the escalating cost of college, more and more students are forced to take out loans. As of December 2010, student debt has accumulated to $530 billion.

There are copious different ways to make money last longer during those college years. Consider the different options available when making school-related purchases and decisions.

Community college

More and more high school graduates are attending community colleges for the first two years of college before transferring over to a university. One credit hour at South Florida Community College is $99.55 for residents and $375.58 for out-of-state students. For a public university near the same area, Florida Atlantic University for example, it costs $177.65 per credit hour for in-state and $657.17 for out-of-state students. Undergraduates are allowed to transfer to a university after 60 credits from a community college and finish their degree at a university (typically 60-64 more credits). In the end, the degree is certified from the university.

Off-campus vs. On-campus

Living on-campus is great for people who wish to walk to class, but it isn’t so great for those who want their privacy and independence. For a two-person dorm at the University of Florida, the average cost is $2,378 per semester. This means sharing a room with one other roommate, a communal restroom with 25 people and a kitchen with 50. Renting an off-campus apartment with two other people is about $1,800 a semester, and each roommate would have their own rooms and bathrooms; only the living room and kitchen would be shared.


Textbooks cost from $500-$1,000 per semester for a full-time student (12-15 credits). The average cost of one textbook is $61.66. The majority of students will purchase used textbooks from their school’s bookstore, which of course, beats paying the new price; however, not enough students take the time to check online for cheaper books., a division of eBay, can save students as much as 98 percent on their books. Amazon typically offers free shipping to students and has a buy-back policy. Another secret to saving on textbooks is to choose the right professor. Multiple professors teach the same course, especially with general education classes. Each educator chooses which books, if any, to implement. Choose the professor who requires the cheapest or least amount of books for the class.

Meals plans

Are they really worth it? For freshmen, eating in on-campus dining halls is a great way to meet new friends, but many don’t make the most of their money. There are different options for meal plans including an unlimited pass to the dining hall, a set amount of meals per week or simply a card with a declining balance. For those who constantly like to eat, an unlimited pass can save money because dining halls tend to be like an all-you-can-eat buffet; however, students often get tired of seeing a repetition of foods throughout the semester. The best way to save money and not starve is to purchase groceries. Even with a set amount of meals on a meal plan, it’s still eating out, which costs more than cooking. By purchasing food items at a good price, students can make food for themselves and even try out a few new recipes.

Part-time jobs

Acing courses should be a priority for all students, but having a part-time job on the weekends can save them from taking out a loan. Every institution has jobs available, and many of them are for the students who attend. Getting a job on-campus would be the most convenient so students can easily get to class and work. More than two-thirds of undergraduates work while attending school. If money is becoming a dire part of college, perhaps take online classes or enroll in fewer classes. It’s crucial to find the right balance between school and work.

The college years are a great part life – and after graduation, no one should be thousands of dollars in debt (the 2011 graduates average $22,900 in debt). It can take 10 or more years to pay back interest and fees from student loans. Make smart financial decisions during school to avoid future hassles.