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10 Easy Ways to Lower College Costs

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Cutting College Costs

When you think about college costs, you automatically think about tuition, room, and board. But once you’ve paid the college for these expenses, there are countless other expenses that can add up and increase your college costs. Want to save money and lower your costs? Try these 10 tips:

1. Get the smaller meal plan

Colleges automatically include a three-meal plan when figuring your college costs. But the reality is that most students rarely eat three meals a day. You can save a good amount of money by decreasing the plan to two meals. When my daughter went to college we found this out the hard way. We shelled out the full price her freshman year and she rarely ate breakfast and often skipped lunch. Why pay for something your student is never going to use?

And no, you don’t have to live on ramen noodles to get by. (Although they are delicious.)

2. Rent or buy used textbooks

Did you know that purchasing new textbooks each semester can easily add $1,000 to your college costs? Instead, purchase them used or even consider renting. There are also eBooks available to download. For an added bonus, when your student finishes using book, sell it back to recoup some of the cost. If you don’t know where to look, here are 10 textbook apps you can use to decrease the money you spend on textbooks.

3. Share a dorm room

Room and board expenses, added to tuition, can be costly. If given the option, have multiple roommates. Many colleges offer four-person suites, especially to upperclassmen. It makes sense to take advantage of this price break if it’s available. My daughter roomed with four other students her junior and senior year of college and the cost savings was significant.

[Check out the Guide to Preparing for College for more helpful tips.]

4. Take advantage of all the free campus options

The average on-campus student spends $1,989 per year on “personal expenses,” according to the College Board, much of which is entertainment available free from the college. Students can even take advantage of free food during on-campus events. There is an exorbitant amount of free entertainment: movies, plays, intramural sports, sporting events, and events sponsored by campus organizations. And the campus gym is usually less expensive than one in town.

5. Use your student discount

All students are issued a student ID upon arriving on campus. Students can receive discounts at museums, on movie tickets, at restaurants, and even on computer costs. These discounts can also lower college costs substantially when purchasing transportation to and from college. Amtrack and Greyhound offer student discounts and some companies offer student discounted flights.

6. Use student health services

Colleges have student health centers on campus that provide students with all the basic forms of medical care. Unless it’s a medical emergency, these clinics are sufficient and can save you money if your college student needs, say, a prescription for a sore throat.

In addition to physical medical care, colleges also offer free counseling.

7. Leave your car at home

There’s no need to take a car to campus. Remove the cost for parking permits, mechanical upkeep, gasoline, and tolls from your total college costs and it makes sense to leave the car at home. Most colleges discourage freshmen from bringing cars to campus. They offer free transportation to stores and other off-campus necessities.

8. Work as a Resident Advisor

You can’t do this freshman year, but every other year you can volunteer as a Resident Advisor. RAs frequently get free or reduced room and board in exchange for their duties in the dorm. If you consider that the average full-time student attending an in-state public university pays $8,535 per year in room and board, according to the College Board statistics, this should be a no-brainer. Working as an RA can be one of the most lucrative ways for your student to lower college costs.

[Start talking money with your parents/teens NOW with these tips.]

9. Work part time

Whether your student qualifies for work study or takes a part-time job close to campus, that money can come in handy for college expenses. Those paychecks can offset many of the added college costs: textbooks, lab fees, laundry, and other campus expenses.

10. Share with your roommate

This may seem logical, but it bears suggesting: Share with your roommate. Split the cost of textbooks, dorm furniture like microwaves and mini-refrigerators, and so much more.

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