How to Save Money on College Tuition – Tips

College tuition has become quite a big expense and finding ways to reduce this is essential to making college affordable.

Focusing on key tips will help you get in touch with the right resources to potentially save you.

14 useful tips to focus on include:

Stay In-State

Prepay Tuition

Review Financial Aid Forms for Any Mistakes

Consider Attending Junior College

Apply for Scholarships and Grants

Try Work-Study Programs

Take AP Placement Exams

Consider European Colleges

Apply for Tuition Waivers

Don’t Miss Any Important College Deadlines

Use Career Counselors

Earn Bachelor’s Degree in 3 Years

Go to Affordable and Valuable College

Attend Library College Prep Workshop

Utilize these tips in order to make college expenses significantly less taxing.

Finding a way to reduce the college tuition price can make college a much more enjoyable experience for the students as well as anyone else who is helping pay for the college expenses.

Through this post I will provide helpful information and tips for how to save money on college tuition and how significant those savings can be.

Stay In-State

Staying in-state will save you a lot every year because the out-of-state expense for tuition is often 2.5 times as high as the in-state tuition.

Depending on your state there could be many options for a reciprocity program where you could be eligible to pay an in-state tuition price even if you are coming from another state.

There are often reciprocity programs available for certain regions in the U.S., such as the following:

  • Western
  • Southern
  • MidWestern
  • New England
  • District of Columbia

These are some major reciprocity programs available but certainly not the only ones.

Review your state to see what your college options are and make a list of which colleges you would like to go to.

Going to a school in-state, or a school that will charge in-state tuition, could cut down on the tuition cost as well as other college expenses.

Even putting some of these in-state schools on your safety school list could give you some extra affordable options.

Prepay Tuition

There are some schools that offer the option for someone to pay the same tuition price for their 4th year compared to their 1st year of college.

You would have to pay more to use this option but it could end up saving you a lot due to how much college tuition continues to increase.

There has been about a 6% increase in college tuition in the U.S. every year and that is only likely to continue to increase. You could save thousands per year if your school ends up having this option to prepay tuition.

It will obviously cost more upfront but if the money has been saved up for this expense and you have already tried all the other tips on this post, then prepaying the tuition could make sense.

Review Financial Aid Forms for Any Mistakes

Reviewing financial aid forms for mistakes could prove key for getting more financial support. Take the time to make extra copies, go through the documents slowly and review each finished copy so that you don’t miss out on money.

Financial aid forms and rules change frequently so stay up to date with any changes by reviewing each year’s financial aid document in detail.

Certain college saving specific programs, such as your state’s 529 plan, should be reported as an asset for the parents instead of the students, which is opposite from what it used to be.

A 529 is an account that can be used for putting money away for college expenses that can be protected from being taxed as much as a normal savings or checking account.

If you are interested in saving money on another important college expense, read How to Save Money on College Books – 8 Tips.

Libraries with Resources
Consider Attending Junior College


Consider Attending Junior College

Consider attending a junior college because the cost can be quite less for tuition as well as most expenses.

There are certain junior colleges that are starting to offer the first year of college expenses to be free.

In these states there is no tuition expense for the first year of college including:

  • California
  • Tennessee
  • Maryland
  • Rhode Island
  • New York
  • Oregon

Each of these states have slightly different requirements for who can qualify for the first year being paid for completely.

But the requirements are relatively easy to achieve because this whole idea is to get more people into college, especially ones who would not normally have the means to easily do this.

Benefits of attending a junior college over a four-year college include:

  1. Less Expensive
  2. Smaller Classrooms
  3. Flexible Schedules
  4. Opportunity to Explore More Interests
  5. Easier to Transfer to Four-Year School instead of Applying as A Freshman

I attended junior college to get my associate’s degree before transferring to get my bachelor’s degree from another school.

It was one of the best decisions i have made primarily because it reduced the expense considerably and made college feel much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Especially if you don’t know what your major is going to be, then going to a junior college could make college tuition much more manageable and give you more time to learn more and experience more.

A couple extra years immersed in the college environment could be critical for you to find out what you really want to do.

The smaller classrooms were great for getting more one on one time with professors and be able to ask more questions.

If you are hoping to eventually attend a hard to get into four-year college, then going to junior college could make it easier to transfer into that difficult four-year college.

Transfer students have already been in the college environment so they are more likely to be ready for the course load at a four-year college.

The requirements for transfer students applying to a four-year college are significantly easier than the high school requirements.

The reason for this is that the transfer students are achieving those grades in a college environment which is usually harder than a high school one

Transferring from junior college to a four year college was a much simpler process than going from high school straight for a four year college.

You also have more flexibility with when you can take classes and there is likely to be more room in classes too because there is not as many people trying to get into certain classes.

Many junior colleges offer dorms and you can still get many of the same benefits that any college student can get while paying much less.

Going to junior college was the perfect step for me because I could explore different classes and interests but still take the general elective classes that most underclassmen still have to take.

1,000 dollars
Apply for Scholarships and Grants for Some Money

Apply for Scholarships and Grants

Applying for scholarships and grants could be a big way to cut down on the college tuition and other college expenses.

Research the school you are interested in applying to for any potential scholarships which are usually separated into need-based or merit-based.

Review the following schools and scholarships including:

  • All Schools on Your List
  • Private Schools
  • Community Programs in Your Area
  • High School Scholarships
  • National Scholarships

A need-based scholarship is for students who do not have enough money to cover the cost of college expenses and are in need of another source of money to cover the difference.

A merit-based scholarship is based more on test scores, GPA and other extra circular activities that separate that individual from other students.

All schools usually have specific scholarships and grants for incoming students that you can apply for.

Review each school’s financial aid office, talk to a college career counselor at that school and search the website to get information about what potential scholarships are available.

If you are interested in going to any private schools, then there could be more potential for financial aid through scholarships and grants.

Private schools usually have more money than public schools that can be granted to students who need it.

After reviewing the schools you are interested in and the private schools, take the time to review your community for certain programs.

Your local community could have potential scholarships that you can apply for usually by submitting an essay or some other document.

These community programs as well as any high school specific programs can be quite substantial if you qualify for them. I was able to get a high school and a community scholarship that helped cover some tuition which was a great relief.

These scholarships were very helpful for taking some financial pressures off of me. Do some research into your area about what options are available and check in with your high school about any options for saving on college tuition.

For any scholarships you should not have to pay any money to apply for them so be aware of any that require you to pay.

To check out a few of the more popular national scholarships search here.

There are tons of potential scholarships and grants out there and doing some key research can tell you about ones that make sense for you to apply to.

Try Work-Study Programs

See if you qualify for a work-study program at your school and if you do, then you could work a job where the money you earn goes directly towards paying your tuition and other college expenses.

Work-study programs are often available to students who are in financial needs.

The following are some facts for work-study programs:

  1. Available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students.
  2. Available to full time or part-time students.
  3. Only schools in the Federal Work-Study Program will be able to give out work-study programs.

Work-study programs can offer part-time work while you are in school and often times will be straight forward jobs. If you qualify for these jobs, then you can think of those hours that you work in this program as directly paying for college tuition.

Work-study program often fill up fast because there are only so many jobs available which makes it very important to apply for these as soon as you can.

You can continue to apply for these work-study programs throughout your college career.

The pay is usually federal minimum wage but could be more if you are doing more skilled positions. Always check with the financial aid office at your school to see whether your school offers work-study programs.

Students Studying
Take AP Placement Exams

Take AP Placement Exams

Taking AP(Advanced Placement) classes and taking the placement exams in high school can allow you to not have to take certain classes in college which will save you some money.

AP exams are going to be challenging and to pass them you need to apply yourself a lot to get a passing score, which is usually a 3 or higher.

It is important to note that some schools will only accept a score of 4 or even 5 on the AP exam.

One positive result of taking an AP class and then the placement exam in high school, and doing well in them, is that it will prepare you for the college workload much more.

Taking and passing specific AP exams, potentially ones that you have studied for, or are naturally knowledgeable about, could be great to take.

Consider European Colleges

Consider European Colleges

Have you ever wanted to travel to another country and still be credited with college credit?

If yes, then consider going to a European school where there is no or significantly less tuition, especially compared to U.S. schools.

Going to a school in European could give you tons of worldly experience as well as give you some credit for college.

Applying earlier is definitely a good idea for out of the country programs because they will be competitive to get.

Do some research into a country you have wanted to visit and consider going there for one semester to get a potentially great experience.

Even when you calculate housing, travel and miscellaneous expenses the price to go to a school in Europe could be a great money saving deal and a fun experience to learn while in another country.

Apply for Tuition Waivers

Applying for a tuition waiver is when you don’t have to pay for college or it is greatly reduced.

There are certain workers and others who qualify for these tuition waivers whether they are in civil service or another specific job.

If You Have a Parent who is a Firefighter, then you could Get a Tuition Waiver

The categories where tuition waivers are given is to the following people:

  • Veterans
  • Teachers
  • Students with Disabilities
  • Students who have parents in Civil Service

If you are a veteran returning from service, you could receive 50% to 100% of tuition covered. Some schools can even give tuition waivers to spouse’s of a veteran or children of a veteran.

It is worth checking with your school whether you could qualify for a tuition waiver if you are returning from military service or have a veteran in your immediate family.

Working for your school could grant you a full tuition waiver at a reduced price. If you can find a job on campus, then you could be able to get a partial tuition waiver. If you have a parent or spouse working at your school, then you could be eligible for a waiver.

You can also qualify for a waiver if you have a disability or if you were part of the foster care system growing up.

The requirements can be different for each school but it is important to see whether you qualify if you were in the foster care system or have a disability.

If you have parents or spouses who work in civil service, such as a police officer, firefighter or teacher, then you could qualify for a tuition waiver. Applying for tuition waivers can land you with a significant financial aid.

Put in some research for the schools that you are interested in to see what they offer for tuition waivers to see if you could qualify.

Don’t Miss Any Important College Deadlines

Don’t miss out on any important college deadlines by putting these deadlines in multiple places where you know you won’t miss them.

If you miss certain deadlines, such as submitting your FASFA late, then you risk getting less or no financial aid.

It is important to try to be prepared by completing your documents and submitting everything early so that you are less likely to fall behind and miss something.

Especially when applying to grants, scholarships, tuition waivers and most of the tips listed here, applying earlier is going to give you a better chance at getting accepted and have more options for financial assistance.

Use Career Counselor

Using a career counselor in high school or in college is going to give you all kinds of key information about what you need to be doing and when you should be doing it.

Talking to a career counselor was very helpful when I was in high school, then in junior college and then in my four-year school because they knew very useful information about everything to do with college and making it affordable.

Whether you are just starting to think about college, about to go to college or already in college, meeting with a career counselor is going to give you helpful information.

Once in college, a career counselor will help you stay on track to graduate when you want to.

You don’t want to be in the situation where you end up paying more in college tuition because you had to come back for one more semester to take a single class.

A career counselor is usually happy to help get you the best information to get you graduated on time. They will keep you doing all the little things to get into the right classes at the right time so that you stay on course for graduating.

Degree in Hand
Earn Bachelor’s Degree in 3 Years

Earn Bachelor’s Degree in 3 Years

Earning a 4 year degree in 3 years is possible and can save you tons of money. To graduate in 3 years you will likely need to ask for permission to take more than 19 units per semester for at least one or more semesters.

Each college is a little different about how many units you can take before you need to ask for permission to take more.

Certain colleges offer a specific 3 year program to graduate in 3 years. This will require an extra level of focus for your academics but I have had friends accomplish this.

The biggest challenge here is that you will have to be particularly on top of your studies and be prepared to have this be a huge part of your life.

If you are a really good student and are willing to really push yourself, then you could graduate in this accelerated way.

Go to Affordable and Valuable College

There are schools that have particularly low tuition while still being schools with valuable educational programs. Here is a great list of schools that have lower tuition costs.

If you visit this list, you can see that there are many colleges across the U.S. that offer affordable tuition prices.

There are many universities that not only offer less expensive tuition but have options for financial aid as well. Research around and you could be surprised at how affordable some colleges are compared to the normal prices.

Attend Library College Prep Workshops

Attending library college prep workshops can be very beneficial because you can learn about the latest ways to prepare and save for college.

You can check out events for a library by going to their website. Do this will show you when the events are happening and the important details about each events.

These workshops are usually free and can be attended by anyone. The idea behind these workshops and events happening is to educate people about the  application process and how to prepare for college.

The more information you gather the more prepared you will be for reducing the college tuition expense as well as being prepared for all of the important college expenses.

Make College More Affordable

College can be quite expensive but if you follow all the tips listed here, then you should be able to make it much more affordable.

College can be an important time of growing and learning that can give you key experience in a variety of subjects.

Finding ways to get to college and make it less financially challenging could make the whole experience that much better.

Do some research and apply the tips here that make the most sense and you should be able to track down some financial aid in one form or another.

If you are interested in saving more money and building an effective budget, read How to Budget Your Money Better.

I hope that you liked this post and learned some valuable tips for how to save money on college tuition.

If you have any questions, please leave them below and I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

14 Replies to “How to Save Money on College Tuition – Tips”

  1. One of my favourite subjects is on how to save money since it has been my weakness since childhood. Whenever I would have money in my hand, I never fell short of ideas on how to spend it.
    I find your tips on saving money on college tuition very clear and practical and anyone that reads them finds a tip or more that they can rely on.
    I personally find tip 11 fresh to me. I had never considered finding a carrier counsellor so important, but it’s on this page that I have learnt of its importance and relevance.
    I look checking your website for new money-saving tips. Thank you for this post.

  2. Hi Jesse

    I’d like to say thanks for writing such a great post, I’ve been wanting to go back to college for some time to learn some new skills but never had the money, but looks like if I use these tips it’ll help me a lot.


  3. Wow, it’s crazy how you guys have to pay for college. I am from Germany and education there is free, at least when I went to University it was. Thank you for bringing all this to my attention, I now live in Canada and I hear how people have to pay for their education, I believe it is less though.
    It doesn’t make it easy for so many people and I hope your post gets read by thousands more and they can prepare themselves on how to save money for college.
    Some great ideas, thanks.

    1. You are welcome!
      The lower cost for college and continuing education is one of the many benefits of Germany and most of Europe. The college expense is either nothing or very little in Europe versus the very expensive U.S. college system.
      I am happy that you liked the information in this post!

  4. Great article Jesse and highly informative. I wish I had come across such valuable information years back, I would have made an informed decision in terms of the financial aspect of things. I also wish that public and/or state high schools where I come from could include career guidance in the curriculum to help the pupils make a better choice of subjects, this way they will make better career choices as well. Some people have wasted money on degrees which they later changed for something else. I really loved reading your article. Thank you.

    1. You are welcome!
      College can turn into a big expense but a career counselor can greatly help you go down the path that you want to go down.
      I am happy that you liked this post!

  5. I appreciate the information you share within this article. Going to college is not a cheap adventure, and it’s getting more and more expensive as we speak so having plenty of option for saving money is a must for every new student. These tips are gold! Thanks for sharing your ideas. Keep up the good work.

  6. Hi, Jesse,

    Valuable information for anyone interested in going to college.
    Being a foreign professional, I’m not familiar with the U.S. college system. I had only heard that it was pretty expensive. I had heard about some of the recommendations you gave, but there were others totally new to me.
    Could I use any of your tips if I were interested in studying a Master’s? Or do they only apply for Bachelor’s? I’d like to know since I’ve been considering getting a Master’s.
    Thanks for putting this together. I look forward to reading more from you. Keep it up.

    1. You are welcome!
      Most of these tips can still be used for getting a Master’s degree. Some of them are only going to be helpful for getting a Bachelor’s degree such as attending a junior college and taking AP Exams.
      I am happy that you found this information helpful!

  7. Your post is full of useful information on smartly financing a college education without taking any form of loans.

    Just the two points of a) getting an associate degree and starting the bachelor’s degree as a transfer student, and b) staying in-state or checking state reciprocity programs – these by themselves can save students a ton of money!

    You talk about taking AP exams, applying for scholarships, work-study programs, prepaying tuition to avoid yearly hikes, studying in Europe to reduce expenses and so much more.

    Kudos to you, this article is a keeper and I will refer to it frequently!

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