Tips For A Sane College Tuition Plan


I recently came across an article about extreme ways to pay for college.  The article offers tips that are out of reach for most people, but I am the parent of a high school senior and wanted to offer a few things that I have learned. While I usually write about bankruptcy-related topics, financial tips are part of what I do for a living.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Don’t go to a 4-year university until you have decided what you want to do or what you want to study.  Changing majors can set you back a semester or more.  As a friend of mine who is a recruiter for a California State University (“CSU”) campus once stated, why pay $6800 per semester to get your general education (“GE”) out of the way?  Go to a community college first.
  2. Speaking of community colleges, California community colleges offer free tuition to high school students.  My daughter took a sociology class over the summer and then later took a calculus class.  While she did have to paid for books and parking, those classes will count toward GE requirements at most schools at a potentials savings of several thousand dollars.  The classes also count toward her high school GPA and will enhance her eligibility for whatever University of California (“UC”) or CSU school that is considering her application.
  3. Look for dual credit opportunities.  Some of the advanced classes at my daughter’s school are good enough that a fully accredited school is offering her full college credit for some of her classes.
  4. Advanced placement tests.  They are intensive work, but testing out of a 3-unit class can save you hundreds of dollars.
  5. Did I mention community colleges? In California, in-state tuition for a community college is $46 per unit as compared to about $226 for a CSU school like San Diego State.  And while UC schools are on a trimester system, it is close to $450 per unit based on a 30-unit school year.  If you get a degree from SDSU or UCSD, you have a degree from a 4-year school.  A college diploma does not have any qualifications or state where you did some of your course work.  A degree is a degree.

With all of the course work and credits already taken, my daughter might be able to enter college as a sophomore. We can save even more on tuition if she finished out her GE at a local community college before transferring to a 4-year university.  By using some of the strategies outlined above, parents and students might be able to save money by getting on a faster track to graduate.

Image credit: Tax Credits

Carl Starrett

Carl Starrett is a consumer bankruptcy attorney in San Diego, California helping debtors file for protection under Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.

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