3 smart strategies to pay for college: Live off campus, live at home, and enroll in junior college
Paying for a university education these days can deplete the saving account faster than several decades ago. It can be a real burden for families and their children to figure out how to pay for college without graduating with a huge debt.
That’s why we started this blog post series about Education Planning and how to save on college costs.
See our other Education Planning blog posts:
How to pay for College: Apply for Private Scholarships & Grants
The best paying part-time jobs for college students - 30 Best Jobs, while going to College!
Pay for College using 6 grants, good grades, scholarships, low income grants, and more.
Strategy 1: Live off campus - is it worth it?
It may be cheaper to live on campus. However, it may cost the same to live off campus if you add several roommates in a rental that is affordable. Exercise Caution: Note- make sure all parties are on the lease or the person who signs the lease contract is responsible for the entire amount.
You will not receive more financial aid if you live off campus. Sometimes you may receive less financial aid. The way the calculate financial aid is determined by the university’s estimates for on campus and off campus housing. Do your homework and research.
The room and board costs can sometimes be higher than living off-campus. Meal plans, dorm expenses, and other costs can quickly add up. You're constantly surrounded only by students.
Cons of living off campus
- You may have to pay for public transit or Ubers.
- If you decide to drive yourself, you'll pay for gas, maintenance, insurance, repairs, and parking.
- You'll waste time commuting back and forth every day (instead of studying, working, or hanging with friends).
- You'll live further from your new friends.
Pros of living on campus
- You’ll make new friends quickly and get to participate in fun residence events.
- You can roll out of bed 10 minutes before class.
- You can choose your own roommate and have a familiar face to go through first year with.
- You won’t need to do a lot of cooking, grocery shopping, or other chores. Residences have cafeterias and cleaning staff!
- You’ll have easy access to on-campus resources.
- Residence fees are all-inclusive and paid just like your tuition. This one-time fee makes it easy, and there are no additional or hidden costs.
Strategy 2: Live at Home
- Living on campus isn’t as cheap as living at home rent-free. It may cost you upfront but consider the value you’re getting for your money.
- You might not like your roommates. (This doesn’t happen often, but if it does, you have lots of staff you can connect with to step in and help you.)
- It could be absolutely free if your kind parent or someone else drops you off at the school for no cost.
- You won’t have to cook or do chores (any more than you already were, of course).
- You don’t have to move out and move in somewhere else (save packing and unpacking!).
- It can make the transition to university easier.
- You may have to pay for public transit or Ubers.
- If you decide to drive yourself, you’ll pay for gas, maintenance, insurance, repairs, and parking.
- You’ll waste time commuting back and forth every day (instead of studying, working, or hanging with friends).
- You’ll live further from your new friends.
Strategy 3: Go to community or junior college before transferring to University
Community or Junior college tuition is usually thousands of dollars cheaper than tuition for private and public four–year universities. According to the College Board, the average published yearly tuition and fees for a public two-year college is just $3,440—that represents an outstanding opportunity to save some cash!
Get an Academic Boost
Going to community college is a chance to make up for a poor high school record. This could be a great opportunity to get extra academic guidance and support. Community colleges often have small class sizes, and the priority of the faculty is teaching—not research. Plus, there are generally lots of support services, such as mentoring programs and organized study groups.
This support can give students the credentials they need to get admitted to, and succeed at, a four-year school. You might even find that you qualify for a Scholarships from the school you're transferring to or from an outside organization like Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges.
Making the Transfer
When transferring, meet with an advisor at your community college and, if possible, the school you eventually want to attend. Be sure to find out from the school how many transfer students are accepted per year, what kind of financial aid is available to them, and how many of the credits earned at the old college will be accepted by the new college.
Above all, if you consider this route, take your community college education seriously. College is college, whether it's a two- or four-year school, and getting off to a good start can be your ticket to a great future.
It’s not easy deciding how to go about paying for college these days, but there are options. Read our blog post series and make a plan that makes sense for you.
Lillian Meyers CFP®, CDFA®, EA is a financial planner in Sonoma, California helping clients live their best life through the use of financial planning, investment management, and other sophisticated financial options.