7 Cheaper Paths to a Great College Education

7 Cheaper Paths to a Great College Education Photo by Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Even at an in-state public university, one year of tuition and fees alone currently ranges from an average of $5,400 in Wyoming to $16,610 in Vermont, according to The College Board.

Mercifully, there are effective strategies for saving money on college costs. Innovations in how education is delivered and paid for are changing the college experience, making schooling more accessible and affordable.

Let’s take a look at several:

1. Student loan repayment job perks

You can reduce your college costs even after you graduate. How? Get a job with a company offering student loan repayment help as a workplace benefit.

Increasingly, companies offer employees help repaying student loans. Glassdoor lists 12 companies with that perk, including Aetna and Fidelity Investments.

Companies also help employees cover higher-education costs in other ways, as we detail in “7 Companies That Now Help Pay for Workers’ College Expenses.”

Money-saving tip: When weighing job offers, calculate what you’d get from a benefit and how long you’d need to stay at the company to capture the maximum value.

2. Online courses

Online courses are a good alternative to on-campus classes, letting you attend college on your own schedule.

Online courses save money in several ways. I’m studying for an MBA using an online program from Utah State University. Although online tuition isn’t less expensive, I save on room, board and transportation compared with what I’d spend if I lived on campus.

Numerous schools — MIT and Arizona State University are two — offer an array of courses online, often at reduced tuition cost. Students can complete at least part of a degree without stepping foot on campus.

Study.com offers a different approach: low-cost online video courses that can be applied to high school, GED or college and university degree programs. The company calls this program College Accelerator. It says:

“Like AP tests or CLEP exams, College Accelerator prepares students for a final college exam, so students can test out of general education requirements and focus on their major. And much like the CLEP and AP exams, students can transfer their credit to over 1,500 colleges and universities across the nation.”

Money-saving tip: Degree mills still operate online. Don’t pay for schooling that’s worthless to your career. Make sure you’re working with an accredited program.

3. Online program managers

Online program managers such as Coursera and MyEducator present class content online that can be taken to earn credit at participating schools.

I’ve taken MBA classes through MyEducator, paying about $280 to complete four prerequisite classes online that would have cost me $3,600 on a campus.

Coursera’s degree program partners include the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University, among others.

Money-saving tip: Before enrolling with an online program manager, double-check with the school to which you’ll be transferring credits. Confirm that:

  • The two schools truly are partners.
  • Completing this course definitely will give you the credits you expect.

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