Getting a frugal start to college

Every situation is different, and college is not for everyone, but since I’m at college orientation with my oldest child right now…

My frugal tip is to attend in-state, public institutions for higher education. They are a great value. And dig this: the families we’ve met from other states are saying that Iowa’s out-of-state tuition is close to their in-state tuition back home.

My student is also taking a class at a community college this summer. This class has transfer credit to the university and it is significantly cheaper than university credit, even when you take gas money into account. Summer classes can jump start a four-year plan and make room for other courses in fall and spring semester course loads.

If your child approaching grade 8, think about college now. Are there other ways for you to save money at college? Yes. By planning, knowing the law, and asking good questions of college staff.

  • Knowing the entrance requirements for colleges and choosing your high school courseload accordingly. Using your state universities as a baseline is a sensible option if you don’t know what college your child will choose. Example: one of our state universities requires 3 years of high school foreign language work, so your kid should plan on taking at least 3 years of high school foreign language classes. If she doesn’t, she will have to take a foreign language class once she gets to campus, and university credits are expensive when compared to high school credits.
  • Taking A.P. exams during high school. If the colleges of your student’s choice accept A.P. scores, see if he can take one or more A.P. classes before graduation. The cost of an A.P. test is a fraction of the price of one credit hour, so if your student believes he can get a decent score, then have him take the test.
  • Taking a CLEP test. Same thing as above, except CLEP is pass/not pass. If your high school does not offer A.P. tests, this may be more feasible for you.
  • Enrolling in community college courses during high school, and take summer class(es) while in college. But this also comes with a warning: Take the community college path only if the credits will transfer to your university of choice. If you are out-of-state, summer courses at the university are frequently charged at the in-state rate.
  • In Iowa, using PSEO for your high school student — nothing beats nearly free.
  • Talking to admissions offices and other staff at the higher learning institution of your choice.
This post is part of the Frugal Tuesday Tip, where you can find many more great frugal ideas.


4 thoughts on “Getting a frugal start to college”

  1. Great post! There are so many ways to save money when it comes to college. I wish I had known some of these beforehand. Unfortunately, I learned some of these tips the hard way… 🙂

  2. Great tips, we are starting to think of this with our oldest starting high school. We are also visiting colleges whenever we can. Last we we saw University of Vermont and Dartmoth.

  3. My oldest is a 10th grader next year. We started saving for him when he was about 5. Our plan is to send him to community college initially unless he gets a scholarship to a local public university. I think the best gift we can give him is the gift of no loans. We also have 4 other children. Our oldest gets to be the test case. Lucky him!

  4. It cost me less to go private (in my case a well-endowed top SLAC) than it would have to go to my state flagship. That was true for many of my classmates who were AP track and had top grades and test-scores, as well as for some classmates who didn’t necessarily have the grades but got sports scholarships to decent private schools. Especially in these days of declining state support for public universities, a student with something to offer may be able to get a better deal once financial aid and merit scholarships are factored in from a private school, so don’t rule them out.

    All my summer community college courses transferred to my out-of-state private school, which I wasn’t expecting.

Comments are closed.

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top