Or at least, the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ theory. It’s pretty much a staple in mainstream American culture, the idea that it’s better to get more for less. Not exactly a common sense logic there, but you get the idea. Regardless of any logical fallacies inherent in the phrase, it’s as much a part of the economic culture as fast food. In this age of layoffs, furloughs, and general uncertainty, everyone wants to get the most bang for their buck, especially when it comes to education. Here are a few ideas on how to spend the minimum on college while still receiving a high-quality education.
First, hold yourself accountable. It doesn’t matter where you go to school, if you don’t do the homework and study, you won’t be getting what you are paying for. Nobody-not your teachers, not your parents, not the dean of students-is more responsible for your success or failure more than you are. I suggest doing the math and figuring out how much each classroom hour costs; that alone was motivation enough for me to not skip classes when I was in college (each classroom hour was approximately $167 by my reckoning). Maximize your tuition dollars by taking yourself and your education seriously.
Second, look at your choice of schools. You’ll pay about three to four times as much if you go to an out-of-state public institution than you would if you were a resident, so check out Utah’s colleges and universities for programs and majors that interest you. Also keep in mind that community colleges are excellent places to start off your education, particularly if you plan on transferring from a local community college to one of the state colleges. Most transfer programs are very smooth.
Third, be prepared to sacrifice. This could be applicable in many realms of the college experience. I am well aware that sacrifice isn’t a particularly enjoyable or popular lifestyle option, but as someone who ate her share of Ramen noodles during college, I can tell you that the payoff afterwards is worth it. I have not had to eat Ramen noodles out of economic necessity in the 3+ years since I graduated. This comes into play when talking about Cost of Attendance, which factors in things like room and board. If you can save yourself money on the room and board by giving up non-necessities, you’ll ultimately be reducing your overall price tag for college.
Fourth, have a plan. Students who go into college with a definite plan typically graduate more quickly than students who enter higher education without a specific direction. This means that if you have a plan, you’ll most likely save yourself tuition for extra classes or semesters by not switching majors or tracks.
Fifth, challenge yourself BEFORE college. Students who complete a rigorous course of study such as the Utah Scholars program during high school are much more likely to graduate with a four-year college degree than their counterparts. Taking challenging classes in high school better prepares students for the stresses and difficulty level of college work. And realistically, you can only capitalize on your education if you have a credential to show for it, so graduation really is a lynchpin here.
And finally, do the legwork. If you take the time to look for scholarships (try the search on UtahFutures) and apply for grants (start by filling out the FAFSA), you may be able to get some of the price of college paid for you. Keep in mind that many renewable scholarships (the ones that you can use for longer than just one year) are contingent upon having a high GPA and meeting standards such as Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP).
Be creative! You can find other ways of saving on college. For instance, if you start a savings account while you are young and it accrues interest, that interest is helping you save on your investment. Good luck!