Financial Aid

Four Secret College Tuition Savers

It's possible to save on college tuition with these tips and ideas.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

March 10, 2021

Four Secret College Tuition Savers
Learn how you can attend your top college choice without paying top dollar.
When it comes to paying for school, a dollar saved is one less dollar you’ll have to borrow. With the average student loan debt reaching $29,900, according to Student Loan Hero, students should seek out multiple ways to save on their college education. Fortunately, for students that want to get creative and be intentional about their college choice, that is possible. There are a variety of universities that work with students to ensure they don’t pay more for their education than they need to.

1. Work Colleges

A work college isn’t your typical higher ed experience, and there are only a handful of these schools in the country. At a work college, students attend classes, and work jobs around the campus. However, these aren’t your typical campus jobs. Students may start out cleaning restrooms or setting up campus events. They eventually land a job on campus that requires them to manage a budget and spending. The point of these work colleges is to provide students with a learning experience that translates to real-world job skills. At some of these work colleges, tuition is free. Others provide very generous scholarship and financial aid. According to Work Colleges Consortium, these students graduate with reduced, little, or no debt at all.
Some of the top work colleges in the country include: • Alice Lloyd College – Pippa Passes, KY • Berea College – Berea, KY • College of the Ozarks – Point Lookout, MO
For more work colleges in the U.S., check out

2. Graduation Guaranteed

As a college student, it is not uncommon to register for classes that are required for graduation, only to find that the particular course you need is completely full. Setbacks like these oftentimes contribute to students being unable to graduate within four years. In response, hundreds of colleges have begun to offer graduation guarantees. A graduation guarantee is a contract between the university and the student to provide the courses and resources to ensure that students are able to graduate within four years. Ultimately, this saves students money and prevents them from graduating with crippling student loan debt because they’re spending a maximum of four years in school – and not extending their education by one or two years. A few well-known universities that offer Graduation Guarantees include: • Sewanee, University of the South – Sewanee, TN • Juniata College – Huntingdon, PA • University of California, Fullerton – Fullerton, CA

3. Three-Year Degree Programs

A few institutions around the country have begun offering three-year degree college programs for students who wish to have a traditional degree but wish to forego the four-year tuition commitment. The success of these programs have sparked discussions on whether or not four-year programs are really necessary. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that it takes a special type of student to graduate within three years. Typically, these are highly-motivated students who know exactly what they want to do in college as well as after graduation. Their course load each semester is heavier than that of the average student. They also may spend summers or school breaks completing courses to meet their graduation requirements. Additionally, they may have to give up study abroad or semester-long internship opportunities. Some of the three-year degree programs that you can find in the U.S. are: • Paul Quinn College – Dallas, TX • Hartwick College – Oneonta, NY • The Ohio State University – Columbus, OH

4. Tuition Locks

Tuition locks vary by institution, but they generally enable full-time, first-time students to lock in a tuition rate that they will pay for four years. As the school increases tuition on an annual basis, those students will not pay any more than they initially agreed to at the time of their admission decision. Typically, students pay more than the average tuition their first or second year, but by their third and fourth year in college, they are paying a discounted rate compared to other students. Tuition is locked in at the average projected tuition rate for the next four years. Students and their families will have to do a little math to determine whether or not this alternative option to paying for college works for them, and they can always ask for further insight from the school’s financial aid office. Colleges that offer tuition locks to students are: • Amridge University – Montgomery, AL • Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, OK • The University of Arizona – Tucson, AZ

5. Bonus Secret Tuition Saver: Scholarships

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that there is another creative way to pay for school: scholarships. Even if you go to a more traditional college than those listed above, you can save on your tuition bill by applying for and winning scholarships. So often, students limit the scholarship search to their junior and senior years of high school. By continuing the scholarship search and application process through the senior year of college, students increase their chances of winning a scholarship. College students should reach out to their financial aid office as well as their academic opportunity to check for annual scholarship opportunities. They can also utilize sites, like Fastweb, to help them take the “search” out of their scholarship search. With a profile on Fastweb, members can find scholarship opportunities that they qualify for. Updating the profile on a frequent basis also increases the likelihood of being match to relevant opportunities. Treat the scholarship search like a part-time job. Commit to applying to 2 – 3 each week. With hard work and effort, students can find that paying for school by winning scholarships is worth the time. Also, consider creative colleges like those above in order to save on tuition. Graduating with little – to no – student loan debt is a goal that every student should work toward.

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