In the fall of 2017, state colleges and universities became tuition-free for New York residents whose families earn less than $100,000 a year.
The limit will go up to $125,000 by 2019, meaning nearly 1 million families will be eligible.
New York is the first state to offer free tuition to four-year universities.
Other states have made groundbreaking strides as well by offering free community college for residents, including in San Francisco, Oregon, and Tennessee.
Waiving tuition for students is a growing trend in education, but students still incur costs along the way–for room and board on campus, technology use, and other items that aren’t covered.
So, here are some strategies to avoid getting into too much school debt in the first place.
Community College for the First Two Years
Everyone has a different roadmap for success when it comes to deciding what to do post high school. But before heading to a university, one financially sound option is to get a jump start at a community college. Typically, no matter what you’re majoring in or where you attend school, the first several years will include the requisite courses, such as English, science, and math classes.
If everyone has to take the basic classes anyway, why pay more than you have to? According to Reuters, tuition at public state universities cost about $9,000 a year on average while the average annual cost at a two-year college is about $2,963. If you attend a community college for two years instead of a public university you will save about $12,000. Of course, these figures are for those who aren’t taking advantage of their in-state, free college tuition!
Tuition isn’t the only consideration. For those who live in the same town as their community college, you will likely save on housing if you live with family or friends instead of a dorm. You can also save on parking, gas, and other associated living expenses if you’re frugal and smart.
The reasons you should consider a junior college the first two years are similar to the reasons you may want to look into online classes, colleges and universities instead of brick and mortar institutions: cost.
The average annual cost of tuition and fees at a private nonprofit university is more than $30,000 a year while an online university is about $14,000 a year. Over four years that adds up to a $60,000 difference.
Online schools are especially beneficial for those without a college nearby. In our digital age, there’s no reason why students can’t enroll in some type of online college setting to get a good education in the 21st century. The beauty of online courses is that they are done on the student’s own time and don’t necessarily interfere with work and family obligations.
These days, most college students work part time while earning their degrees. In fact, about four out of five students have part-time jobs, according to an article in the Huffington Post. However, only 18 percent pay their way through school.
But there are distinct money saving advantages to working, which can save you a chunk of cash in the long run. Let’s say a student works 20 hours a week and gets paid $7 an hour – that’s about $4,480 throughout the entire school year. Over four years, that comes to nearly $18,000. The key to financial success will be to not spend every penny you earn so that you do realize an actual savings over the course of four years. Be aware of your spending habits.
Graduate in Less Time
Obviously this is not an option for everyone, but the less time spent in school, the cheaper it’s going to be. Fast-track programs demand a lot of focus, which can be stress-inducing and all-consuming, but instead of graduating in four years or more, fast tracks allow students to load up on credits and finish within three years.
If taking 18 to 20 credits a semester isn’t quite your thing, you can always opt to take a few extra credits a semester and even attend summer school, which aren’t necessarily part of a formal three-year path that some schools have set up. Also, choose a school that has a good track record of students finishing on time.
There are tons of way to smartly finance your education, and the ideas above are just a few. The point is that no matter how you pay for school, it’s completely doable to save money and earn a valuable and rewarding four-year degree that will hopefully pay for itself and then some over the course of your career.