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Top 10 Tips for Paying for College

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Start at a Community College
Credits from community college courses are usually easily transferable, and can cost less than half of what they would cost at a four-year university. Consider having your child start classes at a community college and transfer to a four-year college or university after two years. You’ll save thousands of dollars and your child will still get the degree he wants, from the college he wants.

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Scholarships
Although good grades are highly commendable, your child doesn’t need a 4.0 GPA to get a scholarship. In fact, thousands of scholarships are available for almost anyone to apply for — the trick is finding them. Local and community-based scholarships are a good place to start, and your public library or guidance counselor will most likely have all the information your child needs to apply.

Students and parents can also visit fastweb.com to find scholarships and other ways to get financial aid for college.

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Work-Study
The Federal Work-Study program offers jobs to undergraduate and graduate students in need of financial assistance. Students are usually able to work in their field of interest while earning money to help pay for their college tuition. Salary and hours worked are determined by class schedule and academic progress.

Visit the U.S. Department of Education for more information on the federal work-study program.

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On-Campus Job
On-campus jobs are usually very easy to come by, and can take a big chunk out of tuition fees. Just make sure that your child doesn’t get too busy with work and is still able to take his classes seriously.

Another option is to work full-time during the day and take part-time classes at night. Although it will take your child a little longer to earn his degree, he may be able to pay for classes as he goes along, preventing him from having to borrow and get into debt.

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Accelerated Classes
Accelerated classes offer a semester’s worth of curriculum, but each session is only six to eight weeks long. Although the program may be intense, these classes can help your child graduate a semester or two earlier, saving you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on room and board or commuting expenses.

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Commute
Living at school is a great experience, but it’s also expensive. If the campus is nearby, consider having your child commute. If he really wants to live on campus, compromise: have him live at home the first year and let him move to campus for his second year. One year alone can save you thousands of dollars.

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College Courses in High School
The Early College Initiative, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, operates in over 20 states, and allows high school students to enroll in college courses at no charge. If your state offers the program, and your teen meets the minimum 3.0 GPA requirement, he can begin earning college credits before he finishes high school.

All courses are taught by college professors, and students earn college credits upon completion. Some students in the program have taken up to two years off their college education by participating.

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Three Year Plan
Since most four-year colleges and universities charge a flat rate for the year, finishing in three years can save you thousands of dollars. Although your child would have to take one or two extra classes a semester, and maybe a few summer courses, you could save an entire year’s worth of tuition, not to mention room and board. Just keep in mind that your child’s academics come first, so if the extra burden is too much for him, this might not be the best option.

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Military Service
The military offers several programs to students serving full or part-time in the military. Whether your teen is interested in serving in the military first and attending college later, or vice versa, he can earn scholarships and money towards his college education.

Visit goarmy.com for more information about the options available through the military.

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Federal Aid
Federal aid can include money that doesn’t have to be paid back, like grants and scholarships, as well as loans that are paid back once a student graduates or finishes school.

If you do end up having to borrow money, federal student loans are the cheapest option. Loans made directly to students often have the best interest rates, with the top rate being 6.8% for a Stafford loan. Federal loans for parents (PLUS loans) are also available, and carry a maximum interest rate of 8.5%.

Visit FAFSA’s website to apply for a federal grant, scholarship, or student loan.

Private loans are still available, but can carry double-digit interest rates.

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