Map out strategy to fund your education
The cost of higher education is increasing at a rapid rate. According to a study on the trends of college pricing conducted by The College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees at public four-year colleges has risen 235 percent since 1980. During the same time period, the average tuition for public community colleges rose 150 percent. While the cost of attending college is at an all-time high, the importance of attending college is even more important than ever. It is estimated that by 2018, 63 percent of all jobs will require some form of post-high school education.
Currently, less than 40 percent of adult citizens in the United States have a college degree. This means that in order to meet industry demand, more citizens in the U.S. need to start earning college degrees. The fact is, college is so important that you can no longer afford not to continue your education. However, what should you do if money proves to be an obstacle in the journey toward degree completion? Here are some money-saving tips to help make the college dream more attainable:
• Know your priorities. Many people assume they cannot afford a college education without looking at their other expenses. If a college education is important to you, which I argue that it should be, you may want to consider cutting out other expenses in your life. This might mean driving an old car, drinking home-made coffee instead of Starbucks every day, or deciding you can watch TV online rather than pay for cable or satellite. You can often make room for things in your budget if you prioritize where you spend your funds.
• Begin your college career at a community college. Community colleges are significantly more affordable, and are a great stepping stone on your way toward bachelor degree attainment. Arizona Western College has many quality programs to choose from. These programs allow you access to education while staying in the Yuma area, saving money, and transitioning into college life. Further, AWC has partnerships will all three state universities that assure seamless transfers into the programs you are interested in.
• Don't make assumptions about financial aid. You might think that your family won't qualify for need-based financial aid. Apply anyway by filling out the FAFSA. In addition to Pell Grants for qualified students, filling out the FAFSA can qualify you for student loans and other need-based assistance. To put the potential savings of federal aid into perspective, students at AWC were awarded $31,522,060 in financial aid during the 2011-2012 school year. This particular aid was awarded to 6,916 students at an average of $4,558 per student (Information found in the AWC 2011-2012 fact book).
• Look for local sources. Scholarship websites are open to every student in the United States. Increase your chance of being chosen for scholarships by exploring community resources. The AWC Foundation gave away $115,000 in scholarships during the past academic year. They have a wide variety of scholarships that are applicable to students from every background. AWC Foundation scholarship applications for next school year are due March 15.
• Make a plan and stay on track. Not having a graduate plan can increase your education costs significantly. Create a plan from the beginning that maps out what courses will be taken, and when they will be taken. Stick to your plan, making sure that course choices are contributing toward degree completion. Make sure that you take advantage of tuition breaks by taking a full course load each semester if possible.
There are countless tips that can help to saving on the cost of higher education. The bottom line is, don't let the cost of a college education deter you from your dream of earning a degree. It may take some research and work on your part, but funding for education can be found all around you. No matter how you look at it, a college education is worth the work. So don't give up on your dream.
Kyle Hawkey is an associate professor of psychology at Arizona Western College and a program coordinator, senior for the University of Arizona. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.