We always hear students and parents asking how they can reduce their college costs (and trust me, I’m one of them too!). Well, did you know you can effectively reduce college tuition costs 12% or more over four years?
Leveraging the community college system over the summer months is a great way to reduce the overall cost of a traditional four-year degree at either a public or private, not-for-profit, college/university.
Even if you can easily afford that $45,000 price tag at the private university – why ignore a great sale? If you walked into a Ford dealer and saw a loaded F-150 pickup for $45,000 and learned you could get that same pickup for just $37,000 at the same dealership, what one would you buy? If you still purchased the $45,000 version then you have “silly” money and kindly send some stacks my way. Of course, I’m kidding, but the value of summer school is no joke. You get the F-150 (or Silverado for Chevy fans out there) at the same dealer but for a lot less money.
The key to this sale is timing. Isn’t that always the case? Provided you (or your student) are still taking general education courses, then timing is good. Simply take 2-3 courses at your local community college this summer. This will successfully earn you 6-9 credit hours, foster a better GPA, and save over $8,000!
Here is how the math works.
- At a typical private university, the cost per credit hour is between $1,100 and $1,200/hour.
- Whereas, at a community college, the credit hour cost is a mere $250 – $300/hour. Pretty compelling, isn’t it?
Okay – great…I’ve convinced you on the cost savings but how does it foster a better GPA? The fact is, many private or public colleges will not accept the actual grade when transferring in the credit hours from a community college, they simply accept the credit hours against pre-requisite course-work. In turn, this allows you (or your son/daughter) to complete difficult coursework without the potential for negative outcomes.
If any of you are like me, fundamental science courses are difficult (e.g. biology, chemistry). Putting forth a strong effort, in my case, would yield a modest result. However, putting forth a strong effort against accounting or economics would typically yield a very strong result. Therefore, taking chemistry at a community college makes great sense:
- I am able to effectively transfer 3-4 credit hours to my private/public four-year institution while not transferring over the modest result
- This then allows me to focus on my strengths that yield strong results and improves my cumulative GPA. Pretty simple, and I’m saving a substantial amount of money doing it.
It goes without saying that you should be wary of a few pitfalls. This only works if you do your homework, and here is what I mean.
- First, you (or your student) will need to schedule a meeting with the academic advisor to confirm what courses at a specific community college will transfer. This should always be done BEFORE enrolling in the community college summer courses. Outside of the appropriate school official approval at your four-year college/university, credit hours may not transfer. Please do not make that mistake.
- Second, be sure to select the most appropriate courses with the academic advisor. This will ensure students “get ahead of the game” for completing the necessary undergraduate degree coursework.
I’m a huge advocate of private and public, not-for-profit, universities and the on-campus experience these institutions provide. My oldest son attends college in Ohio with another son heading to a university this August and believe me, I’m also a big fan of saving money.
So when you’re thinking about how to reduce college costs and get the biggest bang for your buck, consider this. Leveraging summer school coursework at a local community college is how you can put the two together, save thousands of dollars, and help your GPA!
For more budget stretching tips and tricks or questions about college, ask your credit union for advice. Don’t have a credit union? Find one near you using our CUSelect tool.