A college education is one of the largest expenses you’re likely to have in your lifetime, second only to buying a home. Unfortunately, the cost has increased dramatically in recent years.
Tuition plus fees at four-year public colleges jumped 71 percent over the last decade, forcing many would-be degree seekers to delay or even forgo attending college. For others, it’s meant heading to school while taking on large amounts of debt.
Today, however, new solutions are popping up to address the college affordability crisis. Most people know about grants and scholarships. Students can now also consider alternate paths to college credit, helping them graduate faster and more affordably, say experts.
Here’s what you need to know:
• The average cost of a typical undergraduate college course is $1,782. In high school, take as many Advanced Placement (AP) and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) courses as you can handle, increasing your opportunity to earn college credit and save money on tuition.
• The College Board’s CLEP, while not as well-known as AP, is a 50-year-old credit-by-examination program accepted by more than 2,900 schools and universities. Check to see if the colleges you are considering accept CLEP credit, and then work hard to succeed on one or more of the 32 CLEP exams. CLEP courses and exams are rigorous, but shorter and not as challenging as AP.
• Consider new programs such as “Freshman Year for Free,” an initiative developed by Modern States Education Alliance, a charity dedicated to making a college degree more affordable and attainable for everyone. Students can use Modern States’ 40+ tuition-free online courses -- all taught by top college professors -- to prepare for the AP and CLEP exams.
• One advantage of CLEP tests is that they are offered every day at thousands of testing centers. AP exams can only be taken in high schools in May. Modern States is paying the AP and CLEP exam fees for the first 10,000 test-takers, making the program, which also includes free textbooks and practice questions, totally free.
“This is a great on-ramp to college and an opportunity to save both time and up to 25 percent of the rising cost of a degree,” says Steve Klinsky, founder and CEO of Modern States Education Alliance.
• Attending community college for the first two years and then transferring to a four-year institution offers another opportunity to cut costs. Dual-enrollment programs, whereby students take college courses at a city or community college while still in high school, are another great way to head to college with some credits under your belt.
More than one-third of Americans ages 30 and younger who haven’t attended college attribute their decision to the high cost, according to a Federal Reserve survey. In fact, U.S. student loan debt stands at an all-time high of $1.34 trillion. Don’t miss out on an education or let it saddle you with debt. Seek out alternative methods for earning college credits.