A Simple Way to Save Money on College

Hoping to save money on college? Easy enough: don’t spend so much time there

To most of us, the very possibility that you can save money on college is right up there with the validity of the Easter Bunny. And that’s understandable: it doesn’t take much research on the subject to make you gasp in horror.

A degree from a big-name school can cost upwards of $250,000. Even a state university (always a frugal choice for a solid education) can cost you the price of a modest house over four years’ time. And at least with a house, you get 20-30 years to pay it off; you have to pay off student loans in ten.

So what’s a person to do?

One Intriguing Possibility

Whether you’re the person who’ll be paying off those student loans or the parent who needs to provide for their college-bound kid, wouldn’t you like to save tens of thousands of bucks in the long run?

The easiest way to do that is for you, or your kid, to pursue a three-year degree plan, rather than spending the standard four years in college… or longer. These days, fewer than a third of students graduate with bachelor’s degrees in four years. Some take time off, others study abroad, and others just take it easy.

Needless to say, all this does is drive the cost of their education up, no matter how good it may be for them in the long run.

How To Do It

There have always been driven students willing to work harder in order to get through school more quickly. The school’s usually okay with that. All they care about is that you get the classes required for your degree under your belt; they don’t care how quickly you do it.

Of course, this runs up against the reality of overwork and class availability, not to mention the fact that you have to decide on your college major immediately and can’t stray from that path. Even most students who intend to graduate in three years take longer. Fewer than 3% of all students manage it.

A Little Help

In recent years, dozens of schools all over the country have begun offering accelerated three-year degree plans, specifically for fast-track, highly-driven students.

Most of these “academic endurance races,” as they’ve been called, simply formalize the abovementioned process of stacking your schedule properly, requiring year-round, heavy workloads without summer vacations off. Others clear out extracurricular activities and limit electives unrelated to one’s major.

It’s not much better than the self-guided tour, but at least you get trained advisors, structure, and official support for your efforts. Ultimately, it really is possible to substantially save money on college this way — if you can discipline yourself (or your college-age kid) to do it.