May 1, 2012
Any way you look at it, getting a college degree is expensive. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2011-2012 school year at a four-year, public college or university is $8,244 for in-state residents and $12,526 for those who live out-of-state. At private, four-year colleges and universities, the average tuition is higher - $28,500.
The cost is likely to increase significantly each year as well. Finaid.org reports that the average annual tuition increase is 8 percent.
The good news is that getting a college degree is likely to pay off in the long run with higher salaries and greater earning potential. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that individuals whose highest level of education is high school made an average of $31,000 per year in 2010. For those whose highest degree is a bachelor's degree, the average was $58,000.
In addition, recent research from the Pew Research Center reveals that over the course of a 40-year career, college graduates are expected to make about $650,000 more than those without a college degree.
However, potential future earnings do not give students the go-ahead to be completely carefree about their finances during their college years. Experts say it's important for those pursuing a college degree to take steps to control their spending in school in order to ensure a successful financial future.
According to SayCampusLife.com, there are several ways students of all ages can keep their budgets in check. The website suggests opting for public transportation over having a car of your own, buying used textbooks and keeping entertainment expenses low.
In addition, it is advised to only sign up for classes that you are interested in and that you need in order to graduate. Students should take a realistic look at their class schedule before each semester begins to determine whether or not they have adequate time for studying, work, family obligations and other things.
SayCampusLife.com also recommends investigating the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) to save time and money on your college education.
"You may be able to avoid taking some classes if you have work experience already," states the website. "The College Level Examination Program is conducted by the College Board, offering 33 exams in five subject areas. By completing CLEP requirements you may be able to reduce your college costs or at least finish school sooner so that you can start work earlier."
In addition, students are encouraged to research various grants for parents, scholarships for mothers, single mother scholarships and other financial aid in order to help make college more affordable.