While one way to cut the cost of college is take AP classes, many cost saving college pundits suggest another is going to a less expensive community college rather than starting straight off at a more expensive 4-year university. I agree with them. I also think those savings should also be claimed by high school students. Walking across the stage to receive a high school diploma does not magically endow students with the know-how to survive a college class. Students can get a year or more of college out of the way while they’re still in high school.
Community College: My aunt, who graduated with a master’s at 21, did much of her undergraduate work by taking community college classes while still in high school. My grandma realized that it was a lot cheaper to pay for an inexpensive local community college class while she was still in high school than to pay for traditional college. My aunt took classes on top of her classes in high school. She took the easy college prep classes at the high school instead of demanding honors or AP classes. She went to school at night at the community college. During the summers she loaded up on college classes. When she graduated high school she already had over 60 credit hours. And because of careful planning, ALL of those credits transferred to her major after graduating high school. She cut her college cost in half by taking cheap credits. By starting early she freed up time to live abroad.
Starting at a community college is easy to learn about. For instance, a quick search on the Houston Community College’s website taught me that high school juniors and seniors are eligible to enroll in academic courses if they have satisfactory grades. Even gunner freshman and sophomores can petition for admission if they like. The option to take a course for just college credit or for both high school and college credit open up the possibilities. The cost per 3 credit course is $164. Not bad at all. If the student plans to stay in-state, the transfer process is easy to a traditional 4-year university. Now I realize not all students may be able to afford or want to go the path like my aunt. However, an extra class a semester at a community college and 2 or 3 courses during the summers could easy take a year out of college expenses.
Independent Study: I love the Internet. One of the many reasons why I do is because things like college classes become more accessible through independent study. A Google search of Independent Study yielded over a million results. Be sure to shop around. One university charged 137 per credit while another university charged 76 per credit. This can be a great option if Community College and local University Exchanges don’t work out. Especially for teenagers who can’t drive themselves and parents with busy schedules who can’t shuttle them around. Do not take this option on lightly. The student needs to be very disciplined to get through courses online because they are not as pressured to get work done as in a classroom.
Exchange with local university: Did you know that qualified students in the Boston area can go to Harvard extension school and even receive a scholarship if their family is below a certain income level? In Georgia, the Accel program completely covers the cost for Core Classes taken during high school. Talk with guidance counselors and local university admissions offices to see what benefits to high school students are available in your area. Again, don’t be shy to shop around. Calcultating cost on a per credit basis is a nice way to check to make sure the student makes good use of the money. The whole point is to get in some cheap, quality college before graduation.
Attending university can be a better alternative to AP. As a student who received credits through AP, I can tell you it is not an easy test. I felt like many of my college classes where far easier. Test out the waters. If a student does poorly on AP tests sophomore or junior year, check out some real college courses as an option. I had some friends in high school that kept taking AP classes for the prestige, but failed every single one of them. Going to the local university senior could have made a much more cost-effective use of their time.
Image courtesy of Jonnny