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Reducing the Cost of an Associate Degree

Article Title: Two Steps for Reducing the Cost of an Associate Degree
Author: Shay Rosen

Reducing the Cost of an Associate Degree

A few thousand dollars might seem like a lot of money to some high school graduates, and it is for many from typical American households with median incomes or below. In the grand scheme of college tuition, however, itís not enough to cover one full semester at most state universities, much less complete the first two years of college with.

Most students who are concerned with getting an education on a budget know that community and some online colleges offer a way to get the first two years of a bachelorís degree out of the way with minimal expense compared to the cost of the same number of credit hours at a four year institution. Still, at between $80 and $120 per credit hour, this cheaper alternative can easily cost well in excess of $4800 for a two year degree, and that only covers tuition, not books and fees. Though the lower end of the spectrum is still cheaper than the average annual tuition at most state colleges and universities, it can seem like an insurmountable odd to overcome for cash strapped students unable to qualify for federal or state grants.

Still, there are ways to make even the cheapest colleges cheaper while still getting the same quality of education, and more importantly, saving those student loans for when theyíre really needed.

The first step is to CLEP. CLEP stands for College Level Examination Programs, and is a way for students to avoid taking classes in which they are already proficient and save a lot of money in the process. CLEP tests, and the corresponding credits they afford, are accepted by most community colleges across the nation and cost around $65. Compared to a 3 or 4 credit hour class at $100 per credit hour, thatís quite a savings There are limits to the number of credit hours a student can CLEP out of, but most educational institutions will allow up to 20 credit hours or 1/3rd of an associate degree. There are also manuals available for CLEP tests aimed at students who need to brush up on their knowledge base. Itís important to check with the college first, however, as some schools will give exemptions from having to take classes based on CLEP test performance but no college credit.

Total cost of six CLEP tests with study guides, assuming four 3 credit hour classes and two 4 credit hour classes = $450

Equivalent tuition for 20 credit hours based on a minimal rate of $80 per credit hour = $1600 plus books and fees.

The second step is to pursue scholarships. Many students subscribe to the general perception that all scholarships are based on academic merit. While many scholarships are based entirely on academic merit, some are based on criteria as simple as where a student was born or the occupation of the studentís parents. Some companies offer scholarships to students of employees. Some municipalities offer scholarships to students who are attending in the region they grew up in. More importantly, many scholarships are open to students from any walk of life regardless of past academic performance or financial status, yet simply never get awarded because no one applies for them. These scholarships often come into existence through a deceased personís will or trust. Some may only provide one or two thousand for tuition, but in the case of a community college degree, that can easily cover a sizeable portion of the total cost.

The trick is to look into available scholarships outside of those offered by educational institutions. Most students would be surprised to see how much money is out there and how easily it can be obtained.

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