The cost of college has gone up rapidly in recent decades. These increases have greatly exceeded the rate of inflation for many years. Many of the best jobs require a degree. Therefore, students feel that a college education is a must if they are to make something of their lives. A degree can definitely lead to a better job and a higher starting wage. On the other hand, it can also lead to quite a bit of student loan debt if you’re not careful. The average debt is now more than $37,000. This is where some good planning can come in handy. Here are some tips to make college more affordable.

Try Dual-Credit Classes

Many school systems offer an opportunity for students to earn college credit while they are still in high school. In some states, the legislatures have mandated that these courses come at a greatly reduced cost. Some states offer Advanced Placement classes that allow students to earn college credit by passing a final exam with an acceptable score. Strategic scheduling could allow an ambitious high school graduate to have a year or more of college work done before they cross the stage to get their diploma. If you take this strategy, you’ll be able to get your degree faster.

Avoid Hiccups

Failing grades and dropped classes after the withdrawal deadline add up to money lost. This means it’s important for college students to stay the course, so to speak, or else they’ll end up spending more on their education. Certain extreme circumstances, such as struggling with addiction in college or losing a loved one, are common reasons for grades to suffer and time off to be taken. It’s important to reach out to administrators to see if the school will show leniency in these and similar situations. However, simply choosing to party your semester away rather than study will not get you out of paying thousands for failed grades.

Look Into Community College

Taking dual-credit courses in high school is not the only way to cut the cost of a college education. Saving money in college is also possible through the use of the community college system. While private schools are at the top of the pricing structure when it comes to getting a college degree, community colleges are usually going to come in at the bottom. A solid record at a two-year school could allow you to earn an associate’s degree while also allowing you to check many of the requirements for a bachelor’s degree off your list. This strategy should allow you to save more than half of your tuition payments for your two-year degree, which should mean less in the way of student loans.

Look for Scholarships

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships for good students who achieve high scores on their entrance exams. but not all grants and scholarships go to the really smart kids. There are grants from the federal government that go toward low- and middle-income students. Grants are better than loans because they do not have to be paid back. Additionally, there are private scholarships that can go to people because of their ability, their race, their gender or some other demographic characteristic. Applying to as many of these scholarships as possible can make it more likely that you’ll actually have one offered to you.

Work

While the previous suggestions will allow you to save money on college, this one will allow you to pay some of the bills while you attend. Getting a job can be a great way to earn some money that will cut down on the amount of student debt that you have to take on. If you’ve earned an associate’s degree from a community college after having taken several classes during high school, you’ll likely be a year ahead of many of your colleagues. Therefore, going part-time for a while will not put you too far behind those who take out the maximum in loans, and you could pay as you go. You’ll also have less of your income going toward student loans, and this could help you start building wealth at an earlier age.

Getting a degree can cost hundreds of thousands. Just because it can cost that much doesn’t mean that it has to. There are steps to take that can accelerate the time required to earn a degree while saving money at the same time. Setting up a strategy to get the biggest bang for your buck is a great step to take.