When most people think of the cost of college, astronomical numbers pop into their heads. For example, how much do you think it costs to attend Harvard? I bet the number that came to your mind is likely in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 per year.

If that was the cost that came to mind, you were wrong. Why do most people assume the cost is so high? The list prices for most colleges probably match the number you were thinking, but only a very small percentage of students pay the list price. Typically, the only families who fail to qualify for financial aid are those that make more than $200,000 a year.

Unfortunately, this has caused a misconception about college. Middle-class and lower-income families take these sticker numbers and believe that college is unaffordable. Some even encourage their children not to attend or finish school.

Calculating the Real Cost of College

There is a new tool available that is helping to combat this misconception, the MyinTuition calculator. This calculator can be used to determine the net price of college for your specific family, instead of just showing you the sticker price. Right now, the calculator only allows you to determine the cost for 13 major universities, but it is easy to compare their costs to whatever university you or your student is considering.

Here is a list of things to consider when calculating your true expense:

  • Out-of-pocket tuition after student aid, grants, and scholarships
  • Housing
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Books and supplies
  • Medical coverage
  • Extra spending money

This tuition calculator is helpful when trying to determine your net cost. Take into consideration what your student aid and grants might cover. Most often, grants and aid will cover the published tuition price but not the extras.

Another item to consider while trying to save money on tuition are the schools you are interested in attending. Public schools will offer a cheaper tuition, but room and board costs may make them comparable in price.

This doesn’t mean tuition is cheap, but it does show that it may be more affordable than you think.

How to Save Money on College

Follow these tips to help save more money on college expenses:

  • Look into financial aid. Financial planning and scholarships are crucial. Understanding the financial aid process can take you a long way. Becoming educated in this process can significantly decrease your costs.
  • Find a good match for you. Some students don’t complete their degree and the ones who do are taking longer to do so. Find students like you who are completing their degrees on time or early and saving money by doing so.
  • Attempt to dual-enroll. If you are still in high school, see if the school offers any dual enrollment that will allow you to earn college credit. Once you are in college, look at what online courses are offered and see if you can increase your course load.
  • Find a school that won’t let you waste your time (or theirs). Make sure you spend your money wisely by doing your research. Find schools that are committed to getting their students to the finish line.

College is expensive, but there are ways to make it more affordable.

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