4 Financial Decisions to Make Before Starting College

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One of the biggest obstacles for going to college is simply affording it. Coming from me, I had to save up for two years after high school until I could start attending community college. However, now that I have been going to college for sometime, these are the four questions I would ask any student considering college.

This article was written to help compare the tuition rates of community college, public universities & private universities so you can make a well educated decision on what you can truly afford.

1. Are you going to attend a community college or go straight to a four year university?

This is a really important thing to consider before enrolling. The reason is that the first two years of education are just basic prerequisite classes and they cost much less at a community college than at a university. You can take the same classes at a community college your first two years and then transfer and you will save thousands of dollars simply by doing that. That is precisely what I did myself.

Tuition at my community college for 12 credits per term (quarter) with instate tuition cost $1,700.

Tuition at the public university for 12 credits per term with instate tuition cost $3,300. That is a difference of $1,600. Over the course of two years, (assuming Fall, Winter, Spring & Summer terms) that is a difference of $12,800.

2. If you are going straight to a four year university – are you going to a public or private university?

One difference between a public and private university is the cost of tuition. For example, Portland State, a public university’s cost of tuition for full-time (12 credits per term) is $18,123 for the full year. Whereas a private university, University of Portland is $49,424 for the full year. That is a difference of $31,301.

I understand that some private universities might be able to offer more niche programs, or better quality education etc., however if money is an issue, then it is worth considering a public university as an alternative. Look at all your options before committing to one.

3. Will you live on or off campus?

Housing is the second biggest expense past tuition. Here are my suggestions to you.

If you can live with your parents/guardian/family member for free, do it. I did not have this luxury when going to college because I had to move to the city to attend the college. However, if they had lived in the same city, I would have stayed with them .

If you can’t live with your parents/guardian/family member, then you need to compare between on or off campus living. Some dorms can be very affordable while some are extremely expensive. The key here is to do lots of research and comparing all of your options. If you look off campus, consider looking for a place that has the option for shared living. Having roommates can absolutely help with saving money. I had roommates for about two years and it helped me be able to afford my tuition since my housing costs was reduced.

4. How will you pay for education?

Lastly, before you start college, you need to know how much you will be paying per term/semester. Here are your options for paying for your education:

  1. Pay out of pocket. This assumes you make enough money, or, have enough savings to cover your tuition. If you pay out of pocket, try to opt for payment plans, if your school has one. Typically a payment plan will divide your tuition into three or more payments over the term to make it more affordable.
  2. Apply for scholarships & grants. Scholarships and grants, unlike loans do not need to be paid back. Apply to them each year and hope that you win one!
  3. Work a part-time job while in college (if you have the option). This can put more cash in your pocket to put towards school all while building your resume up.
  4. If you cannot pay 100% out of pocket, if you have no scholarships or grants, you might be tempted to look at student loans as an option. While this is extremely common, keep in mind, this has to be paid back and will start accruing interest as soon as you are in college if it is an unsubsidized loan. A subsidized loan will accrue interest after six months of graduating. If you go this route, my suggestion is to do thorough research on how much aid you need and pay as much as you can out of pocket. Take only the amount that you need. As soon as you take on loans, keep track in a spreadsheet of how much you owe so you are always aware of it.

Answer these questions and hopefully by the end of it, you will know which educational path you would like to go down!

If you have any other lingering questions about going to college, email me at budgetadvisorblog@gmail.com or DM me on Insta at budgetadvisorblog.

Published by Dana Johnson

Hi, my name is Dana and I help teach the value of budgeting & saving early on in life so you can achieve your financial goals.

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