Posted in financial aid, Tuition

Careful Borrowing for College

“When a student debtor is approved for financial aid, those funds are sent and administered by that student’s college’s financial aid office. The financial aid office takes out the necessary money to pay the college for that student’s course load,” LendEDU research analyst Mike Brown writes.

Whatever money remains is sent to the student loan borrower in the form of a refund check. The refund check is intended to be used for living expenses or other school-related expenses, but there is no way of keeping track of where that excess money is spent.”

The above story appeared earlier this month on a site called College Fix, as part of LendEdu’s report.  But, it’s old news, students have been doing this since my early days in college administration (1990’s) but the distinction now is that the amount of money they can borrow is staggering.

First of all, know that your teen can borrow money to attend college.  The federal borrowing guidelines allow for borrowing for 150% of the length of a degree program (if you’re pursuing a 4-year degree, you are eligible to borrow for 6 years)   Your teen will be allowed to borrow $57,500 for their bachelor’s degree per current guidelines.  If they stay in school and continue onto a master’s or doctorate degree, they’ll be able to borrow $138,500 per current guidelines.

Second, know that you can borrow money for your teen to attend college.  In short, parents can borrow whatever deficiency exists between their teen’s borrowed amount and the cost of attendance according to current guidelines.   As you can imagine, there is little incentive for colleges to keep tuition prices affordable when parents and teens can simply borrow for their teen to attend any college at any cost.  

Last week, I wrote about how none of us has unlimited time, talent, or resources.  An encouragement to parents as they guide teens toward high school graduation.  Today, I want to take a shot at helping your teens make smart(er) borrowing choices this fall by avoiding some of the common issues they’ll face as they sign their financial aid “package” documents in the coming months.

Most of the time, a financial aid package is nothing more than a loan or many loans.  If your teen is receiving grants or scholarships, those are gifts that don’t have to be paid back- and should be clearly identified in their package.



2017 CNN Money
credit: CNN Money 2017


Let’s look at the above example from CNN Money.   If you can get past the sticker shock of a family borrowing $53,342 for ONE YEAR, you’re looking at a total borrowed amount of $217,368 between the parents and teen by the time he’s finished.   If future borrowing matches this sample, the teen will borrow at least $22,000 and the parents will borrow at least $195,000.

United States Department of Education reports that it takes, on average, SIX years to complete a 4-year degree.

Parents here know that you can complete the first 2 years of almost every college major for pennies on the dollar in high school by using:

  • credit by exam programs like CLEP and AP in some amount
  • free tuition through your state’s dual enrollment program. List of States
  • using your community college to complete transfer courses or full degrees.

Let’s assume you’ve been exceptionally efficient with your teen’s high school program.  You’ve injected college credit where it makes sense, and you’ve found a program that allows them to transfer a full Associate degree into their Bachelor’s degree program perfectly.  You’re still faced with the question of how to fund “the last 2 years.”

It might surprise you to learn that I think borrowing for the last 2 years isn’t a problem.  In fact, there is a lot of data that tells us most of the problems and unnecessary costs happen in the first 2 years.   Everything we talk about here – credit by exam, dual enrollment, distance learning, transfer credit- it all saves time and money off the first 2 years.  If you have to borrow, your best shot at using your money wisely is to fund their last 2 years.  The last 2 years are harder to “hack” with alternative or inexpensive credit.  So, if you’re trying to stretch every last dollar, it’s best to hang tight, and use it (or borrow) at the very latest possible moment- but when the finish line is within your view.

Look again at this financial aid package- there is one line I want you to notice:


Did you see the “Financial Need” row?  Where did that number come from?  It should surprise you to learn that the college doesn’t cost $51,845- but the college wants you to borrow that amount.  (Albion College in Albion, Michigan)  If you go to the college’s cost page, you’ll see a breakdown like this:

Tuition & Fees  $39,313 USD
Room & Board  $11,066 USD
Books & Supplies  $800 USD
Other Expenses  $906 USD
Annual Cost of Attendance
$52,085 USD

(final cost differs slightly from CNN’s graphic- but not significantly)

The amount the college expects you’ll “need” to attend there makes a lot of assumptions!  Tuition and Fees are what you’re going to get a bill for.  $39,313 isn’t flexible, and if you allow your teen to attend, they’ll have to pay that amount.

But, they’ve assumed your teen will live on campus (not everyone does) and will purchase the meal plan (board) which not everyone does.  Further, they’ve written in a loan for $1706 to cover projected books, supplies, and “other” expenses (pizza?) that your teen may or may not have.  Either way, those aren’t billed costs, so 100% of that money will be given to your teen as a “refund check.”

If your teen signs their financial aid package as written, but chooses to live at home, your teen will receive a “refund check” for  $12,772.  If they do live on campus, their refund check will be $1706.

This isn’t a “refund,” it’s a “cash advance loan.”

“Polling “1,000 student loan borrowers who are currently enrolled at a four-year college,” LendEDU sought to determine “how many are using student loan money to help pay for their spring break trips this year.”

Nearly 57% of respondents affirmed that they would be using financial aid to help finance their vacations.”  -LendEDU

spring break

10 Careful Borrowing Tips

  1. Borrow only the amount you’ll be billed for.  The “extras” that the school automatically includes can usually be budgeted for or paid for using cash. Your package probably includes money for buying textbooks (smart students rent or buy used textbooks!) as well as things like parking passes.  If your teen’s financial package doesn’t spell this out for you, you’ll need to get those numbers yourself.
  2. Declining a loan will require a lot of paperwork, and will likely confuse the financial aid office.  Our family experienced this last year when my husband’s employer paid 75% of his MBA degree, and though we needed to borrow to pay his portion, the financial aid office automatically offered him a loan to pay 100%.  When he declined their “generosity,” he had to sign no less than 5 forms before they agreed to reduce his loan amount to just the part of tuition he owed.
  3. Earn the maximum allowable credit in advance.  Whether you choose CLEP, AP, or dual enrollment, this advanced credit shaves money and time spent finishing a degree.  Some colleges allow 15-30 credits in transfer, but others allow as many as 90!  This reduces the time spent finishing a bachelor’s degree by 1-2-3+ years!
  4. Many majors are available through your state’s colleges and universities via distance learning- reducing housing costs to zero.  These degrees are identical to those earned on campus, so if your teen is studying something that doesn’t require “hands-on” labs, you may be able to avoid borrowing living expenses and dorm fees entirely.  Good majors that work with distance learning:  psychology, history, business, communications.
  5. Juniors and seniors can earn scholarships!  Scholarships aren’t only for incoming freshman.  Check the professional association linked to your teen’s major- majors like nursing or business usually have huge scholarship opportunities.
  6. A part-time job can have big rewards.  Many companies offer tuition reimbursement in some amount.  List of 100 employers.
  7. Price shop.  You may not realize this, but hundreds of colleges offer the same degrees.  As a general rule, public colleges/universities in your home state are usually a fraction of the cost of attending a public college/university in another state.  Private colleges don’t often care what state you’re from but are almost always the most expensive choice.
  8. Credit shop.  If your teen worked hard in high school to earn college credit, choose a college that recognizes their credit.  While having completed 1-2 classes may not necessarily sway your decision, some of you will have teens with 1-2 YEARS of college credit in the bank- it’s worth finding a school that will take it all.
  9. When in doubt, wait it out.  If you’re not sure – or if your teen isn’t sure that they need a 4-year degree in their field, take the time to be sure.  Use their credit earned toward a 2-year degree or take a gap year.  Additionally, doing unpaid volunteer internships offer an exceptional opportunity to explore careers without borrowing a dime.
  10. If you must borrow, save the loans for the last 2 years. It is nearly impossible to find discounted tuition for upper level (300/400 level) courses, but if you start homeschooling for college credit in high school,  you can cash-flow the first two years of almost any degree… and that is what I call resourceful high school planning!


Posted in Credit by Exam, Tuition

The 10-Million Dollar Year: 2018

The 2018 goal for Homeschooling for College Credit is that each of our member families initiates ONE CLEP or AP exam in their homeschool.   This single act will save the homeschool community $10 million dollars in tuition next year.

College tuition costs have reached a fever-pitch, and many homeschool families worry how they’ll pay these rising costs while usually raising many children on one income.  Even well-funded families are questioning the wisdom of borrowing tens of thousands of dollars with no promise of a degree or employment after graduation.  Homeschooling for College Credit believes that by resourceful high school planning, parents who inject college credit into their homeschool can reduce the cost of their teen’s college education significantly.  We are a team of volunteers who use these principles with our own teens and freely help other parents walk this journey with support and encouragement.

Our kids are average.  If we can do it, you can do it.

The “average” cost of college is hard to calculate.  While we have access to a lot of data, the choices a parent makes are really the biggest factor.  For instance, if someone asked you the “average” cost of going out to dinner, you’d have so many variables, that you’d both under-estimate or over-estimate for all but a narrow set.  Colleges are like restaurants.  Sometimes you’re looking for value- which is to say you want a return on your investment and at a fair price.  Sometimes you’re looking for an experience- which is to say you hope to have an unforgettable adventure.  Sometimes it’s about price- getting the most out of what little resources you have.  Finally, some are looking for something very specific- their favorite fried chicken.

The community at Homeschooling for College Credit doesn’t presume to know the “best restaurant” for your family.  That’s a personal decision, and there aren’t any wrong answers- what we do know, is that there are ways to save time and money in every case.  Parents in our community aren’t “one size fits all” and our member families aren’t all strictly utilitarian or all strictly academic, they’re a mix.  An in this mix creates a well-rounded and dynamic opportunity for parents on all paths to save a little -or save a lot– of money for their family.

Based on The Department of Education tuition data, the average tuition costs by school type:

  • 2-year community college costs $135 per credit
  • 4-year state college costs $435 per credit
  • 4-year private college costs $1039 per credit

A 2-year degree typically consists of 60 credits (60x$135) and costs $8100.

A 4-year degree from a public college typically consists of 120 credits and costs (120x$435) $52,200.

A 4-year degree from a private college typically consists of 12p credits and costs (120x$1039) $124,680.

Around here, we call these tuition calculations “rack rate” because they don’t take into account any scholarships (merit, academic, athletic, or other), a Pell Grant (government funded gift to everyone meeting income criteria) or special incentives (internal programs given to some students under special conditions).  But, we always proceed from the position of rack rate, because if you can’t get the cost down in some way, that is exactly what you will pay. 

Simple math to reduce rack rate

CLEP and Advanced Placement exams (college credit awarded by exam) award 3-9 college credits per passing score.  A CLEP or AP exam costs roughly $100 dollars and will usually result in 3 college credits.  A family that initiates just one exam for their teen can expect a return on their investment of several hundred, to several thousand dollars.

  • Each CLEP or AP exam that results in 3 college credits at a community college results in a net savings of about $300
  • Each CLEP or AP exam that results in 3 college credits at public 4-year college results in a net savings of about $1200.
  • Each CLEP or AP exam that results in 3 college credits at a private 4-year college results in a net savings of about $3000.


The 2018 goal for Homeschooling for College Credit is that each of our member families initiates ONE CLEP or AP exam in their homeschool this year.

When each of our 11,500 members initiates one exam in their homeschool, as a collective community, we will save

Over $3 MILLION DOLLARS off the cost of a community college degree.

Over $13 MILLION DOLLARS off the cost of a public 4-year college degree.

Over $34 MILLION DOLLARS off the cost of a private 4-year college degree.


Now, if those numbers are amazing, just imagine if each family took 2 exams?  Or 14?

Injecting credit by exam opportunities in your homeschool, and then guiding your teen into a college that awards credit for their score, is one way you can be pro-active in reducing the cost of your teen’s college degree.  While its true that colleges differ in how many exams they will accept toward a degree, but there are over three-thousand regionally accredited colleges to choose from!  You don’t have to deep-dive into every college’s policy in high school, it’s easy enough to find colleges that accept 15, 31, or more credits by exam – most do.

Why don’t colleges tell parents about this opportunity?  They have no financial incentive! Despite my own background working as a college administrator, I hadn’t heard about CLEP until I stumbled upon it myself.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that our community college not only allowed students to complete 75% of their degree via CLEP and AP, but we were also an official testing center.  (Information available to anyone who asked, of course.)

With most regionally accredited colleges and universities accepting CLEP and or AP credit in some amount, it’s easy enough to take 1 CLEP or AP exam at the very minimum and use it at the school of your choice.   If you want to be a little more extreme, there are a small number of colleges that don’t cap the number of CLEP and AP credits you can bring in.  They are affectionately called “The Big 3” by those of us who obsessively look for opportunities in this category.  The Big 3.

Take encouragement from other families who have started this journey and have shared some of their success on our Facebook page.

We asked:  Has dual enrollment or testing out of a college course saved your family any tuition dollars?

Christine (Ohio) My daughter finished enough credits with CCP that she started as a sophomore. So she will have saved one year of college when she graduates.

Rena (Minnesota) About $25,000 so far.

Lori (Indiana) My son just completed a CLEP test and the cost of the class would have been over $500.

Karen (New Mexico) My son is going to start college with 32 hrs, maybe more if he takes any classes this summer. So, I would say that we’ve saved $12,000-$30,000 in having a year of college done.

Robyn (Florida) My daughter did AP and Dual enrolled. She received credit for all. She is only a sophomore in college now but a junior by credit. It was a nice cushion – but she will probably still spend 4 years at her University to graduate with the dual degree she wants.

Jennifer (Georgia) My daughter took 2 AP tests, 3 CLEPs, did dual enrollment at 2 different colleges and then used my husband’s GI Bill to continue her education. She’s 18 and will be graduating with her Bachelor’s degree this spring with zero college debt!! 

Jude (Iowa) I’m going to quietly admit savings of over 20k using Iowa tuition charges if I paid out of pocket. Net value is MUCH more, as her current school would have charged over $1k per credit hour had we not completed those courses.

Jenifer (New Jersey) AP tests saved us almost a full year of tuition (plus room & board.)

Tanya If we would have paid for last semester of Dual Enrollment it would have been $1100. To date, she has 39 college credits and is taking 11 this semester ($0). Thankful we chose this route.

Julie (Texas) My oldest two of six children both have debt-free college degrees, only possible because they did dual credit and credit by exam throughout high school. They each had about 70 hours before high school graduation.

Mary (Illinois) Between the reduced fees for dual enrollment and scholarships my daughter is expecting to get her associates degree the week after she gets her high school diploma for very little. It is worth looking into and pursuing this option. Besides it completely confounds most college representatives with the fact your child is graduating with college credit!

Susan (Ohio) We spent a total of around ten thousand dollars on my oldest son’s bachelor’s degree, including books! He used cheap community college classes, CLEP exams, DSST exams, and FEMA credits to save money before transferring to his final school for his bachelor’s degree, Thomas Edison State University.

Carissa (New Mexico) By the end of 2018 spring semester, my 15-yr-old will have 21 hours of college credits (and four **free** IT certifications) completed via dual enrollment. He is preparing to CLEP out of French I & II, all History requirements, Psychology, Sociology, all English requirements, and all Economic requirements.

Victoria (Missouri) To date, my daughter has taken 3 CLEPs, resulting in 11 credits (biology transferred to her community college as 5 credits). The cost, including testing center fee, for all 11 totals $300 plus about $50 for study materials (InstantCert and one or two used CLEP guides). So let’s say $350. If my student had taken the same classes at her community college at the current rate of $103 per credit, that would work out to $1133. Plus textbooks for the equivalent courses at about $250 (renting at today’s price). So at least $1383. Total savings so far: $1033.

Wendy (Texas) My dd is going to a private university, and she will go in with 9 hours of dual credit. That will save us about $8400. We are hoping to CLEP some, and each one will save us $2800ish. It is significant savings when going to a 4 yr school.

Teresa (Texas) First student graduated high school with 45 college credits. All transferred. And all but 5 (mostly 1 credit electives) count for the degree choice he made after attending4-year university. It is his second semester at the university and he is 2 credits from being a Junior. The tuition at his public university is almost $11,000/year (living at home), so to answer your question …..Y.E.S.!!! About $22,000!!!

Carol (Minnesota) – she used CLEP and dual enrollment to save SO much money that I wrote a story about her:   We just saved $96,780

Has dual enrollment or testing out of a college course saved your family any tuition dollars?  If so, let us know! Be part of our 10-Million Dollar year!

Posted in Scholarships, Tuition

Get a Grip on Scholarships

Scholarships sound wonderful, and in some cases they are.  Several good friends have used scholarships to fund the entire education of their teens.  Others were enticed into deep debt chasing small awards at very expensive schools.

A scholarship is a financial award that doesn’t have to be repaid.  Your teen may receive one for academic merit or test scores because they live in a certain geographic area, because they excel in a sport, possess a talent,  are pursuing a certain major, or because the college they are attending has a fund to either entice or subsidize a student’s enrollment.  

Because there feels like a lot of ways a person “could” earn a scholarship, and we’ve all heard that there are “millions of dollars that go unclaimed every year” we want to be sure our teens don’t leave any money on the table.  And if you register your email address and pay the low price of $99, I’ll tell you all about it….. (NO!)

While it is true that some scholarship opportunities go unclaimed each year, far more common are the scholarships that have thousands of applicants for just one shot at $1,000.

Where does the myth of unclaimed scholarships come from?

According to Marvin Carmichael, past Chairman of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), this notion that billions of dollars of scholarships go unclaimed year has been around for a long time, but it is most definitely a myth. If a university does not award all its scholarship money one year, Carmichael explains, it is because of weird timing issues or highly restrictive eligibility requirements.

CAUTION #1  The Marketing Funnel

The overwhelming majority of scholarship sites are dot-com businesses that exist for the purpose of selling you recycled information already on the web.  These are not scholarship experts, these are internet marketers.  In fact, some of these businesses own dozens of websites with similar names, and they link you back and forth between each other.  The purpose is to capture your email address and give you breadcrumbs of information.  Either through a chain of scheduled emails or links, you’ll be given more free help.  At some point, you’ll be offered a free downloadable ebook. (more breadcrumbs) and possibly sent links to products for you to buy (more ebooks) or a subscription to premium content.  In marketing, this is called a “paywall.”  A paywall is where they want to take you.  Once at the wall, you’ll pay a fee, and gain access to their ultra-premium content.  This can be live webinars, video classes, emails, books, etc.  Congratulations, you’ve fallen for the oldest trick in the book – repackaged for the tech times we live in.  You’ve fallen into a marketing funnel, and the one and only purpose of you being there is to buy something (more than once).

Marketers know that by getting you in the marketing funnel, they have a 1-3% chance of “converting” you to a paying customer.  So, thousands of dollars are spent enticing you to click on something that gets you into the funnel.  Ever see Facebook ads in your newsfeed?  Those are to get you in a marketing funnel.

As you can imagine, it’s a lot of work orchestrating a marketing funnel.  (It’s 100% legal) So, that doesn’t leave much time to generate quality content.  That’s ok, these businessmen can access a huge database of open-copyright content that is available to them to reprint without permission as often as they want.  Oh, did I mention that the likelihood of your teen actually getting a scholarship through one of these sources is 0%?

SOLUTION: Do not google “How to find Scholarships.”  There are better ways, and we’ll discuss them below.

CAUTION #2 The Sports Scholarship

Unlike the marketing funnel, sports scholarships aren’t scams.  They are, however, an excellent way to end up in a world of hurt and deep debt.

All NCAA Division Sports Scholarship information is transparent and open to the public (you) to look at.  So, hoping for a scholarship is less helpful than learning about how they work and how much money they (don’t) award.   Fewer than 2% of public high school students receive sports scholarships, so when you filter down to homeschooled students, there is even less information to go on.  Admittedly, we are a much smaller pool of applicants!  Still, some students (like my 2016 high school graduate son) may be eligible for a sports scholarship.

There are 6 sports in which a “full ride” scholarship exists:  football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, tennis and women’s gymnastics.  If your teen is in one of those sports, I urge you to dive deeper than what we’ll cover here.  I recently watched and recommend a documentary called Schooled.  It reveals some of the challenges and limitations surrounding full scholarships in those sports.   Even if your teen plays one of those sports, if they don’t get picked up by a Division I school, your chances of getting a full ride are almost zero.  The “pot” of billions is distributed like this: Division II schools will get 4.37% of the pot, Division III schools will get 3.18%, and Division I colleges will get the rest.  (That’s 92.45%)

Now, if your sport isn’t on that short list, there IS NO MONEY for a full-ride sports scholarship. I know you think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.  Sports that are NCAA, but not one of the 6,  are given a pool of money to be split each year – at the coach’s discretion- between all / any of the athletes on the team in that sport.

To use the sport I’m most familiar with, Men’s Swimming and Diving, in 2016, the average team consisted of 20 swim (AND) dive members.  Only the top 9 swim (OR) dive members received part of the money pool.  Those that received any money, averaged $8,000 per year (renewable at the coach’s discretion).  The colleges that participate in college-level swimming and diving, however, average $35,000 per year tuition ($11,000 per year room and board).  In other words, best case scenario would have a student swimming “on scholarship” to receive $32,000 off of their $184,000 degree.  That’s NOT a deal, even for the top swimmer OR diver on the team.

Does this mean your teen shouldn’t pursue athletics?  Not at all!  This means you (the parent) shouldn’t chase athletic scholarships.  Most colleges have athletics, and your teen can play athletics in college without the burden of taking on debt to pursue a “scholarship.”

Please, spend 6 minutes and watch this Divison I athlete’s WATER POLO debt disaster  (stay with it until the end!):

CAUTION #3 Blinded by the (spot)Light

Is there a difference between receiving a stipend, a government grant, an institutional waiver, an endowment payment, an allocation or a scholarship?   I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t the money.

A “scholarship” is a precious word in our culture.  If your teen receives a scholarship, the amount of the award doesn’t much matter- it strokes our ego just the same.  A scholarship validates 18 years of hard work as a homeschool parent, and we get to post about it on Facebook.   Ok, maybe not you.  Maybe it’s just my observation that so many parents are quick to tell me how they (oops, I mean their) teen earned a “scholarship” for this or that, which certainly makes them an expert in the thing they are selling you.light

I don’t want to undercut the victory of a teen that earns a scholarship, but my role is to help you be the best guidance counselor for your teen, and that requires you to ask some hard questions before the celebration.

  1.  Is this scholarship a one-time (non-renewable) award, or does it renew every year?
  2. If this scholarship renews, how many years can you renew it?
  3. What are the requirements to keep it active?  Grade point average? Financial limits? Residency restrictions? Graduate in X number of years?
  4. What is the total cost of my teen’s education AFTER I subtract this scholarship?
  5. Do I have enough money to fund the remaining cost of my teen’s education?
  6. Does this scholarship allow my teen to use it at the college of her choice? Or is it tied to attending a specific college?
  7. Does accepting this scholarship put my family in a position that is difficult financially or in some other way?

Strange questions?  Maybe, but the truth is that scholarships can sometimes create a strain on the family.  If you put each scholarship into the calculator and use math instead of emotion, you’ll be more likely to make a wise choice.

Strategies for Managing Costs

If you’re down to the wire, you’re probably ready for some solutions at this point.  I have a few, and most involve making your own solution to the college-funding problem.  I solve this problem from only one direction – the direction that assumes zero student loan debt.  For those willing to borrow, many of these tips won’t make the cut.  Afterall, your teen can borrow all the money they need, and when they max their cap, you can borrow the rest.  Since 2004, the phrase “improved financial aid programs” is code for “we’re letting everyone borrow what they need.”  Problem solved, right?  With no financial incentive to keep tuition prices low, we’ve observed a staggering increase in the cost of college.  While this is good news for borrowers, it means that those who want to pay cash, or at least remove debt from the equation, have to be exceptionally resourceful.

  1.  If you’re in a state that offers free dual enrollment – USE IT!  Earning even 1 or 2 free classes will help reduce total cost.
  2. If you’re in a state that guarantees community college credits will transfer into your state’s public 4-year colleges – USE IT!  The guaranteed transfer assures that those credits paid for at a community college rate (under $100 per credit)  will count at a college that charges 4-5-6 times that amount!
  3. If you’re in a state that guarantees an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree will transfer into your state’s public 4-year college- USE IT!  The value of this maneuver can save the average family at least $35,000 or more.
  4. If you’re in a state that guarantees an AA or AS transfers as a full block of credit, use CLEP, DSST, or AP exams to accelerate the process and save cost.  When locked into a full block transfer, the receiving 4-year college can’t deny credit by exam transfer.
  5. In all 50 states, the cost of attending your state’s private university as an in-state student is lower than attending a neighboring state’s university as an out of state student.
  6. Sometimes, a college offers a special tuition rate for distance learning classes. Check if your teen can save money (or will spend extra money) choosing one over the other.
  7. Shop “degree” instead of “college.”  In most fields, where you went to college (brand name) is less relevant than the degree, major, or content of courses you take.
  8. If your teen has to pay-as-they-go and graduates a year or two later, then so be it!  Coming out of college debt-free will have a greater return on investment than coming out of college with a $35,000 student loan payment.
  9. In high school, point your teen toward working for one of the thousands of companies that offer scholarships to their workers or full tuition reimbursement.
  10. For parents- if you have multiple children lined up for college, consider taking a position with a college or university.  Even janitors and cooks can send their kids to college for free if they work full-time for a university.  While not all universities offer this benefit, most do!    In addition, employees at Tuition Exchange colleges can send their teens to ANY college in the program, not just where they work.

    My other posts/strategies you may be interested in:

  11. BOG AAS Pierpont Community and Technical College  (for those who graduated high school more than 2 years ago)

  12. University of the People  (a free accredited college)
  13. Guaranteed Scholarships (legitimate scholarships for EVERYONE that qualifies)
  14. Sources of Free College Credits (great to use at Thomas Edison State College)
  15. 100 Employer / Employee Scholarships (great companies for your teen!)
  16. Reader Question: Is there a low-cost way to do medical school?  (Yes)
  17. Working During College: Yes or No?  (Yes)
  18. We just saved $96,780  (A member shares how they did it)
  19. Completely FREE Tuition (The follow-up to my book Completely FREE Colleges)
  20. Cost of Tuition in the United States  loan



Posted in AP Advanced Placement, CLEP, Credit by Exam, Resources, Tuition

Cost of Tuition in the United States

The current and historical cost of tuition in the United Sates is tracked and sorted for us to learn from.   The United States Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics keeps data on this kind of information, and much more!  (Psssttt, it’s one of my favorite sites to browse)

The costs below reflect averaged “rack rate” tuition for 1 year, which is to say the price stated by the college as their tuition rate.  Individual student’s scholarships or other grants are not reflected here, this is simply the price of tuition.   Note that public colleges generally have “in-state” and “out of state” tuition rates- this is because of the economics of a state-funded educational system, and out-of-state students will typically pay a significantly higher rate than in-state students.

Now, because this is the Homeschooling for College Credit page, of course, I’m also including the breakdown for several popular college credit exams that your teen can take – you’ll be able to see the TREMENDOUS cost savings as you get down to the bottom of the page.

“Cost of attendance”  is also collected, and includes OTHER expenses besides tuition.  Books, meals, dorms, etc. may all be estimated on your college’s website. As you dig deeper, you’ll want to sort out the costs that are variable and those that are fixed.  For instance, if a student lives at home, there aren’t many living expenses to add in, but a student living in a dorm will spend about $13,000 more per year. For the purposes of this post, we’re only talking about TUITION.  

Official Calculation as per-year

(Data Source:  National Center for Education Statistics: November 2016)


Less than 2-year (Diploma/Certificate)
Public Non-Profit 248 schools $6,505 in-state $7,288 out-state
Private Non-Profit 86 schools $13,433 N/A
Private For-Profit 1,616 schools $15,269 N/A
2-year (Associate Degree)
Public Non-Profit 1,016 schools $3,941 in-state $7,780 out-state
Private Non-Profit 178 schools $13,899 N/A
Private For-Profit 891 schools $14,864 N/A
4-year (Bachelor’s Degree)
Public Non-Profit 710 schools $8,141 in-state $18,341 out-sta.
Private Non-Profit 1,602 schools $26,355 N/A
Private For-Profit 700 schools $16,066 N/A


Unofficial* Calculation as per-credit

Less than 2-year (Diploma/Certificate)
Public Non-Profit   $217 in-state $243 out-state
Private Non-Profit   $448 N/A
Private For-Profit   $509 N/A
2-year (Associate Degree)
Public Non-Profit   $131 in-state $259 out-state
Private Non-Profit   $463 N/A
Private For-Profit   $495 N/A
4-year (Bachelor’s Degree)
Public Non-Profit   $271 $611 out-state
Private Non-Profit   $879 N/A
Private For-Profit   $536 N/A

Credit by Exam Calculation as per-credit

Credit By Exam
AP Exam $93  3 credit exam=

$31 per credit

6 credit exam=

$16 per credit

9 credit exam=

$10 per credit

CLEP Exam $80 3 credit exam=

$27 per credit

6 credit exam=

$13 per credit

9 credit exam=

$9 per credit

DSST Exam $80 3 credit exam=

$27 per credit

ACTFL foreign language $70 (written) 12 cr. exam=

$7 per credit





Saylor Exam $25 3 credit exam=

$8 per credit


Unofficial* = calculated by dividing the yearly tuition by 30, the standard full-time load.