Reducing College Costs

For most students, the financial aid offer does not cover the entire cost of education. Before borrowing more money, consider the following cost-cutting measures.

Enrollment Costs

  • See if you’re eligible for reduced tuition at an out-of-state school. Some state university systems have agreements with neighboring state university systems to offer reduced tuition rates, especially if you want to major in a program that is not offered at your state school(s). Learn more about NEBHE’s Tuition Break program.
  • Test out of college courses by taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school. Some colleges will grant you course credit for your high school AP classes if you receive high scores on the test.
  • Enroll in summer courses at your local college or online to fulfill general education requirements at a lower cost per credit hour.
  • Take advantage of schools with flat tuition rates by taking extra classes to accelerate your degree without paying more money.

Living Expenses

  • Consider living at home, if possible, and commuting to college.
  • Get roommates if you decide to live off campus. If you live on campus, skip the single room.
  • Choose a meal plan that works for you, to avoid paying for more than you’ll actually eat. More importantly, if you have a meal plan, use it! Eating out when you have a meal plan is like paying for that meal twice.

Travel Expenses

  • Leave your car at home to save on parking fees and gas.
  • Consider commuting with another student or use public transportation.
  • Take advantage of student discounts on car insurance and travel.


  • Utilize free resources like Google Books and your school library to see if you can use a textbook for free.
  • Consider renting from a source like or your school bookstore, or share a book with a student taking the same class as you.
  • Buy your books used and buy them early. School bookstores and online sources like have a limited supply of used books, which tend to go first.
  • Go green by purchasing digital books. Downloadable textbooks are often cheaper than hard copies and are delivered on demand.
  • Earn cash back by selling books you’ll never use again to classmates, your school bookstore and online stores like or Bookstores often have a limit as to how many copies of a book they will buy back, so sell your books as soon as possible.

Additional Supplies

  • Consider relying on a library or computer lab instead of buying your own laptop. If your school requires that you have your own laptop, see if you can buy a used or refurbished one. Look into student discounts, which may be available through your school.
  • Before investing in any computer software for your laptop, check with your school’s library or computer help desk. Some schools have an inventory of software available for free to current students.