Your Cheat Sheet to Saving Thousands on College Costs

College is expensive. Even those who attempt to save money by living off-campus and attending an in-state institution face extremely high costs. For tuition and fees alone, an in-state resident is looking at close to $9,000 per year. At a private college, cost can get up into the $30,000 or $40,000 range.

Books are another astronomical cost. New editions are published regularly, making it difficult for students to gain significant resale value from textbooks. It seems as though college students have costs coming from all directions, making it exceedingly difficult to get through college without student loans.

College students can benefit from a few money saving tricks. If the goal is to obtain a college education, for the lowest cost possible, there are a several strategies to help achieve this.

Data Source: College Board

Data Source: College Board

CLEP: general ed requirements for around one-ninth of tuition cost

Most people have heard of CLEP tests. You know, those tests you can take in place of college courses? It may sound to good to be true, but really, it’s not. If you’re really knowledgeable in a subject area, you can take a CLEP, or college-level examination program test, for $80 per exam. Compared to the average cost of $700 for a college course, an $80 CLEP test is a great deal.

The College Board currently offers 33 CLEP exams across five different subject areas, which are listed in the chart above. Different schools have different CLEP rules and requirements and your school may not allow all 33 subject exams, but most institutions grant credit for the basic general education requirements like English, Math, Foreign Language, and History. Sign up is usually pretty simple, as well. Most institutions allow you to sign up in right in their testing center. In most cases, you simply pick a testing date, pay the fee, and take the test. If the CLEP exam indicates you possess enough of a level of knowledge, you get college credit. This credit transfers to most institutions, and it generally does not impact your grade point average.

CLEP testing also allows you to complete your degree requirements at a faster pace. Because these test only take a short amount of time and you’re working with a familiar subject area, only a moderate amount of preparation is needed. The college board also has CLEP resources available to help test takers prepare. Taking these exams allows you to complete more than the traditional 12 to 18 credit hours in a given semester.