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Getting a Degree Without Breaking the Bank

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The editors at Best Value Schools decided to research the topic of:

Getting a Degree Without Breaking the Bank

With college costs consistently outpacing the rate of inflation, many students are thinking twice when it comes to going to college. Let's explore the numbers students are up against today and how to make higher education more affordable.

College is Expensive and We Go Into Debt to Fund It

Average cost of a four-year degree

Average student loan balance in 2012

About $1 trillion
Total outstanding U.S. student loan debt, that's more than the national GDPs of Australia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Poland and hundreds of other countries.

$85 billion
Student loans past due
Who's borrowing?
Student loan borrowers by age
Under 30 39.6%
30-39 26.9%
40-49 14.8%
50-59 11.8%
60 and over 5.3%
Unknown 1.7%

Student loan borrowers by balance (37 million borrowers)
$1-$10,000 43.1%
$10,000-$25,000 29.2%
$25,000-$50,000 16.5%
$50,000-$75,000 5.9%
$75,000-$100,000 2.3%
$100,000-$150,000 1.9%
$150,000-$200,000 0.7%
Greater than $200,000 0.5%

1 out of 3
Graduates who wished they'd pursued more scholarships and financial aid options

Starting Early

High-schoolers are stepping it up to save money. They're adding to their already-heavy study load by taking advantage of dual-credit programs, which allow students to receive up to two years of their college for free or at a significantly reduced rate.

1.3 million
Number of high school students who took classes for university credit before completing high school (2010-2011)

8 out of 10
High schools that offer university-level classes

How much Portland high school students save per class by taking college courses in high school though Portland State University

Tips for Saving on College

Stay in state
Annual amount a Michigan resident can save attending school in Ann Arbor vs. a non-Michigan resident
Consider community college
Potential savings by taking general education courses at community college
Stay on track
Don't pay for an extra semester, which can average around $10,000
Identify student discounts
Many retailers, restaurants and even Amtrak offer student discounts. Apple offers up to $200 off new computers to students.
Buy or rent used textbooks and sell last semester's books back; use e-books
Average amount spent on books and supplies at public four-year colleges
Live cheaper
Become a resident adviser. Many get free room and board, which can save $7,500-$9,000 per year.