Average College Tuition Costs Have Tripled — Here Are 4 Ways to Pay Less

Jamie Johnson
group of private college students discussing their thoughts about tuition
  • The average college tuition costs at public and private schools have tripled over the last 30 years, contributing to the $1.5 trillion student loan debt.
  • Private, nonprofit four-year colleges tend to have higher graduation rates but also tend to be the most expensive.
  • Students can receive scholarships, grants and tax benefits that will lower their tuition significantly.

It’s college acceptance letter season and many students are planning how they will spend the next four years. It’s an exciting time, but it can be challenging to work out the high costs that come with pursuing a degree.

A College Board survey found that the average in-state, public school tuition rose from $3,360 in 1988 to $10,230 in 2018. And the average tuition price for a private, nonprofit college is now $35,830. These costs include tuition, fees and living expenses.

Related: Average Cost of College Has Jumped an Incredible 3,009% in 50 Years

How Students Can Pay Less for College

The report also found that few students pay the full price for college once they add in scholarships, grants and tax benefits. Here are four ways students can strategically pay less for their college tuition:

1. Fill Out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid becomes available on Oct. 1 and is the application used to determine federal student aid. The FAFSA is also a resource most colleges use to award need-based financial aid to students, so it’s important to apply early when schools have more funds available.

Find Out: How to Get More Money From FAFSA

2. Take as Many AP Courses as Possible

Earning a high score on an advanced placement exam can help students save money on tuition. Many colleges will award course credits for high AP scores, which can reduce the amount students have to pay.

3. Use Available Tax Deductions

The Tuition and Fees Deduction allows qualifying students to deduct certain college expenses. This can reduce their taxable income by up to $4,000.

Tuition and More: Here’s Every Single Tax Deduction You Could Possibly Ask For

4. Be Skeptical of the High Price Tags

Private colleges often come with a high price tag, but don’t assume this means they’re out of reach. There is usually a big difference between what schools say they charge and what most students end up paying.

Many schools charge high tuition fees but offer generous financial aid packages. And students can always request additional aid if their financial circumstances change.

Learn About: Paying for College — How to Include Your Child in the Process

Always Choose Federal Student Loans

You can use different ways to lower the cost of attending college, but employing these strategies still might not be enough to cover all the expenses. If it’s necessary to take out student loans, always choose federal loans first. Federal loans come with a much lower interest rate than private loans and offer certain protections, like income-driven repayment plans.

More Pros and Cons: Federal Student Loans vs. Private Student Loans

Find out how your kids can avoid student loan debt by applying to these colleges.

More on Paying for College

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Average College Tuition Costs Have Tripled — Here Are 4 Ways to Pay Less