How to get a cheap or free education – Part II
On my last post I talked about how if you were a 4.0 student who got a 1500 (or 2250 by new score standards) on the SATs, had a list of achievements, and played sports or were from a poor family, you could study at one of the top institutions in the nation, and perhaps the world, without having to go into student debt. But what if you’re a 3.9 student who got a 1400 on their SATs? Perhaps you do meet the requirements to go into one of the top universities, but your family doesn’t meet the necessary requirements for the tuition waiver. Perhaps you simply are not interested in going to one of the top universities, and you’re considering going to another institution. Before I suggest what places you should consider, let me tell you what places you should avoid: for-profit colleges that offer no tuition waiver.
There are many for-profit private colleges in the market, like ITT Tech, University of Phoenix, DeVry, Walden University, FullSail, and Argosy University. You want to avoid all of them. (For a full list of for-profit colleges, check out the link at the end of this post.) Some commentators have talked about how if you attend a for profit college you will get a sub-par education. This might indeed be true – I’ve had the opportunity of going over the curriculum of some for-profit institutions and I can say that they were horrible. However, at the same time, I’ve been able to look at the curriculum of some for profit institutions, and even sit in some of their classes, and I can say that they have been good classes. The quality of the institution should be evaluated on a case by case basis. However, for profit colleges do not give students any financial aid beyond the federal Pell Grants, which, if approved completely, will cover $5,550 of tuition per year. The cost of most for-profit colleges range between $30,000 and $40,000 per year, which means that after a four year course of study you will be between $100,000 and $140,000 deep in student debt. Sure, these for-profit colleges have flexible schedules and online courses, and the administration is always friendly, but I hardly think that a friendly administration and a flexible schedule are worth a $140,000 debt. Keep in mind, this is still your undergraduate degree.
So, what should you do?
Look at public universities.
There are varied types of public universities, but the major three types are the following: Public University System Flagship Institutions, Public University System Campuses, and State Universities.
In any given state, whether it is Texas, Wisconsin, California, or any other, the most prestigious public institution is the main University Flagship Campus. This is where all of the research is done. In Texas, this is the University of Texas at Austin (UTAustin), in Wisconsin it is the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UWMadison), and in California it would be the University of California at Berkley (UCBerkley). Every state has a Flagship Campus, and each and every single one of these flagship campuses were ranked as a Tier 1 institution in 2010. Furthermore, many of these institutions are considered as “Public Ivies” – public universities that can go head to head with the likes of Harvard and Yale. These public universities offer a far superior level of education than any for-profit college at a fraction of the cost. Still, the tuition for these universities ranges from $7,000 a year to $12,000 a year, which means that after four years of study you might end up with $8,000 to $28,000 of debt, not including costs incurred for room and board. However, if you are dedicated and hard working, you can successfully go for four years to one of the Flagship institutions and complete your studies without incurring debt. The way to do this is by doing student-work.
Student-work programs exist in every university. Students who participate in these programs work for 10 hours a week on campus doing things like tutoring their peers or working at the university’s post office. Although these positions offer a minimum wage salary, the extra income helps compliment the FAFSA’s $5,550 and cover most tuition expenses. Alternatively, one could get a part time 20 hour job outside the institution. This will allow the student to enjoy some left over income and cover full tuition, but it will take a lot more effort and might lead to burn-out.
A less expensive way to finish your four year degree in your state’s flagship institution would be to complete general requirement courses in your local campus (perhaps UW-Milwaukee or UT-Dallas) which will allow you to save up on initial tuition costs. An even better move would be for you to take the general courses at the State University System (for example Cal-State or Texas State systems) and then move on to the “main” flagship for the concentration courses. That being said, many Non-Flagships and State campuses are often on-par with the flagship institutions, and it might sometimes be a smart choice for you to skip the state’s major public research university for your undergraduate degree and simply study at UT-Dallas or UCLA, but I’ll talk about why you should consider this on my next post.
For Profit Universities:
Don’t use wikipedia as a source ^____^