Despite being the first thing suggested to students, there are more options than bankrolling a 5-star college experience with student loans.  You have to be creative, you have to be unconventional, but it’s possible.  Here are a few ways to help do it:

– Choose your school wisely.  If someone didn’t save $100k for you to go to school, and no one is going to cash-flow the school of your choice, the long-distance small private school probably isn’t for you.  I had some money saved, but not enough for any private school I wanted, so I went to the local state university.  This can be a hard one to stomach, because we believe that “education is priceless” and you should “follow your dreams.”  I say follow your dreams, too; just don’t follow them into a hole of debt.  School choice is probably the single biggest factor in college cost.

– Use community college.  Unless you know exactly the degree you want, and you can prove a distinct advantage by beginning your degree requirements your freshmen and sophomore years, community college is an outstanding alternative to heading straight to a university.  Anyone who has been to college knows that your first 1-2 years are spent doing general education: science, social science, history, math, english; all irrespective of what your degree will be.  Community college offers those same courses (transferrable to your university) at a fraction of the cost.

– Work.  Students have a lot more discretionary time in college than in high school.  Most guys fill it with Xbox and intramural sports; I have no idea how most girls fill it.  Either way, at least some of that time can be used to work.  Work won’t kill you during college; it will make your time management more effective.  Also, you’ll get real-world experience (key to future hiring) and build a referral base.

– Live at home.  This might be one of the hardest to do for some college students (and parents).  But living at home while attending a local community college (and working) for a year or two can dramatically decrease the overall cost of college.  We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars saved.  Obviously, parents and students would need to have some very “adult” conversations about boundaries while living at home and going to college, but it’s definitely worth considering.

– Watch your lifestyle.  Restaurants, road trips, housing choices, coffee shops, clothing, cars, and technology can all cause the cost of college to balloon significantly.  Students can end up incurring debt not just for the tuition costs but for all sorts of living expenses as well.  It’s easy for these to add up quickly without realizing it, but keeping these costs under control can reduce the total bill for college.

Question: What are some other ways to reduce college education expenses?