Prestigious college degrees at discount prices
a degree from an elite college or university is out of your family's
Consider the power of credit transfer.
In many cases, credits earned at a less-expensive
college or university can be transferred and applied toward a degree
from a pricey, elite school. You could earn a prestigious diploma
at a fraction of the price.
So why not attend a community college or state university
for a couple of years and then transfer to your dream college?
"It's a strategy that works," says
Ray Loewe, president of College Money, a Marlton, N.J., financial
planning firm specializing in helping parents pay for college. "The
best part about it is it can significantly lower your college expenses."
And it's not as if the fancy diploma you'll hang
on your wall will say "transfer student."
"You get the degree from a prestigious
school and no one knows you went to a community college," Loewe
School ties that bind
Attending a two-year college with ties to your dream school can
help ease the transfer process.
Let's say you live in Miami and want to attend
Smith College in Northampton, Mass. You're in luck.
Smith is one of more than 60 four-year colleges and
universities that partner with Miami-Dade Community College.
Tuition at Smith is $27,330 a year. Room and board
Tuition at Miami-Dade Community College is $56.50
per credit for Florida residents. You could take 30 credits, roughly
a year's worth of classes, for $1,695.
Let's say you were able to live rent-free at your
parents' home while you attended MDCC, by attending MDCC for two
years and then transferring to Smith you'd save $54,660 in tuition
costs and $18,980 in room and board for a grand total of $73,640.
That's some serious money. And even if you land a
fair share of grants and scholarships from Smith, there's little
chance your tuition costs will dip as low as $1,600.
Ready to transfer your way to an elite college? You'll
need to do plenty of research and a whole bunch of hard work. It's
best to start early.
Start with a list of dream schools you'd ultimately
like to graduate from. Ask about articulation agreements with two-year
colleges and partnerships with other schools and universities.
An articulation agreement specifies which community
college course credits will be accepted toward a bachelor's degree
at the four-year college or university. It also specifies what kind
of grades a student must achieve to transfer to the four-year school
as a junior.
"The colleges are really good about making
sure if you do what you say you're going to do those credits will
transfer," Loewe says.
Study admission and financial aid policies for transfer students
Many private schools dip into their own coffers when
distributing financial aid. Some schools are reluctant to give aid
to transfer students.
"Some schools won't give money to transfer
students at all. Some won't give money in the first year,"
says Kalman A. Chany, author of Paying
for College Without Going Broke.
Other schools set aside specific scholarships and
grants for transfer students. For example, Community College of
Allegheny County in Pennsylvania has sent a number of its top African
American students to Carnegie Mellon University through the two
schools' Minority Transfer Scholarship program.
And some universities will waive out-of-state tuition
fees for transfer students. Be sure to ask.
Don't forget to visit local community colleges in
your area. Ask about partnerships with four-year universities.
"The closer you are to major cities and
major colleges, the more you're going to find articulation agreements,"
Ask an adviser at a local college or state university
about the prospects of transferring to the private university of
Some top schools have very restrictive transfer policies.
Once admitted, you may be forced to begin classes as a second-year
student, even though you've completed two years of classes at a
state university or community college.
A transfer adviser will be able to tell you how difficult
making the leap to a particular university may be and how well your
courses are likely to transfer. They may be able to recommend some
other schools as well.
Once you've mapped out a path from a local college
to your dream school, you'll really need to hit the books.
Making a smooth transfer
"Good grades are a given," Chany says. "You have
to have done very well and get great recommendations from professors
to do the transfer routine and get accepted."
You'll need to be very careful with course selection.
Basic core classes transfer the best.
"English 1 is English 1," says Betty
Davis, assistant dean of enrollement management at Community College
of Allegheny County.
You'll want to take some courses specific to your
major as well. Follow the admission and course requirements for
your major as spelled out by your dream school. If you're a business
major, you'll want to check out the course requirements for business
It's best to get that admissions application in early.
"Admission deadlines are sacred at elite
institutions," says Rosario Roman, district director of school
and college relations at MDCC. "If you get it there a day late,
Get your financial aid application in as early as
possible. If you wait until you're accepted at the school, there
might not be much, if any, financial aid left.
Be realistic about your chances of being accepted
at your dream school. Last year, Harvard accepted 55 transfer students
out of over 1,000 applicants. Stanford typically accepts just 10
to 12 percent of the 1,200 transfer students that apply for its
It's a good idea to keep your options open. Go ahead
and aim for your dream school with all your might, but apply to
a couple of backup schools as well.
Whatever school you choose, you'll have a bit of
catching up to do once you arrive. You'll need to study hard to
keep up with classmates accustomed to the rigors of your new school.
You've also got some serious networking to do. By
third year, many college students have formed friendships and study
groups, joined school organizations and applied for internships
in their majors. The only way to catch up is to get out and meet
people. This is no time to be shy.
"You're an outsider coming in," Chany
says. "But if you're an outgoing personality type, that's not
going to be a problem."
-- Updated: Jan. 6, 2004