Minimizing college tuition

Go where you're wanted: Somewhere out there is a college or university that's dying to have you as a student. Find that school, fire off an application and watch the cost of your college education drop.

Every student can be a star at some college, and star students get deep discounts for their education. A college that really wants you will find the aid and scholarships to keep you. The trick is finding the school that considers you a star.

Study college guides. Do your grades and SAT scores match or exceed the average marks of the current student body? Does the college offer the courses you want? If so, this could be the school that rolls out the red carpet for you.

Look for a college where you fit in the top 25 to 30 percent of a class -- the higher you are, the more the school wants you and the better position you're in. Not sure where to start your college search? Begin by checking out smaller, regional colleges in your area. An excellent but less-known college may be searching for a student just like you.

Choose a tuition-free school: Overwhelmed by tuition prices and the prospect of paying massive student loans after you graduate? Why not attend a tuition-free school? You get the college education you want without the hefty price tag. The catch? You may have to work.

Some schools require students to work 10 to 15 hours a week on campus and in jobs related to their majors. Tuition-free colleges include The Cooper Union in New York, N.Y.; Webb Institute in Glen Cove, N.Y.; Berea College in Berea, Ky.; College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.; and Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky.

Lock in tuition: Can't stand the way college tuition keeps shooting up? Consider locking in a single-tuition rate for four years.

The tuition rate you pay as a wet-behind-the-ears freshman is guaranteed until you graduate. No more losing sleep over skyrocketing tuition costs.

Colleges with locked-in tuition programs include Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass.; Baylor University in Waco, Texas; Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, La.; Concordia University in River Forest, Ill.; Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas; Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio; the University of Charleston in Charleston, W.Va.; and New York's Pace University.

Some schools offer guaranteed-tuition programs for free. Others charge fees. Be sure to check.

Get a little help from your friends: How's this for a graduation gift idea? Ask family and friends for help with those dreaded student loans. In lieu of birthday and holiday gifts, why not ask for help with heavy student loan payments? If you can find a way to ask for cool, hard cash without ruffling any feathers, why not give it a go? That way your family and friends won't have to pay a hefty fee to the middleman. And you'll be able to write a monstrous check for your next student loan payment.


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