ROSELAND, NJ – As the school year begins, does the prospect of paying college tuition for your kids next year and in the future make you panic? While college can be a major expense, there are ways to minimize the cost.

Here are some tips that can help your student (and family) have a good college experience without spending a fortune.  

Start at a Community College
Is your student hoping to graduate with a diploma from a prestigious, but very expensive, college? That goal may be more achievable if the student starts out at a community college and then transfers to his or her top-choice after earning an associate’s degree. Community colleges are generally very affordable, which can help you stretch your education budget and perhaps make it easier to pay for the last two years at a costlier school. To ensure this plan works, confirm that the transfer school is willing to grant full credit for the courses he or she takes at the community college. Your student should also be sure to take all the right prerequisites for the classes necessary for his or her intended major and any other graduation requirements. 

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Accelerate the Process
There’s no rule that says college has to last four years. Your student can aim to finish in less than that. It’s often possible to get a jump on graduation simply by taking college credit courses in high school.  This can cut down on tuition, as well as additional living, transportation and other associated expenses. Graduating sooner also means your student can begin earning an income sooner.

Stay in State
Going to a public university in your home state is typically much less expensive than going to a private or out-of-state public university. If the in-state public college isn’t your student’s dream school, remind him or her of the value of graduating with no (or lower) student loans and the impact it can have on a post-college budget. It may help make the in-state school more appealing. Rutgers is ranked the No. 36 Public College by Forbes.

Anticipate Possible Tuition Hikes
In-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions rose 3.2% per year beyond inflation during the last decade, and 2.4% at private nonprofit four-year institutions, according to the College Board. That means you should factor in the possibility that the tuition you pay during your first year may rise steadily each year. Research the recent history of tuition increases at your top choices and determine whether you’ll be able to afford the highest rate you may have to pay once your student gets to senior year. If your student is already in school and faced with a tuition hike, find out whether the higher cost qualifies your family for more financial aid. Summer or campus jobs are other ways to cover a spike in tuition.  

Manage Student Loan Money Wisely
Some students may be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money possible but student loans should only be used for needs, not wants. Your student should not borrow money and then spend it on weekend entertainment and spring break trips. If your student does borrow more than they need, have them save that money and borrow less the next year. This will help reduce the amount of their outstanding loan balance, so there’s less debt hanging over their head after graduation. Remind them that the smaller their loan balance, the less interest they’ll have to pay over time. Check out these four tips when taking out a student loan for more information.

Your Local CPA Can Help
Every day, local CPAs offer clients expert advice on a wide variety of financial concerns, including making a major purchase or obtaining a loan. Whatever your financial questions, your CPA can help you find the answers. To locate a CPA near you, visit Find-A-CPA directory.