My oldest son is about to turn 18. He is a senior in high school this year and he is starting to think seriously about going to college. I'm sad to say that while he was growing up, my wife and I were unable to contribute any cash at all to a college fund.

That's not to say he isn't going to go to college, or that he can't afford to go. No, we are not going to mortgage the house or sink him deep into debt with student loans. There are other ways for him to rack up college credit and eventually earn his degree.

This year, my son has signed up for AP, or "advanced placement" courses. Once he finishes these courses and successfully passes his exams, he will earn high school AND college credit.

He is also looking not at four-year state universities, but two-year community colleges. Two-year colleges are too-often overlooked as a serious education option by high school seniors. My son can earn the first two years worth of college credit...about 60 credit our local community college for about $45 per credit hour. The four-year colleges in the area charge about $150 per credit hour...for the same type of courses that he would be taking during his first two years of school. Tuition savings: about $6,300.

He will also be testing out of the majority of his general education credits...about 30 credit taking the CLEP subject exams. Each exam costs about $80 each, so he stands to earn 30 credit hours for about $400. Total cost for tuition for the first two years of school: $1,750.

At this point, he will be able to transfer his credits to one of the state universities for the remaining 60 credit hours and receive a degree from a "name" university. Total tuition cost for the remaining credit hours: $9,000. Total tuition cost for a bachelor degree: $10,750.

For the past year, he and I have been contributing money to a state 529 account. This account allows students and parents to save some money for college, earn interest and then withdraw it and use it for college expenses. He will likely use this money for text books.

My son can further reduce his debt load of going to college by applying for grants and scholarships, but the bottom line is this is definitely doable. Even if he does take out a student loan for $10,750, the loan repayment should not exceed $200 a month if repaid over 5 years. A college education need not be out of reach for any family. There are always funding and study alternatives to help students reach their dream of receiving a college education.

(This post is also featured on The Dollar Stretcher.)


  1. the baglady // October 2, 2007 at 11:30 AM  

    Hi there! AP credits are definitely a money saver. I ended up with 22 or 23 college credits through my AP classes and pretty much skipped a whole year of college and that saved my parents 5000 to 6000 dollars. Unfortunately not all high schools have a very good selection of AP classes and a lot of kids don't take them even if they're offered. You're blessed to have a son that's working hard in high school!

  2. Anonymous // October 2, 2007 at 12:59 PM  

    My partner & I are parenting later in life. I am 41 and our kids are 8, 5, 2, and 5 months. The children are foster kids we have either adopted or will adopt.

    There is no way I will ever be able to retire if I put these 4 in college. We as a family are investing the time to work with them by having one mom stay at home and instill good study habits, etc to help with grades. I am not just wishing that they get scholarships- I do put up a huge amount of the stipend I get from the state aside for 529 accounts-- but some of the money needs to go for life enriching things they do now (karate class, violin, etc).

    I put myself thru 3 years of nursing school with no loans and am now the sole breadwinner for a family of 6.

  3. Anonymous // November 28, 2007 at 7:58 PM  

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