With the cost of college rising faster than the temperature and the job market trailing coldly behind, everyone’s wondering: is a college degree worth its price? The Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to independent research, had the same question. And they answered it.
Read the full report, or catch the highlights:
– Plan on spending $100,000. When all is said and done, the average cost of college in the USA is more than a hundred grand, a hefty price tag that includes what Brookings calls the “opportunity cost” of not working during school. To put that into perspective, that’s about 33,000 Big Macs or 200 iPad 2’s. But remember that’s only an average and many students are paying more.
– View your tuition bill as an investment that returns at a rate of 15.2% per year, which is twice the expected return of the stock market and more than five times the return on corporate bonds, gold, long-term government bonds, or home ownership. This return manifests itself in the form of a higher salary.
– Stay wary of the averages, as they may not apply to you. This is especially true if you’ve declared a low-paying major but are attending a high-cost school, or if you have a lot of high-interest loans. So make sure you’re educated on how you’re going to pay for your education and how much you can expect to earn when it’s finished before you get roped into a tuition bill you can’t afford and a set of loans you won’t be able to pay back.
Ultimately the data confirms what your teachers have always been saying: college is the smart road. But in this economic climate of huge tuition bills, meager savings, and tight lending practices, paying for college might seem like climbing a buttered ladder: certainly difficult, and maybe dangerous. But that’s where SimpleTuition can help. Start by comparing your private student loan options and get educated.
There are lots of college expenses outside of tuition and room and board, and textbooks are perhaps the most notoriously expensive. Despite their reputation, textbooks aren’t always so expensive. Publishers and campus bookstores are to blame for these high prices, so the easy way to get around them is to buy used, and not from your bookstore. Hunt around online for the cheapest textbooks, check out rental services, consider swapping your books with friends, and sell your books online—if you do these things, you’ll save a ton on buying college textbooks.
Don’t go to your campus bookstore!
Buying your textbooks from the campus bookstore is almost always a bad call. New books are too expensive, and though most bookstores sell used textbooks, the prices are far higher than on sites like CampusBooks or Chegg. Look into online retailers for huge savings, and be wary of your campus bookstore.
Renting College Textbooks
The cheapest way to get your textbooks is to rent them. Prices for rentals are strikingly low: an Intro to Economics textbook that was listed at the bookstore for $150 cost me only $50 through Chegg. The one downside of renting books is that you can’t keep them, but if you don’t mind that, renting is a no-brainer.
Online Textbook Retailers
CampusBooks.com is another great resource for finding cheap textbooks. The site searches through online retailers for the textbooks you need, and then displays options for either buying or renting them. It’s like a search engine for textbooks with a ‘buy now’ button. Amazon.com and Half.com are also great sites, for both buying and selling books.
Whenever you buy your textbooks, check out the return policy. This is the one area in which campus bookstores probably surpass online retailers: bookstores generally have longer return periods, and it’s easier to walk to the bookstore than to go find a FedEx store. You don’t want your course selections to be limited by return policies, either—I’ve had friends stuck in courses because they bought their books online, have passed the return deadline, and don’t want to waste the money they spent.
When will I need my books?
It’s good to get your textbooks right away, but if you don’t have them right at the start of the semester, it’s okay. Students constantly add and drop classes, and professors are generally forgiving if you don’t have the textbooks for the first week of classes or so. They understand the hassle and cost involved in the process, so most will give you some leeway. That doesn’t mean you should wait to order, though. Do that as soon as you know what books you’ll be using.
Should I sell my books back to the campus bookstore?
Nope. If you sell your books back to the campus bookstore, you’ll receive maybe 20% of what the book is worth. Put a little time into selling the books you don’t want to keep online, and your efforts will pay off.
I’ve had a lot of luck with selling college textbooks online, mainly through Amazon and Half.com. You can list your books right around the beginning of a semester, and because both demand for textbooks and traffic on these sites are so high, if your books are reasonably priced they should sell pretty quickly. Keep your books in as good condition as you can to make sure you can get the most money for them.
When you go to buy your textbooks, don’t be lazy. Just put a little time and effort into searching around and you could save hundreds of dollars.
Getting as much scholarship money as possible is an important step towards covering your tuition bill. Free money is the best part of any aid package, but you have to work to get it. With that in mind, let’s look at scholarships: how to find them, determining eligibility, and when you should apply.
How do I find scholarships?
Start searching for scholarships with your financial aid office or former high school’s guidance department – even if you’ve been out of high school for a few years. Sometimes your employer (or your parent’s employer) might have scholarships to offer. Even your local town or city hall may offer scholarships for locals. When looking for scholarships, always be on the lookout, and don’t dismiss the small ones. A $500 scholarship from your town’s garden club may seem insignificant, but it’s $500 you did not need to borrow. Every little bit helps.
There are also several scholarship services online that can provide accurate options, such as our partner, Cappex.com.
Who is eligible for scholarships?
Scholarships aren’t just for honor roll and straight-A students, they come in all shapes and sizes. If you have done community service or helped out in your town there may be a scholarship for you. Some scholarships are offered to those studying particular fields or who play particular sports. Remember, scholarships are available for all levels of college as well, not just incoming freshman.
When is a good time to look for scholarships?
It’s never too late, but the earlier the better. The golden rule of scholarship hunting: never stop looking. Keep searching throughout the academic year. Every dollar you don’t have to borrow now saves you money over time, so make sure you have maximized all the “free money” you can find.
Remember to start early on your college funding search this year and use SimpleTuition as part of that process!