The cost of college is crazy! It isn’t like you can get paid to get a 4-year college degree. And don’t even think about a graduate program. That would take years to complete and cost $20,000+. R
By using some of the same steps from the article linked above, you can take a multi-year program down to a single year and pay less than six thousand dollars.
Step 1 – List Cheap Colleges to Attend
Graduate degrees are a bit harder to compare on price because you often have to find this data from each college and find hidden costs like fees. With a 4-year degree, we were able to use College Scorecard (a Department of Education tool). As far as I know, there isn’t a central unbiased comparison tool for graduate degrees.
Start your search for online programs for colleges in your state; the tuition will likely be cheaper. Your state’s
- Georgia Tech has an M.S. in Computer Science for $7000
- Middle Georgia State University has an M.S. in Information Technology for $7700
If you do not have a good option in your state, look into fully online colleges – such as Western Governors University. In all of these cases, the tuition cost will be a good bit less than the total cost that you spend.
Step 2- Cut the Extra Cost
Fees and books can take your $7,000 degree and make it a $10,000 degree. Fees are often charged on a term basis. Complete your degree quicker, and you will pay a lot less.1
For example, Middle Georgia charges $300 a term in fees. A typical degree would take six terms to complete (2 classes a term / 3 terms a year).
Take three classes a term, and you save two term’s worth of fees. Your
Take four classes a term, and you cut the fees in half. Your two-year degree is now finished in a year. This is the route that I took; which also explains the slowness on this blog last year. 🙂
Cutting the cost of books is also fairly easy. Get the course syllabus early, even if you have to email the professor a term ahead of schedule. Now, you know what books that you need, and you have plenty of time to get them. Here are a few ways to get your college books cheaper:
- Set a
CamelCamelCamelalert for the book.
- Check your college’s library and the state library system. See if your state has an online library. I was able to check out many books from GALILEO.
- Request an evaluation copy from the publisher. These are often available for free and normally an option for your most expensive/newest books.
Step 3- Pay for College the Right Way
If at all possible, do not take out student loans to pay for your degree. Even if you have to delay starting your degree for a year or two, you will often come out better if you pay for the cost upfront.2
This may come as a shock, but the cheapest way to get a Master’s is to have someone else pay for it.
Your Employer Wants to Help
Private employers can provide up to $5000 per
Public employees, such as those in the education sector, can often take advantage of tuition reimbursement. In Georgia, this is true for many University System employees.
Definitely take the time to email your HR or Benefits person in your company to find out about any programs that might be offered.
Uncle Sam Wants to Help
The Federal Government wants a well-educated workforce – so much that they will cover 20% of the cost up to $10,000 but only if you pay upfront. This program is called the Lifetime Learning Credit and is a bit different than the other tax credit that was used to cover the cost of a 4-year degree. Be sure to read up on that credit as there are a few conditions (notably an income cap).
A Bank Wants to Help
If you are paying the cost upfront, you will have some extra money sitting around. Put those bills to work in a 5% of 6% savings account. That is an extra $300 – $500 off the cost of the degree.
When you pay for tuition, use a credit card with a high cashback bonus or with a high sign-up bonus. This method took $1300 off the cost of my Master’s.3
Total Cost Recap
My total cost for a Master’s in IT from Middle Georgia State University was $8588.
The lifetime learning tax credit lowers that cost down to $6870.
Cashback and interest took us down to a final cost of $5200.
The joy of not having another paper due, that cost is priceless. 🙂