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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Getting a Higher Education at a Lower Cost

This morning I was in "dialog" with a friend on Facebook about higher education. In Finland, people have universal "free" access to higher education* and also receive a monthly grant while attending school.  So, now I will get on my soapbox.

Unless you are going for a doctor or lawyer, a liberal arts degree should be purchased within your financial means. And there are exceptions here with less expensive school, Peace Corps, military nursing loan repayment and medical loan forgiveness programs. If you can't afford to attend a high cost college, don't take out a loan! Find a way to get an education that fits your budget. 

If you are low income, you have access to the PELL Grants. In Georgia (my state) there is the HOPE grant and HOPE scholarship.  If you don't have money to pay for going away to school, do your first two years at a community college or technical college where your grant money will go much farther and pay for all those core classes at a much lower cost per credit.

You can also get credit for studying a subject on your own. CBE (Credit by Exam) is a great way to take classes,  and the tests are less expensive than a class, you don't need an expensive book and you can work at your own pace (faster or slower).  There are tons of free resources online for studying a wide range of subjects and many, MANY schools do accept the DSST and CLEP exams.  There is also Mooc credit which is now becoming available through ACE (American Council on Education) and other ACE coursework.

And when you find you really can work better on your own you can even do the majority of the degree at a fraction of the cost at legitimate acredited colleges such as Thomas Edison State College and Excelsior College.  Self motivation is an incredibly valuable skill to have in life.  Distant learning saves considerable housing funds and allows students to actually save for their future home or family instead of spending or borrowing.

There are also work colleges that  require academics and work. What a way to gain experience!  Check out the Work College Consortium. Berea College, for example, doesn't charge for tuition, so the only expenses are living expenses if your teen wishes to go away to college. Even our local college, Berry College, has the the Gate of Opportunity Scholarship which allows lower income students to work, cover tuition and gain experience.


None of this is new information, but it does have a lot to do with our values as a society. We are so used to having what we want "right now" that we will borrow ourselves into a hole they can never climb out of in their lifetime (including bankruptcy). We need to think about higher education in a different, more affordable and realistic manner. Only then will higher education truly become valuable.

This just scratches the surface of the options for higher education, but it can be done. ☺

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*Government paid education is not FREE!  It is paid for by the citizens that pay taxes.   In Finland, the tax rate is 49.2% on income over $87,222

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