How to go to college on the cheap: Where to make friends, get $10 credits, and travel along the way!

Engineering your Environment-Formal Education at an Informal Price

You are going to party no matter where you are!


Being an alumni from 4 different colleges and only having one degree allows me to dictate this process with ease. What I should add to that statement is I was able to reach this feet in the same 4 year time frame, live in three different major cities, receive my degree from the most reputable of those attended (which is a private school somewhere around 40k/yr nowadays) and do it for a 1/5 of the cost it would have been to stay in the same place.

1.     Research the schools transfer policies more then there bar scene.

–        No matter what school you end up going to there will be a social life. I know there are some devout followers of their local pride, so you will only implement some of my suggestions. Either way researching, and doing some legwork now will not only add to your social life it will bring down the bank breaking cost of that 2 oz piece of paper. A great mantra in the business world is ,”it is much easier to find someone to buy then create it, then is to create and then find someone to buy”. I took that and transposed it in all aspects of life. The first visit I did to a perspective college was right to the dean’s office. After purveying the personalities, I made it a point to sit down with the one that had suspenders and a bright orange hat on. Befriending him was the easy part. Right away I started to explain my situation (which is completely true). I come from a fairly meager low income background and know the importance of college, and furthermore know the prestigious history that this institution holds. To prove my meager backgrounds check out the tuition assistance program (TAP), this is specifically for New York, but check your state and it may offer funds that do not need to be repaid. So I told him, I won’t be able to join right away but I would like to transfer a few classes from other schools. This went over very well and after dusting off the schools guidebooks we were able to find out that you only need 60 credits to be taken at the actual school itself.

Lets do that math real quick.

BA (4 years)= 120 credits.

40,000/yr x 4 years= $160,000 (God dam!)

So, with only 60 credits required

40,000/yr x 2 years(60credits) = $80,000 (Much better, but still not pocket change)

So here is where I stand, just from asking a few questions and explaining my story this fine institutions price was just cut in half. I know what you saying at this point is, what about the other 2 years they are not free! I know that, and I will get to them and I will still be bringing that price down. Another thing that you might have realized at this point is that one man can only do so much. That dean could not give approval for everything. I had to truly pull out my researching and conversational tools for that one. But that is a whole other story I will cover in regards to the power of perception. After rifling through the course catalogs of my local community college, all we had to do was find the equivalent stir in a little sugar and poof! I was now the proud owner of a massive pile of pre-approved class transfers.

2.     Home is where the wallet wants to be

-Besides the fact that I didn’t want to rush into deciding what school to go to after only just leaving what I thought was the world, I now stayed home for some extra time. Not only was I now going to a school that cost 2,000 a semester but I was saving living costs as well. Without bashing the good people at community colleges too much, I think we all know the workload isn’t something to overbearing there. So after swiftly pulling a 4.0 while living at home, I felt it was time to leave the nest. On transcripts though, that light workload does not translate, the only thing the admission office saw was a low income student with a perfect GPA. Scholarship worthy, CA-CHING! After receiving a full transfer scholarship of 15,000/yr that now brought down the cost to 25,000/yr for a slowly decreasing total of 50,000 (Savings = 110,000).

3.     Don’t confuse success with no room for improvement

At this point I, you and everyone else are extremely ecstatic. But the twisted mind of mine, still felt as I deserved even better. So after seeing the ease of the community college courses, and the overall similarities in the student bodies compared to the private school I felt fairly adequate that these courses were going to pose no challenge. So after doing a little research and digging up a little program called CLEP (College Level Examination Program) I struck gold. Not only can you take these tests for peanuts, but there is no cap on retesting and no repercussions for failing. So I took a stab at the history level placement. After a few hours of review, another few hours of testing I walked out with a certificate stated I had the knowledge equivalent to 12 college credits( I forgot to pretext this, but with another trip to dean suspender pants I confirmed their acceptance of this program, along with its national recognition). If that isn’t great enough there is a drop down scoring method that even if you don’t score enough to receive the full 12 credits you can still receive 6. Feeling myself riding high I thought I would take a stab at the language placement. Having some familiarity with Spanish I signed up. Thanks to a little rosetta stone, and my Peruvian friend (thanks azteca) I was ready to go. Déjà vu commenced and once again I had another 12 credits under my belt. So lets pull out our handy dandy calculators once again.

Now at 25,000 for 30 credits that = 833 per credit

Cleps 12 credit was 80 bucks which = I will round up 7 dollars, 7 freaking dollars a credit

                  The best part of the whole CLEP program is that they were considered to be classes taken within the private schools grounds. So now,

60 credits were at $50,000

60 credits – 24 credits ($160) = 36 credits remaiming

36 credits x 833 + 160 = $30,160

Bringing our total savings to a whopping $129,840, not to bad for a 19 year old kid.

4.     Don’t be afraid to speed up a working mechanism

-Once again at this point I feel there is not a person in the world that would not be happy with this outcome. But that brain of mine just kept on twisting even further. Repeating the process of transfer approvals as I did before, make some rash decision with a best friend and receiving some generous accommodations, I hit the road. That apartment was only for a short period, I found living conditions more suitable to my income. At this point I had already lived in two different areas of New York, so we decided to work on our tans and moved to Miami. Since I was now living off campus, commuting was a bit of a problem. After searching high and low I found a city golf course that provided a Sunpass, plus fair pay to work outside and drive around golf carts. It was more of a hiring process than the police department, but well worth it in the end.

5.     A dollar saved today, means more fun tomorrow


So now what is the difference between 160,000 dollars and 30,160 dollars? Besides 129,840 dollars is what I mean. That is a lot of money no matter what way I look at it. Maybe your thinking, well I am going to be a doctor and that means nothing once I am making more then that a year. To put some more weight behind my theory dip into, How Running almost killed me. Back to here and now. Let’s be generous and say you can pay your loans back at a 10 year rate, with 6% compounding interest. How do those number compare now?


160,000 @ 6% x 10yrs = 213,159.36 dollars (1776.33 / month)


30,160 @ 6% x 10 yrs = 40,180.54 dollars (334.84 / month)

You thought I was done saving, wrong. Now a 129,840 saving just increased to 172,978.82 dollars in an instant. Take a look at what you are really paying, I am being more then generous with the 10 year term, and maybe be underestimating the 6% as well. If you are not on a fixed rate, you can constantly increase throughout the years, which will just keep the interest piling up. Compare the monthly payments as well, which one seems a lot more manageable to be able to travel with and still afford? I hope this is clearing up the tracks of how it is much easier to circum navigate the world than you think.


SO, bar scene? Admissions office? Which one is really making your head spin?

Taking this mentality towards all things in life will get you where you want to be. The abilities to be evaluating and improving on the fly will cause for constant improvement.

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