The cost of higher education continues to rise, even as it becomes more important to hold a degree, and the question of how to afford school on a budget is a pressing one. In some fields like engineering and business, a master’s degree can really set a job candidate apart from his or her competitors, but these degrees cost even more. Many students try to get through school by using a variety of student loans.

Those  who are motivated and disciplined can avoid many of the common pitfalls related to student loans, and even afford higher education on a budget. All you need is a solid financial plan and help from the right places to make your education a little more affordable in the long run.

Get College Credit in High School

Brains for Education: How to Afford School on a Budget

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An increasing number of high schools offer their students the opportunity to take Advanced Placement classes. Those who score at an acceptable level can then receive credit from many colleges. Other students have the opportunity to take dual credit classes while in high school. Even high school classes could give students enough knowledge for college credit.

CLEP tests that test a student’s knowledge in a college-level subject are widely accepted among colleges and universities around the United States. Those who can pass these tests can earn college credit for their prior knowledge. It’s possible for those who play their cards right to have a year of college credit for a fraction of the cost through these methods before they’ve even graduate from high school.

Go to Community College

Those who are on a budget can definitely benefit from taking classes at a community college. Even though they might only be able to get an associate’s degree, students will be able to save money on tuition costs by utilizing a local two-year school. Often these schools will give discounts and grants for local students.

Community colleges can offer either four year or two year degrees, and it all depends on what you want to go into, so check with your school first to see what they offer.

Brains for Education: How to Afford School on a Budget
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Look for Scholarships

Those who want to get a degree without going into massive debt would do well to look for free money. There are scholarships for academic merit for those who have successful grades from high school, and there are also scholarships based on financial need. In fact, there are scholarships for just about anyone for just about any reason. A Google search can uncover many that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Free money toward school can definitely help keep a budget balanced.


Working through school seems to be a lost art. In order to have a real budget, there must be money coming in each month. The income that results from work can go toward offsetting the cost of school, or even getting by with daily costs like gas and groceries. Those who are disciplined can take longer to get through school while graduating without a mound of debt if they choose to work through school. There are even work study programs that are designed for students to pay their tuition when they work at the college. Talk to a counselor to see what openings might be available to you.

Look for Assistantships

Grad school has a higher sticker price than an undergraduate education. Many schools offer graduate assistantships for promising students. Like a MS engineering management degree, or nursing MA, these will frequently provide a tuition waiver, and a small stipend for those who qualify. Again, finding creative funding plans can definitely allow students to afford college on a budget.

The key to affording school on a budget is to actually have a plan. Taking classes while in high school, and taking two years at a community college can be great ways to save money. Avoiding student loans will be a great way to ensure that your finances are in order from an early age.

Read more about the cost of higher education

Brains for Education: How to Afford School on a BudgetBrooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She has written a number of articles on the availability of online degrees. Brooke loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking,  biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.


Brains for Education: How to Afford School on a Budget

Click here to purchase book