Last-minute and alternative money-saving strategies
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If that sounds a bit drastic, some states have tuition-reciprocity agreements. Students from Minnesota, for instance, can attend schools in Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, or the Canadian province of Manitoba for essentially the in-state price. Other states have similar deals for specific disciplines. Some states partner with one another to provide tuition discounts to students who want to pursue a major not available in their home state. For example, the Academic Common Market, an affiliation of 16 states, allows such students to attend public schools in the other member states for roughly 150 percent of the in-state rate. The College Board's website has more information about such arrangements.
Many colleges and universities waive tuition for employees and their dependents. Often these schools require that an employee work for a certain period of timeit could be one, two, or five years, depending on the schoolbefore the benefit kicks in. And part-time employees may not be eligible.
Some schools also allow dependents to get the price cut at an allied institution. Through the Tuition Exchange, a dependent of an employee of Syracuse University, for example, could use the tuition discount at more than 500 other private schools, including Regis University in Denver, Tulane University in New Orleans, and American University in Washington, D.C. The Council of Independent Colleges, a collection of approximately 330 liberal arts schools, also has reciprocal agreements, as do some groups of colleges with religious affiliations (Jesuit colleges, for example) or geographic proximity (several Texas colleges, for example).
The discount usually takes care of the tuition tab, but the family will have to cough up room and board and other expenses. And at some more expensive schools, only part of the tuition cost is covered. Also, many tuition benefits require that the student maintain a minimum grade point average.
Some colleges allow parents and students to barter for college credits, either directly or through a barter association. Green Apple Barter Services in Pittsburgh, for example, has three colleges in its network along with a number of other local technical and trade schools. Members bank credits in their accounts by providing their products and services, from copiers to dental care. In turn, members redeem their credits for products and services from their fellow barterers. Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, for example, has a special barter arrangement for kids of cash-strapped farmers. One sophomore's parent who raises cattle traded two beef steers for his daughter's tuition. The steaks and hamburgers went to the cafeteria.
You may have heard of so-called tuition-free colleges. They do exist, but are few and far between. And there can be a catch. At Berea College in Kentucky, for instance, students work roughly 10 hours to 15 hours a week on campus or in approved jobs in the community as part of the deal. "We give students jobs related to their majors that help them really get a jump on their careers," says Jay Buckner, Berea's communications manager.