Ways to Lower the Cost of College

— U.S. Department of Education
Updated on Mar 22, 2011

Serve in AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps is a domestic service organization in which thousands of young men and women are working in community service projects around the country in exchange for a living allowance averaging $7,500 per year; health care; child care when needed; and an education award of $4,725 per year for paying back a student loan or for financing postsecondary education. Under some circumstances a person can serve part time and receive an education award of $2,362 per year.

AmeriCorps projects serve communities throughout the country. All meet at least one of four national priorities: (1) education; (2) public safety; (3) human needs; and (4) the environment. For example, AmeriCorps members teach state-of-the-art computer skills to teenagers, tutor grade-school children in basic reading, or organize innovative after-school programs in some of the education projects. AmeriCorps members in environmental projects clean up urban streams and inland waterways, monitor dangerous trends in air quality, or test-start city-wide recycling programs.

There are many different points in a person's educational career when participation in AmeriCorps is an option: right after high school; during or after college; and during or after graduate school or occupational training. AmeriCorps members are recruited locally and nationally. To find out more about AmeriCorps, call the AmeriCorps Hotline free of charge at 1-800-94-ACORPS (1-800-942-2677) or TDD 1-800-833-3722. You may also visit the AmeriCorps web site at:

Take Advanced Placement (AP) Courses and Exams in High School

As discussed in an earlier section of this book, many high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams. AP courses are college-level courses that help students prepare for college-level work. After taking AP courses, students can take AP exams offered in the same subjects as the AP courses. If students score a grade of 3 or higher on an AP exam, they can often receive college credit. Students with high grades on AP exams in many different subjects are sometimes granted a full year of course credit at the colleges where they enroll. The receipt of course credit can result in savings in college costs. These savings can be quite large if it means that a student is able to enter into a college as a second-year student; such a student might save the cost of tuition and fees for a whole year of college.

However, not all colleges and universities give college credit for a grade of 3 or higher on an AP exam. Contact your child's high school to find out if AP courses and exams are offered. Write to the admissions office of the colleges that are of interest to your child to find out if they give credit for an AP exam grade of 3 or higher. For more information on AP courses and exams, see the address and phone number in the last section of this guide.

Participate in a Career-Focused Educational Program such as "Tech-Prep" or "School-to-Career"

As discussed earlier, some high schools offer career-focused educational programs that provide students with a set of high school courses that are formally linked to courses offered at local community or technical colleges. These "tech-prep" or "school-to-career" programs, as they are often called, offer students the opportunity to go through a sequence of career-focused courses in high school that prepares them for an apprenticeship program or for a specialized sequence of college courses in a particular occupational field. Thus, students who master certain technical and occupational skills and knowledge in high school do not need to repeat the same courses when they enter college or an apprenticeship.

In some of these programs, students who take the specialized sequence of courses in high school can sometimes be awarded college credit or advanced standing in the occupational program at the college level. This can save students time and money. It also means that students can gain access to more advanced college courses much earlier in their college careers. To find out if such career-focused programs exist in your community, ask your child's guidance counselor or teacher, or staff at a local college. To learn more about career-focused programs like tech-prep and school-to-career programs, contact the organizations listed in the last section of this guide.

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