Ask Jane: How Can I Cut the Cost of College for My Kid?

Here are two ways.

First, keep your child in-state. Public colleges and universities offer their lowest tuition to state residents.

There might be special state scholarships, too. You can influence this choice by telling your child, early, to concentrate on attractive state schools. Search their Web pages  their programs and student activities  to find a likely fit.

Second, see if your state has a deal with some nearby states to provide each other’s residents with tuition discounts at their own public colleges and universities.

For example, say that you live in one of 15 states that belong to the Western Undergraduate Exchange. Your child can apply to a participating school in any of these states, at a tuition cost that’s just 50% more than in-state residents pay. (Applicants from other states pay considerably more.)

The schools accept limited numbers of students under the WUE discount, so apply early.

The Midwestern Higher Education Compact covers 12 states. Its public institutions also charge applicants from member states just 50% more than the in-state rate. There’s a 10% discount at participating private colleges

The Academic Common Market covers 16 southern states. Students from member states pay the same tuition that in-state students do. But you get this cost break only if your child wants to major, or concentrate, in a subject that isn’t offered in your own state. The idea is to eliminate duplication of programs so that different institutions can specialize in different academic disciplines.

You can search the programs offered by ACE schools, then check to see whether there’s something comparable in your own state. Students can also take degrees online.

Six states participate in the Tuition Break program of the New England Board of Higher Education. They, too, provide discounts only to students seeking majors not offered in their own states. You’ll pay up to 75% more than in-state tuition rates, for an average saving of $6,900.

Your child might also qualify for federal and college grants, so affordable tuition rates are just the start. But it’s a good start.

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