Hints on how to cut college costs

July 12, 2011 2:32:51 PM PDT
The average student piles up more than $20,000 of debt while pursuing their first degree, and master's students tack on an extra $17,000 in loans. With school being right around the corner, it's a good time to start thinking of ways to save.

With room and board, books and fees, college costs keep adding up. But so is financial aid.

According to The College Board, the creator of the SAT, tuition rose nearly 6 percent a year over the last decade. But aid to undergrads also increased, more than 50 percent. The aid is there, if you know where to look.

Our first tip? Find untapped resources. Scouring websites never hurts, but your church, local businesses and job are also great places to check. Many companies have scholarships for employees and their kids. Yet employee benefits account for 85 percent of all unclaimed scholarships.

Next, talk 'em down. Colleges aren't car dealerships, but offers can be negotiated through a process called professional judgment. You can even ask a college to match another school's offer.

And finally check with Uncle Sam. Many students seek aid from the federal government, but neglect their own state and local governments.

And don't just check your state of residence. Also check the state where you're attending school.