36 easy life hacks to keep college costs affordable (part 3)

This is the third part of our six-part series on saving a buck while attending college. Read part 1 and part 2.

13. Take advantage of university-subsidized health insurance

Most universities offer subsidized general health care coverage. Because the Affordable Care Act allows young people to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26, this tip might seem a moot point. But it’s important to crunch the numbers and apply them to your unique situation.

For instance, students attending an out-of-state school will probably face reduced benefits if they remain on their parents’ policy. University-subsidized health insurance might also end up being cheaper. Always check with your school’s administration department to explore coverage options.

Depending on your income, you could qualify for an income subsidy under the Affordable Care Act. Enter your financial information and find out. If you take this route, you’ll need to enroll in the federal health care exchange and purchase the insurance individually.

14. Save for college in a tax-advantaged account

A little advanced planning goes a long way when it comes to paying for school. Tax-advantaged accounts that help with this goal include state-sponsored 529 plans, a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA), and a Roth IRA. Here’s a brief rundown of each:

  • 529 plan: Individual states operate these savings vehicles. Contributions to the plan are not tax deductible, but the contributions grow tax free provided they are used for qualified educational expenses—everything from tuition to the computer you use in school. Each state sets a cap on the amount that can be contributed.
  • ESA: If you fall within certain income limits, you can establish this savings account. It limits contributions to $2,000 per year. Like the 529 plan, ESAs are not tax deductible, but earnings are.
  • Roth IRA: Normally used for retirement savings, a Roth IRA can also be drawn upon for qualified educational expenses. This can be an effective way to save since the funds can either be used for retirement or education, so if you over fund the Roth IRA, you can still use it during your Golden Years.

15. Consider community college

Community college is one of the best deals around. Many students can take advantage of the less expensive tuition for entry-level courses that can then be transferred to a traditional four-year school. One analysis found that a two-year community college costs about one-third the price of a four-year in-state university.

16. Attend an in-state university

Closely related to attending a community college, going with an in-state school will potentially carve tens of thousands off your expenses. As reported by the College Board, students during the 2014-2015 academic year saved $13,819 each year by attending an in-state vs. out-of-state school. That’s a hefty chunk of change!

17. Keep food costs under control

Food and drink costs can quickly get out of control. Put a lid on them by committing to cooking in your dorm or apartment most of the time. Leave eating out for special occasions.

Check back soon for another six tips for reducing college costs!

Content marketer, author, and homeschool graduate. Co-founder of Transcript Maker, the high school transcript app.

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