In this post, I would focus on some effective ways to keep a tab on such burgeoning education expenses:
- Think beyond traditional textbooks - Even if an old and valuable textbook or reference material is not out of print, it is likely to be costly. Most new publications also bear high price tags. Instead of rushing to buy every recommended text in class, students should look for their electronic versions. Since almost all top-ranked institutions offer fast broadband internet access, searching for free (or, cheap) ebooks and excerpts need not require additional expenses at cyber cafes either.
- Make smart use of ed-tech tools - There are interactive whiteboards and 3D digital printers available - but does an institution really need it? The onus is on senior teachers to submit lists of the gadgets and learning aids that are absolutely necessary for their institutions. In K-12 environments as well, teachers should recommend cheap learning software and free apps for kids, instead of other pricey options. Governmental grants are provided to most institutions - and the funds have to be used in an optimal manner. No point in buying the latest tools simply to show them off!
- The value of attending community college - Prior to enrolling for a four-year course at a grad school, students should go for general academic training at community colleges. Most of these colleges charge reasonable education fees, and offer holistic lessons to the learners. There are ample classesto get familiar with the basics of useful ed-tech tools as well. That way, your overall education costs won’t spiral out of control.
- Opting for a paid accommodation is not a good idea - Unless absolutely necessary, there is no point in signing up as a paying guest for a student. While at college, teens should ideally commute from their homes - or stay in the institution campus (if such facility is available). On average, almost $7000 is paid by students on housing every year - and in most cases, such expenses can be avoided.
- Make purchases in bulk when possible - The myth that "all education tools and accessories are hugely expensive" can be busted by school and college authorities, by this method. They can make contracts with state/local (whichever is applicable) governments as well as manufacturing companies - and purchase supplies in bulk (e.g., computers, desks and chairs, lights, boards, etc.). The discounts will be higher, and the delivery of the materials would be timely as well.
- Partnering with big tech companies - A startup school might not have the chance of doing this, but established universities definitely have this option. Already, Microsoft and Google have been roped in as the tech partner of educational institutions in the states of Kentucky and Oregon respectively. Colleges can even get into partnership deals with local software developers and mobile app development companies. This would ensure that students would get access to all the tech-based resources they need, at no, or minimal, extra costs.
- Getting a scholarship can be a big help - This is particularly true for overseas students. Grad schools and universities generally offer merit-based scholarships to talented youngsters. Special scholarships are also issued to those from humble economic backgrounds. Getting a scholarship for the entire duration of college study would lower the total expenses on education considerably.
- Curtailing wastage of energy at schools and colleges - There is no one in a classroom - but lights and fans are switched on, a projector is plugged in, and a video is playing on a computer screen. Not a particularly rare sight, right? It’s high time such wastage of valuable energy resources are cut down. The monthly bills that academic institutions have to fork out are often hefty amounts - and that, in turn, generally reflects in the fee structure of students too.
- Earn as you learn - A concept that has plenty of merits, unless you start neglecting your studies in a bid to earn a few bucks more. Students can take up part-time jobs at companies with flexible work-hours. Taking up a job at the campus cafe is nothing to laugh at. Tech-savvy students can consider giving private coaching to juniors interested in learning about online tools, and use of mobile software and applications in education. The remunerations might not be stunningly high - but they would offset the cost figures by a significant percentage. You would enjoy the additional feel of financial independence too!
- Taking student loans - Every loan company claims that they provide funds to students at "really friendly" rates. That does not mean parents should jump at the first offer of getting a loan. At the end of the day, these loans have to be repaid - and the longer the repayment period, the higher would be the accumulated interest amounts. It would be best for a student if (s)he can manage his/her education from his/her family resources, and not go for loans at all. However, that’s not always possible - and it becomes vital for students/guardians to determine the exact loan amount required, and the financial institution which would offer it at the best terms.
- Looking for a good internship opportunity - Spending a few months as an intern at a good company serves two purposes. It provides students with valuable work-experience, brightening their final placement prospects. Also, the compensation packages from such internship offers are pretty handsome, in most cases. Students have to stay updated about the latest announcements at their institutions - and grab a financially lucrative internship offer, which would provide top-notch on-the-job training as well.
- Do not procrastinate - One of the worst enemies of students is procrastination. A young adult needs to have a clear vision of the type of career (s)he wants to pursue, and sign up for courses accordingly. Simply getting admitted to a reputed grad school, without having a blueprint of the career path chalked out, would be inadvisable. A mouthful of degrees would be of little help, if you do not manage to land a good job with them.
Oh, and students - stay away from the charm of credit cards!
Ross Smythe is the chief concept developer at Teknowledge Mobile Studio. He regularly writes on the web, specifically on a variety of issues related to education technology.