Got your attention. Just like those inundating, slick for-profit university commercials claiming great instantaneous success by simply enrolling in their fast track degree program.

Unfortunately, in this reality, rarely does anything good come without a price or without some investment in time. Higher Education is no exception.

Don’t be discouraged!

If you don’t know a wealthy relative, there are some real tips and resources out there to limit the pain inherent in attending higher education in the U.S. You might already be familiar with them:

  1. Go to a community college. Long have these institutions been maligned and derided as a low scale, last resort version for the confused or abysmal post-high school student. Simply put, get your associate’s degree or certificate on the cheaper. Even get a few credits, if possible. But always, always make everything transfer if you intend to further your education at another four-year institution. Never waste money on higher education.
  2. Go to college overseas. In this race-to-the-bottom, uber new capitalist global economy, many students have elected to forgo the exorbitant U.S. higher education system to those more appealing to a pinched wallet. It’s also a twofer if you like to visit new places and cultures.
  3. Enter the military. Aside from the hazards, serving your country has real, long-term benefits.
  4. Scour online scholarship and grant resources. Even look for local award resources. Finaid.org is a reputable start. Just remember to apply before due dates and adhere to all requirements. Also make sure you never pay for an application service. They are free.
  5. Get a free PIN and apply to FAFSA.gov – The earlier, the better. Don’t miss school deadlines unless you want to risk paying out of pocket before receiving a potential award. And don’t pass up the paid work-study option when applying. Work-study can also lead to more opportunities.
  6. Accept loans as a last resort. Make sure you calculate your needs versus what is offered. Higher packages mean longer, thus additional, servitude…uh, repayment. See the http://www.finaid.org/ calculator for more.
  7. If the award is still too high, politely appeal the decision with the Financial Aid department, preferably with the director or someone who can make any change in your favor. Remember, if you don’t ask, it’s always “no.” Also, give plausible reasons for your appeal. There are records, you know. Besides, civil relationships can reward.
  8. Engage in a packaged bidding war with competing accepting schools. Weigh the benefits offered, then counter-offer and escalate the financial mayhem in your favor. Las Vegas is a great educator, right?

These points are not a magic bullet. They are simply tips to cheapen your higher education burden. Because, speaking quite frankly, there will most likely be a financial cost. So cover your bases and bend them as best you can in your favor. Enjoy the experience and rewards of higher education.

Then hunt down that wealthy relative.