Get credits free. Encourage your teenager to take Advanced Placement classes, which give high school students a head start on college coursework. Students who score a 3 or higher out of 5 (depending on the college) on the AP exams can apply the credits toward college graduation requirements. Some colleges accept a year’s worth of credits, which can save thousands of dollars.
Cut to the chase. Also look into the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), which lets students qualify for college credit based on their proficiency in any of 33 subjects, from American literature to precalculus. The exams ($77 each) are held throughout the year at institutions around the country; most colleges accept the results. To find out more or to download study guides, go to www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/clep/about.html.
Mention Grandma. Many colleges, including West Virginia University, Ohio University, the University of Arkansas, Montana State University (College of Engineering), Boise State University and Marshall University, offer legacy scholarships to relatives -- usually children or grandchildren -- of an alum. Students must also meet academic and other criteria to qualify.
Do the math. Even without room and board, you’ll pay an average of $26,273 for a year at a private college, $7,020 (in-state) for a year at a public college and $2,544 for a year at a community college. If your child attends a community college for two years and transfers to a four-year public college, he or she will end up with the same degree as the kids who went to the public college for all four years -- but you’ll save big.