Financial Friday: Schedule Your Classes Wisely, and Don’t Pay More than You Have to


There are a wide variety of ways students can control the amount of money they have to pay for college education, but the gross price of tuition is likely not often thought of as a controllable area. However, the reality is that part of it is indeed up to you, the student. The way you schedule your classes can have an effect on the total amount you actually pay, so class schedules deserve attention from a financial perspective.

One of the most important things to remember when scheduling classes on a full-time basis is that fall and spring classes are billed on a flat rate basis. What does that mean? This means that fall and spring semesters are fixed costs, rather than variable when you enroll in classes between 12-18 credits. Again, you will pay the same price when you take 12 -18 credits. There may not seem to be much to this, but it’s an essential thing to remember when scheduling.

For starters, if you can handle taking more classes per semester, this may allow you to complete your degree on time and give yourself more room to take less classes during the back half of your college career than your front half. If you’re taking a four-year degree, that’s 120 credits, so if you take 15 credits per semester every semester, you will graduate on time. If you should take 12 credits per term, you will need to attend college for more than 4 years.

An 18-credit semester can be your friend, and I never thought I’d utter that statement. Who likes the idea of 18 credits? Maybe an engineer who’s taking 21 credit semesters likes the idea (but God help that poor kid). For the rest of us, six classes can seem daunting, but it is if taken early in your academic career it can act as a safety net that hedges against inconvenient scheduling issues in your later years of college.

If you end up retaking a class during the summer, either because you have to or because you were not satisfied with your grade the first time around, the sticker price might very well be higher. Summer classes are priced on a per credit basis, rather than per semester, which generally leads to the per class price being higher during the summer than during the traditional school year. That being said, taking summer classes doesn’t need to have a negative connotation. Maybe you are a great student who has other reasons for taking summer classes. Nevertheless, the financial reality of summer classes is less than ideal.

In addition to facing higher tuition during the summer, you may have less financial support during that time period. If you’re a student who is normally enrolled on a full-time basis during the fall and spring, financial aid might not be available to you during the summer, so it’s important to check whether that’s the case for you before scheduling summer classes. Many students will use their full eligibility during the fall and spring terms and may not have remaining eligibility for the summer term.

Many students may wish to use Private Education Loans and Federal Direct Parent PLUS loans, a type of federal loan borrowed by their parents to help pay for expenses not covered by their financial aid.

The path to 120 credits is different for each and every student. It’s great if you take exactly 15 credits each semester and graduate on time, but that’s rarely the case. With this in mind, it’s important to look at scheduling not just from an academic perspective, but from a financial one as well. Doing so can actually cut down the cost of college, or at least keep it from rising above the necessary level.

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" John Hamilton : @jham1496 Managing Editor."