Don’t Forget About the Textbook Code

There is one further thing to mention when you purchase used textbooks. Many if not all college classes now have an online site that is associated with the textbook. Students are required to use the site as part of their class. In order to access the website, it’s necessary to have a code which is included with a new textbook purchase.

Some used books may also include this code. However, if the book doesn’t have it, or it has already been used by a previous student, you may have to purchase the code separately. This of course adds to the cost of the book purchase.

You will probably still come out ahead, even if you have to buy a new code. However, it’s something to consider and ask about when you are buying your textbooks.

Saving Money on College Textbooks

Thousands of students will be heading to college in the next few weeks. As mentioned in earlier blogs, textbooks continue to be a major expense. Fortunately, new sources are out there for those willing to do some research.

  • Start by deciding whether the book is one that you’re going to want to keep. If you don’t think you’ll have use for it after the end of the class, look for websites that rent textbooks. One site that does the work for you is RentScouter. It helps you find the cheapest place to rent a book or purchase a new or used one.
  • Don’t forget about digital. The drawback of renting physical books is that you may pay a big fee if you don’t return it on time. Digital rentals might cost less, and you’ll have less weight in your backpack.
  • Check out the college library. It often keeps copies of required textbooks for students to use.
  • Amazon doesn’t just sell new and used college textbooks. They also rent them and offer downloads of available textbooks to Kindle.
  • Other large booksellers such as Chegg also are in the rental business.
  • Google is digitalizing more books all the time that are free. It pays to check them out.

Grandparent-Owned 529 Plans

Many college students benefit from 529 plans that their parents set up for them back when they were in elementary school. A fortunate few even have grandparents or other relatives who have set up plans also.

However, plans owned by grandparents or other relatives are not treated the same as those owned by a student or his or her parents. While parent or student owned plans are entered as assets on the FAFSA, plans owned by grandparents or other relatives are considered to be untaxed income. The result is that every dollar that is contributed from that account toward tuition, will mean a 50% reduction in financial aid the following year.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the impact. A couple of well-written articles explain the plans more thoroughly, and suggest things you can do to lessen the hit to your financial aid. They can be found here:

  1. http://www.fastweb.com/financial-aid/articles/3486-how-do-grandparent-owned-529-college-savings-plans-affect-financial-aid-eligibility
  2. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444025204577544910953329298.html

Free Online Learning

Whether you’re retired and looking for ways to challenge your mind, or you’re seeking a new career, free online college classes give you the opportunity to explore new subjects without having to spend any money. They are also a great way for students to investigate career paths or for parents staying home with young children to keep up to date on any number of topics.

These classes are available from a variety of sources. Some may require a textbook, but other than a high speed internet connection, that is the only thing you need. Note that the classes do not lead to a degree, but they can still teach you a skill that may be beneficial in your job.

A good place to start looking for classes is the Open Culture website at: http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses. It collects information about courses available from numerous universities, and posts them on its website.

For suggestions of other e-learning sites, check out this very informative article on the AARP website – http://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/life-long-learning/info-01-2010/learn_anything_online_for_free.1.html.

Tap Into Your Company’s Education Assistance

College gets more expensive every year, and if you’re currently working, it may be difficult to think about returning to school. However, don’t forget to look to your own company for tuition help. Many businesses contribute to their employees’ continuing education, both for undergraduate and graduate studies.

In most cases, you pay up front, and are then reimbursed by your company. Make sure that you know all the requirements for reimbursement. Some may expect you to achieve a minimum grade or have the classes be in areas that will improve your work.

Remember also that your company may be a source of scholarships for your children.

Read Audio Books for Free

If you enjoy listening to audio books, there are more sources that lend them than ever before. Your local library is a good place to start since it’s nearby and free. However, there are also places where you can download books to your computer or mp3 player for free, and never have to worry about getting them back in time. Granted, these are more for people who enjoy reading the classics and other books in the public domain.

  1. http://librivox.org/ These books are read by volunteers. If you enjoy listening to them, you might want to consider volunteering to be a reader too.
  2. http://www.learnoutloud.com/Free-Audio-Video. This site has lots of educational materials including lectures and sermons. It also has audio and video products for sale.
  3. http://storynory.com/. A wonderful site for finding stories for children, they add a story every week, all read by professional actors.
  4. http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks. Here’s another source for free educational material, both audio and video. It includes such things as language learning and university courses.

College Spring Break Alternative

If you are a college student, and bemoaning the fact that you don’t have the money to go on a trip during spring break, you might check to see if your school has an alternative spring break program (ASB). This program is one where students volunteer their time in various institutions such as schools, non-profits, or governments throughout the country.

These vary in cost to the student, but the expenses are minimal compared to spending a week in the Bahamas. A small registration or application fee is usually required, and you may have to cover meal or transportation costs within the city to which you are assigned. Some universities offer scholarships to participants, and others have fundraising opportunities.

The benefits are many. You gain experience working in various fields, while helping others. You have free time to explore the city. Since you are part of a group of other students doing the same thing, you have the opportunity to make new friends and share ideas. And you get to go someplace during spring break while saving money.

College Housing Savings

Co-ops can be a cost-saving alternative for students in many university towns. Instead of paying the high price of a dorm or living in an expensive apartment, one can choose to share a house and housekeeping duties with other like-minded individuals.

Many larger universities have more than one co-op, so that a certain type of person may gravitate to a particular one because of similar beliefs or personalities.

Most co-ops require a membership fee and basic duties. These may include such things as meal preparation for the shared dinner, food shopping, cleaning, painting or yard work. Attendance at house meetings is also mandatory, so that duties can be dispensed and any issues or problems can be addressed.

Co-ops are worth checking out if you’re looking for a way to save money on room and board. Not only can you develop cooperative living skills, but you may also learn from your fellow boarders such things as how to cook, paint or refinish a floor.

College Textbook Savings

It’s that time of year again when college students have to shell out hundreds of dollars for textbooks in addition to all their other expenses. In an earlier blog, we mentioned a website that specializes in renting textbooks: http://www.rentscouter.com

Now, even more people have started to address this issue. One organization called Student Public Interest Research Groups or Student PIRGS has actually started visiting college campuses to make people aware of the problem and sign petitions asking for change. They are also promoting and encouraging the use of open textbooks.

Open textbooks are those which you can find and read online or download and print for much less than the cost of a regular textbook. The drawback is that many professors don’t use them or may not be familiar with them. The PIRGS hope to change that.

Another new website, http://www.localtextbook.com/ helps students to connect with other students in their area who may have a textbook for sale. Those who have a textbook they no longer need can list it on this site for a small fee.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to save money on textbooks, check out the PIRGS’ suggestions at http://www.studentpirgs.org/textbooks/tips

Monthly College Tuition Payments

One way that colleges have tried to make it easier for students to pay their tuition is through the use of monthly payments. Instead of having to pay for a semester or year in one lump sum, it can be divided up into 12 payments over the course of a year.

Some schools charge an enrollment fee, usually in the range of $50 or less to take advantage of this program. As long as you make the payment with a check or automatic withdrawal from your bank account, there are usually no other fees or interest charges.

If your school allows you to make the payment with a credit card, however, there may be credit card fees tacked on. In the long run, therefore, you will be paying more for your tuition.

If you are interested in this type of payment plan, be sure to check with your college to find out exactly what extra charges you may have to pay.