Students /
August 18, 2020

You Probably Can’t Not Afford to go to College this Fall.

Five real-life scenarios where paying (or not) for college this fall is the cheapest route to go.

That’s right – you read that right. I believe that most students can save money by actually attending college this fall, compared to other options they commonly choose.  Take a look at these 5 scenarios:

Scenario One

Post-secondary options for high school students.

Actually, this option is free, which is the most affordable option of all! If students are in a situation in their high school where the classes they want aren’t available to them, or in the format they need for success, post-secondary college class options should be considered. During these times, high school students wishing to earn college credits through either distance learning/online, hybrid learning models, or even some hands-on options, can do so through their local community and technical college for free. This is not right for everyone, but given the circumstances, students can’t not afford to look into free college credits.

Scenario Two

Distance learning is probably cheaper.

This scenario isn’t intended to be a discussion of preferred learning methods or the necessity of face-to-face instruction for hands-on disciplines. We know that face-to-face instruction is preferred in most cases but this is a simple discussion of economics – learning from home involves less travel costs. And travel cost is never just the price of gas, it’s also a sandwich for lunch, a gourmet coffee, an afternoon snack, or shopping with a friend. When learning from home you’re not as tempted to buy snacks or head out for lunch with your classmates. The bottom line is that less travel results in less expenses.

Scenario Three

Taking a year off, and going to college next fall.

It’s simple math, really. In all likelihood when students take a year off, that decision is accompanied by intent to hold down a full-time job (or close to it). This is certainly an admirable choice! The plan is often to save up money for next year, or to wait a year until they know what they want to do with their lives. However, “life happens” as they say, and this decision often drives (quite literally) other costly consequences. Depending on how a prospective student navigates these challenges, the reality is often some sort of car payment (not to mention the insurance, repairs, gas, etc.).  Transportation is often the only way to stay gainfully employed, thus diminishing the financial gains of the short-term job. Of course, others experience the freedom of independence at this point in life, and the next thing you know they’re leasing an apartment and paying utilities. These choices are usually accompanied by financial impacts that last years. And for some, those impacts actually become reasons for not going to college at all. Again, your local community and/or technical college very likely may be more affordable than taking a year off.

Scenario Four

Just enter the workforce and skip college altogether.

There are numerous examples of those who skipped college altogether being perfectly happy in their careers after high school. They go straight to work, get some on-the-job training, experience success, and the rest is history. Yet, it’s impossible to know “what might have been.” And, there are literally thousands of college options available to students, meaning that the financial “gamble” of college is far more high stakes in certain circumstances than in others. So, for those who are skilled enough to successfully enter the workforce immediately out of high school, it’s reasonable to assume they are hands-on-type folks. Investing in a technical or community college at a time in your life when you aren’t yet saddled with those financial strains previously discussed is perhaps your best option. College programs in the trades often have foundations in industry partnerships with tuition reimbursement programs, or access to today’s most recent technology. But perhaps most important, an opportunity to connect with instructors who will mentor them, both in their career paths and their life choices. These connections for college students often result in better job placements and higher earning potential compared to their classmates who just took a job straight out of high school.

Scenario Five

Was that the cost of tuition, or a 2009 minivan?

Photo From: Car And Driver

According to Kelly Blue Book (, in central Minnesota a 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan, base model, with 130,000 miles has a market price of around $6,000. The average cost of tuition at 2-year community and technical colleges in the Minnesota State system is $5,800. This point should be pretty clear – you can’t not afford college in the Minnesota State system.