College Hacks from the ChooseFI Community | Ep 230

What You'll Get Out Of Today's Show

  • With the rising cost of college, what tips and tricks can help lower the cost of higher education? The community weighs in.
  • Because Austin's company paid up to $8,000 a year in tuition, he chose to attend Western Governor's University, where tuition costs a little over $6,000 no matter how many credits are taken. He doubled up on his credits, taking advantage of the school's competency-based model and his work experience, to speed through classes at his own pace.
  • The US service academies provide world-class tuition-free educations. Not only is room and board included, but cadets and midshipmen also earn a monthly stipend of approximately $1,000 a month. Graduates do incur a five-year service commitment, but it includes substantial pay, housing, and food allowances and potentially additional free education.
  • Alternatives to the service academies are ROTC scholarships, which pay for tuition as well as provide stipends for uniforms and books. These scholarships also incur a service commitment.
  • Joe received two bachelor's degrees, two master's degrees, and his doctorate without taking out any student loans. With high standardized test scores, he received tuition, room, and board from a smaller school looking to increase enrollment and prestige to compete with larger schools. He was also able to earn living stipends as a teaching assistant at his own school and for teaching adjunct courses at nearby schools. Not only did he graduate debt-free, but he had a little money in the bank.
  • Look for unique cohort group scholarships, such as the caddy and firefighter scholarships mentioned in previous episodes.
  • Rachel took advantage of the Kentucky Governor's School program for high school students in the summer between her junior and senior years. This program earned her automatic scholarships to Kentucky's colleges and universities.
  • Rob offers tips on how to negotiate the cost of college directly with the admissions office. This Fall may be an especially good time to test out negotiating as colleges and universities worry over how many students will attend in this COVID era.
  • Sherry wrote in advising community college students to search for scholarships specific to their community college.
  • Listener Jonathan discovered his union offers a free college degree program available to union members and their families.
  • Renata's daughter spent a summer studying for and practicing the ACT, raising her score from a 27 to a 32. That effort resulted in a full-tuition scholarship to a four-year university. Between the scholarship and the 40 dual enrollment credits earned in high school, Renata's daughter will graduate college in just two years debt-free and still have two years of scholarship remaining for a master's program.
  • Entering college with credits earned in high school can potentially save on fees. ChooseFI Chief Content Officer, MK shared how she had enough credits to enter college as a sophomore and was able to opt-out of the more expensive freshman meal plan saving her thousands of dollars.
  • Nicole wrote in to provide a couple of links to websites offering free open-source textbooks. Searching for courses taught by professors using free books can save $800 or more a semester.
  • Austin attended immunity college for two years on a full-ride scholarship and was a resident advisor to cover his dorm costs. He then applied for and received a Phi Theta Kappa scholarship and transferred to a four-year university.
  • Millie's daughter works as a barista at Starbucks. Employees who work on average 20 hours per week can attend Arizona State University online without an obligation to continue working at Starbucks. They will even provide prep classes to employees who don't qualify for acceptance as ASU.
  • Michelle went to a college that offered co-ops. She graduated a year early by taking college credits while in high school and was offered a job upon graduation from her co-op.

Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation

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    6 thoughts on “College Hacks from the ChooseFI Community | Ep 230”

    1. Thank you to Millie for explaining the Starbucks and the online Arizona State University! My daughter is dyslexic and it is really hard to know if college will be the right fit for her. Knowing that her abilities and grades don’t necessarily match up in order to get all these scholastic scholarships that are usually mentioned. The reality is college will likely look differently in 4 years, but knowing that Starbucks is offering this type of program with the extra support so many kids need, nearly brought to tears. THANKS!!

    2. It was wonderful hearing this podcast today! I was wondering if anyone has considered geo-arbitraging college? My husband and I are immigrants and got our degrees from our birth country. We essentially graduated debt-free because college education was much cheaper over there. But the great thing is our degrees were equivalent to the curriculum here and we were able to immediately use these. Just maybe another thing to consider. 🙂

    3. As a parent who had an “average” but hard working kid get a full ride equivalent and guaranteed acceptance into Medical School coming out of high school, I know it can be done. I have documented our method for this and posted free advice at Guide To Full and Facebook. We documented a step by step processes that will allow all parents to replicate the process. The FB posts and videos have many techniques available.

      We are sharing this information so that you too can start your child off “adulting” in a debt free manner. We are FIRE parents and did not have any scholarships. We spent years paying off our student loan debt and don’t want to curse the next generation with the student loan burden. Parents – you must take the lead. Leaving it to the student in their Junior / Senior year it is often too late to get a plan together not saying impossible it is just very tough to get a life altering plan in place. Good luck all on setting the next path for your FIRE offspring. The scholarships are a reflection of the young adult that you help shape. A path toward a career match is also defined in the process.

    4. I did community college in the 80’s and transferred to BGSU to finish my BS. It works just as good today with in state agreements ( Ohio). A lot of the 4 yr colleges let you finish at the CC depending on program. I have one kid at the local CC and another one in HS but also taking College Credit Plus classes at the college. He will get his AS before graduating HS. A couple tips for CC students is to join the honor fraternity if you have the grades. There are usually transfer scholarships available. Also go to to see how your classes will transfer.

    5. Eloise, I am so happy to have provided you with a link to a possible path. There are so many wonderful ideas out there, so I do think it is just a matter of finding the right fit. Something I may not have emphasized in my letter is that there is no time constraint on the SBUX/ASU program… meaning, if you need more time to finish school, taking fewer classes along the way, there seems to be no issue with that (and from my super geeky calculations, it would actually cost LESS to do this, due to some of the tax intricacies). Someone could also easily slip in a minor along with their major and have it almost completely covered by the program.
      I said I would provide an update and officially, I will, but here it is in a nutshell… Spring 2020, we paid out of pocket for 12 hours, $3768 and about a week after the semester ended (this was unexpectedly quick) my daughter got a reimbursement on her paycheck of $3613. As we continue on at this pace, finding this program (late) after we had paid for @30 hours at community college, with the current AOTC, and with the purchase of books, laptops and other supplies, as well as some negligible payroll taxes on the reimbursement, the grand total should be roughly $3200.
      The current link for the program is:
      But, for future info, if that changes, the program is called the Starbucks College Achievement Program (SCAP)
      Best of luck!

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