You probably heard the latest news about the rising cost of college and how some graduates will leave school owing large debts to the federal government and/or financial institutions. Add the cost of a graduate degree and the price tag grows substantially.

What can parents do?

Believe it or not, the best time to reduce the cost of college may be now, while your student is in high school.

Parents can sometimes save on college costs by having their high school students take Advanced Placement (AP) classes or enroll in an International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

AP students are given an option of taking an AP test at the end of each course. Those who score 3 or higher may be eligible to claim that class for college credit, depending on each college’s requirements.

The same holds true for students enrolled in IB programs. By testing out of college classes, IB students can earn college credits while still in high school, saving time an money later on.

Graduating even a semester early can save thousands of dollars in college costs.

Unfortunately, minority students are the least likely to enroll in AP or IB programs. A common complaint is that the classes are too hard or require too much work. In addition, some parents either aren’t familiar with the programs or don’t understand their value.

Talk with your student and meet with his or her teachers to determine whether AP or IB programs are a good fit.

Another money-saving option is to have high school students take classes at a local college. Some four-year colleges and community colleges offer programs for high school students. Central Piedmont Community College, for example, is very economical, and credits transfer to many colleges and universities.

Additionally, students also may test out of college classes by taking the SAT Subject Tests or taking a placement test with the school he or she will attend. Some schools also allow students to place out of classes based on their SAT scores.

When looking to save money, scholarships are an obvious option. But scholarships are competitive, so your child must compete with others, not just academically but in other areas as well.

Applying for scholarships require time and effort, but it’s time well spent when your child is the recipient. Start early and search for scholarships that fit your child’s profile (academic, leadership, athletic, community service, etc.)

It’s imperative that your student understands the impact he or she can have in reducing the cost of college.

A college degree is an investment that requires time and resources. Even if money has been set aside for that purpose, why use it for college if you don’t have to?

College costs will continue to rise. A small investment now can pay big dividends later.

Macie Caldwell is owner of Macie Caldwell Consulting Services (, a Charlotte firm that provides information, tools and resources to parents, students and organizations to assist in preparing students early for college.

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