Mix & Match
Even if you are averse to one or all of the suggestions above, or if you like any but not enough to otherwise derail your hopes for a more typical course of action, nothing says you have to think about college in all-or-nothing terms. While we tend to pursue higher education as though we had to pick a single entrée off the menu, students may want to shift the paradigm and consider earning their degree from a buffet of choices, taking a little bit here, a little bit there until they have a meal on their plate.
Let me give you an example. What would stop a kid from parking himself in a dorm of his choice school, getting just enough credits there to remain in good standing as a full-time student, getting a few credits online from this same school that would charge him more if he walked across campus, and driving to the neighboring county’s junior college twice a week to attend to a few of his gen-ed requirements? Why wouldn’t a young lady seek out some concessions from a male-heavy school while she builds her resume enough to gain acceptance to the tuition-free school she really wants to attend? Why not start out by getting a series of certifications under your belt which would get you a high enough paying job to allow you to have the resources to attend an otherwise out of reach college? Why not, instead of paying extra for a great campus experience, enroll in an online degree program while you gallivant about the world soaking up all the outside-the-classroom educational experiences it has to offer? You get the idea.
One caveat is in order on this front: if you plan to blend your educational experience in some way, make sure to check with the registrars of the various institutions, particularly your degree-granting institution, to ensure they will accept credits from your other sources. Many a student has attended a junior college only to find out their eventual four-year private institution discredits any other flavor of science class or some such thing.
Obviously, if you can be a little flexible about where or how you go to school you can tend to get a high quality education more aligned with your means than had you simply shown up at the college of your dreams and gave it a go. In some sense, with a little recognition of your other options and some forethought, you can have your cake and eat it too.