My nephew Nick graduated from college this year, and his brother Chris will graduate this December. Over the weekend while we were visiting them, I noticed that although they mentioned a number of friends with big student loan debt, neither of them had any– and in fact, Nick has money left from his college budget to help pay for grad school. Their parents set a target for how much they would pay for college; anything beyond that was the student’s responsibility. Here is Nick’s account of how he graduated from the University of Washington in three years with money leftover in his budget:

When my parents started planning for college, they original planned to pay for four years of college, taking tuition increases, food, housing, books, and leisure activities into account. Obviously, tuition increased by a lot more than they had originally planned and housing is far more expensive here than in the Midwest where they may have originally planned that I go to school, but I was still able to graduate with extra money. Here are my tips:
1) In-state schools are the best bang for your buck in every case
2) doing Running Start or college in high school programs are good because they’re free, but all the credits will transfer to state universities. AP and IB will not do this.
3) don’t live on campus or buy the university’s food plan. These are far more expensive than finding your own housing or living in the Greek houses
4) I always had a part time job to pay for my leisure costs and my books and a full time job during the summer. My parents only paid for tuition, housing, and food
5) I would not buy all of my books and would often try to get them at the library instead or go in on books with other students whenever possible
6) I applied for non-need based scholarships through my dad’s company and got them to pay for $3000 a year in tuition
7) I did not own a car at all during college. This is a huge expense