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About The cost of college is rising at unprecedented rates, and that trend is not likely to change any time soon. Parents and students across America are taking advantage of time-tested means of cutting higher education expenses including researching grants, applying for financial aid, and staying in-state to reduce tuition. However, it's going to take a lot more than that if you expect to graduate with anything less than a massive student loan balance. Check out the following lesser-known ways to save on college costs so you can get your financial life off on the right foot post-graduation.

Once school starts, offers to spend money begin to pop up on everything from laundry pick-up services, errand running, even meal preparation. These are all largely unnecessary, especially if you manage your time well. Also, if you're age 26 or under stay on your parents' health insurance (if you have the option) and forget about campus-based insurance, which is generally overpriced.

Did you know that classes offered at community college can be pretty similar to what you'd take during the first two years at your university of choice? Choose this route and you can cut as much as $6,000 off your overall bill, according to Bankrate.

Most colleges and universities offer certain classes online, and some of them cost less than traditional classes. Even if the costs are equivalent, you can save money on gas if you commute, so be sure to factor that in.

There are plenty of free items that can come in very handy during your schooling. Get school supplies for free after a 100% cash-back rebate program from most office supply retailers, and use the CNET website for free computer software downloads. When outfitting your dorm room, check out Freecycle and Craigslist for free furniture.

We all know the campus bookstore is a rip-off, but that doesn't mean eBay is much better. Check out Chegg and BookRenter for textbook rental options, and the website FlatWorldKnowledge for free open-source textbooks.

If you're working a part-time job during school, set aside the bare bones minimum for your monthly expenses and send the rest to your federal loan balances. There's no rule that says you have to wait until you graduate to start paying these back, and you can help ease your post-college burden by getting an early start.

If you graduate with the average $27,800 in student loan debt, you're going to have a hard time starting an emergency fund, investing for retirement, and even keeping up with monthly bills. Save as much money on your college experience as you can. The sooner you establish a financially independent life, the better off you're going to be.What little-known ways do you know of to cut college costs?
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