3 Ways to get a significant “discount” to any Wisconsin college

By Nathan Bossow

Nathan BossowIf you or your child received an email offering a 25 percent discount to any Wisconsin college, I’m guessing a majority of you would assume the email was a scam. However, a 25 percent off discount to a Wisconsin college is within reach of almost every high school student in Wisconsin.

Despite the rising cost of college tuition at 4-year (which often become 6-year) universities around the nation, the Wisconsin education system provides a multitude of ways for students to significantly reduce the cost of attendance. For consistency purposes, I will use credit counts and tuition costs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I personally experienced three considerable ways of saving money. I’d like to provide my insights and reviews on each of them.

Advanced Placement (AP)
In fall of 2011, my sophomore year, I took my first AP class through my high school—AP World History. My junior year, I took AP Psychology and my senior year I took AP Statistics, AP Micro Economics and AP Macro Economics. The total out of pocket cost was $460 ($92 per test) compared to the cost of taking five classes at UW of $5,207 (assuming 3 credit classes, sometimes can be more).

Not all high schools offer AP credits, however, you do not have to be enrolled in a class to take an AP test. There are a wide variety of resources out there, including books like, “Cracking the AP Physics Exam.” In fact, one of my good friends in high school used this exact book to score a 5 on the exam without ever taking the class.

Now, I know taking extra time outside of school may sound unappealing to most students and if you are one of them, I encourage you to talk to your counselor and ask about the possibility of an independent study program (or course?). Requirements for independent studies vary from school to school however, so I will not go into to much depth on them.

Youth Options
Besides AP tests, my favorite opportunity while in high school was Youth Options. Youth Options allows juniors and seniors at public high schools to take courses at one of Wisconsin’s technical colleges, UW institutions, or select private and tribally controlled colleges.

My entire high school career I was nearly 100 percent sure I wanted to attend UW-Milwaukee and graduate with a film degree. However, my junior year of high school I took advantage of Youth Options and attended UW-Milwaukee every Tuesday and Thursday for an Intro to Film class. I am so grateful that I took advantage of this opportunity! Not only did I discover that UW-Milwaukee wasn’t a good fit for me, I also discovered that wasn’t interested in a film as a career but rather as a hobby in my free time. (A priceless experience in itself).

Youth Options is free to high school students but there are a few requirements that must be met. The course must not be comparable to a course already offered in the school district. This particularly applies to the degrees that are off the norm. However, a sincere letter to your counselor or school board explaining how taking the course will set you on a path for success might just do the trick. Upon completion of the course, students receive both high school and college credits ($1340-$2199 value for 3-5 credits).

Dual Enrollment
Similar to Youth Options, Dual Enrollment allows students to take college courses earning both high school and college credit at no cost to the student. However, one main difference is no additional travel time since the program is offered within the high school. I’ve seen classes offered in both a distance learning setting as well as in-class instruction.

My senior year of high school I participated in a Dual Enrollment program between Gateway Technical College and my school. I took both Developmental Psychology and Sociology, worth a total of 6 credits, which equals $2,629 in tuition at UW-Madison.

One of my favorite parts about my Dual Enrollment experience was the atmosphere of the classroom. Unlike many high school classroom settings, the class had a true “on your own” college atmosphere. There was little to no homework to boost your grade but instead had a heavy emphasis on the exams, something quite different from most high school classes. I truly believe this experience was one of the most helpful in preparing me for the college.

It all adds up
Upon completion of high school, I had earned 26 college credits and saved $10,415.76, the price of a year of tuition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, the $10,000-plus in savings isn’t comparable to the hands-on experience I received from the programs.

My AP classes taught me critical test taking skills essential to exam-based lectures in college. In addition, Youth Options gave me the experience and information to make a decision on a college and major that I would truly enjoy.

Finally, Dual Enrollment gave me the experience of the “on your own” attitude of college. I encourage all high school students to meet with a counselor about these opportunities, because I can’t stress enough the value, which goes well beyond monetary.

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