Four Crazy Facts About College That Could Save You Money

Last Updated Jul 29, 2009 1:27 AM EDT

It's what you don't know about college that can kill you financially. If you've got a couple of minutes to spare, you could save yourself a lot of money by reading to the end of this post.
If you aren't a LeBron James clone, forget about an athletic scholarship. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but consider this: only two out of every 100 student athletes get a piece of the $1 billion worth of sports scholarships awarded each year. For many talented jocks, a better way to squeeze money out of colleges is to play at Division III schools. The NCAA forbids Division III colleges from handing out sports scholarships, but (wink, wink) institutions call the awards that they give an athlete anything they want. Here's where to check out the real scoop on sports scholarships.

The average student college debt is scarier than you think. The debt that families incur to pay for college is greater than published reports. That's because schools only publish the debt of students, not the parents. About 66% of students borrow for college and they typically leave college with an outstanding tab of $23,200. Parents who borrow for college through a federal loan are typically stuck with an almost identical bill -- $23,300. And this figure doesn't include the tab for parents dipping into their home equity. Keep this in mind when you're evaluating how affordable a school is.

Graduating in four years is a joke. Only about half of college students manage to earn a bachelor's degree within six years. But it's worse than that. One study suggests that a mere 38% of graduating college students can successfully compare the viewpoints of a couple of newspaper editorials. One great resource that evaluates the type of education students really get at any institution is the National Survey for Student Engagement.

The Ivy League doesn't want your kid. Parents often seemed stunned when Ivy League schools tell their brilliant kid to take a hike. But at some of these schools about 40% of the slots go to athletes, legacies and kids whose parents are development prospects - those with enough dough to endow a chair or slap their name on a new building. Only .2% of all college freshman end up at one of the eight Ivy League schools. Here's what you should do with an Ivy obsession: get over it. In the long run, it could save you a lot of money.

Lebron James image by Keith Allison. CC 2.0.