How to Save on Tuition at a 4-Year University and Finish Sooner

Monday, November 23, 2020
student with laptop

As you’re mapping out your Spring Semester game plan, here are some tips on how to save tuition and potentially finish your studies sooner – especially if you’re enrolled at 4-year university.

Lower Tuition Means Less Student Debt

You can’t argue the math – if the cost per credit hour is lower, then your overall tuition expense will generally be lower, too. At Scottsdale Community College (SCC), for example, tuition is $85 per credit hour and the average full-time student pays about $1,250 per semester in tuition.

This provides an amazing opportunity for students enrolled at 4-year universities to take their gateway courses – classes that are generally the first major-specific courses in a pathway – at SCC and then transfer those credits to their current educational institution. So, knock out that required Psychology 101 class, Math sequence, and English Composition series at a much lower tuition rate and free up funds for other expenses.

Get Done Faster with 8-Week Terms

Accelerated learning has become very popular. Instead of taking the more traditional 16-week semester, learners at SCC have the option of an 8-week compressed class schedule. Students can finish sooner and report stronger outcomes because they can drill down into a single subject within the shorter timeframe – and third-party research studies back this up**.

For example, if you’re a Business major at a 4-year university, taking a standard sequence of Financial Accounting followed by Managerial Accounting is usually required. With the 8-week schedule option, a student can complete both courses back-to-back in a single semester, instead of having to spread them over two semesters.

Sue Sandblom, Business Faculty and Chair at SCC, says, “Community colleges typically have smaller class sizes which means more individualized attention for students, helping ensure stronger outcomes. SCC also offers outstanding support services like the Accounting and Statistics Learning Center which provides extensive free tutoring services to help keep students on track.”

Take Classes With No-Cost or Low-Cost Textbooks

Some colleges offer open educational resources which eliminate the need for hardcopy textbooks and their high expense. Whether it’s for one class or many, the savings can really add up. SCC takes this even further with programs like Math, Spanish and Dance offering all of their related classes with the no-cost/low-cost textbook option.

SCC World Languages Chair Albert Shank helped create a four semester sequence of Spanish courses that transfer to all three state universities in Arizona and most out-of-state universities. He says there are zero textbook costs to the students taking these courses, and estimates that SCC students in this program alone collectively save a total of $15,000-$20,000 in textbook costs for the academic year.

The classes are available in 8- or 16-week formats. This means a student could complete their foreign language requirement in as little as one academic year by taking Elementary Spanish SPA101 and SPA102 back-to-back in semester one and Intermediate Spanish SPA201 and SPA202 in semester two. In addition to zero textbook costs, students also have access to free Spanish tutoring and conversation hours, which Shank reports really adds to the learning process.

Easy Credit Transfers to 4-year Universities

Community colleges are accredited by and have the same academic standards as four-year universities, so you can be confident you are receiving the same high quality education. That is why so many four-year universities, like ASU, UA, NAU and GCU, readily accept transfer credits from community colleges. Almost 70% of SCC faculty members have a master’s degree and 26% have a doctoral degree, and many have worked in the field in which they are teaching, providing real-world experience and high quality instruction.

To help identify courses that will directly transfer among Arizona’s community colleges and the three public universities, students can search on the Shared Unique Number (SUN) System and enroll in courses that offer direct equivalency at other Arizona colleges and universities. Access SUN here.

For more information about credit transfers, students are encouraged to meet with an adviser at SCC and/or their own 4-year university.

Discover more about community college by checking out these popular links:

Got questions? Phone (480) 423-6700 or visit for more information. Spring Semester begins Jan. 16, 2021. Register for classes today!

* The third-party research studies listed below have shown positive outcomes of an 8-week schedule:

--Geltner, P., and Ruth Logan. “The Influence of Session Length on Student Success.” 2010. Santa Monica College.

--Gamboa, Benjamin. “Impact of Course Length on and Subsequent Use as a Predictor of Course Success.” 2013. Crafton Hills College.

--Wyatt, Joe “Student Success on the Rise thanks to AC’s 8-week Class Model.” 2016. Amarillo College.

--Austin Community College. “Austin Community College Eight-Week Course Feedback Survey.” 1998. Austin Community College Website.

--Odessa College. “Odessa College named finalist for THECB 2017 Star Award.” 2017. Odessa College Website.

--Veneskey, Kevin. “Eight-Week Semesters as the Default.” Innovation Day Pitch Letter—Inaugural Event. 2017.

--Ivy Tech Community College, Spring 2016-Spring 2017. Chronicle of Higher Education.