Lesson Plan Guide: Top Tips To Reduce The Cost Of College

By Matt Andrews

CONTENT ​​AREAS: Advisory, Money Management, Career Exploration, Economics


  • Students will increase their awareness and understanding of the multiple costs that constitute a college education and institution-to-institution differences in financial assistance provision
  • Students will consider their individual financial situations and assess against financial requirements of various types of post-secondary institutions and types of aid available for possible good financial fits


  • Students will consider all kinds of costs involved in the total price of a college education
  • Students will perform activity that urges them to reflect on personal financial standing and compare to averaged financial demands of educational institutions and averaged aid amounts


  • C:A1.7 Understand the importance of planning


  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1b Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and noting any discrepancies among the data.


No specialized prior knowledge is necessary to complete this lesson.

The large-group simulation uses data from Texas and California. Instructors may connect more specific and detailed numbers closer to student interests with this table:



  • Student Paths article “10 money-saving tips for high school and college” from Related articles
  • Class set of Activity (REPRODUCIBLE B)
  • Optional class set of Real Costs (REPRODUCIBLE C)


This lesson has three stages across a 30-minute class period.

  • Anticipatory large-group discussion about college tuition (8 minutes)
  • Reading and questions (10 minutes)
  • Choose a Path Simulation (12 minutes)


During activity, the instructor asks students where they can find more information about college costs. Student answers provide a general, informal assessment of student knowledge of college.


Read and Discuss Article (10 minutes)

Distribute the Student Paths article “10 money-saving tips for high school and college” and instruct students to read the advice and write a brief reaction in the margins of the article.

After students complete the reading, ask: What is the best tip the author offers? Explain why this is better than others.

Is there any bad advice? What cautions should we take with that tip?

Answers will vary, so encourage critical thinking and practical application of the 10 tips. Keep discussion brief to keep a positive mindset going into the next simulation that challenges students to estimate an annual budget.

Conclude this simulation with a 1-minute warning after 9 minutes of activity.

First question to conclude: Ask the facilitator to provide the general class consensus on the estimated total cost of each path.

Write figures on the board. Private 4-year, Public 4-year, and Public 2-year

Second, ask students what path would be best for them. Instruct students to write a number between 1 and 10 next to their answer to describe how confident they are that this is the best path: 1 indicating little confidence and 10 being the maximum. Remind students that this answer takes time and that the simulation provided only 3 of the many options students have after high school.

Finally, students may want to know the accuracies of their estimates. Remind students that uncertainty is part of the nature of budgets and costs. Before each year and quarter begins, we plan and estimate a budget so that after the year is over, we may account for the actual annual costs and to make a reasonable estimate and plan for the next year. This is a process successful college students must understand to finance their goals.


Top tips to reduce the cost of college

About the Author

Matt Andrews