Panorama Community Schools

Debt Reduction Strategies: College Options & Alternatives

Strategies to Reduce or Avoid Student Debt After HS; while increasing your earning potential (education, skills, certifications, degrees)
1) Save money for years before attending college.  
529 Plan Provide Tax Free Savings for College (Primarily Parent or Grandparent Driven) to reduce loan payments after college
2) Maximize Student ACT Scores & Grade Point Average to Increase MERIT AID from colleges so you can Lower Cost of College (Student & Family Driven)
  • Most students want to please their parents, so family support to keep good marks in HS matters when it comes to students’ ability to obtain institutional merit aid (merit aid is based upon talent, not financial need). 
  • Students who know their parent(s) and teacher are in communication earn better grades.
  • Take time to understand basic strategy for taking the ACT (find the easier questions first, roughly half the test, they spend less time on harder questions you are not confident answering)
  • Most colleges use merit based awards to recruit better students.
    • Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa, Iowa gives full tuition, room, & board scholarships as well as many smaller awards
    • SWCC, Creston,  "We have the Collegiate Scholarship giving $500 per semester to the top 15% of the class and students with 25+ ACT. Then, $1,000 per semester for those who have a 30+ in the ACT. Lastly, student with a 28+ in the ACT AND is Pell grant eligible will qualify for the “Bright Scholarship” that pays everything (tuition, books, fees, room and board)."
  • A few examples of merit aid programs that have been used by PHS graduates:
    • Iowa City’s U of Iowa’s freshmen awards (minimum 25 ACT & 3.5 GPA)
    • Cedar Fall's UNI incoming freshmen scholarships
      based on RAI (Regent Admission Index)
    • Warrenburg, Missouri’s Central Missouri State - click UCM pdf to see ACT/GPAA chart for $ @ bottom this page. 
      • Maryville’s Northwest Missouri State University – Play with “Bearcat Admission Index Calculator” to see Bearcat $ given to freshmen for different combinations of HS student class rank (based on gpa) and ACT scores.
      • NWMSU includes cost of text books & common college extra fees within price of tuition credit, for uncommon additional savings (NWMSU tuition).
    • Dubuque’s Loras College Awards for Freshmen (min 20 ACT & 2.5 GPA)
    • Waverly’s Wartburg College Financial Aid, “Typically, students who have a high school minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 and rank in the top 25 percent of their high school class AND have an ACT composite score of 23 (1080 SAT) or higher will receive a Regents or Presidential Scholarship…$15,000 to full tuition.”
    • Graceland University’s ACT/GPA Chart, $12,000-$6,000 Freshmen Year Merit Scholarships - click GU link at bottom of page to see it
    • Universities
    • Private Liberal Arts Colleges
3) Reduce the number of college courses you will need to pay to take for your college degree 
 3a) Take advantage of Iowa concurrent enrollment law that directs college to provide free text books and HS schools to pay tuition at reduced prices so students can take college courses free while completing high school.
  • Since 2010: 90% of Panorama students take college courses at PHS & all of those graduates plan to attend college of their choice.
    • While most of these courses are completed online directly through the DMACC, Panorama teachers also deliver college courses during school day, and families can absorb travel costs for students to take college courses at DMACC's newest center in Perry, Iowa during day or evenings.
3b) CLEP out of introductory college courses before starting college 
CLEP is a test product made by the College Board company and used by most colleges for the purpose of granting college course credit by testing instead of the regular course delivery and tuition.

Consider the typical cost of CLEP is $100-$133, versus paying for tuition & text books at a community college course for $500, or state university for $1,000, or a private college for $2,100
  1. Speak with your college academic adviser (typically during college orientation in Term 4, senior year of HS) about which CLEP tests you may take.
    1. DMACC accepts up to 30 credits of courses through CLEP testing.
  2. Register online at to select CLEP test(s) you want to take and test center you will use to complete the tests (College Board has a fee payable online – $80)
  3. Contact the test center of your choosing, typically the nearest college campus, and set up an appointment for taking the CLEP test(s); most are completed through a computer and by appointment only with a fee
    1. ISU charges $20 to administrate the test(s) and give you immediate results -
    2. ISU encourages student who score a 24 or higher on ACT sub-tests (math, science, reading, English) to consider CLEP testing
    3. ISU waives the required introductory composition course for students with ACT sub-score of 24 in English
  4. Then share your CLEP scores with your college academic adviser to eliminate course(s) from your academic planning.
4) Don’t Take On More Educational Debt Than You Likely Earn in Year 1 of Planned Occupation (Student Driven)
5) Know Which Occupations Have Companies' or State Government's Assistance to Help Pay For or Help Pay Off  College Debts (Student Driven)
IF you do not want to become a doctor, lawyer, k-12 teacher, etc. (professions that require a bachelor or more in a graduate degree), THEN consider career training at a community college, apprenticeship provider, or our U.S. military instead of a traditional 4 year college/university.
  • ABC 20/20 - College is a rip off , 7:25 minutes with John Stossel, points to data suggesting a 4 year college degree is NOT a guarantee for a successful career.  Community college skill training programs are noted as safer investments.
6a) Take advantage of professional "skills gap" that exists in our state and nation, by becoming skilled in vocational arts, to take higher paying jobs that require less education, or starting your own service business.
  1. Popularized by Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs tv show, through the mikeroweWORKS Foundation  (scholarship opportunities created with vocational colleges)
    1. FOX The Independents interview with Mike Rowe talks about college choices
    2. Rowe testimony to U.S. Senate; Commerce, Science, Technology committee (SenatorRockefeller) 
    3. DMACC's Workforce Training Academy provides free college coursework in business, information technology, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, & Commercial Drivers License (CDL). See brochure below shared by Iowa Workforce Development presentation at Panorama HS.
6b) Enlist in U.S. Military – highly skilled career training combined with salary and service to our country as an enlisted soldier.
  • Enlist in Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard (2 to 6 year commitment)
  • Enlist for part-time service branch with guard or reserves
  • While a soldier you also have options to take free college courses or attend college with financial assistance
  • Panora Nursing Home = See 5) Above, "Care Initiatives"
  • Starbucks employees get free college in partnership with Arizona State University Online -

    Full tuition coverage is now available for all four years of college with access to 49 online degree programs, with no commitment to stay with Starbucks post-graduation

  • Attend an Iowa Job Corps campus in Denison or Ottumwa (Family Driven) 
    • Denison's campus is renovated private college campus
    • Ottumwa''s campus is across road form Indian Hills Community College campus
      • Partnership with Indian Hills CC provides free associate degree, with living quarters next to Ottumwa campus.
      • Must provide income verification to qualify for Job Corps & participant cannot be counted as dependent on taxes while at Job Corps
      • Age qualification is 16-22
      • If a parent, children may live at Job Corps with you
      • Packet of information from Ottumwa Job Corps during Nov.2014 visit; link below
      • Ottumwa Job Corps Info Packet from CWebner 2014 Tour of Campus
    • Both Denison & Ottumwa locations provide free room, board(food), career training, and assistance with getting first job.
  • GAP TUITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS ( - Iowa's community colleges train students with programs for Jobs in High Demand Work Areas That Do Not Have Enough Iowa Workers, has a family income eligibility scale for household family sizes, classes & materials are provided at with significant reductions in cost to family for college education -
    • Eligibility Guidelines - 2018 Income Guidelines - 250% Federal Poverty Level

      Family Size Yearly
      1 $30,350
      2 $41,150
      3 $51,950
      4 $62,750
      5 $73,550
      6 $84,350
      7 $95,150
      8 $105,950

      *Add $4,320 for each person over 8 in household; Source: 2017 US Dept. of Health & Human Services Poverty Guidelines

    • Administrative Support Professional
      1. Industrial Painting
      1. Medical Office Billing
      1. Welding Certificate
      Graphics Technology Certificate
      • Financial Services
      1. MIG Production Welding
      1. Patient Access Registration
      1. Truck Driving
      1. Intro to Maintenance Technician
      1. Advanced Manufacturing
      1. CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant)
      1. Phlebotomy
      1. Administrative Specialist Assistant
      1. Turfgrass Specialist
      1. CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled Machines)
      1. Direct Care Professional
      1. Sterile Processing/Supply Tech
      1. (CNA) Certified Nurse Assistant
      1. Construction Specialist
      1. Healthcare Support
      1. CDL (Commercial Drivers License)
      1. Certified Medication Aide
6d) APPRENTICESHIP; Employment & Training Instead of Paying a College (Student & Family Driven)
State of Iowa is giving money to Master Craftsman to train and pay student apprentices AND pay for apprentices' classroom training - our area contact for information on these programs is Amber Casebeer of IowaWorks, 619 N Carroll Street, Carroll, IA 51401, ph: 712-792-2685 ext. 28, email:  [IowaWorks presents job trend data, their services, & facilitates PHS delivery of National Career Readiness Certificate exams annually to grades 11 & 12 - parents welcome to attend as announced.]
Several Companies have shared info with PHS seeking applicants and professional organizations - 
7a) NEW TO THE WORLD! The UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE provides FREE BACHELOR'S DEGREE using online tools and volunteers. This university opened in 2009 and earned accreditation before first graduates earned diplomas in 2014. 
7b) Attend A College That Does Not Want It’s Graduates To Have Tuition Debt (Student Driven)

7c) LIVE AT HOME & Attend Local Community College; SAVE $20,000 for first 2 Years (liberal arts) of a Bachelor’s Degree (Family Driven).  At same time, get a minimum wage job at 20-30 hrs per week and cover your college costs = no debt!
  1. Comparison of attending ISU and living on campus 1 academic year, versus living at parent's in Panorama CSD & commuting to DMACC's Perry, Iowa Campus ($10,000 savings per academic year over going to an Iowa Regent University)

    DMACC (Perry, IA VanKirk Academy Campus)  DMACC costs                          
    ISU (Ames Campus)  ISU costs

    Room & Board
      DMACC $0  (eliminate this DMACC estimate cost, $5,908, by living at home with family) 
      ISU $7,721 (room & board)
      DMACC $3,930 (2013 tuition)
      ISU $7,726 (2013 tuition)

    Additional Fees
      DMACC 2013  $4,934 ($1,254 for books & supplies, & $3,680 transportation, etc.)
      ISU $3,473 2013 ($1,043 books & supplies, & $2,430 anticipated expenses)

    Total Estimated Costs
       DMACC 2013 $8,864
       ISU 2013 $18,920
       Total Difference of $10,056
7c) Pay for Lower Cost Summer Community College Courses for Transfer to your More Expensive Bachelor's Degree (Family Driven)
  • Take lower cost community college courses during the summer and transfer to the more expensive 4 year college/university of your choosing to save money. 
  • Iowa Regent Universities apply up to 16 credits of credits, liberal arts or vocational courses, towards most of their degrees (engineering majors are exception).
  • Community college courses are cheaper. Typical college course is 3 credits, so consider typical cost of just 1 credit -
    • 1 credit at most Iowa community colleges is $140
    • 1 credit at most Iowa universities is $350
    • 1 credit at most Iowa private colleges is $600 (or more)
  • Shop for CC courses online (DMACC Course Search Link).
  • See how DMACC course’s will transfer to bachelor degree: Example - ISU Transfer Credit (ISU equivalency guide
  • Many students take college courses free during HS academic year, but Iowa HS’s cannot pay for summer college courses.
7d) Consider cheaper basic college dorm room...
Instead of a college owned "suite" or private apartment, live in less costly dorm room.
Basic "old school" dorm living is easy, fewer bills and less planning associated than associated with management of off-campus apartments.
  • Compare the University of Iowa dormitory fees for their Quad Living, $4,353, versus a 1 person, 1 bedroom apartment at Hawks Ridge, $10,720
7e) Become a U.S. military officer while earning your college degree in Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, available for each branch of military in colleges and universities in every state
  • Go to participating universities to earn BA for free or reduced price through ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) scholarships.
  • Only way to become an officer in our armed forces is to earn a college Bachelor's Degree
8) Get Paid To Go To College;
8a) Companies team with community colleges to offer more than a scholarship and degree -
  1. Iowa Western Community College' Design Technology Program at their Cass County Center in Atlantic, Iowa - IWCC representative recently shared with PHS guidance office their partnerships with manufacturing that educate students for technology related skills.  IWCC Technology Program Webpage has a nice 2min video to watch. This uniquely cost effective program is 2 days per week/2 year program is delivered in Atlantic, Iowa with starting salary $40-45K...HS kids who like drawing and CAD but who do not want to attend 4 year college may most enjoy this program.  Program accepts both students who have been successful in Algebra 2 and those who have not (simply take different introductory courses once in program). A paid internship is part of year 2, so that year is actually 5 days per week. They could live at home year 1 and work part or full time jobs to keep them in the black, or live on the Council Bluffs IWCC campus with free transportation from college to Atlantic (Atlantic is about 1 hour drive from PHS).
    [Here is another partnership highlight ACIETA Company - WITCC partnership video about programming robotics, providing quality training, recruiting local people for Council Bluffs area living, different program that Design Technology, but worth considering too!]
  2. DMACC Partnership Programs industry/businesses –
    • Most of the Industry and Business Partnerships encourage student earning money while learning in their program - so costs stay lower and experience is gained, also the partnering business typically offer full employment (with benefits) upon graduation. See links to these business partnerships in given web address - Accumold Tool & Die, ASEP/General Motors Dealers, ASSET/Ford & Lincoln/Mercury Dealers, CAP/Chrysler Dealers, Catepillar/Ziegler, & Machinist Apprenticeship). These programs also highlight scholarships and some pay for all the courses. 
    Accumold - DMACC Scholar (FAQ #4) – 2017 Letter to guidance office explaining benefits along with flyer promoting program shares: Accumold, a precision mold-building company in Ankeny, Iowa has elected to provide at least four scholarships each year to DMACC students enrolled in eligible programs. Students who meet the requirements of the Accumold Scholars program, can receive tuition assistance to cover MOST of their tuition OR tools.  This scholarship would be in conjunction with a job at Accumold with the anticipation of full-time employment after graduation from DMACC. For more details -  
  3. John Deere VanWall Scholarship Pays for Tuition and more $ for recipients too -
    1. NICC (Calmar, IA) - see flyer descrbing that in addition to full scholarship, students given paid internship, and employment as JD technology repair and install (about a 4 hour drive)
    2. John Deere Horizon - Southeast Community College (Milford, NE); In addition to full scholarship and employment, students given bonus money for good grades (about a 3 hour drive)
Army, Air Force, Navy pay up to $65,000 of college loans
National Guard up to $50,000 of college loans