Ace your class, save some cash
Good grades can mean a smaller tuition bill, lower insurance premiums and less rent.
By David Ellis, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- A high grade point average in college may help you make the college dean's list. But it also could save you money, which is no small feat when you or your parents are paying $20,000 or more a year to secure a bachelor's degree.

College student can parlay high marks into scholarships and grant money, lower car insurance payments, lower rent, and, for those who favor seriously micro economics, even a free doughnut.

In-state grants

For college students attending state schools in their home state, there is government money available to them if they maintain a B or better.

For example, the Hathaway Scholarship is available at the University of Wyoming and community colleges throughout Wyoming. Students with a 3.0 GPA at the university can earn $1,200 per semester towards tuition, or $1,600 per semester (the full cost of tuition) if they have a 3.5 GPA or better.

In Georgia, students with at least a B average qualify for the Hope Scholarship, which pays for all tuition to any Georgia state university, covers a number of student fees and allots a $300-per-semester book allowance. Since the program's creation in 1993, it has given out $3.2 billion, according to the Georgia Student Finance Commission.

All but 13 states offer some form of merit-based aid for in-state students attending state schools, giving away roughly $1.75 billion a year, according to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP).

In-school scholarships

Freshmen who ace their classes may qualify as sophomores for school-sponsored scholarships in various academic departments.

"Lots of colleges have money that only goes to students already there," says Gen Tanabe, co-author of "Sallie Mae How to Pay for College."

Purdue University, for example, offers scholarships to its engineering students based on their freshman-year performance, and those aid packages can range anywhere from a one-time $1,000 award to a renewable $5,000 prize, according to Purdue's financial aid office.

And if a competitive student is unsuccessful in getting a department scholarship, it might be worth checking with the financial aid office to see if they are willing to fork over any merit aid.

There's no guarantee the aid office will award an aid package, but if a student can show a real need, then the school may be more accommodating.

"The financial aid officer's role is to keep you in college by making sure you can afford school," Tanabe says. "Nobody wins if a student drops out because of money reasons."

Also, starting this year, the federal government is launching two need-based grant programs for full-time students who are U.S. citizens with a 3.0 or better grade point average.

The Academic Competitiveness Grant, which is only available to first- and second-year students, is worth up to $750 in their first year of study and up to $1,300 in the second year if a student has completed a "rigorous high school program" as determined by the state.

Then there is the National Smart Grant for upperclassmen who major in science, math, engineering or a foreign language and maintain both a cumulative 3.0 GPA and a 3.0 in their major. The grant is worth up to $4,000 per year.

Better grades, lower premiums

Studies have shown good students tend to have fewer accidents. So for those who drive, maintaining a high GPA is an easy way to cut down on their (or their parents') monthly car insurance payments.

Good grades are "an indicator of their responsibility," said Carolyn Gorman, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute. "It's all down to risk."

Most insurance companies nowadays will offer a "Good Student Discount" of 10 percent to 25 percent for an undergrad who is able to maintain at least a B average (3.0 GPA).

Allstate Insurance, for example, offers a 15 percent discount to any full-time, unmarried student under 25 with a B-average or better.

State Farm Insurance will offer students with a B average or better up to a 25 percent discount, although the reduction depends on where you live and what kind of vehicle is covered by the policy.

Students should know, however, that if their grades don't continue to meet the minimum requirement, the discount will quickly disappear.

Other discounts

There are also some less common discounts awarded for academic excellence.

Some off-campus apartment complexes will give good students a break on their rent.

Students attending California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. who live at the off-campus Valencia Apartments, for example, will receive a 5 percent discount on their lease if their GPA is between a 3.0 and a 3.5. Undergrads who boast a 3.9 GPA or higher can get a 10 percent discount.

Credit card issuer Citibank offers a credit card that gives students rewards points based on their GPA, which can be redeemed for anything from a $10 coffee gift card to a free airline ticket.

Of course, if monetary rewards aren't enough to convince you to bump up your GPA, free food may work. Doughnut-maker Krispy Kreme says that for every A students have on their report card, they are eligible for one free glazed doughnut at their local store.


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