How we cut college costs

Pay for college and get a trip to Hawaii? Six college students and their families share strategies for cutting the cost of higher education.

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Name: Nicolette Larson
Year: Freshman
College: North Dakota State University

Strategy: After realizing they needed to borrow more than the federal student loan maximum ($5,500 for freshmen), Larson's family turned to the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.The bank offers college loans to any North Dakota student (there are no income limits; you need only a 575 credit score to be considered) at a fixed rate of 4.96%, vs. an 8.8% annual percentage rate on a federal PLUS loan for parents.

Savings: About $3,000 over the life of the first year's loan.

Advice: "Start checking for loans early," and spread a wide net, says Niki's mom, Judy. She notes it took about six weeks to apply to several lenders and shop for the lowest rates.

By Kim Clark and Beth Braverman @Money - Last updated March 23 2012: 9:41 AM ET
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