The cost of college tuition has increased so much in recent years that the value of a college diploma is now in question. However, despite the cost, a college degree is still a prerequisite to getting hired in many fields. To companies, college is more than just the diploma; it is a valuable life experience. By graduating, you are demonstrating that you are self-motivated, can manage your time effectively, work well with others, speak and write clearly and possess many other fundamental skills that employers seek when filling open positions.

 In addition, college is not just about figuring out what you want to do, but who you want to be and how to get there. So, before deciding that the cost of tuition puts college out of your reach, read on for some unconventional ways to get a degree without incurring an unmanageable price tag.

Do your homework and get hired FIRST

CollegeCredit: 2014 S. LynnRecent high school graduates oftentimes don’t realize that many large employers will finance all or part of your education as part of your benefits package. That’s right; a college education courtesy of your employer. This option means you will be busy, working and taking classes in your spare time. However, chances are if you are reading this article you were planning on working while attending school anyway. Rather than take the first restaurant server job you're offered, do your homework and find a job in a company that values educated employees. An added bonus is that by the time you graduate, you'll have years worth of solid work experience - a quality that many recent college graduates lack and could put you ahead of the competition for your dream job.

Taking this idea one step further, if you can find a staff job at a college that allows employees to attend classes, working on campus will make this process very convenient and you'll be able to get more involved in the typical college experience.  

Start smaller

Start your college career at a community college. More and more community colleges and universities are teaming up to make transitions from one to the other natural and seamless.  The classes will be small, the experience less overwhelming and the tuition rates are often half the cost of a university. When you finish your two year degree, transfer to the university for another two years and by the time you are finished, you’ll have a bachelor’s degree for a fraction of the cost your fellow graduates paid (or will pay depending on their loan situation).

Start earlier

If you are still in high school, check to see if your school has reciprocal agreements with colleges that allow you to take college courses while in high school for little or no cost. You could graduate high school with college credits without shelling out a dime.

A college education is an investment that doesn't have to be a burden. Don’t let short term financial realities affect your long term goals.