Give Back’s Founder and Chairman, Robert Carr, has teamed up with New York Times and Newsweek former chief bureau, Dirk Johnson, to release his new book, Working Class To College: The Promise and Peril Facing Blue-Collar America. The book exposes an education class divide that is threatening the American Dream of upward social mobility and sowing resentment among those shut out or staggering under crushing debt. It addresses ways to reduce college costs and shares the inspiring accounts of those who have endured all sorts of hardship and fought their way to college and commencement. Carr outlines strategies to chart a successful and affordable college career:


1. Start Early

Give Back selects students in 9th grade, because becoming college-ready takes time. It is important to start researching, planning, prepping and building strong study habits as soon as possible.


2. Enroll in College Credit Courses in High School

Advanced Placement and other courses allow students to earn college credit that will save time and thousands of dollars in tuition.


3. Take Advantage of Community Colleges

Students can save a bundle on a bachelor’s degree by first earning a two-year associates degree. Many community colleges also allow students to earn credits while still in high school.


4. Search for Schools That Award Merit Aid

Some colleges will defray costs for students with high grades and test scores. It’s also worth investigating special scholarships that fit a student’s background or experience.


5. Expand the Definition of Higher Education

Some five million skilled jobs in the United States go unfilled because employers cannot find trained workers. These are good jobs – from logistics and welding to information technology (IT) – that require training, but not a four-year degree. This is the ‘other college’ option.


6. Think Long and Hard about Student Loans

A lot of attention is focused on debt of $100,000 or more. But even small amounts of debt can be potentially ruinous. The average college loan in default is about $8,000.


Robert Carr, a financially-strapped teenager who caught a break as a high school senior more than 50 years ago, has devoted his fortune and mission to the Give Something Back Foundation. Between the personal adversity he has overcome and his 13+ years leading Give Back, Carr knows what it takes to graduate college while making smart financial decisions.

Prepare for college early and keep the above steps in mind.