Students looking ahead to college, and their parents, may not be aware of an easy way to save some cash. Flat-rate tuition has grown in popularity nationwide, and it has a strong presence in the Garden State.

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Under flat-rate plans, students are charged the same price for a semester, no matter how many credits they take. That means a student who chooses to take six classes will be paying the same amount as someone who takes four classes, but at a much lower price-per-credit.

"For full-time students, I think it's a great value to take a larger number of credits," said Paul Shelly with the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Shelly said the option can also be used as a time-saver for students.

"If you take a more full credit load, you may proceed through college and attain your degree in four or five years, instead of five or six years," he explained. "That one year that you won't be having to take courses, you also won't have to be spending on transportation or living expenses."

Shelly said flat-rate tuition is part of a national push to get students to graduation at a quicker rate, although the concept has been utilized by some New Jersey institutions for decades.

Students are warned, though, to only take on the additional credits if they truly believe they can handle the extra workload.

"A student's ability to get good grades is critical because they don't want to just pass the course," said Shelly, who added that on-campus counseling can be used to best decide the right amount of credits for a student.