The current economy has forced many of us to make tough choices about our college education. The good news is that there are many cheap online degree options. In this guide, we have come up with five tips to help make your online education more affordable.
For a look at the cheapest options for traditional college, check out our list of the Most Affordable Colleges & Universities in the U.S. for 2022.
Otherwise, read on to find out how you can save money on your online education...
Online college is not necessarily cheaper than going to college on campus, at least not when it comes to basic tuition. In fact, the opposite may be true. The reality is that implementing online learning systems and training educators for effective remote instruction both cost money.
In fact, notes Forbes, an online education is rarely less expensive than a comparable brick-and-mortar education. In only 18% of cases did online programs charge lower tuition than traditional programs for the same school, according to a joint survey of digital learning leaders at 182 schools. At 74% of schools surveyed, the price for an online and in-person education was virtually the same. In 23% of schools, online learning was actually more costly.
Forbes notes that
While conventional wisdom holds that an online degree may cost less than one obtained at a bricks and mortar school, that may not necessarily be the case... the average per credit, in-state cost for an online bachelor’s program was $277, compared with $243 per credit at brick-and-mortar schools based on an August 2013 (latest data available).
For colleges that are predominantly brick-and-mortar, these expenses are separate from the costs of maintaining residential dorms and on-campus student services. It probably will not surprise you to learn that most schools pass those additional costs along to their online students. The result is, in some cases, a higher tuition rate for online students.
In other words, you should not simply assume that your online degree will be more affordable than the degree you might earn on campus. It is up to you to take additional steps to get your online degree at a more affordable rate.
Fortunately for you, we have all kinds of tips for how you can do exactly that.
You may be aware that you can get a steep discount as an on-campus student at a public university in your state. But did you know that the same discounts apply for online students? Naturally, one of the biggest benefits of an online education is the access it gives you to a quality education no matter where you live. But you should not overlook the benefits of attending an online college connected to a nearby campus. In addition to the discount you will get for attending an online public university nearby, your state may also have reciprocity agreements in place with neighboring states. Regional reciprocity agreements make it possible for you to enjoy the same in-state discount tuition rates when you attend an online public university in one of these neighboring states.
To get the best rates in your region, check out the Most Affordable degrees in your state.
While tuition for your online degree may not cost any less, you can save a lot on the net cost of your college experience. By earning your degree fully online, you can avoid the costs of on-campus housing, transportation, parking, and certain campus fees. This is where most of your savings take place with online education. Completing a hybrid program can offer some savings, particularly if you enjoy free room and board at home and live close enough to campus to make an easy commute. But ultimately, the best way to avoid those heavy peripheral expenses that come with a traditional college education is to invest in a reliable computer, a good WiFi connection, and a nice quiet study space in your own home.
For schools that excel at providing excellent value through fully online instruction, check out the Best Online Colleges 2022.
Some online colleges and universities will recognize meaningful professional experience by awarding credits. If you have practical experience in the same field where you ultimately seek your degree, it may be possible to begin your program with a few credits already under your belt. Naturally, the fewer credits you must earn, the less money your online education will cost. If you believe you have relevant professional experience, make sure you speak to your academic advisor about how to receive the proper credit for your work.
If you are a working professional, do not overlook the opportunity to gain direct support from your employer. Because online education makes it possible for you to gain knowledge, qualifications, and credentials while still balancing your work responsibilities, many employers will view this as an opportunity to invest your value. Provided you are willing to repay this investment with a longer commitment of time, you may be able to procure tuition support from your company.
Many larger corporations offer structured tuition assistance programs that come with formal commitments. If you work for a bigger organization, speak to your HR representative to learn more.
If you serve an important role in a smaller company without a structured tuition assistance program, do not be afraid to ask. Your employer may be particularly enthusiastic about an online degree that adds to your skill set without disrupting your regular working routine. If you truly have a future within your current organization, your employer may be willing to take this extra step to enhance your skills and secure your loyalty. Naturally, getting this type of outside help could make your online education a great deal more affordable.
Online education also offers an array of uniquely paced programs that are designed to improve the convenience, flexibility, and accessibility of a college degree. The accelerated online degree program is a perfect example of such a program. While the traditional college degree requires most students between four and six years for completion, an accelerated online bachelor’s degree can be earned in as little as one to two years.
Accelerated online degree programs use asynchronous course completion, self-paced learning, lengthier class durations, and more frequent class meetings so that more credits can be earned at once. Ultimately, this suggests an extremely rigorous, demanding, and fast-paced approach to online learning. While this is a great way to save money and time, it can also be very challenging, especially if you are new to online learning. Be sure you are up to the task. To learn more, check out these Top Ten Tips for Online Education Beginners.
In addition to the tips above, make sure you take all the same steps you would take to lower the cost of a traditional education. That means maximizing your financial aid opportunities, searching exhaustively for relevant scholarship and grant opportunities, and most importantly, understanding the complex ins and outs of Paying for College.