What Is The Most Inexpensive Online College?
Many online degree programs will automatically save you a good chunk of money compared to a traditional school, simply because with online learning, you won’t pay to live on the college campus. At New York State University schools, for example, room and board fees for a student costs about $12,000 — far more than the actual tuition for any bachelors or associates degree program.
But while an online degree program can help you avoid tens of thousands in room and board, online schools aren’t universally cheap. You need to put some work into shopping and comparing fees from one school to the next. And while you probably don’t want to choose a school based only on its cost, one of your best ways to avoid getting saddled with too much student debt is to make sure you get the cheapest online tuition.
Your local community college is usually the best place to start looking for an affordable online degree. Community colleges often have the best bargains on tuition. But there are often limitations. Many of them give the lowest tuition rates only to local students. Also, many of them offer associates degrees or bachelors degrees only in limited subject areas, and the most career-oriented programs like nursing, teaching and criminal justice tend to fill up fast.
Fastest Affordable Degrees
Flex and accelerated schedules can be a great saver of time and money. Bachelors and associates degrees from online schools can now often be done on a accelerated basis. You generally have to work extra hard to get through an accelerated program quickly, which can be tough if you have a full-time job or family. But it can be truly wonderful to shave time off your degree program by talking a heavier class load.
Flex scheduling, on the other hand, can allow you to stretch your studies out for more than the usual two years (for associates) or four years (for bachelors). While this won’t shorten your time in college per se, it can help you be a more successful student by mapping your school schedule closely to your work and family obligations, and to allow you for some breaks that can help you avoid burning out. Colleges that specialize in online learning tend to very flexible about a student’s study schedule, because they deal with so many students who are working adults. The leading online schools are also usually willing to allow you to transfer credits toward their programs that you may have earned previously at another school.
What’s The Easiest Online Degree?
Online schools are generally a bit easier to get into than traditional colleges. But from that point on, the ease of getting a degree depends on the choice of your major and how quickly the school will help you complete your degree. Both humanities and STEM majors can be required to do significant projects outside of class like research papers, a thesis or clinical work (in the case of nursing programs). If you want to make your study as easy as possible, make sure to ask your school if you can use any credits you may have earned previously towards your degree, and spend some time looking at the curriculum for your chosen major. Studying psychology, for example, will not involve exactly the same courses and outside study projects at two different schools. Online schools often have very specific requirements about student participation on forums, online classes or other digital venues, To make your degree as easy as possible, take a deep look into what you will be required to do as a student.
How Are Online Colleges Priced?
Students often bring unrealistic expectations about what they’ll need to pay for online college courses. After hearing about MOOCs, some expect all online learning to be free. Others, having read about problems with for-profit schools, expect online degrees to be hugely expensive. Neither of those are necessarily true. There’s no doubt you can pay too much at any type of school if you don’t do some smart comparison shopping before you apply.
The “per credit” tuition you will pay for an online degree will, in many cases, be no different from what you would pay as a student in a traditional “brick and mortar” college. But you’ll save a bundle simply by living at home while you study. Campus-based students must spend tens of thousands of dollars on room and board over the course of their education, and non-classroom living expenses can truly skyrocket if you attend school in a major city.
Are Online State Colleges & Universities Cheaper?
If you want to study at a state school, you might also get a special benefit from the “distance” in distance education. State university systems once charged a big premium to out-of-state students, even for online learning. But that’s changing. If you’re interested in an online degree from a state school other than the one in your own state, do some research to figure out if you can attend without paying the traditional “non resident” tuition premium.
Some online schools now offer “per semester” tuition, which can help you save if you can study at an intensive rate. Rather than paying a “per credit” charge for each course at Western Governor’s University, for example, you pay a flat fee for each semester. If you can take more than the standard course load, you’ll cut down on the number of semesters and save a good deal. Alternatively, if you get too busy with job and family responsibilities and need to take a break from school for awhile, online schools are generally open to allowing you to so without any financial penalty. Because they have so many adult students, online degree programs are generally built to serve people with more outside responsibilities than younger, on-campus students.
Find out as early as possible in your school search what you’ll be charged for each credit hours. Also, be aware that many schools – both online and campus based – charge late application fees, late payment fees and other charges to people who apply just before school starts. You want to avoid those by getting all documents in on time. You can also help keep your degree affordable by watching out for “hidden charges” like graduation fees and other charges that don’t seem to make sense before signing on to your degree program.
Paying for a college degree can be daunting, but be aware that according to The College Board, people with a bachelor degree earn, on average, about 66% more over their lifetimes than those with only a high school degree. Here’s a listing of some of the more reasonably priced bachelors and associates degree programs, which you can get free information on to start doing your research on.