With economic times so tough, many students are looking at online degrees as a way to save money. But if you want to absolutely maximize your savings and still get a high quality degree online, it’s important to cover all your bases. Here’s an overview of money saving opportunities in getting your college degree through elearning:
- Basic savings:
- No college dorm fees. Not having to pay to live on a campus is probably the single greatest money saver about studying online. It’s one of the main reasons so many students are pursuing online degrees today. At a private school, dorm expenses can easily surpass $20,000. per year, while even state schools in large cities often charge more than $12,000. a year.
- Auto costs. If you had planned to commute to college, elearning eliminates the need to drive to and from school. That means zero gas costs, no wear on your car and a whole lot less chance that you’ll have a car accident and the rise in insurance costs that can result from it.
- Child care expenses. If you are a parent, attending a traditional school can involve a lot of babysitting expenses. Taking an online program can eliminate those costs, though it will require some discipline to get the work done with your child or children in the house.
- Clothes. No need to dress up to attend an online course, obviously.
- Parking fees. A parking pass can cost up to $500. per year at some colleges. No need for one if you’re in an online degree program.
- Less eating out. College students often pay a big fee for a college meal plan, and then add to the cost of it by eating out a great deal – because they don’t like the school’s cafeteria food. As an elearner, you can eat for a lot less, and probably end up a lot more healthy by avoiding the fast food that college students tend to favor.
- Online books and other library materials. Online colleges often subscribe to digital libraries that provide students access to textbooks, publications and other study materials over the internet at no cost to the student. In addition, many professors who teach online courses make a point of not requiring their students to buy any physical books. Depending on what kind of courses you are taking, that can save you anywhere from $300. to $1,000. per year.
- Advantages For Smart Savers
- Accelerated degree programs. Though these are not only available to online learners, the big online colleges tend to offer more of them because they know their students are so cost-conscious. The details on these programs can vary – some are three-year bachelor degree programs, while others are 18 month RN to BSN nursing bachelor programs or five year bachelors plus masters programs (as opposed to the normal bachelor to masters track, which takes six years or more in most specialties). There are accelerated programs offered in just about every specialty. The key issue to remember here is that while a “fast track” approach can save you money and time on your online degree program, it will require a more intensive commitment of time and effort than a full-length program. But cutting a year off a four-year bachelor program, for example, can easily save you $10,000.
- Taking it slow. The flip side of taking an accelerated program is that online schools are generally very liberal about allowing you to take only a course or two per semester, or taking a break in your studies to take care of work or family responsibilities. That means that if things get busy at your job, you can stop studying for awhile and then return later. On-campus programs often require that students take a minimum number of credits per semester, and place restrictions or re-application requirements on students who stop for a few months and then want to return to their studies. On a personal level, an online degree program can allow you to attend your kids’ school plays or ballgames, or keep going on family vacations – as long as you bring your laptop with you.
- Tax benefits. Getting the greatest tax benefit from your degree program requires some work – but you never want to miss out on any deductions you have the right to take as a student. You may qualify for a hope and lifetime learning credit for some tuition and other non-tuition costs (books, insurance, athletics), a tuition deduction for up to $4,000. or you may be able to deduct most of interest you pay on a student loan. All together, these can add up to thousands in savings when it comes time to file your tax return. Learn more here at the Internal Revenue Service website. More on student loans for online degree programs here.
- Use a community college to your advantage. With many community colleges offering online degree programs, it can make sense to study a few years at one, and then transfer to another, better-known school to complete a bachelor’s degree program in particular. You may save up to 40% on the credits you get in your community college.
- Transfer as many credits as you can. If you have taken advanced (AP) high school classes, taken a few college courses in the past or even done work that you feel might qualify you for “life experience” credit, make sure to ask the admissions people at your online college if you can get credit toward you current degree program for it. This may require you to take one or more College-Level Examination Program or “CLEP” exams to prove that you have knowledge in particular areas, but if you can pass them you may be able to skip many introductory level classes and save money on your online degree by getting it finished a whole lot faster.
- Don’t fall behind on payments. Be careful about keeping up on your school or loan payments, and not going too deeply into debt on your credit cards. Getting behind on payment can trigger extra fees in all areas that can send the overall cost of your education through the roof.
- Shop around for the right school. Make sure to get information on several online degree programs. When you focus in on a few that seem right for you, make sure to ask lots of questions about the complete costs of the program you want to take. Online schools are often hesitant to show fees clearly on their websites because they don’t want to scare students away. Don’t sign up until you feel you’ve been given a complete picture of fees by your prospective school.