Online Colleges: Making Your Degree More Affordable

There’s no question about it: attending college is expensive and only getting more expensive as time goes on. Tuition can cost thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands of dollars. Add on dorm room expenses, food costs, books, and fees, and attending college can cause sticker shock. Online colleges offer an affordable opportunity to earn a degree at a fraction of the cost. Here’s what you need to know about attending one.

What are the Benefits of Online Education?

Attending an online bachelor’s degree program offers a wealth of benefits to students, including:

1. Increased Flexibility

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You’ll be able to schedule and attend classes based on your schedule. Most online courses don’t require you to be present when the class is filmed, meaning you can watch a video of the class later when it’s convenient for you. You also don’t have to be on campus, which means you can be across the country and still make it on time for your class. This can be a great way to attend your classes from anywhere, making it an ideal situation for those who have jobs, families, or other responsibilities.


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2. Cost Savings

Many online programs have lower tuition costs and fees compared to traditional colleges and programs. Students also won’t have to pay for parking, transportation, housing, and on-campus food (which tends to be more expensive than other options). Learning materials, including books, can be less expensive since they’re online, especially compared to traditional college texts.

3. Plenty of Variety

While there can be some limitations to online courses – they generally can’t offer labs, for example – many colleges offer a wide range of programs. Many online colleges will even offer courses that aren’t available at local colleges.

What Should You Look for in an Online College?

Just like traditional colleges, there are different types of online colleges available. They can be public, private, non-profit, and for profit. Not all will be accredited, which means you can transfer your college credits from one school to another, so you will want to research your options before committing to a school.

As with traditional colleges, you will want to consider what you’re looking for in a school. In addition to cost, you should think about:

  • Your desired major
  • Your desired minor
  • Online club availability
  • The college’s reputation
  • Academic support through the college
  • Tools and resources availability through the school that support online learning
  • Financial aid
  • Student success rate, including graduation rates and hire rates after graduation

5 Affordable Online Colleges

Many colleges, small and large, have affordable online programs available for students. Keep in mind that many schools have lower tuition rates for in-state students, so the most affordable colleges for you could depend on your location.

Here are just 5 you might want to consider:

  1. Southern New Hampshire University
    • Location: Manchester, NH
    • Total students: 164,091
    • Top degree offered: Doctorate
    • Tuition cost: $16,488
  2. University of Florida
    • Location: Gainesville, FL
    • Total students: 55,211
    • Top degree offered: Doctorate
    • Tuition cost: $10,576
  3. Florida International University
    • Location: Miami, FL
    • Total students: 55,609
    • Top degree offered: Doctorate
    • Tuition cost: $10,389
  4. Purdue University Global
    • Location: West Lafayette, IN
    • Total students: 45,125
    • Top degree offered: Doctorate
    • Tuition cost: $14,436
  5. San Diego State University
    • Location: San Diego, CA
    • Total students: 37,402
    • Top degree offered: Doctorate
    • Tuition cost: $18,229

Want to find more affordable online colleges? Use our College Match tool today to see how much in-state online programs will cost you.

How Can You Make Online College More Affordable?

Online college tends to already be more affordable alternative to traditional college, but there are ways you can save further money. You should:

  • Look for Scholarships. Most scholarships are not solely for traditional college tuition. Many of them can be applied to online programs. There are even awards dedicated to online and hybrid learning. To find scholarships, we recommend using a scholarship database. They’re designed to make finding awards you qualify for easy.
  • Apply for Financial Aid. All students, online and off, should apply for financial aid, even if you don’t think you’ll receive something. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is for federal grants, work study, loans, but colleges also use the form to determine their own need-based grants for their students. You could be pleasantly surprised at your financial aid offers that come with your acceptance letters.
  • Compare Financial Aid Offers. Once you receive your financial aid offers, you should also take the time to compare them. They all look different, and it can be difficult to determine which school is offering the best deal. Our Financial Aid Offer Comparison tool makes it easy to see the differences.
  • Investigate Employer Tuition Assistance Programs. Some employers actually pay for your college tuition. Many organizations offer tuition reimbursement programs or financial assistance for employees wishing to further their education.

Tips for Earning an Online Degree

Whether you go to a traditional college or an online school, you need to put the work in in order to receive a degree. However, online courses do require a level of discipline as they rarely take attendance. It will be up to you to attend your classes and keep on top of the study material. Here are some tips:

  • Find a Healthy Balance. A work-life balance is essential, and you’ll need to find a way to balance work, life and school while you pursue your online degree. Establishing a routine with a set schedule and breaks, plus a dedicated study space, can help you stay organized and on task, even when life gets busy. A planner can be key to keeping track of assignments and due dates.
  • Participate in Class. Your courses likely have ways for you to participate and engage with the professor and other students. Post regularly to these boards and forums. Ask and answer questions. You will get noticed, and regular discussions help you to develop a better understanding of the topic.
  • Use the Right Resources. Online colleges may not have a campus or a library you can easily visit, but they still have resources available to students. Many online programs will still have online tools such as tutoring, writing centers, books, career services, technical support, and more to help you stay on top of your assignments and education.
  • Stay Disciplined. Motivation can sometimes be difficult if you don’t have someone checking in on you regularly, and many online programs are very hands off. Setting goals can help you have something to aim for and keep you disciplined, while allowing you to celebrate small achievements and track milestones.

Find Your College Match

Attending an online college can be a great, affordable way to save cash on your education and find the flexibility you need while earning your degree. While you do miss out on the more traditional aspects of college, online programs provide unique opportunities for students who don’t want to live on campus, need to balance work and family life, or just want to save money. Affordable online colleges are also accessible and provide quality education to a wider population.

Are you thinking about attending an online school? It’s important to match with a college that fits your goals, needs, and budget. Our College Match tool can help you identify those schools! Check it out here.

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