Guide to Affordable Schools Online

According to online learning surveys conducted by the Online Learning Consortium, more than 6 million people enrolled in at least one online course in 2010 and that number has been growing exponentially over the years. For the average American student, money is one of the most common priorities in this decision. Nearly 70 percent of graduates in the class of 2011 actually left school with debt averaging $26,000. This debt puts pressure on grads to find work quickly and pay back loans, sometimes leading them to compete for jobs for which they are overqualified. Smart budgeting and careful financial planning can significantly offset the cost of going to school; this directory of affordable colleges is designed to help you in that planning.

Tips for Saving Money on Tuition

In-State Tuition

Did you know that a state resident can pay less for college if they go to a public school within their state? Spend some time researching programs in your home state for in-state tuition benefits. In addition, many states have “reciprocal agreements” with surrounding states, so look into the region surrounding your home state as well. You may qualify for in-state tuition at public institutions in those states as well.In addition to in-state tuition breaks, going to school close to home means that you don’t have to pay for room and board, which can be as much as 20 percent of your tuition bill. When you need to carefully consider all the ways in which you can save money, choosing to live at home (if you still live with your family) or to not move (if you are on your own) might make a big difference in the program that you can afford.Local colleges in your area may also know about additional, alumni-based scholarships designed especially for residents can reduce your overall college expenses. Sometimes, colleges create special programs for residents, like paying for a percentage of their full tuition if they maintain a specific grade point average in high school.

Online Options

Online education can be a financially viable option for people who want quality education on a budget. Not only do you save on the satellite expenses (books, room and board, travel), but you also get to tailor courses around your schedule. This opens up wider options to take just a few classes at a time, for instance, while you hold a part-time job to fund your schooling.Online classes can supplement an on-campus education as well. If you are interested in studying a practical discipline that requires laboratory work, you should contact local schools to see if they have hybrid options. In a hybrid program, you can take lab courses on-campus and finish your theoretical coursework through the web. This mixing and matching of learning options is one of the best ways to personalize your learning experience and save a lot of money at the same time. It also allows you to be employed more easily and working may offset the cost of education.

Less Expensive Online Colleges vs. Diploma Mills

Any institution that attempts to offer you a degree for free, or at a suspiciously low rate, should be handled with caution. Online schools should be held to the same standards and scrutiny that you would apply to a traditional school search.

Things to Consider When Choosing a School

  • Accreditation: Read through the Accreditation Guide and then be sure that the program you choose is accredited. In addition, check the accreditation status of the institution. This is a critical step in planning your education. If you have concerns or questions, such as a recent accreditation or loss of one, contact the accrediting bodies for help.
  • Faculty: Look into the professors – Do they hold graduate degrees? Have they done research or significant work in the area you want to study? You should be able to research faculty members’ credentials online. If you are unable to find much information, contact the program or institution and ask to see a curriculum vita which should include a faculty member’s degree information and additional aspects of their professional credentials.

Best Price at the Best Match

If you take the time to do your homework carefully, you can significantly reduce the cost of college. You may need to choose to take a little longer to complete your degree, take courses at more than one institution, take combination of online and in-person courses, or scour local, national and international resources for scholarships, but you can find ways to make pursuing a degree very affordable. Choosing to not develop a large amount of student loan debt is very wise and will allow you, once you graduate, to choose jobs based on what you want to do vs. paying off a high debt.

Be sure to carefully research faculty credentials, institutional and programmatic accreditation. Spending one to seven years in a program, only to discover that your chosen profession will not accept your credentials, could mean a devasting blow to your future. The Accreditation Guide explains the difference between types of accreditation and where you should check that information.


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