Online Degrees

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Friday, January 18, 2008

The Costs of Distance Learning and How to Save for Online Degree Programs

Going to college is expensive, and that might be the understatement of the year. Although online colleges are very different from brick and mortar colleges, one thing about distance learning remains the same - you'll need to plan for money for college. Many people stamp a stereotypical image onto their idea of college on the Internet, and unfortunately, these untrue images are often ones of illegitimate, easy programs that are basically just diploma mils. However, this could not be any farther from the truth. Most online colleges are legitimate, and to go with this great education are appropriate costs.

In fact, some virtual colleges cost more than real world schools. Tuition is the most major expense. Online colleges charge a tuition fee that covers that knowledge you'll be gaining, and you may be confused at the low price. If online education is just as legitimate as a typical college, why are the tuition bills lower? Well, what you may not realize in that a brick and mortar college, your tuition goes towards more than just the professor salaries and technology costs - you're paying for utilities, new buildings, student organizations, and other on-campus activities that you don't have to pay for when your college is online.

However, that doesn't mean that online colleges are inexpensive. You still have to pay for tuition, and in addition, you'll need books and other study material. Online education also requires a fairly up to date computer complete with the needed software, and you'll have to pay for reliable Internet that is fast enough to participate in chat and easily download large files.

Some students also choose to purchase cell phones or blackberries that can connect to the Internet in order to be able to participate in distance learning while away from home. Likewise, you may want to purchase a laptop if you currently use a desktop so that you can complete class homework and stay in touch with school even if you have to travel.

The good news is that online financial aid is available to help students pay for college. The key here is to make sure that the online college program you choose is accredited. Most college scholarship opportunities will not give money to students who cannot prove that they are applying to or currently a student at an accredited college. The problem here is that some people who say they want money for college really just want money. They create fake colleges to try to apply for online financial aid, which they then use however they want. This takes away money that could be used by real students for needed online education. With distance learning it is a good idea to only work with accredited programs anyway. Some online college scams take your money and then disappear. Others are diploma mills that don't really provide a quality education.

College scholarships, however, are available to help pay for online programs in most cases. You can find money for college in the same places as traditional student find online financial aid, or you can apply to opportunities specific to your online college. Of course, government loans and grants may still be applicable, so apply to as many financial aid opportunities as possible!

Also, don't forget that college scholarships aren't the only way to fund your online education. While many college scholarships provide full tuition for at least a semester, these programs are extremely competitive and many may not be available to non-traditional students who are using distance learning as a way to get a degree after many years of being out of high school. Need money for college in another way? Look beyond online financial aid.

Start with monitoring your online education spending. You have to purchase things like books, calculators, and a computer, but you don't have to pay full price! When distance learning gets expensive, find deals that can work to your advantage. You can find money for college in what you save. For example, there are some great online websites, such as, that sell textbooks for a fraction of the price. Also, check out your local libraries. You may be able to borrow the books you need, especially if your courses require you to read novels. On top of that, family members are a great source for other borrowed materials that you can use for your online education, such as rulers and binders. Of course, don't forget to tell your accountant that you're a student again. Even if you don't get any online financial aid to help with your distance learning, there may be certain tax benefits that apply to you!

The bottom line is that college scholarships may not cover your expenses. Think outside of the box to find money for college. Online financial aid is possible, but don't fall into the trap of believing that online education and distance learning is a cheap alternative to a traditional college. You'll need a good amount of money for college, even if you'll be going to school online from home.

Mark Allen has researched and written for 10 years about traditional college study programs versus college degrees online. He advises prospective students about online degree programs and to how to maximize benefits while reducing stress and the risk of failure. Campbell contributes to a free blog about distance learning programs for Online Degree Zone. His regularly updated blog highlights ways to find accredited study programs, choosing the best schools, and how to make the most of the non-traditional study environment.

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