How to Graduate College Debt Free – Part 7. Online Colleges

Adam Personal Finance 9 Comments

This is a part of a multi-post series on graduating college debt free. Check out the other posts below:


We’ve talked about a lot ofΒ ways to get ahead before you get to the 4 year degree. Today we’re discussing something more simple, just finishing the degree online. Online degrees can offer a lot of advantages, beyond just cost.

Why Consider an Online Degree?

Live Anywhere

And by anywhere I mean at home.Β The 2 largest expenses for any student is tuition and housing.Β If you happen to live near a decent university, then your halfway there. For the rest of us, online degree programs offer the chance to save money and live at home, or at least in a cheap location.

You can save so much money with this one simple tactic. Don’t think that because your taking online classes and working a fulltime job. that you should go out and get an apartment with friends. SAVE your money, PAY your tuition, and LIVE cheap. Your parent are your friends in this scenario.

If you happen to already be rich, well damn, go get that degree while living on a beach in Thailand.

Tuition is Cheaper

While it’s not universally true, online degree programs are typically much cheaper than their on campus cousins. If you are willing to be judicious in your choices, it’s quite likely this option can be substantially cheaper than even the most affordable, local 4-year program.

Be sure to check out the wide variety of lists I provide in which you can go to school for almost $100 per credit hour and still less than $300 for very high quality universities. You absolutely cannot beat that. Nowhere else can you find value at that level.

Flexibility

Online degrees vary significantly from school to school, but it’s quite likely that the bulk of your classes will be based on reading and pre-recorded videos, supplemented with email, chat, and phone support from the professor.

This means that rather than be forced in to class based a million factors out of your control, you can build a schedule that lets you work a full-time job, stay home with your kids, or anything else that makes college schedules tough.

Most jobs that a college kid would like to have, aren’t an option, specifically due their inability to build a schedule that fits a job. You have the potential to find much higher paying options. I had a friend that managed to work at UPS while attending online classes, making $15-20 an hour over 3-4 years. That wouldn’t have been possible with a traditional schedule.

Is There a Reputation Problem?

Not all online degree programs were created equal. The biggest stigma comes from for-profit such as the University of Phoenix that take the money of thousands of unsuspecting and hopeful students in exchange for a degree worth very little and I’d bet not much in the way of learning.

HOWEVER in the new era, many decent to high quality public and private universities have begun offering quality online educations. These schools don’t differentiate in the name of the degree or diploma when its provided, so even if you believe employers may have an issue with an online degree, they wouldn’t even know.

I think that unless you are getting that degree from a known for-profit no one will care or know whether you were on campus or not. The real on campus advantage is on campus recruiting, but beyond that, there’s not much difference. The one exception to this would be if you are going “Top 20” to a school such as Harvard, Stanford, or other major prestige name schools.

Best and Most Affordable Online Degrees

The Simple Dollar has put together a great sortable chart based on US department of Education online enrollment survey.

US News puts together a quality listing of the top online degree programs, segmented by associates, bachelors, and graduate. Check out the methodology here.

Guide to Online Schools has a pretty nice interactive that lets you sort by tuition.

CollegeChoice.net has a Top 50 List that’s quite detailed.

AffordableCollegesOnlineΒ has a variety of lists depending on what you want.

OnlineU has lists by major which I thought was helpful.

In the future I hope to point you to my own site, but in this case I’ll direct you to the best of the rest. There are dozens of others out there with a bit of searching.

Conclusion

If you aren’t headed for community college or a state school and are as concerned with debt as I am, then I highly suggest you consider an online school. There are numerous advantages and very little downside.


This is a part of a multi-post series on graduating college debt free. Check out the other posts below:


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Comments 9

  1. Fervent Finance

    I did an online degree for my master’s and the main reason was due to the flexibility. It was much easier to obtain a degree while working full-time when I didn’t have to be in a classroom physically. Plus the program was fairly highly regarded.

    1. Post
      Author
      Adam

      What program for what degree?

      I’ve considered it for MBA. I still don’t see anything compelling to me that combines right name with right cost.

    1. Post
      Author
  2. Erik

    Have you done any research on learning from sites like Udemy.com? Sites like these have classes that users can input that can teach you something specific.

    I need the classroom setting for degree learning. I read books for self-education, but it would be tough to do it online as a structured event.

    Thanks,
    Erik

    1. Post
      Author
      Adam

      I’m familiar with the site and wouldn’t mind taking some classes. I’m sure it could be good for a lot of people in general, particularly for specific topics. It is a bit outside the scope of this though, since the focus is getting that piece of paper that can be such a make or break when trying to start a career.

      Learning online can be hard. I did the CFA, which is purely self-taught, self-discipline. It’s hard, but lots of people do it everyday.

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