8 Reasons Why Online College Can Save You Money

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Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Alexandra Markin

If you’re considering an online program, you may be wondering “Will online college save me money?”

I’ve personally experienced online education to be a flexible and cost-effective alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar universities.

As an online college student myself, I love that online college programs offer students the opportunity to pursue higher education from the comfort of our own homes, without some of the financial burdens associated with attending a physical campus.

If you’re a prospective student considering distance learning, read on to learn the main reasons why online college can help you achieve your academic aspirations affordably!

How Online Programs Save Students Money

Even though you want to save money on your education, online learning isn’t for everyone. It’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of online learning before you make a decision.

1. No Residence Costs

Not having to live on campus and pay for meals and room and board is the main reason why online college will save you money compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar college.

Total annual cost for brick and mortar college students
Cost breakdown for a single year at a traditional brick-and-mortar college in the United States.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics 2021-2022 report, the cost of tuition, fees, and room and board totals $36,436 for one year at a traditional 4-year institution in the United States. A 4-year degree would cost you $145,744.

As you can see from the chart above, room and board accounts for almost half (42.31%) of the cost for a single year.

Meals

Meal plans for students living on campus are expensive. The Residence Dining Plan at The University of British Columbia (UBC) is approximately $7,000, and is mandatory for all students in residence.

Online college allows you to save significantly on food costs, especially if you watch your dollars.

If you’e a coffee lover like me, you can make all the coffee you want at home for a fraction of the price of getting a latte to go.

How online college saves you money
I bought a Nespresso machine and milk frother and I think it’s just as good, if not better, than Starbucks.

To maximize your food budget, check out my 3-part series:

Housing

Housing costs aren’t flexible, and single rooms are more expensive if you can even get one. In additional to paying room and board, you’ll also have to purchase dorm furniture, bedding, and everything else you’ll need since the stuff you have at home is probably too big for your on campus room.

2. No Commute Expenses

Not only does not having a commute save you transportation costs, it also saves you time.

By not having to commute to classes, you’ll save:

  • The cost of fuel for your vehicle. Gas prices are on the rise due to higher oil costs and seasonal demand as the warmer months approach (that’s why driving to summer classes are actually more expensive). If you’re driving to class during rush hour, you’ll use even more fuel.
  • Car insurance premiums. In British Columbia, Canada, car insurance costs more when you insure your vehicle for driving to work or school. Because you don’t need to commute, you can insure your car for pleasure use only, therefore saving you money.
  • Parking costs. Parking at universities is not cheap. For example, a parkade at UBC costs $10 per day. Three classes per week would be $30, or $120 per month. Parking permits for undergraduate students not living in residence is upwards of $800 for winter session (September – April).
  • Wear and tear on your car. The more you drive, the more maintenance costs. Tread on your tires wears down faster, and oil changes are recommended every 10,000 – 15,000 kilometers.
  • Public transportation costs. A monthly transit pass is approximately $190, while individual fares can cost up to $6.
  • Cab or rideshare costs. Is the train late? Route cancelled? Bus full? Bad weather? I’ve experienced it all! These situations force you to pay for a cab or Uber to get to class on time. As inexpensive as it is, public transportation isn’t always 100% reliable.

As an added bonus to saving money, you won’t have to worry about classmates asking if you want to carpool or for rides home. This was always a headache for me when I was attending BCIT because I wanted the freedom to come and go to school as I pleased.

3. Potentially Lower Tuition Costs

I use the term “potentially” here because it’s important to note that not all online colleges have lower tuition rates compared to traditional colleges. Some online programs even have higher tuition rates than on-campus programs.

When choosing the best online degree program, doing a careful cost comparison is important if you want to save the most money possible.

However, there are many factors that influence online tuition costs, such as administration and technology fees. It can be hard to uncover all the hidden fees that are charged, so start with the Tuition and Fees page on the university’s website and investigate from there.

Keep in mind that higher tuition rates at one college doesn’t make it “better” than a college with lower tuition rates. Your goal should be to find the best fit for your needs and circumstances.

4. No Lost Wages

Many students have no choice but to work alongside their studies to fund their education.

In-person classes require you to schedule school around work. But with online classes, it’s the other way around: you can schedule work around school.

This means you don’t have to leave work a few hours early to be on time for that 5:00pm lecture every Tuesday and Thursday night.

Because online classes are available 24/7, you’ll be able to work full shifts at any time, therefore having the opportunity to earn more money while studying than if you were enrolled in traditional college.

5. Lower Material Fees

Often, course tuition at online colleges include the digital only version of required textbooks, if you even have to purchase a textbook at all.

This reduces the cost of purchasing printed material, plus the shipping fee you have to pay (yup, that’s usually extra!) to send them to your home. This can add up to hundreds in savings over the course of your degree.

Even if your university doesn’t offer the digital version of the textbook, you still have the option to purchase an online version through the publisher’s website or a 3rd party textbook supplier, such as Chegg eTextbooks or Amazon.

6. Pay Back Student Loans Faster

Since you’re not paying for room and board and the high cost of student meals plans, you may be able to pay back your student loans faster, therefore saving potentially thousands of dollars in interest fees.

Or, you could avoid getting any loans at all since housing and meals may be the tipping point that require you to need a student loan in the first place.

7. Finish Earlier to Get to Work Sooner

Online college offers a unique approach to enter the workforce sooner by allowing you to work at your own pace.

If you complete a course faster that the traditional 4-month semester and immediately enroll in another, you shorten the overall time it takes to earn a certificate, diploma or degree required to work in your career field.

This little-known shortcut means you can earn career level money, accumulate wealth and pay back any loans faster than you would by going to a traditional college.

8. Pay Tuition as You Go

Aside from the convenience of learning online, online college can help you manage your cash flow by paying tuition course-by-course.

Instead of coming up with $15,000 or more all at once to cover one semester, tuition is only due when you register for a course. This allows you to budget more effectively, keeping more money in the bank making interest until you’re ready to enroll in your next class.

BONUS TIP: If your university allows you to pay for tuition with your credit card, you can even make a bit of extra money if you have a cash back credit card! But beware – this is only a bonus if you’re not charged a “convenience fee” some colleges charge for the luxury of paying with your credit card.

Save Money by Taking an Online College Degree – Conclusion

For me, discovering online college was a life-changing experience not only for my education but also my financial well-being.

By leveraging technology and online learning platforms, you can attain accredited education for a much lower cost of traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.

If you’re a prospective online student, sign up for my email list below and follow me on Instagram to join our online student community for support and study inspiration. You don’t have to go through your study journey alone!

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