Distance Learning: Getting a Degree on a Budget

One thing that remains constant regarding higher education is its cost: Degree programs cost money, and while those costs vary quite a bit depending on the location, reputation, and faculty of the program in question, the fact is people go into immense amounts of debt every day for the privilege of earning an advanced degree. Whether or not that investment pays off will take some time to determine for each individual student, but one things has changed: Distance Learning has made it possible to earn advanced degrees much more cheaply.

Everything Costs

Student loan debt is become a crisis in the United States. Not only are interest rates high and going higher, student loan debt is not allowed to be cleared during the bankruptcy process. Currently there is about $1 trillion in student loan debt being carried in the U.S. alone, making many worry that a crisis – or a crash – is inevitable.

Tuition is the main number tossed about when the costs of higher education are discussed, but while it may be the single largest cost involved with a degree program, it isn’t the only cost. Whether or not a distance learning program for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree has a lower tuition or not, there are still some significant savings to had when you pursue a distance or online degree program, making distance learning a smart choice for those on a budget.

Distance Learning Cost Advantages

There are several areas where distance learning can be much less expensive than traditional degree programs:

  • Housing. Distance or online programs allow the student to stay in their current living situation, without taking on the additional costs of housing rental.
  • Books & Supplies. Although some distance programs do require the mandatory purchase of texts and other materials, many do not, or offer the texts for free as digital downloads.
  • Work Simultaneously. The ability to hold a job while pursuing your studies can keep students from falling into debt because of a lack of income.

Additionally, the non-physical nature of distance learning programs means that prospective students can “shop around” for a program they can afford. Degree programs in different areas of the country may be priced significantly differently due to the different infrastructure costs in their geographic location. Although there may be differences in perceived prestige associated with different programs, on some level as long as the program is accredited the lower cost of the degree will have no impact on its utility as a career advancer or ladder to higher overall lifetime wages. Combined with the possible incidental savings discussed above, the possibility that a degree acquired via distance learning might be significantly cheaper is very good.

While distance learning programs can incur significant costs, when the total package of attending the program are considered most distance programs are found to be significantly cheaper than traditional programs. As the competition for jobs grows more and more fierce, the cost of a degree may become a significant factor in the coming years.