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Cheap Online College Degree Options

Pursuing a college degree online can save students money in room, board, supplies, parking and gas. Even tuition and fees are cheaper for some online programs. Read on to learn how you can earn a low-cost college degree through e-learning and Internet courses.

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College Costs: On-Campus vs. Online

Earning a college degree isn't cheap. According to the not-for-profit education organization the College Board (www.collegeboard.com), the average public 4-year university charges $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students, and $11,990 for non-residents. While 2-year institutions are less costly with an average tuition of $2,713 per year, private 4-year college costs jump up to $27,293 per year.

Of course, those are just 'sticker prices,' an industry term for a school's tuition and fees. Because most students receive financial aid, the net costs of college can vary significantly and are often quite a bit lower. However, the sticker price doesn't account for costs like room and board, textbooks, school supplies and basic living expenses like the laundry, entertainment or, for commuters, gas to drive to and from school.

Students seeking to save money on their college costs may be interested in pursuing an online degree. No matter the cost per credit, online students typically save money on:

Rent

Campus housing is expensive, and rents in neighborhoods close to major schools also tend to be steep. Online students can save money by living at home or in a low-rent area.

Food

College meal plans also tend to be expensive, and many students find themselves frequently going out to eat. Living independently will encourage you to cook at home and save money.

Textbooks

Many online courses allow students to use e-books, which typically cost less than traditional books, or download specific chapters as PDFs. This can result in hundreds of dollars of savings over a single school year.

Supplies

Completing your coursework with digital tools can help you cut down on basic supplies like pens, pencils, notebooks and binders. These are small costs, but they add up fast.

Gas & Parking

If you commute to campus, the cost of gas can quickly add up. Furthermore, most colleges charge big fees for parking passes even if you live on campus.

Tuition & Fees

Tuition rates and philosophies vary widely from school to school, and the additional factor of in-state vs. out-of-state rates also impact comparisons at some schools. Some institutions, such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), offer lower tuition to online students than regular out-of-state students, making their distance learning programs less costly for many non-resident individuals than their traditional programs. Online students might save money on lab and student activity fees.

Finding an Online Degree

The most efficient way to search for an online degree program is through the College Navigator (www.nces.ed.gov). This site is run by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Science. It includes data on accredited colleges and universities from all over the United States, including online programs.

To search for cheap online degrees, you'll need to click on the 'More Search Options' tab. There you can select 'Distance Learning' and set the maximum tuition as low as $500 and as high as $60,000. Narrow your search results by browsing for specific programs or fields. Be aware that the Navigator can't tell you whether those programs are actually part of the schools' distance learning offerings, so it's important to check the schools' websites for more information.

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