Getting your GED is a great way to get on the path to a college education. While a GED will open a lot of doors in the employment field, getting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree can open many more, and these doors can lead to much better jobs, bringing much higher salaries and more respect from your friends and family. The time and work commitments required to earn a college degree are substantial, but so are the rewards for doing so. If obtaining a college degree is something that interests you, there should be several options available in your local area, assuming you live in or near a fairly large city.
However, if you find yourself in a situation in which you can’t find a nearby school that has the programs that you need at a cost you can afford, one option that you may want to consider is a distance learning program. A distance learning program will allow you to take some or all of the courses that you need to earn different online degrees, without actually being on campus. This could open a number of educational opportunities for you by giving you the ability to take classes from a school that’s on the other side of the country or even on the other side of the world without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.
Costs of Distance Learning Programs
Many people are under the impression that getting a degree by way of distance learning is a whole lot less expensive than going to college the traditional way. This is understandable, as online schools don’t have the huge expense of running an actual college campus. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is not true. Online colleges and universities costs tend to be comparable to the costs of traditional brick and mortar schools, for some reason. In fact, some of them are actually more expensive than public universities and community colleges. However, there are some that are less expensive than others, and if a school is accredited, financial aid can go a long way to reducing the cost.
Keep in mind that tuition is only the biggest cost of a college program, whether you’re planning to study online or at a physical campus. There are a great many other costs associated with getting a degree. Let’s look at some of them:
- One of the costs that may seem minor, but which can make a big dent in your pocket book, is the application fee. These are getting higher all the time, just like everything else, but what makes these fees even worse is the fact that most people don’t apply to only one college. It’s a good idea to apply to several colleges or universities, just to make sure that you get accepted to at least one program. Since each school charges the application fee, this can add up quickly. Generally, you’ll have to pay these fees out of your own pocket, as financial aid won’t cover them.
- Another big expense is going to be textbooks. If you have never bought textbooks before you will probably be quite shocked to find out how much they cost. Some of them cost over a hundred dollars, and you might need several per semester. Sometimes you won’t need quite as many when you’re taking online courses, which can reduce the cost. Also, financial aid can be used to cover the cost of purchasing textbooks. In addition, there is a thriving market in used textbooks, so you can save money if you can find a used copy of the book you need. (You’ll want to double check to be sure that it’s the latest edition, though, as textbooks can stay in print for 20 years with the same title, going through many revisions.)
- Of course, you’ll need a good computer setup in order to take advantage of online degrees. Odds are you’ve probably got a perfectly adequate one right now, but if not, you’ll want to factor in the cost of that, which will be at least several hundred dollars. You’ll also need high speed internet service, so don’t forget to include that in when calculating the cost of distance learning. Of course, if you would have high speed internet even if you weren’t going to school online, then it’s really not an additional expense, and shouldn’t be included.
Benefits of Distance Learning
- First, a distance learning program is typically more convenient than an on-campus program because a distance learning program will allow you take most, if not all of your courses, from the comfort of your own computer screen. In fact, some distance learning programs will actually allow you to earn your degree without ever having to leave your home.
- Secondly, a distance learning program will typically save you money in transportation. This is important because the average student will spend over $500 a year on transportation, and the costs are going to keep rising as the price of gas continues to skyrocket. In fact, students in some areas can expect to pay well over $1,500 a year for gas, car repairs, and other similar transportation costs, which means that you may be able to save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, by studying from home.
Finding the Right Distance Learning Program
- First, make sure the program is accredited.
- Second, find out if there is financial aid available. A distance learning program may cost you just as much as an on-campus program in some cases, but it may not have the same financial aid opportunities that an on-campus program has. So you need to make sure that there is financial aid available, unless you’re one of the rare students who plan to pay for one hundred percent of their education costs out of their own pocket.
Accreditation of Distance Learning Programs
- Accreditation is an official confirmation from an outside authority that a school or program meets or exceeds high standards, and can deliver a quality education. Earning accreditation is a rigorous and demanding process, and the approval process is quite detailed and intensive. Attending a school that hasn’t earned accreditation, or has had theirs revoked, is very risky. Usually other schools will not accept their credits when it comes to transferring and graduate study. Also, many employers will not recognize their diplomas as legitimate degrees.
- Unfortunately, there are some online schools out there with bogus accreditation credentials. The “agency” that has supposedly granted them accreditation will either be a name that they made up, which only exists on paper, or it will be a company that will grant “accreditation” to any school that will pay a fee. The name of the fake accrediting agency will sound very official, and since the average person doesn’t know the first thing about accreditation or the legitimate agencies that confer it, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking the alleged seal of approval is real. Be sure to check with the federal Department of Education to make sure that the accreditation agency which certified a particular school is legitimate. Most online schools are completely legitimate, but it pays to double check before sending any school your money.
Financial Assistance for Distance Learning
A distance learning program, unlike an adult education program, will typically cost you a significant amount to attend. In fact, a typical on-campus degree program may cost you anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over a $50,000 a year, and most distance learning programs will charge you the same amount as their on-campus equivalents. Fortunately, if money is a problem, you may be able to obtain some financial aid. Financial aid can come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. You may qualify to receive grants, loans, scholarships, but each type of financial aid will have its own benefits and its own drawbacks. In fact, each type of financial aid will require you to do different things to obtain the money that you need and different things to keep the money after you receive it. In most cases, the major difference between the different types of financial aid is whether you have to use it on certain expenses (scholarships), report your expenses (grants), or repay the money (loans.)