Does Taking Classes Online Really Save You Money?

With the Internet's recent increase in popularity, many are beginning to use it as an alternative to traditional education. A wide range of online programs have become available in the past decade, allowing students to gain qualifications (such as a degree) through online classes. One reason people choose to enroll on such programs is that they believe it is a cheaper alternative to attended classes at an institution such as a college. But is this true?

Perhaps the most relevant point in this argument is that on average, tuition fees for online courses are lower than those for traditional classes. Tuition fees tend to make up the largest part of the total cost of receiving advanced education. Of course, fee rates vary for both online classes and those that take place in the classroom. It is essential that when looking at a specific program, fees for both types of course are investigated carefully.

Some may feel that their own individual attributes should contribute to the decision. For instance, if someone felt they needed the motivation of a teacher, they would probably be far better off attending a regular institution. On the other hand, if a person was easily distracted by others and worked best alone, they may be well-suited to online classes. Although on the surface this doesn't seem to be a financial aspect, it most definitely is. The majority of those planning to participate in further education classes do so in order to gain qualification that will hopefully pave the way to a better career - and hence, and higher salary.

By taking online classes, students miss out on all the 'hidden' costs of studying at an institution. These include travel costs (which are very high in some cases), the costs of printing out assignments and such, and the costs of stationary and notebooks. Although it is difficult to evaluate how much these costs will be before enrolling on a course, some important aspects should be taken into consideration. Most significantly, how far you would be travelling each day to get to an educational institution (and how much parking charges are, if you are travelling by car). If this turns out to be a large amount, you may save money by taking classes online.

It also may be worth looking into whether your employer would be willing to pay for your classes. If they were, it is likely they would want you to attend traditional classes rather than online ones. The same goes for any grants, bursaries or scholarships that may be available - remember to check their terms and conditions.

Most students find that taking classes online saves them a lot of time, as they are working from home - no time is wasted on daily commuting. Having some extra time may allow for you to take on a part-time job, so you can earn whilst you learn. This is ideal for someone looking to retain some sort of steady income whilst gaining further qualifications.

If you were, for example, planning to do a degree at college, it is essential you take into consideration how much it will cost you in accommodation, if you live too far away to commute. In the majority of cases, this additional cost will make taking online classes far less expensive.

Really, the only way to truly find out whether taking online classes will save you money is to assess your own personal situation. Be sure to take course fees, travel costs and accommodation into consideration. Most importantly, think about which type of environment you would thrive in: a classroom with other students, or learning individually at home.

How About a Real Test of This?

One of our staff members, Gina, has a son (Nate) that is just about to go to the State University of New York at Fredonia. Let's see what it would cost Nate to go to the State University of New York online. Then compare the two.

What If He Lives On Campus?

Since Nate lives in-state. We won't count anything outside of what we pay for the basics. His yearly on campus costs would consist of:

1. Tuition per undergraduate credit - $263.60 x 34 credits a year = $8962.40 per year

2. Typical Dorm Fees - $5,950

3. Meal Plan - $4,160.00

Grand Total = $19,072.40 per year

What If He Was To Commute?

Let's say Nate made the 38 mile one-way drive and commuted. How would that affect things?

Nate drives a hand-me-down Honda Accord. The manufacturer's web site indicates that the gas mileage is 32/35 miles per gallon. It's got 180,000 thousand miles on it. Needless to say, it has seen better days. So let's peg his gas mileage at 30 miles per gallon. Nate agrees with that number as well.

We also forgot to mention the $1.85 in tolls one way. He would need to pay this twice on every class day. We also have to assume that he will bring a bang lunch with him each day.

How many times does Nate have to make the trip? Let's assume he is a wizard at scheduling and somehow comes away 3 day per week class schedule. Fredonia's college calendar is 32 weeks long. Let also assume that Nate needs to make an extra 10 trips, for meeting with professors, study groups, and your typical college student shenanigans. That would be a grand total of 106 round trips he would need to make a year.

1. Tuition per undergraduate credit - $263.60 x 34 credits a year = $8962.40 per year

2. The Cost of Gas-

Miles per trip = 38 x 2 = 76 miles per trip

Total miles to travel = 76 miles x 106 trips = 8,056 miles

Gallons of gas needed = 8,056 miles / 30 miles per gallon = 268.53 gallons

Cost of Gas = $3.48 (Current Cost) x 268.53 gallons = $934.50 3.

The Cost of Tolls Roundtrip Cost = $1.85 x 2 =$3.70

Total Toll Cost = $3.70 x 106 = $392.20

Grand Total = $10,289.10 per year

What If He Got His Degree Online?

The State University of New York offers an online Bachelor's of Science degree for his major. The cost is $207 per credit. There are also $400 in fees attached to that every year.

1. Tuition per undergraduate credit - $207.00 x 34 credits a year = $7,038.00 per year

2. Don't forget the $400 fee.

Grand Total = $7,438.00 per year

Let's Compare

On-line: $7,438.00 per year

Commuting: $10,289.10 per year

Living On-Campus: $19,072.40 per year

What Should Nate Do?

In example it is clear cut that by taking the classes online he will substantially save money. In fact, assuming that the fees stayed the same, he would save $46,537.60 by taking the classes online.

After sharing this article with Gina, Nate is seriously considering taking the classes online. Nate plays ice hockey. He said his best option is go out for the ice hockey team and take the classes off-line. He might even consider living with his best friend who goes to Maryland University and just taking the classes online. That really is an untraditional approach to college, but in the end the outcome is the same.