Students looking for inexpensive college options often like an easy answer. Unfortunately, there are so many variables, from what kind of degree you’re seeking, to the kind of colleges you’ll consider; there is no hard-and-fast simple solution. Often the least expensive path to a four year degree is found through a combination of options.
Community College = Cost Savings
Attending a Community College is certainly a lower cost option than going to a four year private institution. However, even though some Community Colleges offer four year degree programs, their tradition leans more heavily toward Associate’s Degrees. On the other hand, many Community Colleges now work closely with four year colleges, particularly within a state system, to allow for seamless credit transfer.
Often referred to as a 2 + 2 plan, a degree program that catapults you from Community College to larger university gives you the best of both worlds. You save a small fortune in the first two years (lower tuition plus no room and board) and can still graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree from a well-regarded institution.
So if the alternate route of attending a Community College first can save you money, can the even more alternate route of online academia save you even more money? Yes. And no.
Comparing Courses & Programs
First, it’s important to compare course-to-course, program-to-program. Since even the Ivy League Colleges offer online courses now, there’s little argument that you can learn equally as well offline as on. However, for the same course content, some colleges charge more. It’s a supply and demand thing. If you want to align yourself with a “name” brand, you will likely pay a lot more for the privilege – even if you’d learn the same material, earn the same credit from the “generics.”
What you need to determine is whether or not the credits for which you’re paying will get you where you need to go. If a course for which you can receive full credit toward your degree is taught online and for a less per-credit cost, then clearly it’s a good cost-savings option.
The Online Learning Alternative
Community Colleges save you money; online courses save you money. Combining the two can save you even more. Consider the possibility that a course –let’s say microeconomics- is being taught at the Community College. It’s also being taught online. At the same price. You could flip a coin and choose, right? Not if you want to save money.
Taking the online course will save you money because by doing the course work from the comfort of your home, you’ll save on the cost of commuting. And if time is money, your valuable time also won’t be wasted in an unnecessary commute. Additionally, online courses often use online content to support instruction rather than traditional (and costly) textbooks. It’s a win-win-win-win situation.
In the final analysis, if you want to save money on your way to a degree –and who doesn’t?- the best way to do so is through a bit of creative financing. Take the courses you need at a cost you can afford.