Learn Online, Learn Frugality

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of accredited online university . Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: adrienne.carlson83@yahoo.com.

When it comes to education, we usually try not to spare any expenses in getting the best there is, because knowledge and learning are invaluable assets that enrich our lives and make us grow in stature. Money spent on learning is an investment rather than an expense, so we go all out if it means we are going to gain more out of it in the long term.

However, with the advent of online education, not only are you able to earn a quality degree, but you’re also able to reduce your expenses significantly. If you’re wondering how, read on to find out:

  • Online education is much cheaper than paying tuition at colleges that offer traditional degrees. You save a large amount of money when you enroll online, with the added bonus being that you don’t have to take out a loan in order to finance your education and thus put yourself in debt.
  • When you study online, your schedule is flexible. So you have much more time for other activities, time which you could use to earn money at a part or full time job. Not only does online education help you save money, it also aids you in earning it.
  • When you learn online, you don’t need to spend money on commuting to and from college every day. You save on gas, bus passes, parking permits and wear and tear on your car.
  • You don’t have to shell out money for accommodations on or off campus.
  • Your food expenses are also minimized because you’re at home, not on campus and fending for yourself.
  • Online education does not involve significant additional expenses like furniture and other knickknacks for your dorm room or campus life. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection, and since most of us already own and use one for other purposes, it’s not going to be much of an expense.
  • Studying online means you are not tempted to party and socialize as you would when you’re in a regular college. This saves you a lot of money that would have otherwise been spent on booze and other trivial pursuits.

Online education makes you more efficient because it forces you to manage your time better, earn while you learn, and cut unnecessary costs.

Editor’s note: I completed my degree online after years of toiling away in the evenings separated from my family. While completing an online degree does take extra discipline, and can be costly depending on the institution, Adrienne points out the many benefits of choosing an online education over a traditional course of study.


  1. Whoa! I would suggest putting something at the top saying that this wasn’t written by you, it kind of threw me off!

    Anyway, this is a great point, and while there are several negatives to getting your degree online (it isn’t for everyone), it’s definitely an option a lot of people should look into.

    Between your library card and your internet connection, it’s amazing how much you can learn.

  2. Great post. The only thing to stress is the accreditation. Make sure your university is accredited with one of the regional boards, and preferably also with some professional organizations. For example, a lot of schools offer education majors, but there is only 1 online school that is NCATE approved. Obviously, that’s the school that will be more well respected.

  3. watch out. I took classes at the art institute of pittsburgh and it was so expensive!!!!!!! I took 4 classes and it was over $5000! I am going to paying off this one for many years to come. I wish I never would have taken the classes. If I would have finished the diploma (NOT A DEGREE) program it would have cost me over $15,000! This is horrible and expensive. Where are they cheaper? My BS degree from a local university was around $20,000… much much cheaper than a diploma (Can you tell I regret taking these online classes???)

  4. How do you know what online schools will give you the most employment options? If you save money, but most employers don’t respect the school, is it still a good deal? Is there somewhere to find more information on picking an online school versus a regular school?

  5. I earned part of my bachelor’s degree online, and I’m getting my Master’s of Divinity online too through Liberty. Thank you so much for this post. It is one of the few that have put us distance learners in a respectable light.

    Here’s another advantage: You get to be at home with your family! I work on my ship during the day, so if I were doing a traditional seminary, I’d be gone at nights too. Not an option for involved fathers, I promise you. Go Distance!

  6. There are definitely advantages to online study, but I rather doubt it’s preferable in all instances to “traditional” education (depending on what you’re studying, the colleges’ rep, etc.). However, you need to do research first, because all degrees, credits are not created equal (accreditation. the reputation of the school in the industry you plan to work in, etc.).

    And there is still a prejudice in many corporations against such learning (including companies that are in online businesses!) The perception is still for many that “online” is less rigorous and less academically challenging.

    The online programs are often more valid for certain types of majors than others.

    And you have to remember that you miss out on the people you meet, the interactions and all the stuff that goes with that. Lifelong networking can often start in college. Not to mention personal relationships.

    Of course, if you are going to night school or on weekends, you probably don’t have time to socialize before or after class. But don’t underestimate the people aspect of an education.

    In traditional, post-high school college, that socialization can be meaningful for the rest of your life in terms of friends, contacts, etc. It’s not to be underestimated.

    Distance should be an option, but personally, it’s NOT a replacement for education that has you interacting on a regular basis in class, and out, with educators, other students, etc.

    But if it’s online or nothing, then online is preferable to nothing.

  7. After four years at college, I learned the most not from my coursework or lectures but from the time spent together with other students interested in learning. It was the side projects, extracurriculars, and social experiences that got me my first job out of college as much as my diploma.

    I’d simply say make the most of your college education. If you’re going to spend the money to go to a school, don’t waste your time getting drunk/high constantly, don’t party all the time, and don’t rack up huge debt. Be frugal and focus on the reason you’re there: getting an education.

  8. Good info. Many land-based universities offer online/distance ed degrees too. Iowa’s state universities (ISU, UNI, and UI) all have a few options for getting a degree online. I finished my degree through Texas Tech in Horticulture. The downside is that classes can be very expensive. I had to pay out of state tuition on my non gen-ed classes. But… I did the math: staying where I was and paying out of state tuition was going to cost the same as temporarily moving 2 hours away to attend ISU. The best thing is that I could watch/listen to lectures during the time I was most productive.

  9. Considering how ridiculously expensive college is in general, I think this is definitely worth considering.

    To those who worry about the “creditability” of a online degree: unless you are going to a college known locally to produce poor graduates or ironically a well known commuting school (Deviry comes to mind), it’s been my personal experience that corporations hardly care or know where the degree came from that you have. They worry about experience a lot more. Most people seem to know very little about colleges other than locally or the one they attended.

    Also, the social experiences at college are fantastic (I was very lucky). However, it’s just too expensive now to go solely for that in most cases. The point of a BA anymore, sadly, is to qualify for jobs in corporate America. If that’s what you want out of life, it’s critical to stop worrying about a social experience and figure out how to get that piece of paper as cheaply as possible.

  10. The accreditation is absolutely key. There are LOADS of scams and bad schools out there just waiting to suck money out of unsuspecting folks who don’t do their research.

    And you really need to be aware that online degrees are worthless in many fields. I would never hire someone without a lot of prior work experience who had graduated from the University of Phoenix for example – I’ve heard too much about problems with their programs from people who work as part time professors there.

    I also (as a prior college advisor who is married to a Dean) have to say that going to a good well respected school does matter. I don’t care who claims that the local community college is just as good, unless you are going into nursing, teaching or law enforcement this just isn’t true. Ten years out of school my husband and I can count 120 people we graduated with that we’ve kept up with. Even in todays 10% unemployment rates, only 5 of those people were out of work (when we did this 3 months ago – they are ALL reemployed now!) And we did not go to an Ivy League expensive school. Just a top 10 ranked state school.

    Contrast that with the students where my husband works – the school is a state school that used to be a community college and has just turned into a university – and my husband is getting e-mails and drop ins from students who are desperately seeking jobs – in the exact same field that our friends are still employed in.

  11. Like others have mentioned, I would definitely say that it is not always cheaper to do it online. I went to a very nice (widely known) state college. (I have even frequently talked to people in other places who thought it was a private college.) Anyway, my husband is now finishing his B.S. at a small, private college that has a distance program. So, while not technically online, it has been 99% online. His college charges more per credit hour than mine does currently. So, this is definitely not a less expensive option.

    However, we both like that he can work on assignments (and there are a lot!) when he chooses, particularly because he worked full time. This just wouldn’t have been possible with a traditional set up.

    Also, we purposefully went with a college that also has a well established campus. His degree will never say that he did the program online, just that he graduated from the college.

  12. Guys – Just want to caution you guys on getting your degree online. Places like Phoenix Online are getting filthy rich off unassuming people. True, having an online degree is better than not having one, but do be careful about the costs and such.

    There are some firms who may look down on people with online degrees because they know a lot of it is a scam.

    Just be careful. You’ll learn a lot, but the degree has yet to catch wide acceptance yet.

  13. Just as all in-person schools are not created equal, the same can be said of online ones. They will vary in terms of their quality of service, reliability of infrastructure, and number and qualification of teachers. Likewise, I’d expect some variability in curriculum and testing standards.

    I’d probably trust a distance learning branch of an established, accredited school more than I would trust something offered exclusively online.

    Also, there are some disciplines (music comes to mind) in which there’s no substitute for in-person attendance. Anything with a hands-on component is not going to be easily done on-line.

    At the same time, I see nothing wrong with using an on-line school for all the “padding” courses required by most schools at the undergraduate level in order to “round out” the graduate (as if we aren’t already super-sized from all the junk that’s mandatory at the high school level). The courses are usually so rudimentary as to be almost completely useless in terms of giving the student proficiency in the discipline, the class sizes are massive, and the only thing they’re really good for is forcing the students to waste time with a ton of make-work. Courses like these deserve to be skipped by students who can find an on-line option.

  14. I think you have not mentioned enough about accreditation (if it is for a degree or essential qualification) – it is often possible to find a great education at a small price – and depending on what you plan to use your qualification for, there are lots of completely free resources on the Internet.