Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Say "No" to Student Loans: Ways to Save Tuition Dollars on an Online Degree

by Dr. Sandy Womack

As an adult learner, you may have some tuition assistance from your company. This assistance may be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to over several thousand dollars per year.

There are a few companies that reimburse all tuition costs, but most companies do not. So you will need to supplement the tuition cost with paying out-of-pocket or take out a Student Loan.

Here are some ways to save tuition dollars on your degree plan, especially those more expensive online degrees:

  • Use Community College for your General Education and lower-division major classes. If you want to pursue a BS in Business Administration (one of the most popular online degrees), you can take your General Education (math, English, history, science, etc.) at the community college for about $300/class. This compares to $1500/class for many of the online schools. You can also take lower division business courses (Economics, accounting, business law, etc.) at the community college and if you finish your Associate's degree in Business Administration, the savings can be about $25K.

  • Use School Options such as Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and Credit-by-Examination (CBE). PLA is an option to gain credits for life/work experience, credentials, certificates, and military. Adult learners average 15 college credits using PLA, at a fraction of the cost of taking 15 units of regular classes. Credit-by-exam allows students to test out of courses, and College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is the most popular. Some popular tests are English Composition (6 units), Intro to Management (3 units) and Child Development (3 units). Cost is $80 per CLEP test and most colleges will transfer in 30 - 60 units of credit-by-examination results.

  • Research Less Expensive Colleges. Comparing cost per unit is only one way to look at saving tuition dollars. Some schools are on the quarter system, so each class is four times the per-unit cost, instead of the usual three times the per- unit cost. Accelerated programs that offer 5 week classes will have 9 terms per year, so the total cost per class is multiplied by the number of terms. For example, a class with$500 per-unit tuition is $1500/class for 3 units. Multiple that by 9 terms per year and the total amount is over $13K/year. Since the average tuition assistance is about $5K/year, you will have $8K out-of-pocket, or a student loan.

  • Check for Scholarships and Grants rather than just Student Loans. You have to pay back Student Loans with interest (and the interest may be increasing unless Congress steps in to cap that interest amount), but Scholarships and Grants do not have to be paid back. Every college will have a list of available grants and scholarships.

Know the full amount of what you will need to pay for your degree and realize that less expensive colleges are available locally and online. Using Community College, Prior Learning Assessment and Credit-by-Examination will cut tuition costs.

Slowing down your program to fit your budget and looking for Scholarships and Grants will also allow you to gain that degree for less cost.

Dr. Sandy Womack is owner and Director of EduPlan. EduPlan has been in business for 25 years, specializing in educational planning for adult learners, career development, financial aid counseling and tuition assistance administration.

One-on-one advising and webinars are available at: Contact Sandy at the EduPlan website:

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