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The standard way of attending college or university has been to enroll in classes at a physical university where many other students are enrolled.

There is a romantic sense about these sprawling institutions. For centuries, if not millennia, they have represented hubs of knowledge and human advancement.

Over time, however, the cost of attending such institutions has skyrocketed and alternatives, like online MPAs, have become more accessible and affordable.

These alternatives exist mostly in the form of online universities. They are changing the landscape of higher learning, allowing people to further their education. This is even more dramatically true in post graduate work. Because much of financial aid is focused on bachelors degrees, graduate degrees have become harder and harder to afford. Online learning is reversing that trend. Here are five ways you save money by getting an online graduate degree.

1. Commuting Costs

We often take it for granted that driving cost money. We do it in the United States so commonly that it is built into our psyche. However, commuting cost money. We buy gas, parking, oil changes, tires, repairs, insurance and occasionally accidents and tickets. All of these things add up.

In some areas, public transportation is available, but not free. It cost money to buy subway or bus tickets. These costs are completely offset if you are working from the convenience of home. And matriculating online allows you to do exactly that.

2. Tuition

Overhead drives up costs and those costs are passed on to the students via tuition. Brick and mortar colleges are burdened with the cost of their facilities, including maintaining facilities, utilities, security, parking, campus employees, mortgages, upkeep, landscaping, rising costs of tenured professors and administrators.

However, online universities conduct their classes via the internet, which reduces all of the above costs. The savings can be passed on to the students in the form of lower tuition payments. This can also reduce any student loans required, which can save money from low gross amounts of interest.

Brick and mortar institutions are shackled with size restrictions due to their physical nature. There can only be so many students in so much space. Whereas, online colleges can also support larger enrollments, allowing them to accommodate more students and therefore more tuition. They can also provide their classes at much lower expense due to the efficiency of online courses. This lowers the cost per student, reduces the need for loans and even diminishes the need to work a stressful job to pay your way through school.

3. Time

Even if you have what’s considered a slow internet connection these days, learning online will save you time. Time is money and the time you spend transporting, parking, walking, waiting between classes while sequestered on campus can cost you opportunity. Colleges often provide “work study” as a form of financial aid, but that basically means you work a low paying job that helps the campus run cheaper.

If you have a more flexible schedule, provided by online study, and don’t waste as much time in commute, you can work a better job, and work more hours and for more money. The flexible time can also transfer into better grocery shopping for you meals instead of eating fast food on the run (healthier as well as less expensive).

4. Meals and Housing

Because you need to live close enough to campus to be practical, the cost of your rent can be higher than if you lived in a neighborhood outside of driving distance. Not all rent or housing costs are the same. People studying online have the option of living anywhere they can access the web. This not only includes neighborhoods where the cost of housing is low, it can actually include foreign countries where living expenses are a fraction of what are found in the US.

Often physical colleges and universities try to force students to buy their food through meal plans. This forced purchase of food that most students wish they had alternatives to is typically expensive and often less than nutritionally ideal and often of low quality.

Even if you don’t buy a meal plan, you can be all but forced to buy food on campus because you are tethered to your classes and timeframes. Eating on campus costs typically exceed store-bought food and is more restrictive to your wants and needs.

5. Textbooks

Textbooks and college bookstores can be a scam. Often, students pay many times the market value for books because they are forced to. Adding to the scam is the buy-back rate. A book that might cost a hundred dollars in the college bookstore can be sold back for three. This not only infuriates students, but exemplifies how online learning can be less expensive. Online courses often allow students to download the material or purchase the material through reasonable resellers.

It makes sense that a less expensive format with broader access and fewer limitations would reduce the costs of doing business. In this way, the internet is revolutionizing many industries, including education. There are casualties, as ivy is reluctant to grow along the digital walls of an online university, but these drawbacks are offset by the efficiency, availability and affordability of learning online. You might find it harder to do a keg-stand with your classmates at an online university, but when you are earning better money due to your advanced degree, you can afford better beer anyway.

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