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Finish Your Degree Online to Save Time, Money & Stress

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If you're having trouble finishing your college degree program, you may want to consider online learning. Not only can these programs make your life easier, but they may also be able to save you some money.

College & Time Commitments

Attending college is a major life decision that can come with rewarding accomplishments and frustrating obstacles. Though earning a degree or certificate is a wonderful feeling, you may have to endure a healthy dose of emotional and financial stress. College is costly in both the literal and figurative sense. You'll most likely need to spend thousands of dollars to complete your education, and you'll also need to invest time and effort.

As you earn your college degree, be sure to look out for an often-overlooked source of consternation: attendance. Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the college experience, actually showing up for class is often more problematic than you may realize.

Community college students in particular struggle with this issue; unlike 4-year universities where students typically live on campus and devote themselves to full-time study, community college students generally have other commitments, such as a job with which to contend. The American Association of Community Colleges reports that around 62% of full-time community college students also work on at least a part-time basis.

If this describes your situation, you might be wondering what you can do to make things a little easier. How can you save money and balance your many commitments while enduring the rigors of pursuing a college education?

The Online Degree

Enter the online degree! Since the beginning of the 21st century, online degrees have been steadily growing in popularity as colleges continue to innovate and improve the digital learning experience. Students taking courses online can expect to encounter interactive lessons, video lectures, quizzes, and a whole host of other technologies that make distance education effective and even enjoyable.

Online learning

If you're the type of student who prefers at least some form of in-person instruction, you may want to consider hybrid courses, which offer a combination of online and on-campus teaching. Online learning requires high levels of self-motivation, and students who struggle to remain focused can use their infrequent visits to campus as a sort of checkpoint to ensure that they have not fallen behind.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over five million college students took at least one online course during the 2013-14 school year. What makes these programs so popular? Read on to find out!

Eliminate the Commute

One of the biggest hassles of completing a college degree, especially if you have work and family obligations, is getting to campus. Whether you have your own car or rely on public transportation, commuting as a student presents a number of potential stressors that can seriously hinder your chances of graduating on time.

When you study online, the world is your classroom. So long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your courses and their content. Stuck late at the office? No problem; you can finish your homework from your desk! The Internet is down at your apartment? Not to worry; head on over to the public library and finish your essay.

Studying in public

As mentioned above, the actual act of attendance is one of the most difficult things about college. Once physical restrictions are lifted, completing your assignments becomes much less stressful.

Make Your Own Schedule

One of the biggest benefits of an online degree program is the ability to learn at your own pace. Most programs are self-paced, meaning that courses do not meet at a set time. Instead, students are given deadlines for assignments and may complete readings, essays, and quizzes whenever they like, as long as they are turned in before the deadline.

Online set-up

This set-up is particularly advantageous for students with busy or unpredictable work schedules. Instead of picking a class schedule and trying to fit your work schedule around it, you can simply continue working as usual, and then finish your class assignments when you have the opportunity.

Doing your schoolwork when you can or want to is also advantageous from a financial standpoint. Daytime (and even evening) courses can eat into your availability and force you to cut down your hours at work, which in turn shrinks your paycheck. When you take your classes online, however, you can put in a good 40 hours (or more!) at your job and still complete a degree or certificate program.

Speed Things Up

Whether you're enrolled at a community college or university, you'll need to devote several years to the pursuit of your degree. Community colleges award associate's degrees, which take about two years to complete, while a bachelor's degree at a university requires at least four and sometimes more, depending on your major.

If you're in a rush and even two years is too long, online degree programs can help you finish up a little quicker. The self-paced learning format may allow for more rapid completion, but students in an even greater hurry can pursue an accelerated degree program. As the name suggests, accelerated courses cover the same content as their more conventional counterparts, but at a much faster rate. Exact lengths will vary from school to school, but some programs let you finish an associate's degree program in as little as 15 months.

Having fun studying

Reduce Stress

As you might imagine, the many benefits of online education can make for a much smoother college experience. Instead of having to miss class and constantly re-arrange your work schedule, you can focus solely on your coursework.

College is hard enough by itself, and any additional stress should be avoided if at all possible. Online degree programs can make things much simpler and allow busy students a much-needed degree of flexibility.

By Bill Sands
January 2017
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