Working on an online bachelor’s degree has become increasingly popular as the costs of attending college for a four-year degree has risen dramatically and consistently over the past two decades. Typical costs include tuition, books, supplies, and housing.

The importance of a college degree cannot be overemphasized as it appears to be the one sure way to establish a stable career with higher lifetime earnings. Shifting the emphasis to online education has been hailed as a way to make college affordable for many students with limited resources. Tuition fees for online courses are typically on par with tuition at traditional brick-and-mortar colleges but other costs may be reduced or eliminated.

Ranking: Top 10 Online Colleges for a Bachelor’s Degree

Eliminating Costs of On-campus Housing

Students who opt to complete a college degree online can live at home while completing courses from an out-of-state college. Room and board or housing and meals is the second largest component of costs associated with attending college. Depending on the campus location, housing may cost as much as $10,000 annually, which is a hefty addition to high tuition and other fees. By pursuing an online bachelor’s degree, students can cut out this expense completely.

Eliminating or Reducing the Cost of Books and Materials

It makes sense that online courses will be linked to references and resources that are accessible online. As such, there may be no need to purchase textbooks if digital resources are available. Digital resources may be free to use and print out for students registered in the courses.

Eliminating or Limiting Commuting

Attending a traditional college will involve transportation expenses. For out-of-state colleges, students will have to spend on airfare or gas. For students who live on campus, some commuting may still be required to access different school sites and buildings. Online students can take different courses while sitting at home or at the local library, reducing transportation expenses over the time it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Self-paced Courses

Online course schedules are less rigid compared to traditional learning where students need to show up for scheduled lectures, laboratory activities, and other school-related functions. Self-paced course schedules allow students to remain employed while attending college, which may be important for breadwinners and other students with financial responsibilities. The opportunity to remain gainfully employed makes college a viable option for nontraditional students. It may be possible to complete an online degree in less time than it would take at a traditional college.

Alternatives to Course Completion

Tuition is based on the course load for the semester. Some online colleges may accept credible experience or completion of alternative courses at online open universities in lieu of the required general education courses. This will certainly reduce tuition and the time it will take to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Many of the traditional universities have started to offer online degrees as an alternative to traditional college degrees. Online bachelor’s degrees are viewed as equally credible, but online students who remain employed while working on their degrees have the upper hand in terms of work experience and hands-on exposure to the work environment. According to the U.S. News and World Report, tuition has risen by as much as 237 percent in in-state colleges. Pursuing an online bachelor’s degree will reduce various expenses associated with obtaining a college education, providing an opportunity for those with limited financial resources to earn a degree.