Student loan debt is frequently in the news, with researchers analyzing the ever increasing average amount of debt and politicians and businesspeople debating potential solutions. It’s no surprise that students want to avoid taking on more student loan debt than necessary, which is yet another reason for the rising popularity of earning a college degree online.

The Cost of Online College

Affordability is among the top reasons students choose online college. About 30 percent of online students considered the lower price tag of an online education to be an important factor in their decision to study online, according to EdTech magazine.

Keep in mind, though, that you can’t just assume that studying online will save you money. Online college isn’t necessarily cheaper than traditional college. Some online programs certainly are more affordable than comparable on-campus degree programs, while others cost the same. Still other online courses end up being more expensive than a traditional course. You must do your homework not only to compare tuition costs, but also to learn what fees or other expenses might apply to you as an online student. For example, you might be able to avoid paying the out-of-state tuition rate at a school by studying online, but you could also get hit with a technology fee.

How Online College Can Save You Money

Even if you don’t save money on tuition by choosing an online program, you might still find that online college is a more affordable option than a traditional school. Obviously, you will save money by not having to commute to campus. This means you will save on small expenses that can add up, like gas and tolls, and you won’t have to purchase a parking permit, which can cost hundreds of dollars at some schools.

Earning a degree online can also help you save money on room and board. While you will still have to live somewhere and of course still have to eat, you won’t be confined to a dorm room or required to eat out at campus cafeterias. You can live anywhere you want, whether that means splitting rent with roommates, staying with relatives or being the head of your own family’s household. You can use your food budget to buy groceries and cook at home, spending far less than you would eating out, even on campus. Finally, the flexibility of online courses means that you’ll never have to disrupt your work schedule to take an inconveniently timed class.

It’s natural to want to avoid excessive student debt. Having high amounts of student debt can negatively impact financial stability and even physical wellbeing, according to a Gallup study published in August 2014. Even after students pay off their debt in full, they may still fare worse compared to students without debt, according to U.S. News & World Report. By doing your research, you can find an online college degree program that’s affordable and right for you.