Among students pursuing a college education, affordability is a constant concern. This is as true for students of online degree programs as it is for students of traditional programs at brick-and-mortar schools. If you’re considering an online education, you might wonder how you will pay for your tuition, fees and course materials. Online students pay for their education in a number of ways, including financial aid and personal savings.

Paying for Online College

There’s no question that college can be expensive. Online courses are sometimes cheaper than traditional courses, but other times they are equally or even more costly. Some colleges may drop otherwise expensive out-of-state costs, but some tack on additional distance-learning or online technology fees.

Though the cost of tuition isn’t necessarily cheaper at an online college, the total cost of attendance may be. If your desired school is too far to reasonably commute to, an online education can save you the cost of living and eating on campus, though of course you still have to live and eat somewhere. The convenience of online classes means that you don’t have to pack up your family to move closer to a school or give up a job because it will conflict with your course schedule. Approximately 30 percent of online students choose online college over a traditional program because they found the overall experience to be more affordable, EdTech magazine reported.

Affording a College Education

If you’re afraid that you can’t afford an online college education on your own, you’re not alone. Only about 28 percent of online college students paid for college with their personal funds exclusively, according to EdTech magazine. Nearly that many – 21 percent – funded their education with loans as well as money out of their own pockets. Eight percent of students combined loans and their own money with scholarships. Another eight percent used employer tuition assistance in conjunction with their own money to afford an education. A small number, about four percent, relied solely on their employer to pay for their education. The largest chunk of students, 31 percent, paid for online college entirely through financial aid (including student loans).

If you thought financial aid was only for students straight out of high school attending traditional on-campus programs, think again. There are several types of financial aid available to online college students. You are as eligible for scholarships, grants and loans as a student at a brick-and-mortar school would be. Applying for financial aid can take some time, but the effort you put into getting the financial aid you need are well worth your time. You may be able to get government grants or scholarships from your school or another sponsoring organization, in which case you don’t have to pay the money back, ever. At the very least, you may qualify for student loans that allow you to get started on your education now so that you can start earning more money sooner rather than later.