Q&A: Loans and Debt

A: Same deal as traditional, brick-and-mortar schools: If you have the resources to pay for your education up front – go for it. But if you’re like the rest of us who don’t have the resources, you will indeed have to finance your education. The interest rates from Federal loans will be the same, whether you learn online or off.

The good news is that, generally speaking, online schools are a significantly cheaper alternative to the more traditional universities. According to CollegeBoard, public, four-year colleges charge $7,605 in tuition and fees per year for in-state students. That number is even higher for out-of-state students, and for those thinking about private college, be prepared to shell out $27, 293 in tuition and fees according to CollegeBoard.

There is not a lot of hard numerical data for tuition at online schools, but it is safe to say most programs won't charge more than $5,000 for a full year of coursework. Considering most of the course material is online, students also avoid paying hundreds of dollars for textbooks, and learning from the comfort of your home also means not paying for room and board.

Of course these options aren't exactly inexpensive, so if you’re going for a vocational degree or certificate, you should definitely make sure that the career you’re getting credentialed for is one that will help you pay off your loans.

Think about it this way: if you have $50,000 of school loans that you need to repay with an average interest rate, you’re going to have to pay more than $300 every month for the next 30 years. Before signing up for the program, ask yourself – is this profession going to enable me to improve my income level to the point where I’ll also have an additional $300 every month to pay back my student loans?

Don't hesitate to confer with people who have knowledge in this realm. If you have a relative or a close friend with first-hand experience of school loans, pick their brains to see what worked and what could have been improved in regard to the process of applying for and paying back the loans. Get as many viewpoints as possible in order to forge the best decision.