Should I go to work while taking online classes or commute to a local college or university to get my bachelor's? Should I go with whatever's more financially feasible?

I'm from a low-income family and I've already got my associate's degree. I want the option that gives me a leg-up but is still affordable.


Vielka Cecilia Hoy, Founder/Director at Vielka Hoy Consulting, Teacher, and Parent

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I also agree with the above and would like to add that, in terms of percentages, working too much while in school is a top reason why students don't earn their degree. As in the other responses, what is too much is really dependent on your situation. I would just be super aware that the thing you have to do in order to get the even better thing may get in the way of you attaining that even better thing.

I have discussed how to afford college on my website ( and in a recent Noodle article. You will want to absolutely complete the FAFSA at the start of the year, and even do the net price calculator to see how much you would actually pay at whichever school. Then you would work towards reducing that cost. You may find, as the previous answers stated, that you don't have much to pay or can use another financial aid program such as work study to offset the cost.

I hope that helps.

Scarlet Michaelson, English and Writing Teacher

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It totally depends on you and your circumstances. Most online courses require a lot of work; so do in-person classes. If you already have your associates degree, then you can hopefully transfer all your credits and graduate within 2 years, depending on your major. Is it possible financially to do this? Even if you do need to work, many in-person universities have night or late-afternoon classes. I would recommend not taking more than 2 classes if you are working full-time. If you are working part-time, you could take 3 or 4.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Having taught both and knowing only the information that you shared, I suggest considering the traditional class first. Most programs now include online courses to complement their offerings, and you can take some that way when it suits your work schedule.

I recommend the traditional class for two reasons: online classes, in my experience, are harder and involve more work largely because professors build in a participation component that adds assignments to the course; traditional classes offer you classmates and verbal engagement. They give you a cohort that naturally holds itself accountable for attendance and participating in group projects, etc., making it more difficult for you to procrastinate (which is easy to do in the online setting!)

Nikki Morgan, Tutor, writer, student teacher, and parent

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I agree with Eric that it depends on your specific financial situation, and that trying to get away with working as little as possible while studying would help you to focus on your school experience. Work study positions on campus may be a good option for you. They will be more flexible and understanding when it comes to your school work. As for online schools or going to a local school, I have studied online and in-person and I much prefer to study in person. It is easier to engage with the material when I attend a class each week to discuss the topics in person. I also missed the experience that came with going to a university campus, attending university events, and making friends with college students going through a similar experience as me. Consider looking into scholarship opportunities that will cover some or all of your expenses. Also, there are many universities throughout the world (i.e. in Germany and Norway) that are tuition free for US citizens. If you are interested in that, this link is a good starting point.

Anonymous, Biomedical Engineer who loves to teach and help others.

This is a tough question to answer. It really depends on your availability and economic situation, but what I would recommend is going to a university full-time, if possible. Put aside a few years and focus on obtaining your bachelor's degree from a university. You will have plenty of time to work afterwards and your bachelor's degree will be able to provide you with a great opportunity for a great career.

As far as your financial situation, if you're from a low-income family, look into financial aid. I'm sure you would be able to get some of your tuition costs covered. In addition to that, you could also look into working part-time on campus to also help cover your costs.

Ultimately, what I recommend is focusing on school first so you can then get a good job and financially support yourself from there. Along the way, there will be many financial opportunities that you will be able to take advantage of, such as financial aid and part-time jobs on campus.

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Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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This is such a personal question: you really need to consider what is right for you and your loved ones. Have you looked to see if your local community college can help you with this question and with financial aid? Could you find a position now that would pay for some of the program you select? Online classes are getting better and better, but you do need to be able to manage a large workload without a teacher reminding you what to do while in a classroom. Perhaps a hybrid program that gives you the best of both worlds could be an option? Good luck!

Robyn Scott, Educational Consultant, TutorNerds LLC

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Hi, As far as choosing an option, I would say that it's more important that you have a chance to really absorb the material and do well. That way you can apply the knowledge to your new career. I would suggest starting out by meeting with a counselor at local colleges as well as reputable online schools (this should be free and if the online school doesn't have an office nearby they should be able to talk with you over the phone or on Skype). Many colleges offer online courses as part of the curriculum so it might be possible to attend classes on campus two days a week and enroll in online courses on the other days.

You may also want to look into need-based loans or scholarships. There are many scholarships out there that are between $100 and $1,000 dollars but you can apply to many of them and the money can add up. Additionally, I would recommend meeting with an advisor on campus and ask them about financial aid options through the school. You can start looking for scholarships here:

Prior to signing up for an online program make sure that you have the full tuition amount in writing. Some online schools can be very expensive because they are for-profit.

I hope that helps!

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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As a teacher of both kinds of classes, I can tell you that the answer all depends on your ability to manage time. If you are well-organized and keep up with deadlines on your own, then an online setting can work for you. If you need that one on one, face to face experience with a professor to help you succeed, then online classes may not be best for you. You want to make sure that you are taking a manageable load EITHER WAY so that you can feel successful in all avenues of your life. I see returning adults just want to be done (which I can understand!), only to burn out and then lose the money they paid for their courses. I would suggest you meet with your professors at the start of the semester to inform them of your life situation and ask if there is anything specific they recommend to help you succeed in the course. Showing that little bit of initiative goes a long way!

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