What would you give to be able to go to school for FREE? That reality might not be as far away as you think. In response to heavy college debt loads, it is now more possible than ever to go to college without paying a cent. But is that really ideal, or do you get what you pay for when it comes to the cost of education?
Free degree programs can be ideal, in some cases, for students on a fixed income who can’t afford tuition costs. Yet, there are drawbacks. If you choose this path, you may find yourself selecting from extremely limited options.
The majority of “free” degrees come in the form of self-directed learning programs, such as graphic design, web development, or programming. You dial in and learn at your own pace from your own home, and it’s up to you to digest the content and/or reach out for help when you need it. While you may sometimes write a final exam in person, you’re on your own more often than not.
Courses that focus on highly skilled, highly technical, or hands-on fields, such as medicine or engineering, are almost never available without cost. That’s because students require access to equipment, guidance from a teacher, or some kind of qualifying/licensing exam. Those that are offered are usually scholarship-based, too, rather than totally free and without cost.
Can You Afford the Extra Costs?
Your tuition might be free, but that doesn’t mean college is free overall. You’ll still need to budget for the cost of textbooks, supplies, equipment, housing, food, and more.
If you can’t afford these costs now, applying for a free course could put you in a very difficult position later on down the road. You might find yourself having to apply for loans anyway. Lack of access to supplies, such as textbooks, could make it harder to study.
Frankly, even just being able to budget for healthy eating and a roof over your head is extremely important. It’s hard to study when you’re hungry and going without sleep!
In cases like these, it often makes more sense to apply for grants and loans, both of which you are far less likely to qualify for if you’re learning for free. You may have to pick a full-scale degree program at a recognized institution in order to receive funding.
Is Free Really Worth It?
You get what you pay for. That’s true for toilet paper, hot sauce, and, yes, free degree programs, too. While many provide access to up-to-date teachings and robust lessons in an effort to help you graduate ready to work, others do not. In fact, some are free for a very good reason: they’re cheap on content and on results.
Think about this before you sign up for a free degree. Ask the school if they can show you a sample of their curriculum or let you sit in on a few classes. Get a feel for the overall quality. By the time you graduate, will you know enough to get to work?
Next, look into the school’s accreditation status. Employers are far more likely to accept transcripts from verified institutions when applying for jobs. On the other hand, they may refuse to honor certificates or degrees from non-accredited learning programs.
Free college might sound like a dream come true. While it certainly can be for some, it isn’t right for every student. This is one case where beggars SHOULD be choosers! It’s important to consider what you’re actually getting and whether it’s worth the savings before you make the jump.
Lastly, don’t forget it isn’t your only option for accessing post-secondary learning. You can also apply for grants and scholarships. Some of these may even cover your entire tuition and pay a stipend for survival, too. You just have to get out there and start applying for them if you want to take your shot.