How online degree study can help students make ends meet

student studying online

The Open University shares what you can expect from an online degree – and how it could help your maintenance loan stretch a bit further

There are all sorts of benefits to getting a university degree. For many students it represents an important investment into their future, helping them take the first steps towards a career as well as offering significant personal development and general life skills.  

But it’s also a huge financial commitment – and the reality of covering living expenses alongside studying can be a major concern, with maintenance loans often falling short. So, what are your options? We’ve taken a look at a few ways you could make the numbers work, and explored how online learning could provide a more cost-effective solution.  

Boosting your budget

One immediate way to make ends meet is to seek out external financial support. This could be easier said than done, but there are a few potential avenues you could explore.  

For some, they may be fortunate enough to have parents or relatives who are in a position to be able to lend – or give – them a bit of extra cash towards their daily expenses.  

It’s also well worth checking if there are any relevant scholarships, bursaries or grants that you could be eligible for. Earlier this year, The Open University announced its largest ever scholarship package - offering £3 million in total to support making higher education more accessible for everyone.

These cash awards don’t need to be repaid, and they could be run by universities, colleges, charities, businesses or local government bodies. This funding is available for all sorts of different reasons, so you may be surprised to discover what you qualify for.  

Finally, you could consider taking on a part-time job. From campus-based roles to retail and hospitality positions, some students opt to top up their bank accounts by juggling their studies with work. 

Cutting down on expenses

If none of those routes appeal, or you still don’t see yourself bringing in enough cash to cover your costs, you could think about cutting down on your expenses to stretch your loan a bit further. At university, accommodation can be one of your most expensive outgoings – which has led some students to consider an alternative: living at home.  

Students who are able to live at home and pay minimal rent – while either attending a local university or taking an online degree – can save a significant chunk of money. And if there’s nowhere local that offers your dream course, the technology we have available today means students can easily access a top-notch education remotely without worrying about a long commute.  

However, if you do decide to settle on this option, bear in mind that you may still need additional financial support to cover course materials and general living expenses – each student’s situation is unique, after all, and it’s all about finding your perfect balance.

student studying on laptop

Unpacking online learning

Before you decide whether an online degree could be right for you, you’ll probably want to find out a bit more about what it actually entails. We’ve spoken to The Open University to get their expert advice on what potential students can expect.  

In terms of how online courses are delivered, The Open University explains that at their institution, “you’ll be allocated a tutor who will guide you through your studies. Modules are taught through entirely online study, or a combination of online and printed materials.” 

“Your course materials will be unique to the modules you study – these could be purely online, or a balance of online and print materials. Any online materials will be accessible through your module website and, if your module has printed materials, you’ll usually be able to download electronic copies.” 

And your location doesn’t matter – all you’ll need is decent Wi-Fi. The Open University says, “most tutorials are delivered online, so you’ll be able to dial in anywhere you can get an internet connection.” 

One concern about distance learning may be around the level of support available outside of your course. But this doesn’t need to be an issue – at The Open University for example, “students will have access to a subject-specific student support team, so if you have any general questions about your study or are struggling and need to talk through your options, they are there for you.” 

When it comes to meeting new people, students will be able to bond with their coursemates just as they would in a traditional in-person degree. “If you’re looking to socialise, there are still plenty of opportunities to make friends,” says The Open University. 

Finally, at The Open University, “the tutors are on hand to help if you need additional support and will often hang back after a tutorial to encourage questions.” 

A more flexible option: learn and earn

If you do need to combine living at home with earning money, the flexibility of online learning also makes it easier to balance your studies with work.  

The Open University explains that “with the majority of OU students fitting their studies around a job, students have the opportunity to study while they earn. They can study at home, in the workplace or on the move. The course materials are online, downloadable and flexible, from printed materials to phone apps, and can be accessed from pretty much anywhere.” 

All this means that your degree can work around your lifestyle: at The Open University, “our unique and flexible methods mean students don’t have to put their life on hold to get qualifications.”  

“We believe everyone should have equal opportunity to access higher education. Our students can study flexibly through supported distance learning and consider employment options so they can learn and earn.” 

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