Home » How Going To A Distance Learning College Kept Me Out Of Student Loan Debt

How Going To A Distance Learning College Kept Me Out Of Student Loan Debt


Good morning, frugal friends! Today we have another guest post! Carrie Lowrance from carrielowrance.com is sharing how she saved money on college costs by choosing a distance learning school option. 

As we all know, student loan debt is astronomical. The cost of going to college is growing by leaps and bounds and the financial ruin it is causing is devastating. Students who cannot pay their loans and go into default. Parents that lose everything over loaning money to pay on these loans. It is an all too common nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, an education is definitely worth it. But the possibility of financial ruin for the student and their family is not.

College: Other Options

So what other option is out there? How can we get a good education without breaking the bank? I was trying to figure out this same thing in 2008. After applying at several day care centers, I realized that I needed to have an education under my belt as well as experience. That’s when I decided I wanted to get my Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I got online and looked around, only to find the cost of most colleges extremely daunting.

Recommended Reading: Student Loan Debt – Getting in Smart, Getting out Painlessly


The Game Changer

It wasn’t until I started researching online colleges that everything changed and college became a real and affordable option for me. After doing much research, I eventually chose Penn Foster College for my degree. After looking over the school’s credentials and cost, I knew I could get a college education without drowning myself in student loan debt. Here is a list of the reasons this particular school was a game changer for me.


  • Penn Foster is the oldest distance learning school out there.
  • The school is accredited and licensed.
  • Books and other materials are included in tuition.
  • Options are available to pay as you go and your payments are interest free.
  • Available payment options include pay in full, monthly auto pay, or monthly mail in pay for your tuition.

Recommended Reading: Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents

My Best Education Experience Ever

I can honestly say this was the best educational experience I have ever had. The instructors were very friendly and easy to get a hold of. The school is very supportive of those with disabilities, both seen and unseen. When it came time to take the math portion of my degree I was pretty worried. (I have a learning disability in math.) I knew I had to take an algebra course and I was very concerned. I called the school and explained the situation. They were very understanding and told me if I could send a copy of my last I.E.P. for verification, they could offer me an alternative math course. Once I got a copy and sent it over, the course change was made and I was able to continue on with my studies.

In the six years that I attended my online college (I had to take a semester off due to having back surgery not long after I started) I never had a bad experience. Being able to graduate and not have a huge pile of debt hanging over my head was a massive relief.

If you’re looking for a quality education (high school, career school or college) while keeping your finances in tact, I highly recommend considering distance learning as a viable and affordable option.

Carrie Lowrance is a freelance writer and author. She has been featured on The Huffington Post, She Is Fierce, Indebted Mom, The Freelance Dance and Piggy Bank Dreams. She has also published three books, Lithium Dreams And Melancholy Sunrise, The Safety Of Objects and Don’t Eat Your Boogers (You’ll Turn Green). To find out more, please visit her on her website carrielowrance.com.


  1. Josh says:

    My wife earned her liberal arts degree in a similar fashion through Thomas Edison State University. We plan on having our children take advantage of distance learning as much as possible when the time comes & tell everybody we can to rethink the “normal college experience.”

  2. Part of me thinks it’s unfortunate not to experience the in-real-life post-secondary experience, but it sounds like you felt connected to the people involved in your college years – even though your relationship was online. Great option for money saving – no doubt about that. Nothing is worth the terrible financial stress some have to deal with as a result of that in-real-life post-secondary experience.

  3. kay ~ the barefoot minimalist says:

    I love the non-traditional path you took. Very practical. Thanks for sharing your story. It may influence others to give this option a closer look.

  4. Distance learning seems promising! I wish I could still do it, but I am already in the last year of college. But, I’d propose this to my parents for my younger brother who is about to enter college next school year.

  5. Iforonwy says:

    Sorry but this is rather long!
    This is how I did it! Sort of. Here in the UK we have the Open University it was established in 1969 to enable folk who were unable to attend University full time and those who had missed out on a university education to study to degree level. It was also there for those who were unable to attend main stream university because they needed to work to support a family, were disabled in some way or who just wanted the flexibility of studying at their own pace.

    The study materials, when I started to study with them in the 1980s came in the form of printed units, tapes and TV and radio programmes. Depending on the level of your course you attended lectures once a week or once or twice a month and you had your own personal tutor. There was also attendance for one or two weeks at a Summer School where guest lecturers came from the top universities to carry out the lectures.

    The fees were sensibly prices and if necessary there was a scheme to help under-privilaged students. (This is still in existance and I am proud to donate to this each month)Many employers would help with fees if the course of study was seen as something that would benefit the company in the long run.

    It was and still is Open to All. I had trained to teach in the late 1960s and although my tutors wanted me to stay on for an extra year to gain a BEd degree I was needed at home to help nurse my father and help in the running of our small family business. So I worked straight away as a teacher in my home town. Fast forward to the 1980s where I am not working and trying to fill my day with ‘Im-in-doors away in the military so I decided to give the OU a try. 3 years later I graduated with a BA Hons Degree in Psychology. I was not using it in my line of work so decided to apply to do a Post graduate Diploma in something that was way more relevant. 2 years later I achieved that.

    But most of all it was flexible, affordable and I met so many fellow students who I am proud to call friends.

    So my advice distance learning my not be for everyone but is without the peer pressure of regular university. Also whilst at college for 3 years to gain my teaching qualifications I lived with family friends for one year and then as I had chosen a college within daily travelling distance I lived at home with my parents so did not have to pay out for accomodation.

  6. Online college can be a really smart choice if you’re a dedicated student who can stay on track without help. Not only is tuition sometimes cheaper, but you don’t have to pay for all the extras like living on-campus. Online education has also lost almost all of the stigma that came with it just a decade ago.

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