“Lay Away” Online College Courses this Holiday Season and Avoid Student Debt

Beth Dumbauld

By Beth Dumbauld

It’s the preseason to the holiday season and you know what that means: a wreath with ornaments here, the waft of mulling spices there, and a rising tide of email deals and TV ads splashing lots of retail holi-dazzle across your screen. November also means ‘tis the season of layaway at retail stores. Pay a little now, and over time, you’ll be taking home something big – without (hopefully) incurring debt to do so.

A few of the highest quality layaway programs include those at:

  • Wal-Mart
  • Kmart
  • Babies “R” US
  • Toys “R” US

Each of these layaway programs is essentially “free” to the consumer this holiday season. What that means is having extremely low-to-no upfront fees, or fees that will be reimbursed after full payment of the item. A quality layaway can be a win-win for all involved. A poorly constructed layaway program, on the other hand, is an extremely expensive loan (from the consumer’s perspective), charging you fees to merely get involved in or exit the layaway program. (If you are trying to understand the difference, beware of terms like restocking fees, avoid non- reimbursable fees, and look at fee policies that vary depending on the date of when you first enter the store’s layaway program.)

The highest quality layaway programs, allow you to pay over time for something special without incurring debt or paying high or unexpected fees – and there can be a very high return on investment in having that Holiday Barbie underneath the Christmas tree with no holiday debt hangover associated with its purchase.

The same can be said about laying-away college courses for eventual transfer into the college or university where you ultimately plan on graduating by cost-conscious college students looking to earn college credits for introductory courses (think courses like precalculus, history, economics, calculus, introduction to biology) at low costs. There can be a huge return on investment in having already passed college courses (which you paid for, over time, at low, low costs) and having them at-the-ready for transfer into the college or university where you plan on enrolling and graduating from.

The highest quality, low-cost online college course for credit provider today is:
StraighterLine (www.straighterline.com)

The concept behind StraighterLine is, in many ways, quite similar to a high quality layaway program. For a small, regular payment ($99/month), you can take as many college courses as you want (for a one-time fee of $49), and have them guaranteed to transfer to StraighterLine’s network of partner colleges or possibly to a growing network of colleges who accept ACE transcripts – over 1800 colleges and universities do! You can begin a new course whenever you are ready, and there are no ongoing fees once you have completed your course(s).

This holiday season, here are a few statistics to wrap your mind around:

  • For the school year 2012-2012, the average cost of college at a private nonprofit 4- year institution is: $29,056 (according to the College Board).
  • The average cost of a college course at StraighterLine is 5 times cheaper than at a profit college.
  • The average college debt for students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2011 was $26,600 (according to the Institute for College Access & Success).
  • Taking low-cost online college courses and transferring them for credit to a college can significantly reduce the amount of overall tuition you will need to pay for college.

It takes the average StraighterLine student about 5 weeks to complete an online college course. Think about it, if you start now – by Christmas, you could complete several online college courses, and be well on your way towards finishing a semester (or two) of college – all without incurring any student loan debt.

This holiday season, lay away one or more online college courses for your educational future, avoid student loan debt -– and give yourself one of the few gifts that truly keep on giving all year long – an education.

Beth Dumbauld is a writer who is passionate about helping others save money and time. She received her MBA from the University of Colorado and currently lives near Cincinnati, Ohio.

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