Will Online Learning Save you Money This Fall?

Most universities in Canada are switching to online or a hybrid of online/in-person learning for this upcoming fall semester.  Those familiar with AU’s popular education format can attest to how learning from home can save you money on upfront costs without sacrificing quality instruction.  Tuition costs have been on the rise across Canada, but with the changes coming this fall, many students can expect a reduction in students fees, increases to available bursaries and a move toward digital textbooks.  Transportation costs to get to and from university may also amount in savings for commuting students.  With a reduction in commute time and more flexible instruction schedules, part-time employment also becomes more accessible for students.  Over the course of a year, these small modifications can amount to saving thousands of dollars on education costs.

With limited extracurricular activities available onsite, many Canadian universities are reducing non-instructional fees (recreational, student association and transit pass fees) for the upcoming semester.  If these reductions carry over into the winter term, this could mean a savings of several hundred dollars just in non-instructional fees.  Mandatory fees such as recreation, transit passes, and students’ union fees are the main non-instructional fees projected to be reduced in 2020/21.

Textbook costs are also notoriously high.  At AU there has been a shift away from hard copy textbooks to providing students with online versions which are just available for the duration of the course.  If all universities began offering a digital textbook this could save students thousands of dollars each year in textbook costs alone.  Hardcopy textbooks are often available for those who prefer them, but for many students the ease of access to e-books and the cost savings outweigh the benefit of having a personal copy.  COVID-19 has made reselling and tracking down used copies of textbooks more difficult; by transitioning to digital textbooks professors can help students save money this upcoming year.

Commuting students also have a chance to both save and make extra money this academic year.  Virtual learning can save more than one hundred dollars a month on gas for commuters.  Some families with multiple vehicles have opted to temporarily reduce their vehicle insurance on their second vehicle.  By choosing to drive only one vehicle during the pandemic, families can cut unnecessary monthly fees.  With more time available, online learning also allows students more free time for employment while studying.  Virtual courses provide flexibility and students spend less time traveling to and from classes.  For example, my full-time academic schedule has been modified so I only have classes three out of seven days a week and only one day has an optional in-person component.  This saves me a 45-minute commute to the university giving me more time to allocate towards my part-time job.

The Government of Canada has also increased their funding for students this year by doubling the grant money available.  Among other student loan benefits, grants for “Full-Time Students will increase up to a maximum of $6,000 and the grant for part-time studies to $3,600.” 2020/21 student loan applications just recently opened and students can apply on the Government of Canada’s student aid website by province of residence.

With ever increasing tuition fees, students have been getting creative finding ways to save money on the non-instruction costs associated with higher education.  AU offers a variety of student scholarships, AUSU awards, and financial aid opportunities.  Personally, I would recommend looking into union and employer scholarships as often these financial aid sources go unnoticed and unclaimed.  Saving opportunities are out there, you just might have to dig to find some of them!