How Affordable is an Online Degree?
The answer to this question really depends on the research that is put into picking and choosing the right online university for you. While it is true that online degrees allow the institution offering the degree to save on the costs associated with a physical campus and learning environment, online universities can often pile on hidden fees and hide the true cost of their degree. When proper care is taken, online university degrees, while not cheap, can be considerably less expensive than their traditional counterparts.
The pitfalls associated with online education and online universities arise from the simple fact that universities make more money by pocketing the savings instead of passing them onto you, the student. One way that universities are able to do this is by misrepresenting the cost of their university by credit. While by comparing cost per credit of an online institution to a traditional one the online will often win, the true cost of the degree can be higher, or not quite as good a deal as advertised. Online universities can do this by making their degrees require more credits than traditional counterparts. They justify this by offering accelerated courses that are well suited to working adults. Make sure to find out exactly how many credits are needed for your degree, and how much each credit is worth.
Online universities can cost more as universities are not always up front with all the fees that are associated with the degree. Often, an online university will tack on a distance education fee in order to swell their profits, or a library access fee, or one of many fees on their “virtual services.” Make sure to research all the fees that universities require, especially mandatory fees. Although this is a concern, this is just as true for regular degrees as compared to online universities, and proper caution should be taken in both cases.
If you are able to put the time and effort into comparing and understanding the nature of online universities, you should be able to find a better deal than degrees from a traditional source. In fact, traditional physical universities have been forced more and more to offer internet based alternatives to compete, and the future will hold even more online initiatives by well-respected universities. This means that online university degrees will hold ever-increasing value, a fact to consider when asking how affordable an online university is compare to a regular degree.
Another fact to consider when assessing the affordability of online universities vs their regular counterparts is the oft overlooked cost of commuting. In addition to saving money on gas, you no longer have to spend time driving back and forth to traditional classes. The time savings of online universities, which often offer rapid degrees, is huge and must be factored into any comparison of affordability.
So, how affordable is an online university vs a regular degree? Even without factoring in time savings and flexibility, the cost of an online degree is typical less than the cost of a regular degree. Like anything, buyer beware! Make sure to research fees, credit requirements and other issues such as credit transfers in order to get the best deal on an online degree.
What about an online degree versus a campus based degree?
Online universities, in general, are able to offer more affordable degrees than campus based universities. This is because, quite simply, it costs much more money to have students on campus than to have them study at home. T savings that you are able to get depend heavily on your choice of institution, and your goal in online learning. In most cases the savings are not going to be astronomical, but it’s possible to get a much more affordable online education.
There are three main ways to get an education online. The first is through distance learning offered at a campus based university, which offer courses for full credits towards their degree programs or, in some cases, a complete degree online. In most cases this limits you to having to attend the physical university for at least some courses. This method will cost you just as much as a traditional degree in terms of tuition, though you are able to save on the cost of fees and transportation.
The second is to learn through online institutions which offer courses that can be put towards campus based degrees at traditional universities. The reasons for taking credits online and transferring to a campus based university are numerous, but the most common is simply that it is much cheaper. An article published in 2012 in The International Herald Tribune titled “Online enterprises making degrees cheaper” shows an example of this, explaining how a mid-30s computer programmer was able to take 2 courses online for only $216 and then transfer them to Thomas Edison State College as part of his BA. Picking and choosing credits from online universities can be the best way to save on an education, but it unfortunately is not a complete degree program. This method could be loosely compared to taking the first two years of a BA at a cheaper college and then switching to a university for the prestige of a highly recognized degree.
The third way of getting an education online is to attend a completely online university, with the end result of a degree from the online institution. But how affordable is this option? It depends completely on the institution. An example of a US based online institution is Western Governors University, which is a NCATE (Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities) accredited non-profit university. Instead of the traditional model, which is to charge tuition on a per course basis, Western Governors University charges a flat fee per term. This university offers programs such as Nursing, at $3,250 per term, and Business Bachelors programs at $2,890 per term. Students take as many courses as they are able to complete in the term, and are charged the same amount regardless of how many they take. This is much less expensive than other online universities, even for those who take an average amount of courses per term. This can be compared to say, Capella University, which would have a degree of a B.S. Business Management averaging $55,800 compared to $23,120 at Western Governors University (information found on the Western Governors University website). How affordable online universities are is completely dependent on the university itself, but compared to campus based education in the US, they are usually cheaper.
In Canada, an example of an online institution is Athabasca. A 3 credit course, which is the norm, will cost $472.00 for a Canadian who is living outside of Alberta. However, there is a $325.00 Out of Country Fee for those who are not citizens of Canada. The cost for a 3 credit course is not much lower than those at the University of Victoria, which cost 495.87$. Canadians who wish to take a degree online from an institution in their own country will not find that they are paying much less than their counterparts in campus based institutions, and will be more likely to choose an online course because of convenience.
Canadians can also take degrees completely online from institutions such as Thompson Rivers University, which offers a BA in Sociology completely through distance learning, though with the caveat that there may be a need to fill in credits from other distance courses from different accredited post-secondary institutions. As it stands, completing a degree online can be tough to do at a single institution. The cost of the degree is the same, but students can win out slightly by paying only on average a small fee for technology ($5.40) and a larger Administration fee of $78.03. This is in contrast to other universities which can have fees in the hundreds of dollars paying for bus passes and recreational fees.
So, how affordable are online universities? It can depend. If you are looking to take specific credits, you can often find a deal through educational sources such as Straighterline which can give you credits towards a degree at another university. While there are some options for much cheaper degrees for Americans at fully online accredited universities, in general the savings are not extensive. This is especially true for those who are trying to study abroad, as many countries will put out of country fees on their online universities as universities are almost always funded publicly. While there are opportunities to save money studying online, it is not always in the tuition costs.
Studying online can be more affordable based on other factors. When you are studying at home, there is no need to pay for transportation costs such as a bus pass or gas for a vehicle. As well, many online courses and degree programs have less hefty fees than their campus based alternatives. Finally, online degrees are usually completed quicker than campus based degrees, letting you start earning money with your new degree quicker. The fact is, it’s impossible to say exactly how affordable an online university will be for you until you know where you want to go and what you want to do. Prices can range from much cheaper than campus based universities to equivalent.
While online universities can save on costs in many ways, the fact is that they still have to hire qualified professors, and still have to put together a useful and comprehensive program. There is huge overhead in universities, no matter how the education is offered, and if you find an online university which seems incredibly cheap, it is worth the time to investigate it. Accredited high quality education has to be at a certain standard, and that standard is not cheap.