It seems like a pipe dream, but millions of adults are advancing their careers by getting online degrees at their own pace or by going back to college for advanced degrees. With online degree programs becoming more popular, students have many choices including both for-profit and not-for-profit programs, and it’s very possible that your local university (or one that you are familiar with) offers an excellent program that will allow you to obtain the exact same degree handed out to the co-eds on campus, but at a significantly lower cost.
[Learn how to study more effectively online with these great tips.]
Savings add up on “the little things.”
In many cases, the cost per credit hour for an online class will be similar to what an in-school student might pay for tuition. Very cheap institutions exist online, but they sometimes offer less competitive degrees, so it is important to do your research. The best way to think about savings is in flexibility and incidentals. You’ll save markedly on travel costs, and you will not incur expenses like “lab fees” and “equipment use fees.” Not to mention the fact that, because you are learning on your own schedule, it will be easier to hold down your regular job.
Deals ARE out there.
There are many reputable universities that offer full online degree programs — with credit hour prices at markedly cheaper rates than brick and mortar schools. What kinds of degrees are offered online? Anything you can imagine. A friend of mine recently received his MBA from the London School of Economics — one of the finest institutions on the planet. He never set foot in jolly old England, it was much cheaper than the traditional degree, and he did everything from his home (and sometimes when it was slow at work) while helping raise three young kids.
[Find low-cost business and I.T. degrees online.]
Not in state? No problem!
Though some online programs from state institutions are priced for in-state and out-of-state tuition, many of the best programs have no such price gap. That means that you can get your degree from say, University of Illinois – Chicago, in the comfort of your home in the Sunshine State. If you were from out-of-state and wanted to attend UIC on the mainland, your annual tuition would be approximately $5k more than for those with Illinois residency. But, as I say, be careful and do your research because this is not the case with all online programs.
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Flexible degree programs allow online and on-campus courses.
- Finish up at home.
Being able to finish a degree online opens up options for people in more complex living situations. A friend of mine had to move from Florida because her husband found a job in New York. However, she was able to finish her nursing degree online from her original college in Florida without having to wrestle with the cost and hassle of transferring schools or finding out what credits might apply elsewhere.
- Already in college? Take those pesky pre-requisites at your convenience.
One of the toughest things to do as you schedule your required courses is to juggle school and life commitments. It often seems that the class you need to take is offered at the most inconvenient times. Look to see if your required course is offered online — that way you don’t have to clone yourself to graduate on time, or trudge through the snow at 7:30 a.m. to get to class.
Change is coming.
In California there is legislation being negotiated to make it mandatory for all schools in the state to recognize credits from faculty-approved online programs. The cheaper classes make higher education more accessible and can hedge the seemingly impossible-to-pay-back student loans that saddle so many people today.
For the next generation, receiving at least some of your education online may become the rule and not the exception — there are programs being put in place to make K-12 at least partially an online learning experience.
Ultimately, while there’s an online degree program for nearly every budget and every situation, it’s the flexibility of these programs that provides the best bargain. With a little judicious searching, you can find an inexpensive program that has the prestige you need to land squarely in your dream career.
Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL; editing essays and personal statements; and consulting directly with applicants.