I find the biggest challenge with online education is that is it much harder to have the same kind of in-depth, sometimes tangential discussions that come from in-person classes. These discussions are often where I've learned the most, from both instructors and classmates.
We’re a society obsessed solutions that save the most money, as we should be. Thrift is no small attribute. We also like things quick and easy. For these reasons, online classes appeal to many people. But this is because online degrees are often advertised as cheap and immediate solutions to what’s perceived by many people to be an expensive, time-consuming process. Many people enroll in online colleges believing they’re getting a discount.
While this is somewhat the case, the savings are not what you think and they’re certainly not going to be found on your tuition bill. Likewise, a four-year degree can be achieved in less than three years, but that road is far from straight and simple. In this article we’ll breakdown the true savings of online universities and explain why and how noticeable savings in time and money can be increased when choosing to earn a degree through the World Wide Web. Even if you don’t want to go and earn a full degree, there are plenty of free online financial courses to help you expand your knowledge.
The Regulation of Higher Education
There’s certainly no doubt that some universities are better than others. Therefore, some degrees are considered more valuable than others. Typically, this is reflected in the cost of the actual degree itself. But the higher education system of the United States does a decent job making sure that accredited universities stick to basic principles within their degree programs. While more prestigious universities typically have very high tuition, the majority of private and state-funded schools have relatively equal costs. This is due to the fact that most programs obey the same principles, and therefore incur the same charge.
Therefore, the idea that an authentic degree online is going to cost significantly less than if it were earned through traditional methods is erroneous. If this were the case, then the quality of the education itself would be significantly lower than what would otherwise be gained. When it comes to identical online and non-online programs at the same school, the same amount of cost was put into both. As a result, the tuition stays the same.
The Credit Hours Are the Same, There Are Just More Hours In Between
Earning a degree in less time than you would attending a traditional college is mostly a result of less rigmarole. By rigmarole, I mean the time spent commuting to and from campus, taking breaks during the summer, and the disbursement of courses over the span of a week. Yet, these courses are equally designed to demand roughly the same amount of time and labor from the student. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be identical. The time you save is that of time wasted negotiating the real-world logistics of going to a real-world college.
The Savings Are What You Make Yourself
The discounts of an online degree come mostly from the presumed changes in your lifestyle. For instance, by avoiding traditional college you avoid one of two certain costs: dorm life or the gas tank. That’s an immediate source of savings that’s sure to make a difference in your daily budgeting.
But you also save money by not partaking in the usual campus habits: migrating from one coffee shop to the next, snacking during lectures, and spending the rest of your disposable income on off-campus socializing with your classmates.
You also have more freedom when it comes to textbooks. The one you need might be available at your local library, while the one copy at the campus library will be reserved five days-deep throughout the whole semester. You may not even need a textbook at all, one of the possible rare differences between online and on-campus college.
Online college isn’t an instant ticket to a faster, cheaper education. Nor should it be. The point of online higher education is to let those who otherwise can’t make it to a campus still have access to a degree, not to bypass the hard parts of advanced learning. The savings are also yours to gain, not yours to be given.
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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.
I have taught online classes for several years at several universities and have seen many of the advantages mentioned above. Instructors can provide ways for students
to meet each other through "chat" rooms, message boards, and through discussions using audio and video. I especially like the hybrid online class where the student comes to campus.
I did my graduate degree through a distance program (intensive weekends in-class and online; some completely online). These courses were good because the institution was good.
I also have taught two hybrid courses (in-person and online). In each case we had people who failed or had to drop because they didn't expect to work
From these and from applicants I've met people who have credits from online programs but no real training. If you can't write a paragraph, understand the basic terms of your field or remember what a course covered, what did you get for your tuition money?
I did my masters through an accredited online school. I am sure that I couldn't have done it any other way. I couldn't have gotten to classes through the process. It allowed me to do it around my vacations rather than fitting my schedule to theirs. However, I am QUITE sure that it wasn't cheaper in terms of tuition. Granted I didn't have the commuting or other such expenses as you pointed out. Glad I did it.
Good points, but online education is more than just getting a degree. When I was doing my undergrad degree, it gave me the flexibility to take classes that couldn't fit into my schedule.
After I graduated, I took classes for professional development. Again, you can't beat the flexibility.
However, having taught online courses you do lose a lot of the social aspect of taking classes on campus. Online communication is good, but you don't really make friends that way. If you're an undergrad student only doing online courses, you lose a lot of the college experience. If you're a professional, chances are you're not there to make new friends anyway :)