A look at the costs, benefits and disadvantages of an online college education, versus conventional practices.
One of the questions many prospective students ask themselves is whether or not they should attend college on a campus or take advantage of an online degree program. The answer is a definite “It depends.”
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Essentially, your answer is contingent on your educational needs, your current living/job situation, and your learning style because both online and traditional degree programs have advantages and disadvantages.
Cost Comparison of Online Degrees vs. Traditional Degree Programs
The cost involved in each type of program varies, depending on the college of your choice as well as your choice of degree. For instance, if the nearest college is far away from home, you may need to relocate or live in a dorm to attend full time. In this case, it may be worth your while to investigate online degree programs because you may be able to save a substantial amount of money.
You will not have to pay for room, board, and some of the other miscellaneous fees if you pursue an online degree. You won’t have the hassle of fighting traffic. Parking fees or the cost of filling your gas tank won’t be an issue, either. One of the biggest frustrations that students face is trying to find a parking space minutes before the start of class without success.
On the other hand, some online programs are very expensive, so it’s best to check out programs that are in-state so you won’t have to pay out-of-state rates to get a college degree. Keep in mind that you’ll want to keep your focus on your return on investment (ROI). Do the math to compare the cost of your program with the earnings you can expect to make over the life of your career. There’s no reason to pay double or triple to get a degree when you can economize and get more bang for your buck. If you get a grant or scholarship, you’ll save even more money.
If you decide to get a traditional degree, it could cost you as little as $10,000 a year at a four-year institution of higher learning and much less if you attend a two-year community or technical college. In essence, the cost of attending college varies greatly. If you attend an in-state college you could pay as much as $50,000 a year, depending upon whether you pursue your degree at a state, public, or private university.
Books, Supplies, and Necessary Equipment
If you’re an online student, you may be given the option to purchase e-books. Using online books will dramatically reduce the amount of money you’ll have to spend. Some online colleges offer their students the option of buying either traditional textbooks or e-books. You can usually order your books through the college bookstore’s website. Of course, there are die-hard fans of paper textbooks, while others are satisfied with reading their books online.
Regardless of where you attend college, you’ll need a computer and an Internet connection. If you’re an online student, your best bet is to invest in a computer so you can have access to it day or night. If you’re on a budget, you can go to your local library. Of course, if the campus is within driving distance, you’ll have access to a computer lab during college business hours.
Method of Delivery
There are a variety of delivery methods in online degree programs. For instance, some colleges upload all of their materials online, and you’ll never have direct contact with your instructor. You’ll need to download and print materials. You may or may not be required to participate in discussion questions in the online community.
Other online programs offer innovative learning options. You may be able to participate in live, synchronous class sessions via the Internet or view the recorded class sessions at a later date. The professor may use a web cam or microphone to talk directly to the students. In many instances, the students can respond to the professor if they have web cams or microphones. If they have neither, they can participate via live chat and type their responses.
One of the obvious disadvantages of online learning is that when a student “attends” classes any time during the day, there is always the threat of distractions. The phone rings, the baby’s diaper needs to be changed, or friends stop by your home without notice. Some students need to have a teacher with them side-by-side in a structured learning environment to help them learn more effectively.
Online colleges also offer a variety of options. Some colleges require that you attend during the regularly scheduled semesters while others have an open-entry/open-exit format.
Traditional colleges usually have locked-in schedules; however, many colleges are adapting to the changing needs of non-traditional students by offering classes that run until midnight. Others offer weekend college courses and semesters that start a few weeks after the traditional semester has begun.
Acceptance by Employers
As online college degree programs take hold in our society, they are gaining more acceptance by employers; however, online degree programs may not be adequate in certain fields. For instance, you may not be able to become a practicing psychologist in some states if you earn your degree entirely online. It’s best to contact potential employers to see if they hire employees with degrees from online colleges.
Do Your Homework
Your best bet is to do a lot of research before you begin. Weigh the pros and cons of going to college online versus earning a degree the traditional way. Many people put more research into buying a car than potential college degree programs. Keep in mind that a car is a disposable resource, but the impact of a college degree—good or bad—lasts forever.