Considering Online Education? Be Careful Not to Pay Too Much

About this article
Taking classes on the Web is becoming increasingly popular - it can save time, provide flexibility, eliminate a commute and allow students to pursue subjects that aren't offered at local campuses. However, a recently released study by the WCET and Campus Computing Project suggests that many students are paying more for Internet education than they would for the equivalent coursework on campus.
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WCET Enrollment Trends

Source here.

Enrollment Is Up

On October 22, the WCET and Campus Computing Project released their 2009 Survey of Online Education. The report shows steady gains in enrollment. An impressive 94% of the schools surveyed reported increases in enrollment in their Web programs between 2006 and 2009. Furthermore, the climb doesn't seem to have been affected by the economic downturn. The numbers stayed strong over the past year, with 95% of schools reporting higher enrollment in fall 2009 than fall 2008. Schools are also optimistic about the future. A full 98% of respondents expect to continue to see gains at least through 2011.

The survey suggests that online education has finally 'arrived.' Once met with significant skepticism about quality and legitimacy, taking courses on the Internet is becoming a perfectly acceptable alternative to traditional campuses classes. The increase in popularity may be due to the convenience of the online format, and the fact that Web courses are much more accessible for working professionals. People are also becoming more accustomed to living their lives online, and learning is just another activity made easier by technology.

Tuition is higher for online students

Costs Are Up Too

However, the Survey of Online Education also had some troubling news: Many students pay more tuition for online courses than they would for similar courses on campus. Almost half of the surveyed schools reported that tuition is higher for online students. Some students face a 10% or higher tuition hike just for taking classes on the Web. Almost one fifth of the colleges also reported charging additional registration fees for online classes, averaging around $230.

The survey offers various possible explanations for the imbalance. Because many of these programs are new and evolving - almost half of the respondents reported a major reorganization of program management in the last two years - production costs may be higher online than in established campus courses. Universities may also be adding out of state charges for long distance students. Finally, many state governments offer colleges lower reimbursement rates for online students, forcing the schools to increase tuition to make up the difference.

Online Learning

The survey has confirmed rising suspicions around the country about the costs of online education. In July, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that online students at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee were paying as much as $275 more in tuition per course than on campus students. And while there may be a good explanation for the difference, the numbers are perplexing among reports that schools don't even know if these programs are profitable. Although only 1.6% of schools surveyed reported a loss on online programs in the fiscal year ending June 2009, a full 45% simply checked 'unknown' in response to the question. Given the high degree of flux in program organization, it seems likely that the cost disparity will continue until the dust settles and schools can get a better handle on their online programs.

The news for online students isn't all bad, however. One third of the colleges reported matching tuition costs for online and on campus students, and one fifth actually reported lower costs for Internet courses. The most important lesson to be learned from this report seems to be to shop around when you're looking for online education options - another school may offer similar courses for a lot less.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Trident University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Business Administration (Ph.D.)
      • Health Sciences (Ph.D.)
      • Doctor of Business Administration
      • Educational Leadership (Ed. D.)
      • Educational Leadership (Ph.D.)
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education
    Bachelor's
      • Computer Sciences (BSCS)
      • Business Administration (BSBA)
      • Human Resources Management (BSHRM)
      • Homeland Security (BSHLS)
      • Information Technology Management (BSITM)
      • Leadership (BSL)
    Associate's
      • Professional Studies (ASPS)
    Certificate
      • CMCB - Certificate in Medical Coding and Billing
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
      • M.S. - Public Relations
      • MS - Instructional Design and Technology
      • Master of Science - Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Sportscasting
      • BS - Cloud Technologies
      • B.S. - Music Business
      • B.S. - Digital Cinematography
      • B.S. - Media Communications
      • Bachelor of Fine Arts - Creative Writing for Entertainment
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. Pacific Oaks College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. Education with Prelimary Education Specialist Instruction Credential
      • M.A. Early Childhood Education
      • M.A. Education: Elementary Education
      • M.A. Organizational Leadership and Change
      • M.A. Human Development
      • M.A. in Advocacy and Social Justice
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. Community Psychology
      • B.A. Early Childhood Education
      • B.A. Human Development
      • B.A. in Advocacy and Social Justice
    Certificate
      • Preliminary Multiple Subject Teaching Credential
      • Preliminary Education Specialist Instruction Credential
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Walden University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment
      • PhD in Criminal Justice - General
      • PhD in Criminal Justice - Online Teaching in Higher Education
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment & Evaluation
      • PhD in Education - Learning, Instruction & Innovation
      • PhD in Psychology - Teaching
    Master's
      • MS in Education - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment (Grades K-12)
      • MS in Education - Self-Designed
      • MS in Education - Elementary Reading & Literacy (Grades PreK-6)
      • MS in Education - Elementary Reading & Mathematics (Grades K-6)
      • MS in Education - Mathematics & Science (Grades K-8)
      • MS in Education - Mathematics (Grades 5-8)
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology
      • Master : Business Admin
      • Master of Public Health
      • MBA: Human Resources
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
      • Accelerated MS in Finance Option
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • AASBA in Food/Hotel Management
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Medical Assisting Certificate
      • Medical Office Administration Certificate
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Graduate Certificate in Addictions
      • Graduate Certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
      • Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA with an Emphasis in Marketing
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
    Master's
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Reading with an Emphasis in Secondary Education
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • MS in Nursing: Public Health
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    7. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Healthcare Management
      • MBA - Accounting
      • MBA - Human Resources
      • MBA - International Business
      • MBA - Operations Management
      • Master of Accountancy
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
      • Doctor of Criminal Justice
      • Doctor of Criminal Justice - Policing
  • Online Programs Available
    9. New England College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Business Administration/Management
      • BA in Communication/Journalism
      • BA in Criminal Justice
      • BA in Criminal Justice/Human Services
      • BA in Humanities
      • BA in Psychology
    Associate's
      • AA in Criminal Justice
      • AA in Psychology
      • AA in Business Administration
      • AA in Sociology
      • AS in Accounting
      • AS in Human Services
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Criminal Justice, M.S.
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Advanced Accounting
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Health Care Administration
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Leadership
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Project Management
      • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
    Bachelor's
      • Communication Studies, B.A.
      • Criminal Justice, B.S.
      • Psychology, B.S.
      • B.S. Applied Psychology: Biblical Studies
    Associate's
      • Criminal Justice, A.S.
      • Psychology, A.S.
      • Communication Studies, A.A.
      • Business Administration, A.S.
      • Health Care Administration, A.S.
      • Human Resource Management, A.S.

Featured Schools

Trident University

  • Business Administration (Ph.D.)
  • Master of Arts in Education
  • Computer Sciences (BSCS)
  • Professional Studies (ASPS)
  • CMCB - Certificate in Medical Coding and Billing

What is your highest level of education completed?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • M.S. - New Media Journalism
  • BS - Sportscasting
  • BS - Cloud Technologies

What is your highest level of education?

Pacific Oaks College

  • M.A. Education with Prelimary Education Specialist Instruction Credential
  • B.A. Community Psychology
  • Preliminary Multiple Subject Teaching Credential

What is your highest level of education completed?

Walden University

  • Doctor of Education (EdD) - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment
  • PhD in Criminal Justice - General
  • MS in Education - Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment (Grades K-12)
  • MS in Education - Self-Designed

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University Global

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MS in Psychology - Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Medical Assisting Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA with an Emphasis in Marketing
  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?

The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Healthcare Management
  • MBA - Accounting
  • MBA - Human Resources

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business

What is your highest level of education?