Considering Online Education? Be Careful Not to Pay Too Much

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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. Arkansas State University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Education in Curriculum & Instruction
      • Master of Science in Education in Educational Theory & Practice
      • Master of Science in Early Childhood Education
      • Master of Science in Early Childhood Services
      • Master of Science in Education for Special Education - Instructional Specialist K-12
      • Master of Science in Education in Gifted, Talented, and Creative
    Certificate
      • Ed.S. Education Degree Specialist in Curriculum Director
      • Ed.S. Education Degree Specialist in Director of Special Education
      • Ed.S. Education Degree Specialist in Gifted and Talented Director
      • Ed.S. Education Degree Specialist in Principalship
      • Ed.S. Education Degree Specialist in Superintendency
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Criminal Justice
      • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
      • BA: Liberal Studies
      • BA: Psychology
      • BA: Psychology - General
      • BS: Computer Science
    Associate's
      • AA: Criminal Justice
      • AA: Liberal Arts
      • AA: Business Administration
      • AA: Information Technology
      • AA: Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Criminal Justice, M.S.
      • Business Administration, MBA
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      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Health Care Administration
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Leadership
      • Business Administration, MBA - Emphasis in Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • Communication Studies, B.A.
      • Criminal Justice, B.S.
      • Psychology, B.S.
      • Psychology, B.S. - Emphasis in Biblical Studies
      • Accounting, B.S.
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    Associate's
      • Criminal Justice, A.S.
      • Psychology, A.S.
      • Communication Studies, A.A.
      • General Studies, A.A.
      • Business Administration, A.S.
      • Health Care Administration, A.S.
  • Campus and Online Programs
    4. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - New Media Journalism
      • Master of Fine Arts - Creative Writing
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      • MS - Instructional Design and Technology
      • Master of Science - Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Sportscasting
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      • B.S. - Digital Cinematography
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      • Bachelor of Fine Arts - Creative Writing for Entertainment
      • B.S. - Sports Marketing and Media
    Certificate
      • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology
  • 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
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      • 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
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Special Education
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    Master's
      • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Human Factors
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
      • MS in Psychology: General Psychology
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Psychology
      • B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • BS in Elementary Education / Special Education (Dual Major)
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Davenport University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Computer Science, MS
      • Family Nurse Practitioner, MSN
      • Finance Concentration, MBA
      • Health Care Management Concentration, MBA
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      • Human Resource Management Concentration, MBA
    Bachelor's
      • Business, BBA
      • Computer Science, BS
      • Accounting, BBA
      • Finance, BBA
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      • Human Resource Management, BBA
    Associate's
      • Computer Information Systems, AAS
    Certificate
      • Global Project Management Certificate
      • Family Nurse Practitioner, PG Cert
      • Managerial Accounting, GRC
      • Marketing, GRC
      • Forensic Accounting, Graduate Certificate
      • Medical Case Management Certificate, PB
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
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      • Ed.D. - Sports Management
    Master's
      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
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      • M.Ed. - General Education
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
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    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership
      • Education Specialist - Special Education
      • Education Specialist - International Education
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Instructional Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Communication
      • Master of Science in Education in Special Education
      • Master of Science in Engineering Technology
      • Master of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management
      • Master of Public Health
      • Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Methods & Curriculum
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Environmental Education

Featured Schools

Arkansas State University

  • Master of Science in Education in Curriculum & Instruction
  • Master of Science in Education in Educational Theory & Practice
  • Ed.S. Education Degree Specialist in Curriculum Director
  • Ed.S. Education Degree Specialist in Director of Special Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • AA: Criminal Justice
  • AA: Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Christian University

  • Criminal Justice, M.S.
  • Communication Studies, B.A.
  • Criminal Justice, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • BS - Sportscasting
  • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

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

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Davenport University

  • Master of Science in Computer Science, MS
  • Business, BBA
  • Computer Information Systems, AAS
  • Global Project Management Certificate

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?