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. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
      • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
      • Master of Arts in Economics
      • Master of Public Administration and Policy
      • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
      • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Management
      • Graduate Certificate in Project Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
      • Doctorate: Computer Science
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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Computer Science
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      • Master of Business Admin
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    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Psychology
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      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
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    3. Northcentral University

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      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
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      • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
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    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Organizational Leadership
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  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

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      • MBA
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      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
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      • Associate of Science - Business Management
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    5. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Communication
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    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Finance
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate
  • Online Programs Available
    7. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Health Care Quality
      • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
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    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
      • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development
      • Graduate Certificate in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
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      • Education Specialist in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Graduate Certificate in E-Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Kaplan University

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    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
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      • MSCJ: Law
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    9. Colorado State University Global

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      • MS - Teaching and Learning
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      • BS - Communication
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      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
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      • Graduate Certificate - Human Resource Management
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  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Full Sail University

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    Master's
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
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      • MS - Instructional Design and Technology
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
      • B.S. - Digital Cinematography
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      • Bachelor of Fine Arts - Creative Writing for Entertainment
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    Certificate
      • Cert - Instructional Design and Technology

Featured Schools

American University

  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication
  • Master of Arts in Strategic Communication - Advocacy and Social Impact Concentration
  • Graduate Certificate in Agile Project Management
  • Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Analytics and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • Master of Science in Computer Science
  • B.S. - Psychology
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

Are you a US citizen?

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?

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Business Management
  • Diploma: Medical Office Admin

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication
  • Master of Science in Education in Special Education
  • Graduate Certificate in Strategic Communication Management

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate

What is your highest level of education completed?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Masters in Interdisciplinary Secondary Transition Services
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
  • Graduate Certificate in Multimedia Development

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • MSCJ: Law
  • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
  • AASBA in Business
  • Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?