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How Much Does an Online College Degree Cost?

Online education has made its way into many community colleges, career schools and four-year universities. Cost is a major issue for prospective college students, regardless of whether they're attending on campus or online.

Online College Degree Cost Overview

The cost of online degrees is based upon the desired program, degree type and area of study. Southern Hampshire University offers online undergraduate degree programs at a rate of $960 per course, with a proffered 30% discount for active-duty military service members and their significant others. (This does not include costs for books and other materials.)

During the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters at Penn State University, the school offered their online Master of Business Administration (MBA) two-year program for $59,312, which includes the costs of books and materials. As for undergraduate degrees there, an online Associate in Arts in Letters, Arts and Sciences would cost $535-$579 per credit. The degree has a requirement of 60 credits in order to graduate ($32,100-$34,740). An online Bachelor of Science in Business would cost the same, per credit. However, the degree requires 120 credits in order to graduate ($64,200-$69,480). The same costs/requirements cover the online Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Nursing, and Finance degrees. An online Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Penn State would be slightly more, requiring 123 credits for graduation.

Undergraduate tuition at Arizona State University, for an online education, would cost $490-$553 per credit, while their online graduate programs would cost $492-$852 per credit.

Other online programs at various colleges across the country have 'cost calculators' via their websites, where potential students can enter in their personalized information on what types of programs they'd like to study in order to determine how much they would have to pay. Financial aid is also available.

Savings Associated with Flexibility

Distance-learning programs also offer flexibility not usually found in conventional degrees - flexibility which can result in savings. Full-time on-campus students are paying for the educational equivalent of a buffet, while online students taking the online, ala carte approach are paying only for the number of courses taken at the rate that fits their schedule. A student who needs more than four years to finish an undergraduate degree due to work or family commitments could realize a significant savings by using the distance-learning options as opposed to paying for extra semesters or years.

Regardless of the flexibility or savings they may offer, there is no value to illegitimate credits or degrees. When shopping online options, be sure to find accredited schools. The National Center for Educational Statistics has a database of legitimate schools that can be accessed through an online navigator tool. A school's accreditation claims can also be researched by checking with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

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