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Use Online Courses to Cut the Cost of Your Business Degree

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As a result of digital technology, learning can happen from anywhere. In this article, we'll discuss how online courses and programs may cut the cost of earning a business degree.

Importance of a Business Degree

In today's hiring market, having a degree on your resume is important. Depending on your intended career path, having a higher-level degree such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) could make the difference when it comes to landing your dream job. With the national student debt currently over $1.4 trillion, according to Higher Ed Not Debt, how can you receive a quality education without the burden of financial hardship?

Strategies introduced by companies like Higher Ed Not Debt may be helpful if you want to qualify for loan forgiveness, lower your monthly loan payments, or discharge loans due to school closure. However, you may be interested in another option: using online courses to cut the cost of earning your business degree on the front end instead of worrying about how to pay for it after graduation.

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Online Courses & Cost Savings

There are many options when it comes to distance learning programs. Some online courses are exactly that, one or two courses used for credit while the remaining program is taken in a traditional classroom setting. Some schools like DeVry University and the University of Phoenix offer entire undergraduate and graduate degree programs online. With either option, taking some or all of your courses online may help to cut the cost of your business degree.

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Save on Dorm & Rent Costs

Dorm fees, or the high monthly rents of apartments close to campus, can be one of the biggest expenses for full-time university students. Most students find it helpful to live close to campus to offset any commuting and parking fees, but these convenient housing options come at a high cost. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) estimates that full-time students at public institutions paid an average of $10,000 a year for room and board in 2014-2015, and they paid even more at private institutions: $11,250. If you are enrolled in an online program, learning can happen from anywhere, saving you the cost of room and board at a traditional university.

Save on Commuting

Commuting also contributes to the cost of your business degree. If you are living off-campus to save money but have to drive in to attend classes, you may be spending upwards of $600 a year in gas, and that's if your commute is just ten miles one-way. If your commute is 20 miles, your cost of gas just doubled. In addition to the price of gas, university-parking passes can be very expensive, ranging from $100 a year to upwards of $850 a year. If you're attending online classes, your commuter fees drop to zero.

Save on Time

Some online colleges offer accelerated degree program options, which allow you to earn your degree more quickly. The College Board estimates that the average annual cost of tuition is $9,410 at public colleges and $32,410 at private colleges. By focusing on completing degree requirements as quickly as possible, you will save money by decreasing enrollment fees for extra semesters.

One easy way to accelerate graduation is to add an additional class each semester. If your program requires 120 credit hours to graduate and you're taking 15 credit hours per semester, it will take you eight semesters, or four years, to earn your degree. If you add one online class each semester, you'll reduce your class time by one semester and graduate in three-and-a-half years instead of four. You may also be able to take online credits during summer semesters, as some colleges offer reduced tuition rates for both online and summer courses.

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Save with MOOCs

Another option is to enroll in massive open online courses, or MOOCs. MOOCs are growing in popularity as programs like EdX offer free online courses to anyone. EdX features courses taught by top professors at Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, and more, which makes them an attractive alternative to paying tuition. While some employers may accept these types of credits for promotions and other advancements, most colleges are not currently accepting MOOC courses for credit.

However, looking to the future, colleges may start to accept these types of credits in the form of specialized programs, such as EdX's newly introduced MicroMasters Program. This certificate program offers a series of graduate-level courses from top universities. Once completed, students can pursue a full master's degree at an accelerated pace from any university that accepts the MicroMaster certificate for credit, applying their MOOC coursework to a traditional degree program.

In an article in The Economist about the future of what they call the digital degree, the authors suggest that while employers and universities are not yet accepting MOOC courses for credit, the future may be in combining the traditional university experience with new MOOC coursework. They 'propose an alternative to the standard American four-year degree course. Students could spend an introductory year learning via a MOOC, followed by two years attending university and a final year starting part-time work while finishing their studies online.'

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Save at the University of the People

If you're not looking to piece together coursework, there is a university that offers free, online business administration programs, including those at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. The University of the People claims to be the world's first tuition-free university to ensure that no student will be denied the right to a higher education due to financial constraints. While the University of the People does not charge students for educational instruction and course materials, it does charge a processing fee of $100 per undergraduate exam and $200 for MBA exams. Estimated total fees are $4,060 for bachelor's degree programs and $2,460 for MBA programs; scholarship options are available to students wishing to bypass the fees altogether.

Potential Effect on a Resume

For those of you worried about how online courses or degree programs will look on your resume, don't fret too much; using online classes to complete graduation requirements won't diminish the quality of that degree. The prestige of a school does not necessarily reflect on the quality of the education it provides, although it certainly reflects on the price tag. While most employers like to see a degree on a resume, they tend to care more about what you did with your time in college rather than the college you attended. Having a business degree on your resume may help you get a job interview, but your qualifications will speak for themselves during the interview.

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By Lindsay Mattison
November 2016
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