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Why Online Education May Drive Down the Cost of Your Degree

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Tomwsulcer

usnews.com | Article Link | by Devon Haynie

As the price of higher education continues to skyrocket, some universities believe they have found the key to keeping tuition costs down – online education.

Recently, for example, Georgia Institute of Technology announced it would be offering an online master's degree in computer science for $6,600 – about $35,000 less than its on-ground program. The University of the People, an accredited, online-only school, is now offering degrees with no tuition. And massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have been hailed as free educational resources that people could eventually use to complete a degree.

Although these developments in online education may influence the overall price of college eventually, students might not see dramatic changes soon, experts say. And as people test out different models, some argue that the cost of providing a quality education makes it difficult to offer online learning at discounted rates.

In the minds of people like Ben Nelson, it's obvious that online education should be easier on the pocketbook than attending an on-campus program. At his program, called the Minerva Schools at KGI, students take all of their courses online while living together in the world's largest cities. Tuition isn't cheap, but at $10,000 it is less than out-of-state tuition at many state universities, he says.

Students pay less because the school doesn't have to maintain facilities like libraries or cafeterias, subsidize sports teams or pay for amenities like climbing walls, Nelson says. The school also trimmed its budget by eliminating tenure and mandating that faculty receive research funding through outside sources rather than through tuition.