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Education

Best Online Bachelor Degree Programs

Those who desire more flexibility in completing their education, or who want to take classes while working full-time or raising a family, may be interested in an online college degree. Choosing where to enroll online can be difficult, but the tools, guidance, and other resources listed here can help you narrow down your options.

Online programs can save students money on transportation, accommodation, and study materials when compared to some on-campus programs. Some universities do, however, charge fees for distant education or technology. Many private colleges offer online undergraduate degrees that are less expensive than those earned on campus.

Cost of Online Degrees

At each college degree level—associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral—there are programs available at a wide range of prices. The most expensive component of any online college degree is tuition. One way to compare tuition across schools is to multiply each school’s per-credit tuition rate by the number of credits you’ll need to earn to graduate.

When checking school websites for these data points, be sure to locate the correct tuition rate for the level of degree you’re pursuing. Some schools charge different rates for on-campus and online students or different rates for in-state and out-of-state residents. Notably, however, many online schools charge out-of-state students the same rate as in-state students, which can cut down the cost when compared to on-campus programs.

However, all prospective students need to factor in a number of other expenses when calculating the potential cost of an online degree. Some items to consider include books and supplies, annual and one-time-only fees charged by the school, interest on student loans, childcare costs, and transportation costs related to on-site learning activities.

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How Much Does a Four-Year Online Degree Cost?

The cost of an online four-year degree can vary dramatically, mainly due to the wide range of tuition rates among the schools offering bachelor’s degrees. Of the best online bachelor’s degrees with the highest return on investment, annual tuition rates range from $6,450 to $47,740. Multiplied out by four years, total tuition costs range from $25,800 to $190,960.

Are There Free Online Colleges?

Although there are a few online school programs that tout tuition-free degrees, these programs are not really free, as they charge enrollment and testing fees that, when added up, can be comparable to the tuition at some online schools. However, many states, community colleges, and four-year universities offer “last-dollar” scholarships for students whose federal and state aid don’t cover the full cost of tuition.

Financial Aid Considerations and Resources for Online Students

At most schools, online students are eligible for financial aid packages, just like their on-campus counterparts. The most desirable forms of financial aid are grants, scholarships, fellowships, and work-study programs, generally provided by the federal or state government or by the schools themselves.

Aid from these sources does not have to be paid back. Some students may also be eligible for other types of financial assistance. For instance, active duty military and veterans, along with their dependents, are often entitled to tuition discounts. Some schools also have partnerships with organizations, and members or employees of these organizations may gain access to tuition assistance.

Federal and private loans are another useful option, although students will need to pay back the loans with interest. For the vast majority of financial aid programs, the application process begins by filling out the FAFSA form.

Jobs You Can Get With an Online Degree

There are relatively few subjects that aren’t covered in online school programs — these include graduate-level study in law or medicine — allowing students to prepare for most occupations through these programs. People who have earned their degrees online are often equally eligible for jobs requiring a college education as those who’ve attended college in person.

We recently analyzed employment outcomes for alumni of popular online schools, and we found several interesting conclusions:

  • Across the 10 most popular online schools, the single occupation attracting the most graduates is registered nursing.
  • The top industry for online graduates is healthcare and social assistance.
  • The U.S. military is the most common employer of alumni of the top 10 online schools.

The BLS has identified quite a few occupations that are expected to grow substantially over the next decade, and many of these require degrees that can be obtained online.

For example, some high-growth occupations that require a bachelor’s degree include health services manager, information security analyst, mental health counselor, data scientist, and operations research analyst. Some in-demand occupations also require a master’s degree, such as statistician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, and speech language pathologist.

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