Where Is The Online Degree Tuition?
Over the past three years, I’ve spent a good deal of time researching online degree tuition and other key characteristics of online programs for competitive analyses. Our database of online degree program information (www.onlinedegreedatabase.com) currently holds details for over 4,200 online programs from more than 900 U.S. institutions. This makes it, by far, the most comprehensive information available about online degree programs in the U.S. market today.
We update the records in our database at least twice per year. Our updating process includes verifying:
- the program website link (which we provide to students who download our free reports)
- degree name
- available concentrations
- total credits
- cost per credit (including in-state where appropriate)
- prerequisite requirements
- admissions requirements
- plus several other key characteristics
The new 2018-2019 tuition is now posted on university websites for most programs. I’m in the process of updating these details for all of the records in our database. My search for online program details replicates how a student would shop for an online program. This means that I’m in a unique position to offer some insights about online program website strengths and weaknesses.
In my experience, the greatest weakness is that tuition / cost per credit of these programs is often the most difficult item to find. And yet, it is one of the most important considerations for students who are shopping for an online program.
Biggest Website Weakness
There are often no references or links to tuition / cost information on the program websites. Only a few programs have clear, easy to find information about their overall price on their websites. A few clever programs hide their tuition costs at the bottom of the landing page, under a tiny link called “Program Details”.
Many websites link to outdated tuition or to pages that no longer exist (the dreaded “404” error). In some cases, the tuition and fee information provided on the university website is so complicated that it is nearly impossible for an outsider (and prospective student) to interpret. In-state vs. out-of-state costs, multiple add-on fees with acronyms that make no sense to someone outside of the university, all different for each school or division, undergraduate vs. graduate, multiple campuses, total tuition numbers without clarifying the number of credits each represents. Any or all of this information may or may not apply to an online program vs a campus-based program.
And, even in late August 2018, many programs still have the tuition tables for the 2017-2018 academic year on their websites (too many with 2016-2017!). And many provide tuition data without referencing the academic year to which it applies.
Other Website Weaknesses
To make matters even worse, many websites demure their discussion of cost to information about how to ‘fund’ education costs. Here they introduce their process for helping students get loans and scholarships.
As a consumer, I always get a little worried when someone offers me financing options before I even know the total cost. And online students have told us that they are experiencing buyer’s remorse in part because they had not completed enough research on tuition and fees before enrolling in their online program.
Most university online program websites also lack:
- complete application deadline information for programs, so there is no way to know how many opportunities a student has during the year to enter the program
- a thorough discussion of the curriculum, including course descriptions and course sequence
- prerequisite requirements
It’s time for online program websites to step up to this challenge. Students who are comparison shopping will move on to other online programs if they can’t get the information they need to make an informed decision.
There are improvements in the overall level of relevant details provided by most online program websites, with more programs providing meaningful details and improving the usability of their sites:
- details for all online programs offered are located in the same area of the website
- online program pages include a “summary” area near the top that includes cost per credit (which includes tuition and fees), total credits, available concentrations, and the time required to complete the program
- prerequisite and admissions requirements are clearly identified
- application fees and the application process are also clear for applicants
There are definitely more online program websites with improved content this year vs. the previous two years. But there are also many more online programs in the market, as competition continues to intensify.
The Online Degree Database Difference
Gathering detailed online degree program information takes hours, if not weeks, of time scanning university websites. This is why the Online Degree Database exists.
We collect details from university websites for the universe of most popular online master’s degrees like the MBA, MPA, MPH, MHA, MSW, MSN and more. And we’ve significantly increased the number of online information systems master’s degrees and bachelor degree programs in our database over the past year.
Our interactive tool allows prospective students to work with the degree information in the database to find the best online programs using the criteria that are important to them. Plus, we give prospective students helpful information on thinking through what program characteristics are most important and tips for how to talk with online program advisers for the most popular master’s degrees.
Visit our website today to see what we have to offer. Let us do the heavy-lifting on web-surfing university program websites for you!
If you work at a university, let the Online Degree Database help you find your most competitive price and program characteristics. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on our market intelligence reports today!