Online Colleges Offer Faster, More Affordable Paths to Degree

Gone are the days when a student's only choice for a college degree was either a 4-year university or a 2-year community college. With today's continuously advancing technologies, combined with extensive university budget cuts, students have an increasing number of online options for earning college credits and degrees. So how do these programs work? And, more importantly, how much do they cost?


Many Paths to a College Degree

From unaccredited non-profits to accredited certificate and degree programs, there are a wide range of online institutions and programs that students can choose from in order to pursue a college education. Often these programs are offered at an accelerated rate with discounted tuition fees.

Although critics question the rigor and intellectual value of online programs, the number of programs that offer courses in high-demand areas such as business, computer science, criminal justice and health care continues to grow. Below are just a few examples of the mechanics and the costs of these online programs.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University (WGU) is a non-profit online university offering bachelor's and master's degrees in education, business, information technology and health care. Students work with an assigned mentor and connect with other students via online student portals. WGU is competency-based, meaning that rather than credit hours, students must demonstrate competency by completing assessments. This allows students to complete their program at their own rate.

Students pay a flat tuition fee every term, ranging from $2,890-$4,250 per term. WGU is nationally and regionally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council and regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

University of the People

University of the People offers a global model for education. The program offers unaccredited associate's and bachelor's degrees in business administration and computer science. Courses are offered in weekly study units by volunteer teachers, including retired professors, master's-level students and other academic experts. Other than a one-time processing fee of $10-$50 and exam processing fees of $10-$100, University of the People is tuition-free.

Straighterline has transfer partnerships with top accredited online colleges and universities and offers online college courses in English, mathematics and the sciences. Students can work at their own pace and have access to online educators and course advisors. Course materials are evaluated by the American Council on Education's (ACE) Credit Recommendation Service and the Distance Education and Training Council. Students can transfer credits earned to a partner college or any college that awards credits for courses approved by the ACE Credit Recommendation Service.

Three affordable tuition packages are offered. These include $99 per month plus $39 for every course started, $399 per course or the 'Freshman Year of College' for $999.

Since accrediting agencies only evaluate colleges and not specific courses, Straighterline is not eligible for accreditation. However, all of Straighterline's partner colleges have regional accreditation. helps students earn college credit for life and work experience. Students can enroll in a 6-week Prior Learning Assessment Theory and Practice course for $500 where they will compile a portfolio documenting their learning and skills. Then, for a $250 fee, their portfolio will be evaluated and 1-6 ACE credits may be awarded per subject area.

Find out how one publication is looking to rank online programs.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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