The continued rise in tuition and fees has many students and parents carefully analyzing the cost of college. Does community college make sense for two years? Is the private school worth the extra cash? Finding low-cost opportunities can be the key to more students getting the higher education they deserve. However, every family preparing to take the post-secondary plunge should make sure all college options on the table, especially the most affordable ones, have the proper accreditation. No matter which type of college, accreditation indicates a school has passed certain peer-based assessments and maintains faculty, staff and curricula dedicated to high-quality education. The following page examines low-cost colleges — both traditional and online — and how accreditation ensures that even the least expensive colleges maintain certain quality standards.
While it may seem like an affordable opportunity, the price of online education depends on the institution and the degree program. For example, many non-profit colleges — traditional colleges and universities — now have full-length, full-time online degree programs at multiple academic levels. Community colleges often have dozens of relatively short-term online programs that end in a specialized diploma, certificate or associate degree. And four-year schools, whether public or private, routinely offer online or hybrid programs for students working toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree. These online learning options come with price tags comparable to those of a traditional face-to-face program, which means the cheaper the school, the cheaper the online program.
For-profit colleges, however, which specialize in distance learning, can possess very different cost-related pros and cons. For instance, many of these schools are a business, so they do not receive state or federal funding like public colleges or universities do. This can mean higher-than-usual tuition and fees than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. However, taking an online class offers students a unique set of cost-saving benefits, including the lack of commuting, parking fees and other campus-specific fees that may arise. Bottom line, when looking at online colleges, whether traditional or for-profit, analyze the school and program carefully to make sure you get the education you need at the price you want.