What can I do to get a cheap degree?
December 15, 2007 10:24 PM   Subscribe

What's a good cheap way to get a degree online? I've seen a lot of ads for doing so, but upon investigation they are extremely expensive. I'm not overly concerned about having a degree from a well-respected college, but I'd like to have a degree.

Additional info: I'm in Canada, in a very small town, have a toddler to take care of, and have a full-time job in IT. I'm, of course, interested in an IT degree, but I'm also willing to pursue one of my (many) others interests to get a degree.
posted by Kickstart70 to Education (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not snark: Do you want to actually learn things and take real classes, or just buy a "degree"?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:28 PM on December 15, 2007

First of all "well-respected college" and "degree online" are almost (but not quite) mutually exclusive phrases. What you're asking for is a "degree online" as cheap as possible with little regard for the quality of the institution... which means you're essentially looking for a degree in name only.

Only the most clueless of employers (particularly in IT since they can just google your "college" after all) will accept a resume that displays an online "diploma-mill" as your source of education. You're probably better off saving your money (even if it is $100 or so) and focusing on your own self education.
    A self educated IT person is worth way more than someone who bought an IT degree from the cheapest place they could find it online.
If you can afford it later on I have a friend who did the University of Phoenix IT tract. He swears by it, but then he was already a good "self-leaner" who had attended several years at a brick and mortar school. And it's not cheap, either. I think their tuition is comparable to some state schools here in the US.
posted by wfrgms at 10:56 PM on December 15, 2007

I'm just finishing my BA, and did it in one year for under $4000. It was at a state school in Minnesota, certainly a respectable school. About half the classes were online. Presumably all of it could have been done online.

Here's briefly how I did it:

I transfered in 38 credits from college work I did about a decade ago. I then took seven CLEP tests. These are equivalency tests that usually test a semester's worth of information. The great thing is that the test costs $60 and counts for 6 credits. When a normal school costs around $1000 per credit, this is a great option. Some schools will only take a few CLEP transfers. My school allowed a ton, up to 60 credits. So I ended up taking seven for a total of 39 credits. That's a third of a degree for a couple hundred bucks.

Anyway, then I took 12 classes for another 42 credits. I also did prior learning assessments for another 5 credits.

That's a total of 124 credits, just enough for a BA. All done in 12 months (except for the initial transfer) for a couple thousand. (And my employer paid for part of it too!)

So it certainly is possible. But only if you're willing to work hella hard for it. No school is going to design a program for you. It's not in their best interest to do so, and most people can't handle something like I did. But if you can, it's possible.

Good luck.
posted by ochenk at 12:06 AM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: University of Athabasca
posted by blue_beetle at 12:46 AM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Degreeinfo.com not only has information on loads of actual degrees, but also has active forums where folks compare / contrast and offer advise.

Many of these schools are fully accredited, which should be a key criteria driving your choise; if you're gonna take the time and pay the money to get a degree, having the program recognised by an external body who certifies the quality only adds value. Think of it this way - a fully accredited University, even one offering only on-line degrees IS NOT a degree mill, by any stretch of the imagination.

Best of luck advancing your education.
posted by Mutant at 2:19 AM on December 16, 2007

Most employers you would want to work for will not respect a degree unless it is from a credible school. A credible school will not sell degrees cheap. In my experience, online doesn't really effect the equation. My last course was a lowly certificate level (a notch below a college diploma) entirely online.
I found it considerably more work than my face to face coursework masters degree. I suspect this was because they hold the online folk to a higher standard.
If you are looking for a piece of paper to tick a box in a recruiter's want list, probably a less prestigious school will deliver cheaper and with less work, but still infinitely more than the $100 "recognition of experience" scams.
posted by bystander at 3:57 AM on December 16, 2007

Junior colleges are cheap, and many offer online programs. Where I work, there is a "Fast Track" program, that offers classes in a blend of online and all-day Saturday sessions, specifically geared toward the full-time worker.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2007

Do you have a community college nearby? They often have online classes (although sometimes you have to go in to take tests).
posted by bluefly at 7:56 AM on December 16, 2007

Think about potential sources of financial aid to reduce the cost of attending. Does your company offer tuition reimbursement? Are you a single parent? Did your parents graduate from college or will you be the first in your family? These things can affect financial aid status, at least in the US.

ochenk has some good suggestions - many universities will let you test out of credit, and I know that at least the U of Phoenix and AIU Online will often give you credit for professional certifications (such as MCSE, etc). This could considerably reduce your cost of attendance. I wouldn't go just based on the prices listed on the websites - talk to someone there who can assess your existing experience and see what they will transfer in. Worst case scenario, it's not enough to sway you, and you're out a $50 application fee.
posted by desjardins at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2007

Oh, and if you were ever in the military, often that can be used as a source of credit (at least in the US, not sure about Canada).
posted by desjardins at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2007

seconding Athabasca. Very well regarded - and there are lots of alumni in Northern BC.

I know a few folks in Quesnel, PG and WL who graduated from Athabasca's MBA program - smart people, solid school. Can't talk about the IT program at Athabasca - so why not contact their alumni association and talk with some of the graduates?
posted by seawallrunner at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2007

In most professional fields, admitting that you have an online degree is a net negative, period. Nobody will believe that you became competent in anything, and many will question your judgment for pursuing the degree in the first place. It creates the impression that you are a scam artist who doesn't think the prospective employer is very smart.

This is my observation as a former HR person whose job included collating hiring committees' impressions of resumes. The only exception I can think of is teaching, where pursuit of an education Master's is sometimes a condition of employment -- an obviously talented teacher can fulfull the requirement online without negative consequences. Sorry. Silver lining: The time and money you were thinking of investing in an online degree will be tremendously useful advancing your career in other ways.
posted by gum at 11:56 AM on December 16, 2007

Lots of universities with brick-and-mortar classrooms also have online classes. This'll look a lot better because you can just say "I got a degree from this university" ... look at public universities in your area first.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:40 PM on December 16, 2007

I don't know what you mean by cheap, but you can get a real B.Sc. from the University of London by correspondence in information systems for about $5000. It'll take you at least a few years, of course. Athabasca, as mentioned above, is also a good option.
posted by ssg at 4:55 PM on December 16, 2007

Response by poster: Followup: I started working on a Business Management degree through University of Athabasca! :) Thanks!
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:50 PM on November 15, 2008

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