Online higher education remains a compelling, affordable option for a degree

Online higher education remains a compelling, affordable option for a degree


(BPT) - Increasing tuition and mounting student debt is making a college degree more difficult to achieve. While policymakers are implementing debt forgiveness, nothing is addressing the root cause of the problem — traditional colleges and universities have built unsustainable cost models that can only be supported with ever increasing tuition. This leads to students believing they have no options, so they continue to willingly incur mountains of debt.

While some students choose to forgo college or dismiss the value of a graduate degree, many students are discovering a better way. One that doesn’t sacrifice the proven value of education to provide career-enhancing skills and advancement. Fully online institutions provide low-cost tuition models, largely due to lower operational costs, without sacrificing quality of education. Further, online higher education remains an affordable and attainable option for many students or working adults wanting to advance their career paths affordably.

High-cost education is often confused with quality, especially regarding four-year or advanced college degrees. But with historic levels of student debt combined with a significant shortage of skilled job applicants, isn’t it time to redefine how we measure the worth of a college degree? Online higher education institutions offer degrees that are significantly less expensive than traditional colleges or universities and offer substantial value and quality. A reflection of that value and quality is within graduation rate statistics where the norm for institutions is around 46 to 64 percent, according to Education Data Initiative and the National Center for Education Statistics.

The New York Times’ The Daily podcast recently aired “The College Pricing Game,” that suggested federal student aid programs, which are covered under Title IV, unfortunately exacerbate the affordability of education. In fact, one could argue that these programs have caused the student debt crisis because they have made students and parents desensitized to cost. At the same time, these federal loan programs incentivize institutions to raise tuition year after year. Student loan forgiveness, which has been touted as a potential saving grace, is at most a temporary solution and doesn’t truly address the central issue: traditional colleges and universities are too expensive.

Tuition, fees and housing at many state-funded universities range from $10,000 to almost $30,000 a year, depending on whether students are in-state or out-of-state. Including student loans and loss of income, the cost of a bachelor’s degree can exceed $400,000.

Affordable, accessible higher education solution

Fully online and non-traditional colleges and universities are filling that widening gap within the fractured education system, allowing students from all backgrounds and financial means to achieve success.

Leading online college American College of Education (ACE) breaks the link between the cost of tuition and the quality and accessibility of education. ACE’s funding is rooted in how much it costs to deliver a quality education rather than the maximum amount of government loans accruable through Title IV.

Global insights from HolonIQ Smart Estimates are projecting online education to grow by more than 12 percent annually through 2025. While it’s easy to directly correlate this growth with the COVID-19 pandemic, online (not remote) education has been growing for years, and there is a larger shift that needs to be recognized and addressed. Higher education should be accessible rather than exclusive and online colleges are pioneering the use of technology to increase academic quality and reduce cost. Without significant real estate and overhead expenses, these universities offer high-quality education programs, from micro-credentials to doctoral degrees, at a fraction of the cost of traditional colleges and universities. With affordable programs, fully online universities offer graduates the ability to cover the cost of their degrees within the first year or two of graduating.

“ACE has an unwavering commitment to putting students first, and this involves intentional attention to their concerns from cost to quality to flexibility,” said Geordie Hyland, ACE President and CEO. “Our low cost doesn’t require sacrificing quality, and we want to be a solution to the student-debt crisis and not a contributor. At the end of the day, many of our students graduate with minimal or no debt while earning a quality education that enhances their career development and contributions to society. We hope our efforts can inspire other institutions to do the same.”

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