Online Education: Are You Getting What You're Paying For?

In today's economy, just about everything is getting more expensive, and that includes education. Former MSU Mustang and Newschannel 6 Facebook friend Cherrie Armstrong is one of many students who have decided to switch their education from a traditional university, to one online.

"Doing classes online, you don't have to drive to class. You don't have a set schedule where you have to be in class. You can work a full time job, have kids running around the house, and still be able to do what you need to do."

Because she works a full time job and cannot take a full course load, Cherrie is what universities call a non-traditional student. Her decision to switch to an online school was partly a financial one.

"Almost forty eight hundred dollars a semester is what its running me," says Ms. Armstrong.

Click here to visit University of Phoenix's tuition and fees page.

Forty eight hundred dollars might sound pretty inexpensive for a semester of college. However when comparing similar course loads between the University of Phoenix and MSU, the tuition at the University of Phoenix is considerably more expensive.

Click here to visit Midwestern State's tuition and fees page.

Director of admissions at MSU, Barbara Merkle, says that MSU is one of the least expensive universities in the nation.

"We do promote Midwestern State as an affordable alternative in higher education, because we are incredibly affordable. We were named in consumers digest as the best value for public institutions."

But an education is more than just money. There are certain factors that you cant assign a dollar amount to. For instance, just this year Condoleeza Rice spoke to the students here in person at MSU. A special event like that just isn't the same when your 'e watching it on your computer screen. Ms Merkle says that this, along with other factors, is something that sets traditional universities apart from those online.

Ms. Merkle states, "We still promote the traditional college campus environment, we want them to come on campus and get the one on one lecture with a live faculty member, and enjoy the tradition of the campus, walk thru the student center and enjoy our student activities and athletics."

And when considering a college, many students feel that there are factors that are equally as important as money. For instance, what if they have already completed courses at a traditional university? will those credits transfer to an online college? Most of Cherrie Armstrong's credits did transfer.

"I have at least 24 credits that will transfer out of 28 from MSU to University of Phoenix .

Credits will transfer the other way as well, but they might not necessarily count towards your major.

"As a general rule, we may accept them in transfer as electives and then it goes to the academic major to decide how its applicable to the degree," says Merkle.

Another concern with online universities is whether or not the people teaching the classes are actual professors. Cherrie didn't find that to be a problem at the University of Phoenix.

"Some of them, I have found that they have actual careers, but they did get degrees to become professors, they just chose to work in a different field, but they do provide a lot of insight into the fields they work in. I feel like because they're out there, they have real life experience," says Armstrong.

But what do the costs of the classes, credits transferring, and having real professors teach classes mean if you cant find a job upon graduating? Do real life employers hire or promote people who received their degrees from an online university? One source I spoke to stated that she was promoted at her current job to a senior management position as a direct result of receiving her masters degree from the University of Phoenix.

Read a previous story regarding students protesting tuition hikes at MSU here.

Eric Crosslin, Newschannel 6.