Georgia Tech Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science: $7,000

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gtomsThe Georgia Institute of Technology and are partnering together to offer an accredited master of science degree in computer science (press release). What makes it special is that this MSCS will be from a top-tier university, 100% online, and the full tuition cost for all coursework will be under $7,000. Georgia Tech believes that it can pull this off due to advances in technology and the resulting ability to maintain an instructor:student ratio of 1:100 rather than 1:10.

Anyone can take the courses online, but if you want the accredited degree and grades you’ll still need to gain admission into the program. As AT&T is funding the 2014 pilot program, it appears that most initial students will be from AT&T and other corporations affiliated with Georgia Tech, with enrollment hopefully ramping up in future years. Still, this is a big step in the evolution of online education, and especially good news for those looking to get further education but can’t afford to be a full-time on-campus student.

More news coverage: Forbes, WSJ

If this is successful, it’d be natural to wonder about a cheap, 100% online bachelor’s degree from a major public university (not some regionally accredited/for-profit diploma mill). I can’t help but keep recall this excerpt from Is College a Lousy Investment? by Megan McArdle:

In Academically Adrift, their recent study of undergraduate learning, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa find that at least a third of students gain no measurable skills during their four years in college. For the remainder who do, the gains are usually minimal. For many students, college is less about providing an education than a credential—a certificate testifying that they are smart enough to get into college, conformist enough to go, and compliant enough to stay there for four years.

Will such online degrees maintain the same prestige just with a lower price tag, or will it just devalue the entire concept of having a degree even further? Or will an on-campus degree always be seen as better?

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  1. I just finished my Master’s from Auburn (Master of Science in Software Engineering) for a total of over $20k in-state. I had looked at Georgia Tech, but their program required me to be on-campus for at least a year back when I started, and cost much more.

    This would be a huge step up if it works; I hope that it does!

    As for bachelor’s degrees, there are several well-accredited public universities that offer this, even if they aren’t as prestigious as Georgia Tech. (ex: Old Dominion {SACS-accredited, just like Auburn}).

  2. This is excellent. I think online education will be the wave of the future. My friend wanted to get a Master’s in Computer Science online, but at the time there weren’t that many choices and he ended up going with University of Phoenix, which definitely is not as prestigious as Georgia Tech.

  3. @squinky86 – I’m an ODU alum and live nearby still. I have never heard of them (or anyone) offering anything like what GT is pursuing.

  4. Paul Harvie says

    You raise some very good points in this article. As a person that used an off site program to gain my post secondary education I have noticed a certain stigma about the courses I took. That was also several years ago now. With the advent of more and more people doing more and more on line it is little wonder that education would move in that direction as well. It is a natural evolution of today’s society, although my fear of such dependence on technology is that one day if technology fails will we as a society have the old school smarts to survive?

  5. I think this is a good development. Nice to see Ga Tech doing this.

    Grad program in CS lends itself to online degree better I think. First the CS coursework is more suited to online work. Second a grad program in CS automatically filters the applicants to people who have BS in CS minimum which is a fairly high bar of qualification.

    I think online teaching will gradually evolve so that its accepted. However the quality and prestige of the university will still matter. I’d take an online degree from Harvard any day, but I’d still not consider Phoenix online worth the money.

  6. This is great news for the student, although the online developments in higher education might be troublesome for professors. With budgets already tightened, school may continue to move away from the tenure track faculty model.

    The future is bright!

  7. I don’t think that an online degree will look better than one earned in the classroom: at least, not for quite some time. The psychology studies that have been done on online learning have shown really negative results, and I think that will be reflected in the prestige that this kind of degree will get. As online classes become more commonplace, however, who knows? I might be entirely wrong.

  8. I disagree with John. I think that online degrees are just as good as anyone else’s, as long as the school is accredited. From someone who did a lot of online courses, I can fully attest that the learning is not inferior to being in a classroom. Oftentimes it is the opposite- you have to pay a lot of attention and more is required because you don’t get the benefit of a professor explaining something in person or having the classroom comments.

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