Online Degrees VS Traditional Degrees – Comparing the “Opportunity Cost"

Picture of Online Degrees VS Traditional Degrees – Comparing the “Opportunity Cost
Photo: Declan TM
By Cynthia Dalton
The opportunity cost of an unlived dream is not only that dream, but also the dreams the dream was meant to inspire. — Ryan Lilly

Why Choosing an Online Degree Program Might Just be Your Best Decision Ever. It All Comes Down to Opportunity Cost.

So, what’s opportunity cost? According to

A benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else. Since every resource (land, money, time, etc.) can be put to alternative uses, every action, choice, or decision has an associated opportunity cost. To read more:

To put it even more simply, all of our decisions matter. Let’s say you decide to earn your degree at a traditional brick-and-mortar university. It’s a great environment, especially for the very young, but what if you are older, have a family, and a career. Now you must ask yourself if you really can juggle it all.

The Brick-and-Mortar Experience


  • Wasting what could have been productive time with traffic hassles and long waits in between classes.
  • Battling to find parking anywhere remotely near the lecture hall.
  • Lack of flexibility around your work and travel schedule.
  • Struggling to take multiple courses at the same time.
  • Having to take too many courses not immediately relevant to your needs.
  • Waiting until a course you need to graduate, is actually offered.
  • Taking years to complete your degree.
  • Lost time with your family.
  • High tuition.
  • A possibility of getting bored, frustrated, discouraged, and quitting.

And the Opportunity Cost?

If you take the brick-and-mortar route, the opportunity cost is what your experience might have been, had you earned your degree online instead.

The Online Experience


  • Flexibility around your schedule.
  • Flexible around your situation — perhaps you’re a new mom, disabled, or you travel a lot.
  • No wasted time and hassle commuting to classes.
  • You decide when, where, and how you study. Your classroom is wherever you decide.
  • You take one course at a time so that you can really absorb the material.
  • You acquire knowledge that you need and is relevant to real life.
  • Your studies are self-paced, allowing for mastery of the material, instead of just cramming for an exam.
  • More time with your family.
  • Lower tuition.
  • Shorter period in which to complete your degree because your courses will always be ready and waiting.
  • A likelihood that you will complete your degree because you will enjoy your studies, rather than getting bored, frustrated, and discouraged.

Time is Precious, How Will You Choose to Maximize Your Time?

You’re not likely to regret earning your degree online. In fact, choosing an online degree program might just be your best decision ever. The experience is rewarding. Best of all, new doors open, with new possibilities, fresh ideas, and new career paths. When deciding which educational path to take, consider opportunity cost. It’s one heck of a guidepost and it can lead you to your dreams fulfilled!

What do you think?

  • Do you feel analyzing opportunity cost is helpful in making decisions?
  • What important life decisions have you made that came down to deciding on one alternative over another?
  • What appeals more to you, going to a brick and mortar school, or earning a degree online?

Do you have a question, comment or an idea for an article? Email: [email protected]

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