How to Get an Affordable Online Degree: An Ultimate Guide

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Did you know in 2021 the number of students enrolled in exclusively online programs ballooned to 5.8 million? Globally, that number shot above 100 million! 

Online education has become increasingly popular over the last decade and normalized since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online education is only expected to keep growing in popularity thanks to the convenience, savings, and high-quality learning offered to students. With the power of the internet, college degrees have been made available to millions who otherwise may have not had access to higher education. 

If you're thinking about pursuing an affordable online degree, congratulations! If you're reading this, you have already taken the first step toward expanding opportunities in your career, income, personal growth, and standard of living. 

We at California Coast University (CCU) would like to provide you with a valuable guide to online degrees. We'll discuss how to choose the best online degree program for you and how to make smart financial choices for an affordable education! 

Advantages of An Online Degree

There are so many reasons why people seek online degrees. Maybe you're established already in your career but want to earn your master's degree in the evening. Maybe an accredited university isn't available where you live. Maybe you can't afford to move, pay for room and board, or any of the other expenses that come with the traditional university experience. 

Or maybe you want to make a sound financial investment and not plunge your family into student loan debt. Do any of these sound like you?

Earning a degree in person just isn't feasible for everyone. Here are some of the advantages of getting a degree online. 


Online education has leveled the playing field. One of the most exciting things about an online university is that it is available to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. 

Not everyone can move to attend their chosen university. Some people have families to care for, jobs to hold down, or perhaps their health prevents them from moving. 

With a computer and an internet connection, you can learn from the world's brightest minds with zero geographic limitations. 


Online education often comes with much more flexible scheduling. Since CCU courses are self-paced and can be accessed at any time, you can set your own schedule and attend class in the evenings, on weekends, on your lunch break, or while your family are asleep. 


Online students often do not have to pay out-of-state tuition, which can be more than double the price of in-state tuition. 

With less overhead, CCU can charge much less for tuition and materials than a brick-and-mortar school. Think about it -- with no physical location, CCU doesn’t have to pay janitors, landscapers, cooks, or other thousands of support staff that traditional universities employ. 

Opportunity Cost of NOT Attending Online 

Time is money. Think about what you would have to give up to earn a degree at a brick-and-mortar university. 

First, there's the loss of productive time spent in the car driving to the campus. Then, more time is lost searching for a parking space and walking -- sometimes very far distances -- to the lecture hall. Not to mention lost time at work due to an inflexible course schedule. This is just the beginning! Think of all the time spent in school, in a lab, etc.

Busting Myths About Online Degrees

In the past, online degrees were sometimes viewed as easier to obtain, less prestigious, and somehow less marketable than a degree earned in person.

Before we continue, let's make one thing clear. Convenience does not equal ease. While online courses often allow you to set your own schedule, that doesn't mean the classes themselves are easier.

Let's bust some myths about online degrees!

Myth 1: Online Degrees Are Easy to Get

Accredited online colleges and universities employ highly trained faculty, deploy rigorous course material, and adhere to standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education. 

With online courses, there is the same oversight, rigorous standards, and proctored exams to ensure students are learning and being challenged by new material.

Like any college course, the level of difficulty depends largely on the nature of the content being taught and format of the program. 

Myth 2: Online Degrees Are Less Valuable Because They're Cheaper

It is true online degree programs are usually more inexpensive due to the reasons we described in the previous section. But at the end of the day, there is no correlation between the cost of the degree and the quality of the education.

Accredited online colleges and universities must meet the same standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Education as any other educational institution. 

Myth 3: Employers Won't Hire Someone With an Online Degree

As our jobs and even our social lives increasingly require us to go online -- especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic -- online degrees are in higher demand than ever. With more people earning their degrees online, employers have taken notice.  

Myth 4: Online Schools Aren't Accredited

While some online colleges are not accredited, most are. To become accredited, a college or university must be evaluated and validated by a reputable third-party accrediting agency as having met established education standards. 

You can search the U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to find out if a school is accredited. If you cannot find the school on that site and you suspect it is not accredited, you may want to steer clear of them.

Types of Online Degree Programs Available 

Today, you can earn an online degree in just about any field of study. Some online degree options tend to be more popular including those in the fields of business, criminal justice, health care, and psychology. 

CCU offers a variety of education programs, ranging from certificates, to associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees - up to Doctor of Education degrees. 


A certificate may be the right choice for you if you want to expand your skillset in a career field you're already in, or if you want to improve your marketability in the job force in a timely and cost-efficient way. 

CCU’s certificate programs consist of four courses. These courses are usually four of the core classes in that field of study. We offer undergraduate and graduate certificates.

Associate Degrees

An associate degree helps students develop a solid understanding of their chosen career path and can unlock doors in their current job or position them to go in a new direction. 

CCU’s associate degree programs consist of 20 courses and can be completed between nine months to five years. These courses will include core courses in their major, general education, and electives. Typically, the associate degree program takes approximately two years to complete at a brick-and-mortar college.

Bachelor's Degrees

A bachelor's degree, or a four-year degree, is the most popular degree program. Earning a bachelor's degree can significantly unlock doors in your career and financial future. Some of the most common affordable online bachelor's degree programs are health care administration, criminal justice, psychology, general studies, and a wide variety of business degrees. 

Master’s Degrees

Many professionals choose to return to school to obtain a master’s degree to take their career to the next level. This makes online education appealing to master's degree seekers -- they can earn their master’s degree on evenings and weekends without disrupting their day job. 

In fact, 52% of graduate students took distance education courses exclusively in 2020. 

The most common master's degree is the MBA, or Master of Business Administration. Here at CCU, we offer the MBA, as well as the MBA in the following specializations: Business Marketing, Health Care Management, Human Resource Management, and Management. In addition, we offer master’s degrees in organizational leadership, criminal justice, psychology, and education.

Doctoral Degrees

The doctoral degree is the highest level of academic achievement – with less than 5% of the United States population holding a doctoral degree. At CCU, we offer the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in the areas of Educational Administration, Educational Psychology, and Organizational Leadership. The Ed.D. is a widely sought-after online degree for teachers, professors, and school administrators wishing to take their careers to the next level. If you are considering the Ed.D., we do suggest checking with your state or school district to ensure your degree will be accepted prior to applying.

How to Get an Affordable Online Degree

Online degree programs are offered at a wide variety of price points based on the educational institution. Some online degree programs are through traditional brick-and-mortar universities that offer online courses or hybrid programs. Some online degree programs are from 100% online colleges and universities.

As you research learning institutions that offer degrees in the field you're interested in, we recommend creating a spreadsheet to document various costs of tuition and the financial resources available to help you make your decision. 

Research Tuition Rates

Most colleges and universities present tuition and fees together as a cost per academic year. Some present tuition and fees by semester or quarter. Many other schools charge by the credit hour.

If you're thinking about attending a school that charges by the credit hour, your school will inform you how much each credit costs, how many credits each class is worth, and how many credits you need to graduate. Your total tuition will equal the total number of credit hours required to graduate multiplied by the cost per credit hour. 

Affordable Tuition

Your educational goals are important. California Coast University (CCU) provides opportunities to afford accomplishing your educational goals.

  • Interest-free payment plans
  • Tuition Discount for qualifying professionals
  • Corporate Partnerships Discount

Interest free payment plans

To assist our students to reach their educational goals, CCU offers interest-free payment plans starting at $150 per month.

Tuition Discount for qualifying professionals

CCU offers 10% tuition discounts to qualifying professionals. Please see more details about tuition discounts.

  • Military Personnel (Active-Duty Service Members, Reservists, and Veterans)
  • Law Enforcement Employees
  • Firefighters
  • Government Employees

Corporate Partnerships Discount

Corporate Partnerships are designed to provide an affordable educational opportunity to a partner organization’s employees. This is an excellent opportunity for employees wishing to pursue a higher education. 

How it works is CCU’s Corporate Partnership offers a 10% tuition discount for employees that work for a partnering company. There is no cost to the company or requirement for how many employees that company must have enrolled. Companies in the corporate partnership must simply demonstrate a commitment to encouraging their employees to further their education.  

Do you work for one of California Coast University's corporate partners? See the full list of corporate partners to find out if you qualify for 10% off tuition. 

Are You Ready to Get Your Degree Online?

Whether you attend class in person or online, go to an affordable college or an expensive ivy league - ultimately, students get out of their education what they put in. If you work hard, engage with the course material, and follow through with your goals, you will walk away with an education you can be proud of. 

We hope our guide to getting an affordable online degree has been helpful. Please feel free to contact us at California Coast University with questions or comments.  

What do you think?

  • Do you feel online learning is just as effective as in-person learning?
  • What do you look for in an online degree program?
  • What advantages or disadvantages to online learning did we miss?


Leave a comment!

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