A cheaper, faster, online degree

After a shaky start, Western Governors University — an accredited, low-cost, nonprofit online university — is helping working adults earn degrees quickly and cheaply. WGU degrees are based on mastery, not on “seat time,” enabling the average bachelor’s graduate to finish a degree in 30 months for about $15,000.

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About Joanne


  1. My husband recently started working on a master’s degree from WGU. He currently works for a private college which is paying for his WGU program, and his supervisor recently completed a master’s degree at WGU. As as an observer of his studying in the evenings, I’m of the opinion that this is a legitimate, demanding program that is a great low-cost alternative (i.e., hardly a diploma mill, as some distrustful of online education like to label all such programs).
    However, you need to be a self-starter. Even with the assigned mentors, whether you’ll finish the program and exhibit the required competence to get the degree comes down to personal choice and responsibility. At least if you wash out, you won’t be behind as far financially as if you dropped out of a brick-and-mortar university, which a lot of people do already. Incidentally, 30 months for a bachelors degree isn’t all that speedy; a traditional college undergrad schedule (4 years with summers to travel/intern/work and holidays throughout the school year) would only be around 32 months of class attendance.

  2. Hi Joanne,

    Thanks for the note on WGU’s efforts to offer faster mote affordable online bachelor degrees. WGU is factually among the most affordable bachelor degrees online according to the national cost surveys of online degrees undertaken by Get Educated.

    But Catherine is right that its only affordable if the applicant is very good at time management and self-motivation. But the cost is closer to $24,000 than $15,000 at minimum for the bachelors UNLESS one already has a year or two of college under their belt.

    There are a few more affordable traditional course based online bachelors. These come from state colleges that offer online degrees. I am thinking here of the University of Wyoming online business bachelors — about $16,000 for students nationwide according to the cost ranking tables at Get Educated: http://www.geteducated.com/online-college-ratings-and-rankings/best-buy-lists/best-buy-online-bachelor-business-management

    The online college affordability indexes at Get Educated lets consumers sort and rank 660 or so online bachelors degrees by cost and is a good source for comparative data that is objective if one wants to know the average cost for any type of distance degree.

    All The Best

  3. I looked into getting a master’s degree from WGU. Because it’s not a traditional school, my school district wanted me to jump through several additional hoops. I just wasn’t that interested in doing that. Now I’m looking at maybe getting a degree through the University of Idaho.

  4. Soapbox0916 says:

    While this is great for a few, I fear this could be a rip-off for many people. Based on how it is advertised in Indiana, so correct me if I have the wrong impression. But it appears that it is only cost-efficient if one goes full-time. That is not the best option for most people, especially the type of people that are short on time, and likely the intended audience. For people that may only want to take one class at a time or go part-time and really take the time and effort to learn the material, paying a lump sum to be a full time student is very expensive. It encourages people to take too many classes and learn less in each class.

    This seems to be aimed at working people that need fast credentials, but are not necessarily interested in really learning the material in-depth.

  5. Considering what a “rip-off” traditional colleges are for many these days, according to the recent book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, I see no reason to pick on WGU. And don’t even try to tell my husband he’s not learning the material in-depth!

  6. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I looked into the Indiana version— because it awards credits based on evaluation, not time in seat, it could be a very good masters for someone who, say, needs an MBA to get ahead at work and is a good student. The lack of busywork and the online readings mean you could probably go “full time” just using your weekends and evenings… IF you were someone who is already ‘good at school.’