Top 10 Program Offers Master’s in Computer Science for $7,000
Posted By Terri Williams on November 15, 2016 at 8:39 am
In the intersecting worlds of higher ed and careers, whenever and wherever there’s a best/most/favorite list, you can bet that computer science is on it and usually in the top spot. But you won’t find a master’s in computer science – or any other field, for that matter – on lists of inexpensive degrees.
Let’s set the scene on computer science degrees. CareerCast just named computer systems analyst the most underrated job in the country. Indeed.com crowned computer and information sciences the best field of study for jobs of the future. Randstad reported that IT tops the list of the most difficult positions to fill, so it came as no surprise when Robert Half revealed that the technology sector would experience the largest increases in starting salaries.
It’s a good time to be in computer science. But those degrees aren’t cheap – especially at the graduate level. A master’s degree in computer science can often lead to a higher salary and broader opportunities, but the sticker price can cause some prospective students to think twice about taking the plunge.
The outlier for an inexpensive master’s in computer science
The Georgia Institute of Technology, known popularly as Georgia Tech, which is ranked in the Top 10 Best Graduate Schools for Computer Science (according to U.S. News & World Report), has figured out a way to offer its master of computer science degree for $7,000 – if you earn the degree online.
To demonstrate the significance of this, many schools with highly rated computer science graduate programs, such as Stanford, USC, and the University of Chicago, charge more than $50,000 for residential degrees. While most offer online options, there’s not much of a difference in cost. For example, USC’s online students pay more than $5,500 for a three-credit course. Georgia Tech’s online students pay $510 for a three-credit course.
Charles Isbell, senior associate dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, tells GoodCall that the school is offering the online degree at this price for two simple reasons. “We could and we should,” says Isbell, who explains that the school’s mission as a public nonprofit research organization is to educate and reach as many people as it can. Advances in technology enabled the school to look at other ways to accomplish its goal.
“Once we realized this was an opportunity, we sat down and looked at ways to offer online students an education that could live up to Georgia Tech’s reputation of being a top computer science school,” Isbell explains. “The question was how to make the online experience as rigorous as our campus experience, while providing it at a reasonable cost.”
How Georgia Tech lowered the cost
In trying to determine that cost for the online master’s in computer science, Isbell says the realization that they didn’t have to worry about a physical plan (buildings, classrooms, chairs, etc.) allowed school officials to set the amount much lower than it would be for on-campus students.
The online program differs from the campus program but not in ways that you might expect. “In terms of quality, there is no difference – both programs offer the same degree, and have the same requirements for admittance and graduation.”
However, since there are no space limitations, Isbell says the school has the ability to admit more qualified candidates for the master’s in computer science. “Online, we can admit 1,000 people instead of 100 people. On campus, we have a lot of qualified applicants, but we can’t admit all of them because we don’t have enough space.”
Isbell says the demographics are also different. The online students are older and they tend to work full-time, compared to the on-campus students who are young and more likely to fit the traditional graduate student mode.
A major difference for online students
This is surprising to some: There also is more interaction with the online students. While on-campus attendees have access to professors during and after class and also during office hours, many don’t take advantage of these opportunities.
However, online students have much higher levels of engagement through the program’s website portal.
Robert R. Johnson, Ph.D, CFA, president and CEO of The American College of Financial Services, tells GoodCall that online students typically have many advantages over on-campus students. Beside the significantly lower cost of tuition at Georgia Tech, they also avoid parking and commuting costs – and the headaches sometimes associated with both.
Because classes are not location-based, Johnson notes that online students may be sharing a virtual classroom with peers from other cities, states, or countries, resulting in a more diverse experience.