Students are enrolling in college at an unprecedented rate, and online universities are not being left out.
According to U.S. News, during the fall of 2011, 32 percent of students in higher education (that’s 6.7 million students) took at least one course online. This number was up from approximately 6.1 million in 2010. Capella University has joined the surge in online education as a provider of quality courses.
For students interested in this school, it is important to know at the outset that Capella University provides online education only. Although the school is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it does not maintain a physical campus nor does it offer courses in a tradition classroom setting. A major benefit of attending an online university is that location is no barrier.
Capella University is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, one of the six regional accrediting agencies helping to ensure quality in higher education. Accreditation ensures that Capella coursework and degrees are recognized by employers, other accredited schools (important for students who want to transfer credits), and professional associations.
This online university offers several different courses of study, which students can arrange to best fit their schedules. There are numerous principal areas of study at Capella University, including:
- P-12 Education
- Information Technology
- Public Administration
- Social Work
- Public Safety
- Human Services
- Higher Education
For prospective students who are interested in these subject but who would like further guidance on how to narrow down a field of study, Capella University provides a Program Finder tool. Selecting a course of study is an important and necessary early step in enrolling in Capella University, but it is also important to explore non-major courses of interest. In college, some courses are necessary to qualify for a degree in a specific major, but non-major courses are known as electives, and they can be a great way to learn more about other topics, even if they are not directly related to one’s major. One of the keys to success in college is being open-minded in your academic pursuits while remaining focused on completing all degree requirements.
In addition to visiting the school’s official site and speaking with an enrollment counselor, interested students may review the Capella University blog. The blog provides current and relevant information on the various courses of study and student life, as well as tips on seeking jobs. The numerous articles available open a window into studying online with Capella, and it is a recommended stop on the tour of the website.
- Bachelor’s degree: Enrolled students can either elect to pay for coursework by credit, which ranges from $315-$371 or utilize a FlexPath Option, which is $2,000 per quarter.
- Master’s degree: Students can either pay tuition by credit, which ranges from $387-$737 or select the FlexPath Option for $2,200 per quarter.
- Doctoral degree: Although some doctoral programs provide full tuition and a stipend, not all students are so fortunate to land one of these coveted opportunities. Doctoral candidates who do not have a scholarship can expect to pay $630-$728 per credit, or opt to pay $2,800-$5,177 per quarter
- Certificate programs: This course of study provides different helpful payment options. Enrollees can choose to pay per credit, ranging from $387-$737, per quarter for $4,698, or select the FlexPath Option that costs $2,200 per quarter.
A student who is interested in an online education is likely one who wants to study to the beat of her own drum. For this reason, the FlexPath Option may be a good way to study and pay for Capella University. The FlexPath allows enrolled students to complete as many courses as they want while paying a flat tuition rate (see above) every quarter (12 weeks). For those students who want to load up on courses, the FlexPath can be a great way to save money compared to paying per credit. Capella University provides a helpful FlexPath self-assessment tool to determine if this program is a good match.
Capella University maintains a transparent policy in terms of the total cost to enroll. In addition to tuition, Capella University may assess the following fees:
- Application Fee: $50
- Textbooks: Approximately $186 per quarter (varies by course)
- ID Card Replacement: $15 (if original is lost)
- Prior Learning Assessment: To determine if credit can be earned from other sources, such as work experience, undergraduate students can expect to pay $75 per credit, while graduates will be assessed $125 per credit.
- Supportive Items: This includes non-mandatory but helpful items such as a computer, additional study materials, software programs, and internet access.
Although attending an online university can save on certain costs, such as transportation, it is important to plan and budget accordingly. Students considering enrolling at Capella University should consider all avenues of support in addition to their own resources, such as income from work, savings, or support from family.
Paying for Capella University
Capella University students may be eligible for federal student aid as well as institutional and private sources of aid. Major sources of funding for this online university include:
- Federal student loans
- Federal grants
- Private student loans
- Capella University scholarships
- Third-party scholarships
In order to be considered for financial aid, all prospective students will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Provided certain requirements are met, like being a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen, students may qualify to apply for Federal Direct Loans, which generally provide more favorable interest and repayment terms than private loans.
Capella University financial aid representatives will assess an admitted student’s economic needs and create a suitable financial aid package. The Federal Pell Grant can be as much as $5,815 per year. Those students who demonstrate exceptional financial need may receive a Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) of up to $4,000 annually. For prospective students who will pursue a career in education at public schools, a Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH) may be available, and it provides an annual award of up to $4,000.
According to the Institute for College Access and Success, in 2012, the average graduating college senior had accumulated $29,400 in debt, some of which owed to private student loan borrowing. As a rule of thumb, private loans are costlier over the life of the loan, and repayment terms are not as generous as those characteristic of the federal loan program.
Today, there is considerable media coverage around the student loan crisis, but one benefit of this attention is that there is now greater education about how to be smart about borrowing. According to U.S. News, the best practice is to borrow modestly. Experts advise that most students should not borrow more than $5,000 year from all sources, be they federal or private. It is also advisable to work part-time during the school year to avoid having to borrow in order to pay for the day-to-day costs of sundries like personal care items.
The benefit of a Capella University scholarship (i.e., an institutional scholarship) is that it does not need to be repaid. There are several scholarships available at Capella University, usually awarded once per academic year. The following provides a sample of the scholarships available:
- The Scott Sathers Memorial Scholarship ($2,500)
- The Robert C. Ford Scholarship ($4,000)
- The Helene Krivosha School of Education Scholarship ($5,000)
- The School of Psychology Master’s Degree Scholarship ($2,500)
Third-party scholarships are widely available for use at most schools, and students must conduct research to find them. These scholarship can be based on numerous criteria, including grades, athletics, participation in certain clubs, club association, and geography. Competition is keen, and it is always best to research these opportunities early and get all applications in on time.
The Cost of Living
Capella University, like other online institutions, does not have a campus on which to provide student housing. In a traditional four-year college, students either commute from home, live on campus in dormitories, or reside off campus. Students who have housing costs may receive financial aid assistance for this component of education; the aid may include loans, which means that a student is borrowing funds to cover living costs including housing.
Many students who enroll in Capella University may already have a stable living environment. Online education has a low impact on a student’s life in that there is no need to move to a campus. For those students who do have housing needs, the best approach is to create a budget and learn more about opportunities in the vicinity. Although students may live in many different places, most students will have one thing in common: the need to find affordable housing.
There are many tips to finding decent housing with affordable rental amounts. According to the informational site Care2, the following are some quick pointers that can help students ensure they find a good housing situation:
- Thoroughly check out the rental: Make sure that the landlord/management company is aware of any existing problems and makes a commitment to fix them.
- Review the lease: Remember a lease protects you as well as the landlord. Make sure the lease meets your expectations and covers important basics, like how the security deposit is refunded and the policy on having roommates.
- Be diligent about roommate selection: The ideal roommate for a studious person in an online degree program is one who pays his bills on time and does his partying outside. Draft questions that can help determine if you and room hunters/existing tenants are a good match.
- Be courteous to neighbors: Misunderstandings between neighbors can be sources of tension and lead to unwanted friction and even calls to the police. The best practice is to introduce yourself to your neighbors and ask them to contact you if they have any issues.
Being in college is a great time to learn how to live frugally. It can be easy to save money on furniture and kitchen basics. Since furniture often has a low resale value, many people will give it away, provided the recipient picks it up. Craigslist is a popular site for free listings, and you can find great deals at yard sales. Local thrift or consignment shops are also great sources for deals on necessary household items.
Future Outlook of Online Education
According to a related article in the Huffington Post, the future of higher education rests with online learning. In terms of volume, this format is driving students into college settings who were not previously able to attend for reasons such as work demands, family obligations, or geographic barriers. Remote learning has the power to revolutionize education, and there are numerous unexpected places this technology can lead.
Rather than comparing online learning to the traditional four-year college environment, it is helpful to think about it in terms of its future implications. Virtual education not only opens up possibilities for students but also for educators. As the Huffington Post article points out, in times to come, students may be able to virtually attend colleges across the globe and learn under remote educators who are former presidents, Nobel Prize winners, and international leaders.