The cost of an education can be daunting, even frightening. If viewed as an investment, tuition makes perfect sense. But still, what is a reasonable price to pay for an eLearning degree?

Research reveals that the cost of online education is frequently the same as conventional education. Most of us have a sense of what a degree through a traditional public school should cost. Things like the type of degree, the prestige of the school, and the demand for the degree all impart their effect. Tuition costs in these schools are fairly well benchmarked, documented, and standardized by credit hour.

Move into the online world, however, and many of us wonder what is reasonable. This is because we're in unfamiliar territory and we've heard stories of exorbitant tuition and fees. In actual fact, there isn't a lot of difference.

Public schools tend to be less expensive than private schools in both worlds, but since private schools moved into the online arena faster we may be conditioned to think online education will cost more. Not so - most public schools tend to charge the same or slightly more tuition for the convenience of eLearning as they do for regular on-campus courses. Additional consideration has to be given to costs (or lack thereof) attributed to room and board, transportation, child care, and more.

By credit hour or by course (and by extension type of degree), you can easily measure cost. If you're thinking about an online degree, what you should not do is measure tuition against traditional education until you get a good representative sampling from the online world, then, factor in costs normally associated with on-campus programs. As we've said, in some cases it's more expensive; for others it's comparable or even less.

Your due diligence in investigating the cost of online degrees should be a part of your search for an online school just as with a traditional brick and mortar school. Only then will you have a true feel for the great variety that permeates both modes of education.

The following table is adapted from the National Center for Education Statistics and shows the total annual cost (tuition+fees+room and board rates) for 2- and 4-year schools in 2000-2001:

Average Annual Undergraduate Tuition
and Fees and Room and Board Rates Paid by Full-time-equivalent Students in Degree-granting Institutions
Year2-Year Institutions4-Year Institutions

By comparison, you can decide if the cost of the online degree you're considering is reasonable. Remember the tuition listed is above is annual and the concept that value is subjective, and be sure to factor in all the variables. In our estimation, online learning is a great value and offers students a wide range of choices.