Fears about student debt and weak employment rates for college grads have spawned a whole world of transparency rules, college cost calculators and more in recent years. Theoretically, today’s college applicant should be much better informed about what an online degree will actually cost. A closer look at tuition for RN to BSN degrees, one of the most popular types of online degree, shows that the situation is still pretty confusing.
State of Mind
There’s an almost endless supply of websites listing lowest cost online programs for RNs who want to complete a BSN. At first glance, they show a dizzying array of options for nursing students to choose from. Problem number one, however, is that many of the most economical BSN degrees are offered by state universities. That’s a red flag. While many of these are high-quality programs, your cost for taking them will vary tremendously based on where you are located.
It may not make a great deal of sense hit out of state students with a surcharge when a degree is taken online, but the fact is that most state schools still do.
Take Miami University of Ohio. It’s a 23,000-plus student school of the state’s public education system. MUO’s BSN program online lists at a tuition cost of about $5,072., a relatively affordable fee. But if you don’t reside in Ohio, your cost will be over $14,000. per year. That’s almost three times the in-state cost, and it’s multiplied by two years.
The ratio for in-state versus out of state tuition can isn’t standardized. Public schools across the U.S. charge anything from 20 to 60% more for out-of-state study.
What’s more, many of the college’s websites are hard to decipher. Take the University of South Dakota. It’s website proudly announces that online learning costs the same whether you are in-state or out-of-state. But a closer examination shows that the school’s charge to online learners is $333.33 per credit hour, versus $238.50 for campus-based students who live in-state. It appears that the school has simply chosen to hike tuition for all online programs about 40% over classroom ones. One of the few state schools that has actually equalized fees for online learning is the Colorado State University Global Campus, which charges the same per credit cost of about $350. to online learners in or out of state. Unfortunately, it currently does not offer a BSN online.
Most Trusted Source?
If you’re overwhelmed by commercial websites, you might try the “College Navigator.” It was created by the National Center for Education Statistics to offer clear and honest data to prospective college students. If you go to its home page here you will indeed find that it contains lots of nifty search options that can allow you to compare school costs. But there are glitches. Grantham University, for example, is a school that offers only online degree programs. The college navigator lists its tuition as $6,500 per year, but also shows a room and board charge of $6992. per year. For an online degree program?
The Hands On Part
Then there’s the issue of clinical requirements. Most BSN programs require some level of hands-on patient care under the eye of a supervisor. How do you handle that if the online degree program you want is on the other side of the country from where you live?
Many online programs solve this problem by allowing you to work under a “preceptor” in your area to handle your clinicals. That’s an approved nursing faculty representative. It’s an approach that can work, but not always cut and dried.
Many online schools don’t actually supply preceptors. They expect their nursing student to find their own. While this doesn’t generally involve a financial cost, it can take a big investment of time to find a qualified preceptor who is willing to work with you. You may find that qualified people are too busy or simply not that interested in helping you get a degree from a school they have very little connection too. It’s worth checking into the specifics when it comes to the clinical part of any online nursing degree before sighing up.
The bottom line when it comes to finding the true cost of an RN to BSN online is that you need to be ready to do a good deal of homework. It’s also good to take the attitude that while the web may be a great place to get ideas and do comparisons of schools, it still pays to pick up the phone and talk to an admissions counselor at any school you’re considering. When you do so, don’t let them tell you to just look at the tuition page on the school’s website. Ask them specific questions about cost and expect them to give specific answers.