At Your Fingertips

Online college programs work around your dance schedule.

Interested in earning a college degree, but don’t want to put your career on hold? With the advent of online college programs, you can take courses towards—and even earn—a bachelor’s degree while performing professionally. During Boston Ballet’s season, Kathryn McDonald, who is pursuing a health science degree from Northeastern University, fits one online class at a time into her demanding schedule. “The hardest part is keeping up with the work,” she says. “You have to be very proactive and make sure you understand the material.” But she’s already seeing some of the benefits of earning a degree: “It opens up your eyes to a different world.” Here are three state universities with strong online offerings. —Courtney Escoyne

McDonald in Boston Ballet's The Nutcracker. Photo by Gene Schiavone, courtesy Boston Ballet.

Washington State University Global Campus

Degrees offered: 9 online bachelor’s programs, with the option to minor

Declaring a major: Students declare upon enrollment, but can switch while completing general education requirements.

In-person interaction: Some majors require internships/work experience. Also, the school’s ASWSU-Global Student Government organizes events for students to socialize with their peers face-to-face.

Course structure: Most classes follow a traditional semester system. There are no set log-in times for lectures since they are prerecorded. Assignment submissions are due weekly or monthly, and quizzes and exams are completed online within a set time period. WSU recommends allowing eight hours per week, per class for coursework.

Resources: An academic advisor, one-on-one online tutoring, flexible “office hours” with professors and virtual mentors (upperclassmen and alumni).

Cost: Tuition is similar to in-state costs at WSU, though residents receive a slight discount. Financial aid is available.

Open SUNY (State University of New York)

Degrees offered: 54 online bachelor’s programs

Declaring a major: Students apply to one SUNY campus, as each has specific degree offerings. However, many programs allow students to take several classes before declaring.

In-person interaction: Differs across campuses and degree programs, though many are fully available online. Some courses involve on-campus labs and meetings.

Course structure: Many are self-paced within a traditional semester system. Others involve scheduled online web conferences or select in-person work. Assignments are due throughout the semester, often weekly. On average, SUNY recommends dedicating at least three hours per credit for coursework each week.

Resources: An academic advisor, technical support, library access and other traditional student services. Certain courses also guarantee a go-to contact (“concierge”) for each student and online tutoring.

Cost: Tuition matches traditional rates at each SUNY school. Some campuses require technology or distance-learning fees. Financial aid is available.

University of Florida Online

Degrees offered: 14 online bachelor’s programs

Declaring a major: Students may enroll undecided, but are encouraged to declare quickly to complete early prerequisites for a degree track.

In-person interaction: Some science majors require students to attend local lab hours.

Course structure: Classes follow the traditional semester system. All relevant learning materials are accessible from the beginning of the course. Exams and projects have set deadlines.

Resources: An academic advisor, Smartthinking (a free tutorial service) and 24-hour technical support. Professors and TAs are available via Skype, email or telephone.

Cost: In-state students pay 75 percent of the on-campus tuition rate. Out-of-state costs vary by program. Financial aid is available. 

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