Posted: 28 Aug 2014 08:14 PM PDT
This is part of a four-part series on affordable online colleges and degree programs. The other articles cover affordable online colleges, affordable online master's degree programs, and affordable online MBA programs. Our goal with this series is to help anyone interested in online education find the best programs for the money and walk away with a quality degree.
Who Should Consider an Online Bachelor's Degree
Before getting into the list of the top five schools for an affordable online bachelor's degree, let's explore who an online degree is best for. That way, you can make the determination if you want to move forward with further research on individual schools and programs.
One of the main advantages to choosing an online bachelor's program over a traditional on-campus one is the flexibility it offers. Video recordings and online lecture notes mean you don't have to plan your day around school — you can plan school around your life. For working adults trying to balance the demands of a job and family life on top of getting an education, the ability to work through the material at your own pace is invaluable.
The rise of online education also opens up more opportunities to those who live far away from a traditional university campus. You're no longer limited to the few programs available through your local community college, so you're free to choose something that's more in line with your career goals and aspirations.
Of course, even the best online colleges don't offer the full variety of on-campus programs to their distance learning students, so it's best if you have a specific program in mind. If you're unsure of what kind of online bachelor's degree to pursue, you can look for a university with a wide variety of programs available.
The lower average cost of online universities is another reason to consider distance learning over an on-campus education, particularly if you are on a budget. Education is a big investment no matter which way you go, but by selecting an online program, you can expect a significant savings in tuition costs and less debt you'll need to pay back afterward.
You may be hesitant to consider an online bachelor's degree program because of the stigma that employers look at these students differently, but that just isn't true anymore. If you get your degree from a well-established, accredited university, like the ones listed below, no employer is going to be able to tell whether you completed your degree online or on campus.
Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degree Programs
Here are the 5 best colleges for affordable online bachelor's degrees:
Online Bachelor's Details
Most Popular Online Bachelor's Degrees at Fort Hays State
Online courses at SUNY College of Technology—Delhi are pretty inexpensive at $245 per credit, placing the school among the nation's top 22 cheapest online bachelor's degree programs for out-of-state students. What's more, U.S. News & World Report's 2014 survey of online education names the school as the top place to earn an online bachelor's degree in the country, highlighted by the nation's single highest score for online faculty qualifications and training. If you're looking for a quality online nursing or criminal justice degree, this school is pretty hard to beat on a value-for-money basis.
Online Bachelor's Details
Online Bachelor's Degrees Offered at SUNY College of Technology—Delhi
Even more impressive than the low tuition rate, Westfield State's online bachelor's programs are taught by the nation's third-best online faculty as ranked by U.S. News & World Report in 2014. These rankings are based on faculty qualifications and the caliber of ongoing teacher training programs focused on effective online teaching methods.
Online Bachelor's Details
Online Bachelor's Degree Programs Available at Westfield State
Colorado State University—Global Campus also delivers a pretty unique set of degree specializations, which are essentially minor subjects you can add on to your degree major. These specializations are a solid way to develop a well-rounded skill set to give you an advantage in the job market. Nearly 25 undergraduate specializations are available, including a variety of subjects in the business and criminal justice fields.
Online Bachelor's Details
Most Popular Online Bachelor's Degrees at Colorado State—Global Campus
Bellevue University also eclipses many other quality schools when it comes to student engagement. U.S. News & World Report rates Bellevue University among the nation's best four online bachelor's programs on measures that gauge instructor responsiveness to student needs and overall student satisfaction.
Online Bachelor's Details
Most Popular Online Bachelor's Degrees at Bellevue University
Most Popular Online Bachelor's Degrees
The number of affordable online bachelor's degree programs continues to grow as more and more universities from around the country are making their courses and faculty accessible to distance learners. The amount and type of programs offered varies from school to school, but there are a number of options available in the business, healthcare, information technology, and education fields, among many others.
Business degrees are among the most sought-after online bachelor's programs there are. Many schools offer a variety of programs related to the business field, including business administration, accounting, and marketing. A bachelor's in any one of these is going to give you practical skills you can apply to a wide variety of careers, making a business degree one of the most versatile degrees you can earn.
Nursing degrees are among the most commonly offered online bachelor's degrees, but there are several other health care programs available to distance learners as well. A bachelor's in healthcare administration gives you a solid grounding in the technology used in the medical field and the critical thinking and management skills you need to find work as a hospital or nursing home administrator. Like the business programs mentioned above, degrees in healthcare are very versatile and the healthcare industry is so large that you should be able to find plenty of job opportunities in this field.
The information technology, or IT, field is rapidly growing and one of the most popular areas of study for online and on-campus students alike. Earning potential is high in this field and there are plenty of opportunities to specialize in areas like web development, network administration, software development, and more. In these programs, you learn about the newest developments in computing technology and get hands-on practice with the types of projects you'll be working on as an IT professional.
There are many different online bachelor's degrees available in the field of education, including K-12, early childhood, and special education. These programs teach you the best ways to communicate and instruct children and prepare you for a career as a teacher in a public or private school or daycare. It also sets you up to pursue a master's degree in education, if this is something you're interested in doing.
Posted: 28 Aug 2014 07:00 AM PDT
Three weeks ago, I shared with you the first third of my favorite essay of all time, Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Self-Reliance has profoundly affected my life in countless ways, and I find myself re-reading it every month or two. Each time I read it, it reveals something new to me, giving me something to think about.
The original essay, published in 1841, outlines the value and need for each of us to follow our own path in life, one that relies mostly on our own efforts. It's a call to do our own thing and to focus our energies in making our lives as independent as possible so that there are minimal consequences for doing our own thing.
Today, we're going to look at the "middle third" of that essay. As before, I'll be walking through the essay paragraph by paragraph, quoting large relevant pieces and then discussing them in my own words and experiences and relating them to the experiences of others.
As before, If you're not a big fan of 19th century writing, don't fret; you can feel free to skip the quoted parts below, as those just contain direct quotes from Self-Reliance. I'll reiterate the main points below the quotes and tie them into both my own experiences and the journey of self-improvement and financial independence we all find ourselves on.
If you would rather read the full essay on your own, you can read the full text of Self-Reliance at the Emerson website. It comes in at around ten thousand words.
Our lives are full of patterns, even when life seems crazy and chaotic. Whenever we take time to reflect on our lives and really look for patterns, we start to see them. In fact, we see a lot of patterns.
Knowing those patterns can be incredibly useful. Many of those patterns are good in that they lift up our life, but some are bad – they bring us down. If we can figure out the bad patterns and focus on eliminating them or replacing them with good patterns, our lives improve.
One of the biggest difficulties is how different actions and patterns make sense at different times. A career choice that seems brilliant late at night when drinking with friends seems absolutely foolish in the morning.
The best ideas – the ones we should live our lives by – are the ones that seem wise at both points. If you're doing something right now that would seem incredibly foolish in a day or two, you're usually better off not doing it.
If you're confident that you are doing the right thing, do it. If it's something that makes sense to you no matter the time of day, do it. What holds people back from doing that is that they're afraid of what other people might think. Don't worry about appearances. If it's truly the best choice, the results will make it clear.
Don't let the potential of your friends or your coworkers looking at you oddly keep you from making the best choice for you and your life. Don't be afraid to spend less. Don't be afraid to go the extra mile at work. Don't be afraid to exercise or change your diet. Don't be afraid to take up a new hobby.
Go with what seems right for you.
If you want to be a great person, don't expect others to entertain and enlighten you. Instead, focus on how you can entertain and enlighten others.
The truly great people in life – the people everyone wants to know and the people everyone is always willing to help – are the people who give of themselves as much as possible. They share their wisdom and time and efforts and advice with others.
Although the latter part of this quote is full of dated cultural references, Emerson's point still rings true. We single out great people in history (and the ones he mentions had significant impact in the previous millennium in Europe) and laud them and give them deference as though they are made of something more than we are.
That isn't true, though. When we hold someone in high regard because of some virtue of theirs, there is no reason we can't cultivate that virtue in ourselves. Why not authentically live like Christ? Or like Gandhi? They were people with traits that deserve respect, but we can build those traits in ourselves. We can live like them.
To do something different than the people around us takes confidence. It takes trust in ourselves. If you don't trust yourself, you can't stand out from the crowd.
That's why it makes sense to regularly spend time breaking ourselves down to our core. What do you believe? What do you value? Challenge those things. Hammer them out, even if they end up pushing you in a different direction than you expect.
Eventually, you'll forge a set of core values and beliefs that you can really trust and rely on, and you can build on those to do whatever you want in life.
You should never fail to challenge your core beliefs and values. Sure, there's a risk of breaking them, but if you never challenge them, you never strengthen them. Without that strengthening, you don't have a strong foundation in your life.
If we keep refining our values and ideas and, over time, strengthen them by forging them in the hot fires of doubt and question, we can deeply rely on them in every aspect of our life. Our instincts become more and more true. We're able to react naturally to different situations and our reactions are actually very good ones.
Spend time thinking about what you believe, what you want to achieve in life, and what those mean. Challenge them. Your whole life will be rewarded.
Most people don't think about why their instinctive actions contradict the values that they hold dear when they actually think about them. When your life is full of those kinds of contradictions, it's hard to build your life into anything great. You only build to great things when your instincts match your conscious decisions.
If you ever find yourself wondering why you did something just a few hours or a few days earlier, you need to spend some time really thinking through that contradiction. Doing so will either strengthen or alter your instincts and eliminate those feelings in the future. The less you have those kinds of contradictions in your life, the better.
For all the value that there is in hammering out our core values and trying to live by them, we are still often shaped and bent by society. It might feel right to do something, but when no one else around you is doing it, it's pretty scary to do it. Something else might feel wrong, but if everyone else around you is doing it, it's easy to join in. We naturally bend to the crowd.
The problem is that if we're bending in a way that goes against what we value, we end up with one of those contradictions, and it's those contradictions that undermine us, every single time.
I'll say it as clearly as I can: contradictions between our true values and our behaviors are a huge part of why we don't succeed. We might value hard work, but when we don't deliver it, we'll fail. We might value frugality and saving, but when we spend like crazy, we fail at our financial goals. Our values need to be in line with what we're actually doing to succeed at anything.
We often overlook the wonderful things in the current moment as our minds are retelling the events of the past or thinking about the plans for the future.
I'm guilty of this myself. My children will want me to watch one of their favorite movies with them and rather than trying to enjoy the moment with them, my mind will reflect on the things I need to do this evening or whether or not that last article was well-written.
The more we focus on the moment by listening, by paying attention, by looking for the beauty in the current moment, the more we get out of our lives.
It is usually much easier to follow the ideas and quotes and path that others have beat down for us. We follow the steps without really understanding them until we reach a point where it all makes sense.
My own personal finance journey was exactly the same way. I always knew the basic steps of improving my personal finance state, but it wasn't until I actually did it and I saw the impact of taking those steps in my own life that I was able to really appreciate how much impact all of those choices had in the broader span of my life.
When I see a quote from someone who has achieved something great, I not only see it as advice as to how to make it to that stage, but also that I'll understand it in a much deeper way when I actually achieve something.
It's usually not worth wasting your time or breath or thought on things that don't work. Instead, we should be focusing on talking about things that do work or about how to bring things that aren't working into a better state.
Why waste our time criticizing others and speaking badly about them if the goal isn't to improve them? If you're not willing to put in effort to bring about improvement in whatever you're criticizing, don't waste your breath. Move on to something else.
Your words, efforts, time, and energy should focus on improvement, not destruction.
Rather than simply trusting and following whatever ideas and people come our way, put them to the test. Apply your hardened core virtues and ideas and see how these things stack up. Don't just follow the hot new thing.
Often, friends of mine and people I trust will introduce ideas to me. I try not to feel obligated to agree. Instead, I file that idea away for later and try to make up my own mind about it. There's no need to make a snap judgment unless you have to.
When I'm forced to, I'm hopeful that my instincts and core values are forged well enough that I'll make a good choice. Can I walk into a tempting place and not spend money? Can I engage in political discussion without emotions getting in the way? It can be really challenging.
Just because someone else is criticizing others or using poor language doesn't mean you have to engage in it. If it doesn't ring true with what you consider to be right, then you shouldn't bother doing it.
No matter how the winds of society are blowing around you, stick to your core values and your sense of right and wrong. No matter how the company around you behaves, stick with your own sense of right and wrong. Don't overturn them just because someone around you is doing something different.
I often have guests in my home who express ideas that I don't agree with or use behaviors I don't find to have any value. I don't imitate them or adopt their ideas just because someone I care about is expressing them. I also don't choose not to care about them because we're not in agreement. Sometimes, that can be hard, but it's always worth it.
That doesn't mean you should separate yourself from the world. All it means is that you need to have the internal strength to make choices in line with what you value.
The world is full of temptations. We are constantly tempted to spend money in all kinds of ways and to spend our time in all kinds of ways. Most of the time, those choices aren't really in line with our core values.
The real trick of self-reliance is to be able to know when those things are truly in line with our core values and when they're not, and then having the strength of character to say "no" to those things that aren't in line with what we value. Society makes that hard, but we're better people when we're able to persevere.
I hope you'll check back in a few weeks as we take a look at the final third of this essay and see what it can teach us about self-reliance in this modern world.