An Ivy League Degree at a Fraction of the Cost

Perhaps you are a parent contemplating setting up a college fund for your child. Or you are the son or daughter who’s trying to figure out how to pay for college, due to the lack of said college fund. Or you skipped college when you were young and now you’re trying to figure out a way to get that degree. What should you do?

The Traditional Way
It’s no wonder this topic is on many people’s minds, as college can be extremely expensive. According to, the projected cost of college in 2017 ranges from $32,197 (public college) to over $74,771 (elite) — per year. For a four-year degree, you’re thus looking at anywhere between $128,788 and $299,084 — a shock for most wallets.

The Ivy League Way
Instead, there is a way to get an Ivy League degree at a fraction of that cost. In the past, distance education was frowned upon and viewed as second class. However, times have changed. Today, top schools, such as Columbia and Harvard, offer full programs online. Columbia offers a master’s degree program and Harvard both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Now to the interesting part — how much is it? For the Harvard Extension School (which is Harvard’s online school), the total cost for an undergraduate degree is currently at $44,800. Not per year, but total for all four years. That equals less than a year and a half in public college.

The Admission Process
But isn’t it extremely difficult to get into an Ivy League college? That is true. Many are known to only accept a small percentage of those who apply. But it’s not uncommon for online schools to have a different admissions policy. For example, the Harvard Extension Schools calls it “earn your way in” — you have to register for three courses (two of which you can choose freely among the hundreds of courses available) and get a B or higher in all of them. If you do, and turn in all the other paperwork they ask for, chances are you will be accepted.

The Logistics
What’s the catch? Is the education sub par to that of the “real” school? Will the diploma spell out that I took the online version? With most online degrees, the answer is no to both questions, including at Harvard. Many of the online professors teach on campus, and the diploma will have the name of the “real life” school.

But there are some details to keep in mind. Not all online schools are 100% online. Some require that you attend on-campus for a limited time, so that you get a taste of the full college experience. The Harvard Extension School, for example, requires that you take four courses on-campus, but that does not mean that you have to be there all semester. Many times, you can fulfill that requirement by attending an intensive weekend class and do the rest of the course online.

The Options
What if Ivy League is not a requirement for you, as long as it’s a good school? Then, you have many options. University of Phoenix, Penn State and Ashford all offer online degree programs and you can find hundreds of others online, around the world. However, make sure to compare the prices and all their requirements. Some show prices per credit, instead of per course. Others require you to attend more courses on-campus, which means you are spending more on hotel nights. After doing your research, you will be surprised to see that sometimes the Ivy League options are even cheaper than “regular” online colleges.