The state of Alabama has more than 60 colleges and universities, a dozen of which are located in the capital city of Montgomery alone. Nearly 60,000 students are enrolled in Alabama’s private colleges, and close to another 250,000 are enrolled in public and state schools. As a college-bound student researching schools in Alabama the big question is: which college or university should I choose, and why? Find out more about the online college options in Alabama, get answers to frequently asked questions on tuition and learn how a college education can set you up for career success below.
There are a variety of extra amenities a college can offer that may make or break the college experience, and schools in Alabama have many special qualifications that set them apart from the competition. Some students may want to find a college that offers 24/7 technical support like Jacksonville State University, while student-veterans may look for schools with highly-touted military benefits like the University of South Alabama. But before researching these specifics, there are some basic standards a great college needs to meet in order to be considered one of the best places to receive an online education in Alabama. Take a look at our list of these schools and their qualifications below:
Online colleges in Alabama offer degrees ranging from associate-level to doctoral degrees, and the best way to find if your degree of choice is offered is to connect with the schools you are interested in. The Alabama Commission on Higher Education offers a directory of all schools in the state, as well as an interactive map of the state with each college and university. Programs are constantly changing, upgrading and merging—contacting a school directly is the best way to get the most up-to-date course and major information.
Many schools also offer a listing of their online program selections on their website, such as the University of Alabama Bama by Distance program page. There are many schools in Alabama known for offering a broad range of undergraduate degrees, including academic certificates, pre-professional degrees or minors online, like the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This type of school can be a great option for those who may not necessarily know what career paths they would like to take.
Whether online universities in Alabama accept students’ transfer credits or work/life experience is decided case by case. The criteria for qualifying for these benefits are extremely specific.
For example, the University of Alabama has a LifeTrack program where students can transfer credits from other institutions that are accredited, as well as earn credits through previous learning portfolios. In addition, multiple Alabama Community College System institutions accept life experience and transfer credits toward degrees.
Students constantly hear that earning a college degree will lead to higher salaries long-term, and statistics show this to be true in the state of Alabama. Here’s a look at the average pay that professionals in Alabama earn based on career and industry degree level requirements.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
One discrepancy to the general uptick in salary for jobs requiring advanced degrees in Alabama are those at the master’s degree level—careers that require a master’s level education tend to pay slightly less per year than those that only require a bachelor’s degree. However, Alabama residents who work in jobs that require a doctoral or professional degree may make $80,000 more per year than their peers working in jobs that require no formal education, and roughly $40,000 more than those working in fields and industries that require a bachelor’s degree.
Sectors oriented towards social assistance and health care have witnessed especially high-demand over the past several years in Alabama, along with sales occupations, food preparation and service, administrative office support and waste management.
As students in Alabama seek a more flexible way to earn a college degree, they should be aware they do not have to sacrifice quality for convenience. It is critical that students choose schools that are regionally or nationally accredited, as accreditation demonstrates a college’s commitment to keeping up with rigorous academic quality standards.
Accreditation varies by school, and Alabama’s colleges and universities carry a variety of accreditations, most often on the regional or national level. For example, Alabama A & M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, or the SACS/CC. The SACS/CC is the regional accreditation body for Alabama and accredits both traditional programs and online programs at colleges and universities in the state.
Some colleges in Alabama may not necessarily be regionally accredited but instead might be nationally accredited. For instance, Columbia Southern University is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, or the DEAC.
In addition to being regionally or nationally accredited, leading online colleges in Alabama may also provide subject-specific accreditation for various programs. For example, Athens State University’s College of Education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, or the NCATE. They also offer multiple online degree options.
College tuition costs have increased in Alabama over the past two decades, but as pointed out earlier, Alabama’s fast-growing, high-paying industries require college degrees. Paying for school is a real concern for Alabama’s students—take a look at average tuition costs in the state below:
In-State Tuition, Public Colleges & Universities: $9,179
Change from 2015 $308
In-State Tuition, Private Colleges & Universities: $15,359
Change from 2015 $600
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2016
These figures do not include room and board or cost differences for out-of-state students. The cost-per-credit for online students may be the same, whether a student is from Alabama or another state, but regulations vary by college and university. Here are some examples in Alabama:
Flat Online Cost Per Credit: The University of West Alabama’s advertises online costs per credit as the same, no matter where an online student is located.
Online Cost Per Credit, In-State vs. Out-of-State: At Troy University, students who would pay out-of-state tuition rates to attend an Alabama campus will be charged twice the tuition rate if they take courses online.
Specific Online Program Tuition Rates: Some programs within the University of Alabama in Huntsville system, especially graduate-level courses, vary by program specialty.
Summer, Evening & Weekend Tuition Rates: The University of Alabama, Bama by Distance program offers part-time student rates that do not include activity, recreation or athletic event privileges.
Alabama residents may want to look into a program called the Academic Common Market, which is a product of the Southern Regional Education Board and gives the state’s residents access to various degrees at out-of-state schools for in-state tuition rates. Through this program, Alabama students can take advantage of degree programs in 15 southern states and pay in-state tuition rates.
Here are a couple of frequently asked questions about paying for online colleges in Alabama.
In Alabama, students must have lived in the state for a minimum of one year before they can be deemed residents. In addition, Alabama residents who move to other states are no longer considered to be state residents.
Moving to Alabama just to attend school in the state will not enable a student to qualify for state residency. However, if a student works for 90 days or more in Alabama before submitting an application for school, this student is deemed a resident of Alabama for the purpose of tuition; however, temporary work doesn’t count.
Most importantly: Online students in Alabama should learn whether or not their school of choice requires residency to receive in-state tuition rates for online programs.
Online students may find that colleges in Alabama are more affordable than the national average, but numbers vary by school. Average in-state tuition costs at Alabama’s public, four-year colleges and universities are middle-of-the-road, lower than 25 other states, including nearby southern neighbors South Carolina and Kentucky.
Small colleges in Alabama, such as Athens State University ($290 per online course in 2017-2018) may beat undergraduate tuition rates for similarly sized Gordon State University in neighboring Georgia ($159 per online credit in 2017-2018). But simply looking at the numbers isn’t enough to get the true answer here.
Most importantly: Students should research and contact each school they are interested in attending to understand the complete view of fees and costs associated with earning an online degree in Alabama, beyond just tuition rates.
Students who are interested in studying at online colleges in Alabama may need a little help with covering the cost of their degree programs. In addition to taking advantage of federal financial aid (FAFSA), they can take advantage of scholarships. Here are a few scholarships available to prospective online college students in Alabama.
Korean American Scholarship Foundation Scholarship – Southern Region: This scholarship is available to high school seniors in Alabama who have a 3.0 grade point average and plan to attend college the following year. The college they attend must be in the South.
MetLife Foundation Scholarship: Students in Alabama who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in certain areas are eligible for this $2,000 scholarship. The degree areas they must be pursuing range from sales and marketing to mechanization and plant pathology.
William Verbon Black Scholarship: This scholarship is available through the Alabama Law Foundation. Priority for this scholarship goes to Alabama residents who are high academic achievers and possess a strong track record of civic involvement.
Every prospective college student comes into their higher education journey at a different starting point. One initiative that compliments a college or university education in Alabama are Adult Education programs and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Adult Education programs can be useful for:
Bridging the transition to earning a college degree. Alabama community colleges often host Adult Education programs to prepare college-bound students with Transition Programs or GED Exam courses.
Transferring to a 4-year college. Educational Opportunity Centers provide college counseling services for Alabama students who want to advance their education.
Earning work experience after graduation. The Alabama Works! program helps many recent college grads obtain the entry-level work experience they need to move into more competitive jobs.