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Accredited online colleges in Alabama provide first-time and returning students with the knowledge, training, and administrative support to pursue and advance their careers. Distance learning typically costs less than on-campus programs and allows students to balance academics with work and family responsibilities. Due largely to these benefits, the number of learners who enroll in online programs continues to increase. According to Digital Learning Compass , 36.7% of Alabama college students took at least one online class in 2015, a rate 7% higher than the national average. Approximately half of this group pursued distance education exclusively.
This guide provides in-depth information on program costs, financial aid options, and possible fields of study to help students find the best online schools in Alabama. The guide also covers career opportunities and lists distance education resources, including state-specific programs such as Alabama Possible and CollegeFirst Alabama.
Job Outlook for Students With College Degrees in Alabama
Professionals who earn degrees or certificates from online universities in Alabama can qualify for advanced job opportunities and higher salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that bachelor's degree holders earn $24,000 more annually than individuals with high school diplomas. Additionally, the unemployment rate for bachelor's degree holders (2.5%) is substantially lower than that for both professionals who attended college but did not graduate (4.0%) and the rate for individuals with only a high school education (4.6%).
As the table below illustrates, Alabama's unemployment rate ranks slightly higher than the national average. However, according to BLS data, the 4.1% unemployment rate marks a steep decrease from the 5.9% rate in October 2016. According to the Alabama Department of Labor , Shelby County boasts the lowest unemployment rate (2.8%) and Clarke County serves as the highest (7.1%).
According to the BLS, Alabama workers earn an annual mean salary of $43,170, which is $7,450 less than the U.S. mean . While a significant difference in pay, the cost of living in Alabama is also lower. According to Payscale, even in major Alabama cities like Mobile and Montgomery , living expenses are 7-8% lower than the national average. In Alabama, healthcare professionals and engineers boast the highest earning potential, followed by business and information technology managers.
Unemployment Rate, August 2018
Annual Mean Wage, May 2017
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Cost of Online Colleges in Alabama
According to the College Board , Alabama public, two-year colleges charge $4,760 in yearly tuition and fees, which is $1,100 more than the U.S. average. Students who attend the state's public, four-year institutions pay an average of $10,870 each year, which is $640 more than the national average. To help learners pay for higher education, the state government provides need-based grants through its Alabama Student Assistance Program. In 2015, Alabama began providing low-income students and their parents with free community college tuition through a partnership with the federal government's Gear Up initiative.
Students who enroll in online degree programs in Alabama pay about the same tuition rates as learners who pursue on-campus programs. However, these rates do not include fees related to books, laboratory usage, transportation, and housing; distance learners typically save money in these areas.
The best online colleges in Alabama provide low-cost or free electronic textbooks and learning materials. According to the College Board , students who attend public, four-year schools paid an average of $11,140 in room and board during the 2018-2019 academic year. Because distance learners do not need to live on or visit campus, they generally save money on housing and transportation costs.
Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2018-19
|Public Two-Year||Public Four-Year|
Source: The College Board
In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in Alabama
Public colleges and universities typically offer more affordable tuition rates than private schools because public institutions receive state funding. To qualify for in-state tuition rates, students must have lived in Alabama for at least one year and must demonstrate that their primary reason for residing in the state does not amount to attending college.
The table below details the cost of public college attendance for in-state and out-of-state students. On average, out-of-state students pay nearly $15,900 more than Alabama residents. Regardless of residency, Alabama learners pay slightly more than the national average.
However, many of the top online colleges in Alabama charge all distance learners the same tuition rates, regardless of residency. Additionally, students in certain states may qualify for tuition discounts through the Southern Regional Education Board's Academic Common Market .
Average Tuition and Fees, 2018-19
|Public Two-Year||Public Four-Year|
Source: The College Board
Financial Aid in Alabama
Students attending online schools in Alabama can learn whether they qualify for government funding by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which allows students to apply for multiple loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities simultaneously. Applicants must meet basic eligibility criteria , including demonstrable financial need and either U.S. citizenship or accepted noncitizen status. This means undocumented students cannot apply for federal funding.
Online students can receive up to $6,095 in Federal Pell Grants . Additionally, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant awards $4,000 to future educators. The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant supports students whose parent or guardian died as a result of military service. Distance learners can also borrow low-interest federal loans and can access grants through the state government. More than 80 colleges and universities participate in the Alabama Student Assistance Program .
Students who borrow federal money may qualify for loan forgiveness and repayment opportunities. Through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program , educators can enjoy up to $17,500 of subsidized and unsubsidized loans forgiven by agreeing to teach in a low-income, high-need school. The state government operates a similar initiative: the Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program . The state government may also repay loans for nurses , depending on their field.
State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent Undergraduate Student, 2016-17
Source: The College Board
Scholarships and Grants for Alabama College Students
Beyond financial assistance at the federal and state levels, students who attend online colleges in Alabama can apply for private scholarships and grants. These awards often come from local businesses, professional associations, and nonprofit and community organizations. Students should also research institutional scholarships from prospective schools. The opportunities below are available to students at online schools in Alabama.
Who Can Apply: This award goes to U.S. citizens earning online degrees at colleges and universities in the country. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must submit academic transcripts, a 500-word essay, and their most recent FAFSA form.
Who Can Apply: Applicants for these scholarships need a minimum 3.0 GPA and U.S. citizenship. Candidates must take at least 80% of their classes remotely through an accredited college or university. The organization provides two award cycles each year, with deadlines in July and November.
Who Can Apply: In addition to an award for online community college students, this organization offers scholarships for military personnel and both undergraduate and graduate students. Students must apply by December 30 and must submit academic transcripts and two essay responses.
Who Can Apply: This award goes to high school students and first-time college freshmen enrolled at eligible online schools in Alabama. Candidates must be state residents and U.S. citizens. They must also demonstrate financial need and possess a minimum 2.75 GPA. Students enrolled in four-year programs must submit ACT scores.
Who Can Apply: From high school seniors to college juniors, this award goes to female students earning their first undergraduate degree. Applicants must pursue a degree from an accredited Alabama college or university and possess a minimum 2.5 GPA and an ACT score of at least 23.
Who Can Apply: The Alabama Concrete Industries Association Foundation provides two awards each year. Candidates must major in engineering, architecture, or another field related to masonry and the building sciences. They must also possess a minimum 2.5 GPA.
Who Can Apply: The Alabama Environmental Health Association provides this award to undergraduate junior and senior colleges students. Candidates need to pursue coursework and engage in professional or community activities directly related to environmental health.
Who Can Apply: The American Welding Association offers these awards to students enrolled in welding-related training or educational programs at designated online schools in Alabama. Applicants must submit transcripts, a personal essay, a current photo, and a biography. Applicants for some scholarships must be AWS members.
Who Can Apply: This award supports Alabama residents pursuing residential building careers. Applicants must study in disciplines such as plumbing, landscaping, civil engineering, and sustainable construction. Candidates must enroll in an eligible junior college or technical school or at the University of Alabama.
Who Can Apply: The foundation provides scholarships for female law students, outstanding second-year law school candidates, and learners attending the University of Alabama School of Law. Candidates must live in the state and hold adequate LSAT scores.
Best Majors for Online Students in Alabama
According to an August 2018 workforce report published by the Alabama Department of Labor, workers can select from among 790 single occupations in the state. The department projects high growth and demand for 40 of these positions through 2026, including nationally expanding careers such as nursing, mechanical engineering, and market research analysis.
Many online colleges in Alabama prepare students for these growing professions. Registered nurses (RN) can earn a bachelor's or master's degree through accelerated tracks, incorporating work experience into their academic plan. Online schools offer engineering degrees at all levels and in diverse subfields. Students interested in global transactions can pursue programs that emphasize information security, data analytics, and predictive modeling.
A large number of high-demand positions require labor and trade skills, including electrician, machinist, and industrial mechanic. Distance learners can attend an online community or technical college to gain the skills and credentials necessary to qualify for these roles. Two-year trade programs also provide resources and administrative support that prepare students to sit for professional certification and licensure exams.
NursingNursing serves as one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. Professional nurses work with physicians to help patients prevent and recover from injury and illness. Online colleges in Alabama offer nursing degrees at every level. For example, accelerated RN to bachelor of science in nursing programs allow practicing nurses to earn a bachelor's degree within two years.
Mechanical EngineeringA multidisciplinary field that incorporates math, physics, and the material sciences, mechanical engineering involves the creation and maintenance of physical systems. Mechanical engineering is the broadest and oldest of the engineering disciplines. Professionals in this field work in areas such as transportation, manufacturing, and research. Distance learners in Alabama can choose from a variety of mechanical engineering programs, many of which offer specializations.
Information Systems SecurityStudents in this field learn to safeguard data, networks, and other digital assets from disruption and unauthorized access. Graduates often take jobs as compliance specialists or data security administrators. Online schools in Alabama may offer information systems security as a major or a specialization of a general computer science program.
Resources for Online College Students in Alabama
Alabama Commission on Higher Education : As the coordination board for colleges and universities in the state, ACHE approves educational programs and accredits schools. The organization provides a comprehensive list of higher education institutions and details on available majors and programs. ACHE also lists state-sponsored financial aid and special services, such as the Academic Common Market and the Minority Doctoral Program.
Alabama Community College System : ACCS comprises 25 two-year schools, a military institute, five junior military colleges, and the Alabama Technology Network -- the state's workforce development initiative. The ACCS website helps students find early college programs, locate community or technical colleges in their area, and learn about undergraduate transfer pathways. Those who did not formally graduate from high school can enroll in adult general education classes through the organization.
Alabama Possible : This nonprofit organization addresses systemic poverty through research and educational initiatives. Prospective students can receive support from mentors who help learners find schools and navigate the application process. Through the Cash for College program, students learn how to complete the FAFSA form and apply for external awards. Students can also find civic and community engagement opportunities through Alabama Possible.
Gear Up Alabama : The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs help students prepare for college. In addition to competitive grants, Gear Up provides individual tutoring that helps students excel in school and on standardized tests. Learners also benefit from comprehensive academic and career advising.
Southern Regional Education Board : SREB facilitates the Academic Common Market, which provides students who live in 15 participating states discounted tuition rates when enrolling in one of 1,900 designated undergraduate and graduate programs. Through its Advanced Career program, the board supports students pursuing trade or technical education. The SREB Doctoral Scholars Program offers minority students financial assistance, research guidance, and career counseling.
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