How to Prevent Online Students from Having Buyer’s Remorse

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A recently published study with online students reveals a startling fact: nearly 60% have buyer’s remorse. They say that if they could start over again, they would:

  • contact / research more schools when shopping for the right program (23%)
  • learn more about tuition and fees (17%)
  • learn more about their financial package (16%)

Let’s examine these a little closer…

Contact and Research More Schools

This same study indicates that over the past few years, online students look at a surprisingly small number of programs when they shop. Most contact one, two, or three schools only, before making a final choice. These factors may drive this behavior:

  • with nearly 29,000 online programs in the market in 2016 (pulled from IPEDS), prospective students face an overwhelming task if they conduct a comprehensive and thorough search for the best program
  • evaluating the differences in online degree programs is difficult unless you know what questions to ask
  • taking the time, if you are working full-time, to complete this shopping exercise thoroughly is ridiculously difficult
  • online education directories (the marketing ‘tools’ of the trade – see here for more) and paid search google ads for online degree programs quickly take the prospective student off the path and into the weeds. Just try googling “Online MBA” to see what I mean.

These are just a few of the factors that lead prospective students to buyer’s remorse. I’ve written even more about how students are “passive shoppers” here.

Let’s move to costs next.

Understanding Costs

Another area of buyer’s remorse is wishing for a better understanding the overall tuition, fees, & financial package before buying. As with all purchases of intangible products, determining what you want to pay for a university degree is difficult. The challenge lies in trade-offs: we want the best price possible while still meeting our preferences and professional goals (quality). A few examples include:

  • how much more should we pay for earning the degree from a school with a strong reputation?
    • in the virtual sea of rankings on the web, which are the best measures of reputation to use?
  • how to evaluate the ‘quality’ of the faculty and put a dollar value on this?
    • is quality measured by student reviews of teaching or by academic publishing / grant awards?
  • what about the quality of the online experience? Is the program delivered via lecture capture or through more advanced techniques?
  • and, importantly, does the program website clearly lay out all of the costs involved to students? Is there is any type of scholarship or tuition reduction available to prospective students?
    • is there a tuition promise, say if you start in 2017-2018, the total tuition including cost of materials and fees is $XX,XXX?

There are so many differences in how programs deliver and charge for online education that it takes an expert to differentiate the pros and cons. And these differences will, without doubt, affect your perception of the program’s price vs. its quality. Students with buyer’s remorse in this area must experience a price vs. quality gap. Considering the thousands of dollars an online degree costs, you don’t want to experience this gap. So what can you do?

The Online Degree Database™ Difference

So where should a prospective student turn to avoid buyer’s remorse? The number of online students and online degree programs is growing dramatically. Today, the prospective student faces the most challenging market for shopping ever. How can you be SURE that you avoid buyer’s remorse?


This is exactly the reason why we built the Online Degree Database™.  Read through our decision guide to think about what’s most important to you. Check out the questions we’ve developed for you, to ask of online program directors as you shop for the right program. And most importantly, use our available programs search tool. This tool allows you to create a comprehensive list of possible program options from an unbiased source of information.

Why are we the best source? We gather the details of all the most popular master’s degree programs in the United States directly from university websites so you can search by the exact criteria that’s right for you.

Let us save you weeks of searching! Most students spend less than $50 dollars on data that would have taken them hundreds of hours to collect on their own. The Online Degree Database™ is designed to help you make the best decision for one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. Visit our website today!