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A Master's Degree in Computer Science For Under $7K? Georgia Tech Is Making it Happen

Georgia Tech's teaming up with Udacity and they hope to enroll 10,000 computer science students over the next three years.

Had a hankering to pursue an advanced degree in computer science but you've been put off by the prospect of tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt? Here's some game-changing good news: Top-tier Georgia Tech is teaming up with massive open online course platform Udacity and AT&T to offer a master's in computer science degree, and the whole thing will cost about $7,000. Nope, that's not a typo.

Udacity, which was launched in 2012 by Stanford professor Peter Thrun, offers free virtual classes to anyone with an internet connection. MOOCs have received plenty of attention in the past year because of their ability to educate the masses at a fraction of the cost of a traditional university. Georgia Tech's dean of computing, Zvi Galil, told Insider Higher Ed that although they've "been a part" of the rise of the MOOC, he "thought we could be leaders in this revolution by taking it to the next level, by doing the revolutionary step."

Indeed, Georgia Tech hopes to seriously chip away at America's STEM shortage by enrolling 10,000 students in the program over the next three years. Although Udacity courses are free, students will still have to earn acceptance to Georgia Tech and pay the school tuition. However, they're rolling out the program in four tracks that reflect the diversity of people interested in online learning options.

The bulk of students—about 6,000—will be put on a track that will require them to meet the same requirements, including taking the GRE, as a student applying to a traditional program at Georgia Tech. But the school's hoping to attract decidedly nontraditional students from the military and corporate worlds who don't always have the time or money to enroll in a degree program. They'll be expected to finish the program's 12 classes in three years. The remaining students will be put on varying tracks that will either require them to do well in two foundational classes before being fully admitted, or will just allow them to earn a certificate instead of the full master's degree.

Although Georgia Tech and Udacity say they're working closely to ensure the classes will be as high quality as regular classes, what is sure to be closely watched down the road is the hireability of their graduates. Will employers see Georgia Tech's program as a legitimate degree or will they treat it like it's a close cousin of a diploma mill? If graduates are truly able to compete with their peers paying top dollar to attend in-person programs, the question will be, why pay more when you can get an equally respected degree for a fraction of the cost?

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