How Much Does a Master's in Computer Science Really Cost?

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The benefits of the MSCS are indisputable. Program graduates tend to earn significantly more than they did with only bachelor's degrees because this degree is associated with the kind of in-demand computer science skills that make professionals more marketable. The benefits of earning an MSCS 100% online at Case Western Reserve University are equally compelling. Students worldwide tap into the university's reputation for excellence in computer science without putting their professional lives on pause.

Calculating how much it costs to earn a Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) is rarely a straightforward undertaking. Tuition is a fixed expense, but fees, costs associated with books or other materials, and opportunity costs can vary from school to school and even from semester to semester. Answering the question 'How much does a master's in computer science cost?' is, however, a necessary step in the process of finding the right graduate program.

Determining whether Case Western Reserve's MSCS is the right master's program for you will involve much more than adding up expenses or even working out the ROI of a computer science degree. You'll base your decision on whether you're qualified to enroll, whether the curriculum aligns with your interests and supports your career aspirations, and whether Case School of Engineering is the kind of academic environment you're seeking. Cost can be a good place to start your search, however—provided you're aware that it's just one factor among many—and that you understand how variable cost can be.

"When you factor in opportunity costs, a flexible part-time degree program delivered entirely online can be significantly less expensive than a similar full-time master's program offered on campus."

How much does a master's in computer science cost?

The average cost of a master's in computer science is not a particularly illuminating metric for three reasons:

  1. Tuition rates vary widely from institution to institution.
  2. Many graduate degree candidates pay for their degrees with a combination of financial aid, including grants and loans, employer funding, private scholarships, university scholarships and state scholarships. Students may pay very little out of pocket each semester.
  3. Averages don't account for opportunity costs—i.e., what you might lose by choosing one degree over another.

A better way to calculate the price of a master's in computer science is to look at the different kinds of costs associated with earning this degree. These include:

Tuition

Case Western Reserve's 30-credit online computer science master's costs $2,057 per credit hour, which adds up to $61,710 total tuition—a figure lower than MSCS tuition at many comparably prestigious institutions. Tuition isn't the only expense you'll incur while earning a master's degree, however.

Non-tuition expenses

Like most higher education institutions, Case Western Reserve charges an application fee for applications submitted during the Priority Application and Final Application deadlines. Application fee waivers are available for webinar attendees. Applicants sometimes need to pay an additional fee for undergraduate transcripts or to take the GRE. Some graduate students pay additional fees for activities and medical insurance. Nearly all MSCS candidates pay for books and other course materials.

Opportunity costs

Opportunity costs refer to the value of what you forfeit when you choose one alternative over another. For example, if you typically earn $70,000 annually but have to give up two years of income to enroll in a $60,000 full-time MSCS program, the total price of that program—including the opportunity cost—is $200,000. If you have to move to attend that program, the total cost of your degree should also include relocation costs and travel. As detailed below, in a part-time MSCS program, you can continue earning income and accruing experience while earning your degree.

Calculating the actual value of a master's in computer science

Determining how much a master's in computer science costs involves more than just adding up tuition and fees. You need to include the cost of books, fees and other non-tuition expenses in your calculations.

Next, add in quantifiable short-term opportunity costs like those described above. There are also short-term opportunity costs that are harder to quantify but still worth considering, e.g., the value of any raises and promotions you might have received if you had chosen a flexible part-time MSCS program and worked while studying.

Then, factor in long-term revenue opportunities. Consider that an MSCS can increase a computer and information systems professional's lifetime earning potential by anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, based on the average salaries associated with computer science bachelor's degrees and computer science master's degrees.

Finally, consider the long-term value of the relationships you'll build in graduate school, a strong and active alumni network and faculty connections in tech and other industries. Clearly, 'How much will it cost not to earn an MSCS?' is also a question worth thinking about when assessing the cost of a master's in computer science.

Are online degrees cheaper than on-campus programs?

Reputable online programs are seldom cheaper than on-campus programs. The best online master's degree programs can cost more to deliver. Case School of Engineering invests copiously in its online programs to ensure that distance learners complete the same coursework as their peers on campus, connect virtually with classmates and receive robust support from faculty. Classes in the online MSCS program are small, so students receive a hands-on, high-engagement experience. However, the program still requires a large, capable backend support staff to ensure everything runs smoothly and that troubleshooting, when necessary, is quick and effective.

There are, however, cost savings associated with online degrees

When you factor in opportunity costs, a flexible part-time degree program delivered entirely online can be significantly less expensive than a similar full-time master's program offered on campus (especially for those paying out-of-state tuition). In Case Western Reserve's online MSCS program, you can continue to meet full-time professional obligations while studying, which means you can continue earning income and accruing experience. You can also earn a degree from a prestigious university wherever you are in the world, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in relocation expenses. When you study online, you won't have transportation expenses to pay—which can add up quickly—and you might even pay lower prices for virtual books and materials.

How to pay for your MSCS degree

The next question most students ask after 'How much does a master's in computer science cost?' is 'How can I pay for an MSCS?' Some graduate students pay out of pocket, but most fund their master's degrees with student loans, scholarships and grants, employer tuition reimbursement and work-study assignments or research assistantships. As a graduate student at Case Western Reserve, you may be eligible for some or all of the following forms of financial aid:

Scholarships

There are two kinds of scholarships: university or internal scholarships and external scholarships. Schools award university scholarships based on numerous criteria, including academic performance, financial need and military service. You may be automatically eligible to receive certain university scholarships, like Case Western Reserve's $5,000 scholarship for MSCS candidates who apply by the Early Decision Application Deadline, but have to apply for others.

"It's always a good idea to submit financial aid and scholarship applications as early as possible."

External graduate scholarships are funds awarded by foundations that may or may not have a link to a specific school. They are less common than undergraduate scholarships, but they're relatively easy to find with sites such as FastWeb and tools like Sallie Mae's Graduate School Scholarship Search—a database of only graduate school scholarships.

Student loans

Many people associate federal student loans with undergraduate education, but graduate students take out almost half of all loans issued by the federal government for education. You can access two types of federal student loans as a graduate student: low-interest Direct Unsubsidized Loans and no-limit Graduate PLUS loans (also known as Direct PLUS Loans). You apply for both loan types by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Direct loans can cover up to $20,500 every academic year—even if you have an adverse credit history—provided you take at least six credit hours of classes per semester. The one caveat is that the direct loan program has a lifetime borrowing limit of $138,500, which means unpaid undergraduate loans may affect your eligibility.

A Graduate PLUS loan can cover the entire cost of your computer science master's degree, and there are no caps, but you must submit to a credit check. The total cost of a Graduate PLUS loan may be more than that of a direct loan for the same amount because interest rates and origination fees associated with this type of loan are higher.

Suppose you don't receive enough assistance from direct loans and other student aid to cover the total cost of your master's in computer science program. In that case, you can either take out a Graduate PLUS loan to cover the difference or apply for a higher-interest private loan issued by a bank, credit union or loan organization such as Sallie Mae. Private lenders base eligibility entirely on creditworthiness and typically charge more interest but accept applications year-round.

Employer tuition reimbursement

Some master's in computer science candidates are fortunate enough to work for companies that offer tuition reimbursement. These are often, but not always, larger firms. For instance, Apple and Google are well-known for generously funding employee education, and companies such as GE Digital, Deloitte, Lockheed Martin, McAfee and Raytheon also offer tuition assistance. Some smaller companies don't have official tuition reimbursement policies but are willing to fund continuing education for talented employees. It never hurts to ask HR about the possibility of funding.

Be aware, however, that employer tuition assistance programs seldom cover the full cost of a master's in computer science. Instead, programs typically pay out a certain dollar amount per semester, often at the end of the semester. Employers can disburse up to $5,250 annually to reimburse educational expenses as a tax-free benefit. Reimbursements above that amount are taxable as income.

Most employer tuition reimbursement programs are open only to employees who have worked at the company for a specific period—usually at least six months or one year—and who are willing to meet certain conditions. For example, you may have to agree to stay with your company for two to five years after graduating to secure funding. If you leave, you'll have to pay back all reimbursements paid out by your employer.

Financial aid FAQ

When should I apply for student loans, grants or scholarships?

It's always a good idea to submit financial aid and scholarship applications as early as possible. Filing the FAFSA as soon as possible after the new funding season opens on Oct. 1 is important because some federal student aid programs have limited funds to give and award them on a first-come, first-serve basis. The same is true of many private scholarship programs, so submitting scholarship applications by the first deadline may increase the likelihood you receive additional funding.

When will I know if I've received loans/grants/scholarships?

The answer differs by funding source. You should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) about three to five days after you file your FAFSA—and the colleges and universities you list on your application will receive the same report. Most schools send financial aid award letters (which include information about grants and university scholarships) a few days after sending acceptance letters. Private scholarship foundations and organizations that award non-government grants have their own timelines for notifying funding recipients.

What if I don't qualify for any type of financial aid?

Financial aid is only one way to fund a master's degree. If you don't qualify for financial aid or the aid package you receive isn't sufficient to cover the cost of a master's in computer science, look into alternative funding options as soon as possible. Search for external scholarships and grants open to master's degree candidates, and contact your company's HR department to inquire about tuition reimbursement programs. Additionally, don't discount private loans if your credit history is strong and you feel confident you'll be able to pay back any debt you accrue after graduation.

How and when is tuition due?

When you enroll in Case School of Engineering's online MSCS program, you'll pay a $250 deposit that Student Financial Services will apply toward your first-semester bill. You will receive billing statements via email for each semester, and Case Western Reserve accepts various payment options. Generally, tuition payments are due at the start of the new term (e.g., in early July for the summer semester, early September for the fall semester and late January for the spring semester). A typical MSCS candidate taking two three-credit courses per semester receives an $11,634 bill each term if they're paying out of pocket. You will likely receive a smaller bill because student Financial Services automatically credits federal loans, grants and university scholarship awards to student accounts.

What should I do if I still have questions?

Representatives from the Office of University Financial Aid can answer any questions you have about MSCS tuition, aid or how to pay for your degree. Email your inquiry to financialaid@case.edu, or call the Office of University Financial Aid at 216.368.4530.

You get what you pay for

A Master of Science in Computer Science from Case School of Engineering is an investment that pays off in the form of not only a diploma but also access to opportunity. Influential researchers doing revenue-generating, paradigm-shifting work in computer science head up the MS in Computer Science program. Online MSCS students receive high-touch support from faculty with deep expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning, computational neuroscience, software engineering, data science and data mining, cybersecurity, data privacy and computer networking.

Case Western Reserve's School of Engineering generated 80 breakthrough inventions, 70 leading-edge U.S. patents and 237 grant-sponsored research projects in 2020 alone—in some cases, with help from master's candidates. Graduate students regularly take the lead in university research endeavors, authoring papers in elite peer-reviewed journals and even taking their ideas to market with the help of the university's Technology Transfer Office. They also build valuable relationships in the process, and MSCS graduates work at prestigious companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce, and top scientific organizations like IBM Research and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

You can be a part of all that and more without moving to Ohio, giving up your job or paying top dollar. Case School of Engineering is notable for its commitment to ensuring that online part-time computer science master's candidates don't have to sacrifice quality for flexibility. Unlike many schools, the university does not draw a hard line between its on-campus and online graduate programs. The value of a Master of Science in Computer Science from Case Western Reserve is the same regardless of how you earn it—online or on campus.

If you're ready to apply to our MSCS program or want to learn more about the application process, consider registering for one of our upcoming webinars. If, however, you still have questions about what it takes to earn a computer science master's online at Case Western Reserve, enrollment advisors are available via email at onlinemscs@case.edu and phone at 216.859.9922 with answers.

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