When students weigh the decision between earning a degree online or on campus, they inevitably compare the two. While students often assume than a traditional degree is superior to an online degree, online colleges are actually better at certain facets of higher education than their traditional counterparts. In particular, students of online colleges enjoy plenty of curriculum choices and a great value.

The Freedom of Educational Choice

Most college students, especially those studying online, are in school for a specific purpose. They want to prepare for a new career or advancement in a current career. What they study matters – and so does having the freedom to study a major that relates closely to their career goals. A 2015 Gallup poll showed that approximately one-third of all Americans believe online colleges offer “broader curriculum choices” than their traditional counterparts.

The Value of Your Education

What is your degree worth? Does the value it adds to your education, your career and your life exceed what you pay in tuition? With student loan debt emerging as an economic crisis, experts and students alike are taking a closer look at the cost and value of an education. Students have long considered the more affordable cost a main reason for earning a degree online rather than in person, so it’s no surprise that a third of survey responders believe online learning provides a better value than the traditional college experience.

Perceptions of Superiority and Inferiority

Today, many students considering a distance learning education make it a point to research the value of an online education. They want to know if an online college is cheaper than a traditional college or if an online school is easier to get into than a traditional school. Often, students want to know if their online degrees will be respected as much as a degree from a traditional program. Many students presume a degree from a traditional, face-to-face program is better than one from an online program – but these poll results show that online colleges have advantages beyond convenience and flexibility.

Online colleges still have work to do. The same Gallup poll that applauded online colleges’ curriculum choices and value also found that these programs still don’t live up to the reputation of traditional colleges. Just 36 percent of survey responders ranked online colleges – particularly those that provide an education exclusively online – as “good” or “excellent,” rather than “fair or poor.” Community colleges fared much better in this opinion poll, with a 66 percent rate of good/excellent rankings, and 70 percent responders had good things to say about four-year schools and universities. Still, the approval rate of online colleges is slowly going up. Many responders felt that current online educations don’t have reliable testing and grading practices, quality instruction and evidence that these degrees provide value to potential employers. As online colleges address these concerns, they can add even more value to students and gain more respect.