*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Georgia Tech’s computer science department, considered one of the top 10 in the nation, announced last year that it would offer a fully online version of its master’s degree for one-seventh of the cost that out-of-state students pay for its traditional degree ($7,000 vs. $45,000). This Online Master's Degree in Computer Science (OMSCS) is intended to certify students as having the same set of skills as any graduate of the traditional program. Georgia Tech is thus investing substantial time, effort and money to ensure that the program's quality matches the institution's current reputation.
We match data on applicants to Georgia Tech's online and traditional programs to National Student Clearinghouse data and our own surveys of applicants. We answer two primary questions. First, what type of students are interested in pursuing the online degree? In other words, who generates the market demand for such products? Second, how does admission to the program alter students' educational and career trajectories? In other words, what does OMS CS substitute for in the short run, other degree programs or continuing employment?
The first question is a purely descriptive exercise. The second can be causally identified by exploiting the fact that OMS CS used a strict GPA cutoff in its first year of admissions because of capacity constraints that neither students nor administrators could perfectly predict ahead of time. Our hope is that this analysis illuminates more about the potential for low-cost graduate STEM education to change how many and which types of students pursue advanced STEM degrees.