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Top 10 Most Affordable IT Degree Programs

With so many reports of the loan burden students incur after after graduation, it has become extremely important to earn a degree in a field with low to modest unemployment rates and a good salary, an IT degree is that degree. Low pay and high unemployment sometimes make families feel the degree not worth the investment. The New York Federal Reserve reports that student loan debt is second only to mortgages. Here are the numbers families have to consider:

  • The average student finishing college in 2013 will owe about $35,000 in student loans after graduation.
  • About 37 million borrowers owe more than $1 trillion total in student loans.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Winter 2011 Survey, IT security jobs rank as the third most valuable degree in the employment market. Starting salaries for graduates with these degrees is around $49,318. The average national student debt is about 71 percent of a starting salary. Although the starting salary and student loan ratio in this case are workable, the figures are making more students examine how they spend their education dollars.

The good news is cyber security education leads to higher pay than entry-level IT positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average starting salary for IT security managers is about $160,000 to $170,000. This is three times the amount of money a person with an entry level computer science degree would make, and it certainly makes the monthly payments on a $35,000 student loan debt affordable. Until the year 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says information security jobs are expected to increase by 22 percent. This is eight percent more than all occupations across the board.

The key to selecting the right degree programs lies in examining what each program offers. Unlike other degree programs, which typically offer similar courses from college to college, cyber security degree programs each have a niche and vary greatly in course offerings. For example, some programs could focus more on training and interaction with local companies, while others stay focused on specialized research and new developments in the industry.

This Top 10 list was compiled based first on school reputation with Homeland Security and national polls. This ranking also gives some diversity in program concentrations. Tuition rates are the most recent for 2013 and do not reflect room and board and other fees. These schools are not necessarily the cheapest tuition, but because of the the possible job security, opportunity for scholarships, and strength of the academic and technological offering, they offer the best value for the cost of tuition.

Norwich University

Degree: Bachelor’s in Computer Security & Information Assurance. This degree seems to be a direct feed into government security jobs since it is based at a military academy. Degree candidates can focus on Advanced Information Assurance or Digital Forensics. The program is designed for academics and research.

Courses: cyberlaw and cybercrime, foundations of computing and security, computer programming, data structures, software engineering, information assurance, management of organizations, macroeconomics, organizational behavior, business law, business statistics, and number theory.

Other Related Programs: Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance

Tuition: $31,550 annually.

Format: Campus-based.

Mississippi State

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Program has earned its reputation because a number of graduates have found positions in the CIA, NSA and Armed Forces.

Courses: Program offers the following research experiences: artificial intelligence, computer security and forensics, high performance computing, software engineering, and visualization and computer graphics. Courses focus on private and public key encryption, key distribution, cryptographic has functions, digital signatures, IP security, secure socket layer, WEP for wireless networks, intrusion detection, firewalls, denial of service, spam, email viruses, phishing, an overview of Internet attacks in the last decade, computer crimes and computer forensics, Fuzzy Cognitive Maps for intrusion detection, information assurance, bioinformatics, and high-performance and multi-sensor environments.

Other Related Programs: Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, 5-year B.S./M.S. Degree

Tuition: $6,772 for in-state and $10,188 for out-of-state. This does not include room and board and other fees, which are a little more than $13,000 per year. Information security scholarships (Cyber Corps) available from the federal government for citizens who want careers working with the government after graduation.

Format: Campus-based.

University of Tulsa

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.

Courses: Computer science emphasis with a focus on business and management information systems. Courses include: introduction to computer programming and problem-solving, fundamentals of algorithm and computer applications, and data structures. There is also a specialized certificate program that does not require candidates to meet the other requirements of the computer science degree, but trains them to perform information systems security at the federal level.

Other Related Programs: Master of Science in Computer Science, Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science.

Tuition: $33,702 for tuition and fees annually. However, there is an opportunity for free tuition. In 2011, the National Science Foundation awarded $2.48 million to the University of Tulsa’s Cyber Corps program to train “cyber warriors.” Scholarships from this grant are renewable and give students a room and board stipend of at least $18,000, free tuition, books and supplies, and summer internships that pay about $9,000. Must be able to pass an appropriate security clearance to apply for this scholarship.

Format: Campus-based.

Loyola University of Maryland

Degree: Cyber Security Certificate. This program is designed for managers and leaders who work in banking, finance, engineering, technology, human resources and other related fields. The program lasts for one year and it is transferable to and from the Professional’s MBA Program.

Courses: selecting and implementing security protocols in computer networks for local, national, and multinational organizations, describing underlying theories and strategies for securing computer networks, developing and articulating strategic plans and policies for securing data and computer networks from inside and outside threats.

Other Related Programs: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, 5-year Bachelor/Master’s degree in Computer Science.

Tuition: $13,350, not including books and supplies, which average about $750..

Format: Campus-based, but room and board not offered.

Auburn University

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Auburn University is home to a dedicated AU Cyber Research Center, which is co-sponsored by Intelligent Software Solutions and focuses on modeling and simulation, information technology, cyber forensics and cyber risk analysis. ISS products are used by the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

Courses: fundamentals of computing, discrete structures, digital logic circuits, topics in linear algebra, software construction, introduction to algorithms, software modeling and design, computer organization and assembly language programming, computer ethics, introduction to engineering.

Other Related Programs: Non-thesis Master’s in Software Engineering, Master of Science in Computer Science and Software Engineering, Ph.D. in Computer Science and Software Engineering.

Tuition: $344 per credit hour for residents and $1,032 for non-residents. There is also a fee to be in honors college.

Format: Campus-based.

Carnegie Mellon University

Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Management – Information Security & Assurance

Courses: focuses on the need to adapt to the changing intruder landscape and to better understand risk management, information security, and data privacy. Courses include: telecommunications management, introduction to information security management, network security analysis, information security risk analysis, cybersecurity in critical infrastructure, privacy in the digital age, advanced database, business process modeling, data warehousing, decision making under uncertainty, defensive hacking, enterprise architecture, financial accounting, global IT managing and sourcing, and tech startup.

Other Related Programs: Master’s in Information Technology – Information Security, Master’s in Security Technology and Management, both offered as a three-track bicoastal program with Silicon Valley. Also offers the Kobe Master’s in Information Technology – Information Security dual degree in partnership with the University of Hyogo in Kobe, Japan.

Tuition: $46,670 per year, not including, room, board and fees.

Format: Campus-based.

Walden University

Degree: BS in Criminal Justice – Computer Information Systems & Security. This program is estimated to take about four and one-half years to complete.

Courses: theory and practice of contemporary criminal justice systems, criminology, juvenile delinquency, criminal law, corrections, the judicial process, computer network infrastructure, information security and privacy, and computer forensics. Students can gain experience and skills in other areas through elective courses, which can be taken from other criminal justice concentrations, general education courses, or concentration courses from other bachelor’s programs.

Other Related Programs: Master’s of IS Management – Enterprise Information Security, Ph.D. in Management – Information Systems Management, Course-based.

Tuition: Specific tuition figures unavailable. Varies according to program. Offers active duty/veteran, family, and alumni discounts up to 25%.

Format: Online.

Jones International University

Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Technology Services Management. Designed to help those with a technical certificate or associate’s degree develop business and management skills that can help them expand their career opportunities. Applicants must have already earned an associate’s degree or certificate in the information technology.

Courses: Six Sigma and DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) methods of quality assurance, management theory, leadership theory and technical services management skills, economic theory, financial accounting and management, legal and ethical issues in business, the American with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, compliance with OSHA regulations (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the legal system, including administrative, contract, business, regulatory and employment law. Students also study the impact of globalization on business, marketing management, organizational communication and strategic management. The program includes a capstone course in which students create a professional development plan, resume and portfolio.

Other Related Programs: MBA in Information Technology Management, MBA in Information Security Management – Cybersecurity

Tuition: $75,450 for 40 months. Includes tuition plus fees.

Format: Online.

Southern New Hampshire University

Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Technology – Cybersecurity.

Courses: server design, information assurance, network and systems engineering, vulnerability detection and assessment, cyber risk analysis and incidence response, web server design, UNIX/LINUX operation system, cyber-security and information assurance, object oriented analysis and design, business platform technologies, database design and management. Curriculum also provides core computer information technology and business courses to give students a career-focused education.

Other Related Programs: MS in Information Technology, MS in Information Technology – Internet Security Concentration

Tuition: $28,554. Does not include room & board.

Format: Online.

For those who cannot afford this tuition range, there is the option of completing a program that is offered exclusively online. The average tuition for this type of cyber security degree is about $17,074. Not all of the online cyber security programs have direct connections for high-profile jobs after graduation, but it does offer an affordable way to earn credentials. The list does not include the program at Syracuse University, but it does bear mentioning. Syracuse’s program offers a large number of financial assistance packages for cybersecurity degrees

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