The ins and outs of low-residency graduate programs

Low-residency programs combine the benefits of in-person learning with the flexibility of an online degree.
    Low-residency programs combine the benefits of in-person learning with the flexibility of an online degree.

    The ins and outs of low-residency graduate programs


    Low-residency graduate programs combine distance learning with short, in-person courses and workshops. This hybrid form of learning gives students the personalized, intensive training they desire with online flexibility.

    Goddard College in Vermont created the low-residency model in 1963 to accommodate students with families, careers or other obligations that may make a full-residency program difficult. Before the digital age, low-residency students kept in touch with their professors and classmates through letters. With today’s available technology, it’s no wonder non-residency programs are increasing in popularity.

    Making matters more convenient, universities offer low-residency advanced degrees to students in a variety of subjects, such as business administration, education, health advocacy, nursing, psychology and visual arts.

    Does it pay to get an advanced degree?
    Receiving a master’s degree or PhD in your preferred subject area may offer chances for employment and salary raises that may not be possible with a bachelor’s degree alone. According to PayScale, the average salaries of different degrees in which a low-residency education is possible are as follows:

    • Business administration (BA): $62,000
    • Business administration (MBA: $84,000
    • Creative writing (BA): $52,000
    • Creative writing (MFA): $55,000
    • Education (BEd): $49,000
    • Education (EdD): $73,000
    • Health advocacy (BA): $50,000
    • Health advocacy (MA): $54,000
    • Nursing (BSN): $78,000
    • Nursing (MSN): $91,000
    • Psychology (BA): $56,000
    • Psychology (MA): $60,000
    • Visual arts (BFA): $52,000
    • Visual arts (MFA): $58,000

    The low-residency model
    Every college’s low-residency program varies in the frequency and duration of in-person discourse. Goddard College‘s low-residency model provides residency to students for eight days to engage in group discussions, lectures, readings and workshops. Other colleges offer residencies ranging from one or two weeks, twice a year.

    During the residency aspect, students have the opportunity to network with peers and faculty. Some universities will invite guest speakers, publishers or authors to educate students on their focus of study. Students can meet in person with their mentors to discuss their individual paths and focus areas. Low-residency students may find that this community gives them a more personalized education than what many 100 percent online graduate degrees offer.

    Deciding if a low-residency degree is right for you
    No single learning experience is right for everyone. Some students benefit from the flexibility associated with attaining an online degree. Others flourish in classroom settings, in which discourse occurs strictly in-person. Low-residency degrees are ideal for individuals who want to reap the benefits of both types of programs.

    Students who love to travel may be pleased with many programs’ opportunities for international residencies. Cedar Crest College rotates its residency between Barcelona, Dublin and Vienna. Lesley University holds its 10-day residency in Wales every summer. Vermont College of Fine Arts offers MFA students short-term lodging in Slovenia and Puerto Rico.

    The Observer cites another benefit of low-residency learning, that students often have real-world, industry experience. These seasoned peers may be advantageous for networking, or they may simply provide new perspectives based on their backgrounds.

    Students who are self-motivated could perform well in low-residency programs. Since they need to complete coursework on their own time, they should have time-management skills and a passion for the material. Low-residency students should also be capable of self-teaching; since they can’t simply raise their hands to ask the professor a question, they may have to do their own research to keep up with the course load. The skills that help students flourish in low-residency programs may be more important than ever in a workforce that has increasingly embraced remote employees and flexible career opportunities.

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