well, first always check your postings before actually posting them, a preview is a great tool.
Second, it depends on what you will be doing online. In fact, the most important thing for you will be internet bandwidth, not the computer itself. You will want something in the 10-30Mbps range (whatever is available in your area and fits in your budget).
For most classes an old Pentium 4 will do the trick if all you are doing is text and the occasional power point. But if you are doing constant power points, or other multimedia work then you will want a newer more modern computer, perhaps something in the Core2Duo to Core i3 range. An i3 is the most that you would ever need for school work unless you are doing full production work, and if that was the case then your school will provide the system specs required for your work. I would also suggest having 2-4GB of ram so that you can properly multi task.
The only other thing I would highly suggest is to have either a single large screen, or multiple monitors if your budget allows. When doing research it is handy to have multiple pages up, so the more screen real estate the better. I have a 27" monitor and have found it invaluable for large projects (and rather fun for games too).
If would be smarter/faster if you would fill this out. http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/50797-35-laptop-buyer... Then we could help you find a laptop to suit you and explain the spec decisions if you want. All I get from your post is online schooling which only requires a basic low end laptop.
10-30Mbps? I've been gaming on a 1.5 for the longest of times with no issues. Online classes isn't even that much, I've done a couple.
if the classes have video chat (and a growing number do) then he will want some real throughput. As you know, gaming isnt about throughput, it's mostly in latency, so that's not exactly the best example. I always suggest having ~10Mbps available per network user, that way even if everyone is on at the same time you generally have more bandwidth available than the websites you visit can send your way. Besides 1.5Mbps DSL is not that much cheaper than 10Mbps cable or fiber... though it does depend on the area. In my area 1.5mbps DSL goes for $30 plus a landline, while 25Mbps cable is only $40 and without the phone requirement. given the costs (and the fact that I have never had to own a land line), it really dosn't make sense for most people to stick with DSL.
Unless you live in a decent sized city you are pretty much stuck with one or at best 2 internet service providers. The sad fact is due to sprawl the US ( I am assuming you are from the US too ) has pretty crappy broadband in most places. I live just outside a city of 150,000 and have exactly one internet choice. 3Mbps ATT DSL. And thats as fast as it gets ( OK I could get the slower plan ). I jumped for joy back in 2006 when they upped my speed from 1.5Mbps. One day we are supposed to actually get 6 Mbps
It's either that or go back to satellite internet like in the good old days. Or dialup. 10-30Mbps is dreaming in most places.
We just need to wait for more info. Most do not do video, none of mine did. And 1.5 can stream hd. My area is actually similar to yours, 1.5 is $25 (15 with landline), 24 is $45 but you save money where you can and don't buy what you don't need. I'm near a city that is pretty big on tech, dell is literally 5 mins away. But most people aren't in an idea location.