How Much Does Online College Cost?
Online learning offers many advantages. Students benefit from convenience, flexibility, and affordable tuition. In the 2018-19 school year, on-campus students at private schools paid an average of $44,310, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In 2021, online students paid an average total of $51,090 for a bachelor's degree, according to EduationData.org.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools were increasing their online offerings. According to the NCES, more than 35% of all college students were enrolled in at least some distance education courses in 2018.
This guide offers an overview of online college costs. Read on for typical fees and common secondary expenses.
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Is Online College Cheaper or More Expensive?
Typically, online college costs less overall than traditional college. Online learning eliminates many campus expenses. For example, online learners do not need to pay for parking or living on campus. Many schools also offer reduced tuition for online enrollees. Students can sometimes pay a lower tuition rate by enrolling fully online.
How Do Online Classes Work?
Online courses often follow the same curriculum model as campus courses. Most online courses use virtual learning platforms such as Blackboard or Canvas. These platforms allow students to view lectures, communicate with classmates, and access assignments online.
Some online courses run synchronously. Students attend live virtual classes that mimic the classroom environment. Other online courses run asynchronously, allowing enrollees to access course material at their convenience.
Can You Take Any College Class Online?
Online learning has increased tremendously since 2010. Students can complete online programs in nearly every major academic subject area. Around 2,500 U.S. colleges offer some type of online program. Many schools offer degrees entirely online.
Several schools offer prerequisite courses online. This allows students to fulfill general credit requirements without visiting campus. Technology advancements have allowed schools to offer increasingly complex courses online.
Advantages of Online College
Online courses offer several advantages over campus courses. See below for some of the many benefits to attending an online college.
Online vs. On-Campus Fees and Expenses
Online students pay tuition and technology fees. They may also need to pay some of the same fees as campus students, such as lab and graduation fees.
On-campus students often pay extra fees for the use of campus resources. These include recreational facilities and health services. Learners who live on campus also pay for room and board. Housing expenses increase the total cost of college.
Even students who live off campus should budget for more expenses. Online and on-campus students must pay for textbooks and other materials. These can cost hundreds of dollars each semester. Online students may also need to visit campus occasionally. These trips add to transportation expenses.
Online Degree Costs
While online college costs typically run lower than campus programs, students must still pay tuition and other fees. See below for common online learning expenses.
Tuition includes the cost of all academic credits necessary to earn a degree. Tuition rates vary among public and private schools. In 2021, online in-state students at public colleges pay an average tuition of $38,500 for a bachelor's degree. Online students at private colleges pay an average of $60,590.
Students typically pay tuition each semester. Learners can use loans, grants, and scholarships to cover expenses.
Most schools charge technology fees in addition to tuition. These fees cover the use of a school's online services, such as their online learning platform and technical support services.
Some schools charge technology fees on each academic credit or by semester. Others offer tiered fee structures. Students who take more credits per semester incur fewer fees. Technology fees vary by school. Students must pay these fees each semester.
Online students may also need to pay standard administrative fees. These can include application, enrollment, and graduation fees. Learners who enroll in programs with lab components, such as science or nursing, may need to pay more lab fees.
Online learners should research their program and determine potential expenses. Students may need to travel to campus for orientation sessions, conferences, and residencies. Learners should budget for these transportation and lodging expenses.
Financial Aid Options for Online Colleges
Reese Lopez is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the education field. After earning his BA in English from Evergreen State College, he worked as an English language instructor and tutor before joining Affordable Colleges Online. Reese lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also writes fiction and performs in the local music scene.
AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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