How Much Does Online College Cost?

Attending college online features many advantages. Here, we outline online college costs, including typical fees and expenses.

January 14, 2022

How Much Does Online College Cost?

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Online college costs less than many traditional campus programs. Online degrees at public four-year schools cost an average of $10,776 less than in-person degrees, according to EducationData.org.

Students pursuing an online bachelor's degree spend an average of $51,091. Learners pay the most affordable rates at public, in-state schools. These students spend an average of $38,496 on their bachelor's degree. Out-of-state learners spend $54,183.

This page outlines online college costs, including financial aid options to help pay for college expenses.

How Do Online Classes Work?

Online classes usually follow one of two formats. Synchronous classes feature set virtual meeting times. Enrollees log on for live lectures. Attendance often counts for course points. Online learners who prefer some accountability often prefer synchronous classes.

Asynchronous classes allow students to complete coursework at their convenience. Learners must still meet deadlines, but they benefit from more flexibility. Students watch pre-recorded lectures and participate in discussion boards.

Can You Take Any College Class Online?

Many schools offer online classes in a variety of subjects. Students should check with their prospective schools for a list of online offerings.

Classes that do not require labs or in-person components work well in a virtual format. However, some programs require in-person experiences. For example, aspiring teachers and nurses must complete teaching and clinical experiences.

Advantages of Online College

Online learning features many advantages. See below for some benefits of attending online college.

Many online programs run asynchronously. Learners can complete classes around their schedules. Students can also work at their own pace. They can spend longer on new concepts and work faster through easier material.

The average cost of online college is less than traditional campus programs. Online learners do not pay for campus housing or meal plans. They also save on commuting costs. Students who commute to campus for class spend an average of $3,400 annually in transportation costs, according to EducationData.org. An online learning format allows degree-seekers to attend the most affordable programs without relocating.

Online enrollees can listen to lectures and complete assignments from anywhere with an internet connection. Learners can complete classes while traveling or vacationing. Students with unpredictable schedules benefit from this flexibility.

Employers make no distinction between an online degree and a campus degree. An online format makes it easier for students to maintain a job or complete an internship. Many online classes allow enrollees to network with peers.

Fees vary by school. Some schools do not charge online learners fees for student activities or campus maintenance. However, online students may need to pay technology fees.

Students pursuing degrees online or on campus must buy textbooks and class materials. They should also budget for housing expenses. Learners can usually save money by living off campus.

Learners should check with their prospective schools to compare online college costs with on-campus college costs. Some colleges charge enrollees the same tuition, regardless of residency. However, 23% of schools charge more for online degrees than on-campus degrees, according to EducationData.org.

Online Degree Costs

College expenses include more than tuition. See below for some factors that impact the cost of an online degree.

In general, public schools charge lower tuition than private colleges. Students attending public four-year colleges spend an average of $9,410 on tuition and fees, according to CollegeBoard. Learners at private four-year colleges spend $32,410.

Online learners may need to buy a new laptop or upgrade their internet. Students should also budget for books. Learners can save money by renting textbooks or buying digital versions.

Some programs charge online learners a technology fee. Colleges may use this money to pay for virtual classroom platforms or online research databases. Some colleges do not disclose what their technology fee covers.

When researching online college costs, students should factor in various fees. For example, some schools charge orientation and graduation fees. Most schools also charge for official transcript copies and ID card replacements.

Financial Aid Options for Online Colleges

Students can apply for scholarships to help cover online college costs. Scholarships do not require repayment. Colleges often offer academic scholarships for learners with high GPAs or strong SAT or ACT scores. Private businesses and nonprofits also offer scholarships. Learners can apply for grants after completing the FAFSA. Many organizations award need-based grants. Students do not repay grants. However, some grants may include a work obligation post-graduation. Completing the FAFSA allows students to apply for federal loans. These loans qualify for forgiveness programs and income-based repayment plans. Students can take out subsidized or unsubsidized loans. Subsidized loans do not collect interest until after graduation. Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest immediately. Some colleges and universities offer work-study programs. These programs allow students to perform tasks for payment toward tuition. Learners may work on campus or off campus. The federal government provides work-study funds to learners with financial need. Some employers pay for a portion of an employee's education. This usually only occurs if the knowledge directly benefits the organization. Most employers only offer this perk to full-time professionals. Online programs allow students to complete coursework while working traditional business hours.

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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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