How Much Do Online Colleges Cost?

Considering enrolling in an online college? You might be wondering, how much do online colleges cost? Find out with this guide.

TCM Staff

27th February 2022

Online college is a great way to achieve better flexibility and school-life balance throughout your college education. But how much do online colleges cost compared to in-person programs? Is online college cheaper than in-person? 

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Generally, online school tuition doesn’t really change even though you’re attending class online. Online colleges tend to cost between $38,496- $60,593. But some online colleges are private vs public universities, which affects the price. Moreover, you’ll save costs on transportation and room and board if you opt for an online college. 

So, do you have to pay for online school the same way you would for in-person school? Yes, but not in the exact same way. Today, we’ll go over the average online degree cost and online school fees to help you make an informed decision about which school you’d like to attend. 

How Much is Online Schooling?

How much is online college when you consider tuition? The average online college cost will run you between $38,496- $60,593 for tuition. Public universities cost an average of $38,496 for in-state students and $54,183 for out-of-state students. Private universities cost a bit more, on average $60,593. The best way to assess your cost of education is by looking at credit hours. For the average online bachelor’s degree, the cost per credit hour is $316. 

Online colleges range greatly in tuition fees and structure the pay differently. Students should research each school and examine where the fees come from: per semester or credit hour. With that knowledge, they can compare various online colleges and decide which is the best deal for the education. 

Why Online Colleges Are Cost-Effective

How much does online college cost? According to statistics, you’ll pay less than you would for in-person college. Here are some general factors that keep online college costs lower than in-person: 

  • Transportation: Students don’t have to spend money driving or taking public transit to school when studying online.  
  • Books: Some online colleges send PDF versions of common college textbooks, which can certainly save you a few hundred dollars per semester. 
  • Room and Board: Online colleges save you the very exorbitant cost of accommodation if you decide to visit an out-of-state university. 

How Much Do Online Colleges Cost Compared to In-Person Learning

Your college education comprises a combination of expenses, from books and materials to tuition costs. We’ve put together a general table to help you visualize the difference in costs for various university expenses at online colleges versus in-person colleges. 

Costs

Undergraduate Online

Undergraduate On-Campus

Per Credit Hour

$316

$559

Books and supplies

$1,200

$1,200

Computer

$1,260

$1,260

Housing

-

$5,420

Food

$960

$4,230

Travel allowances

$130

$1,100

Clothing

$700

$700

Personal

$270

$270

So, you can see some savings in the transportation, housing, and food categories for online colleges compared to in-person programs. 

But the above chart is just a general picture, not an overarching truth for every online college. How much do online schools cost for specific US institutions? 

Cheapest and Most Expensive Online Bachelor’s Degrees by School

Some schools offer cheaper degrees than others, either by program tuition cost or costs per credit hour. 

Here’s a list of some of the cheapest online bachelor’s degrees by institution, in-state:

Here’s a list of some of the most expensive bachelor’s degrees by institution, out-of-state:

How to Make Online College Costs Less Expensive

You’ll usually save money in transportation, housing, and food if you opt for an online college. But some colleges offer you the opportunity to even further decrease your costs each month. 

Follow these tips to save some money on your online college costs:

  • Choose Colleges That Use Open Educational Resources (OERs): Open educational resources are publicly available education materials that are free to use. Some schools also use MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, in their curriculum. Think Coursera, edX, and Class Central. You might find some discounts if you use MOOCs as college credits for schools that allow it. 
  • Combination Community College Programs: Some colleges offer combination programs where students study two years at a community college and the other at a university. This might lower your costs at least in the first two years of study. 
  • Find Colleges That Charge Per Semester: If you can work hard and sneak in another course in your semester, that could save you a few hundred dollars. Check for colleges that charge per full-0time semester rather than per credit hour to maximize this benefit. 
  • Study at In-state Colleges: In-state tuition is always cheaper than out-of-state, and that remains true even for some online programs. 

Pros and Cons of Online College

Any program you choose will have pros and cons. Here are some benefits and drawbacks of attending online college:

Pros of Online College

  • Cost Savings in Housing, Transportation, and Food: When you’re studying from home, your costs in these three areas decrease dramatically
  • Flexibility: You have more time to raise your kids, go to work, pursue other hobbies, or do anything else in the time that you’d normally spend commuting and getting ready for school. 

Cons of Online College 

  • More Distractions: Lecture halls and labs don’t offer the same opportunities for distraction as your home. No professor will stop you from checking your phone or taking a nap mid-lecture when you’re studying online. 
  • More Robust Technical Requirements: Is your wi-fi spotty? You better fix that before enrolling in an online college, as you’ll be much more dependent on technology than you would be at an in-person program. 
  • Less Opportunity for Socializing: Part of the college experience is getting to know your classmates outside of the lecture hall. While online college lets you do so in forums and email, in-person interaction is missing. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. What is the Average Cost for an Online University?

The average cost for an online university program is between $38,496- $60,593.

    2. Is It More Expensive to Do College Online?

Not necessarily, but sometimes it is more expensive to attend college online. Statistics show that 23% of colleges actually charge more for online programs than they do for in-person programs. One reason for this is that universities don’t always differentiate in-state from out-of-state tuition for online programs, instead opting for the more expensive side of the range each time. 

    3. Is Online College Even Worth It?

Certainly. Online college will save you lots of money each semester in housing, food, and transportation. And, many accredited colleges offer online programs that will present you with the same job prospects upon graduation as an in-person program. 

    4. How Do You Pay for College Online?

You would pay for college online the same way you would for in-person programs. You can access scholarships, student loans, and perhaps personal savings to pay for your schooling. 

    5. What Are the Negatives of Online Learning?

If you have poor discipline skills, you might find it difficult to keep up with your coursework during an online program. Moreover, some students report feeling isolated and depressed when they don’t have the same access to in-person interaction. 

Conclusion

Before enrolling in a remote learning program, you might wonder: how much do online colleges cost? At an average of $316 per credit hour, online colleges are normally cheaper than in-person programs. However, this average is quite broad and certainly doesn’t apply to each program. The truth is, some online programs are dramatically cheaper than your average tuition, while others are dramatically higher. 


Interested in further exploring opportunities for online colleges? Check out our list of the 10 Best Online Colleges of the year.

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