How Much Does Online College Cost
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How Much Does Online College Cost

For many young Americans today, a college education is now likely going to be the second-largest purchase they make in their lifetime—second only to buying a home.

The cost of higher education has always been going up, increasing by a steady inflation-matching 3% for most of modern American history. However, the rise in college costs over the last decade has been decidedly dramatic, setting new highs with annual rates often north of 30%.

Furthermore, there are no signs of this trend, stopping any time soon due to several contributing elements. The rise fueled by hard to navigate factors like:

  • Decreased state funding
  • Increasing demand for college education and a consequent need for more faculty members and facilities
  • Increasing bureaucracy in schools
  • Rising standards of living
  • Surging amount of student services that often includes frivolous luxuries

Hence, it is no surprise that many students today are seeking alternatives to a traditional university experience with options like community colleges and online colleges.

For low-income students, and others who have no intentions of starting their career with a $30,000+ debt to Sally May, online colleges and community colleges typically provide an educational route with a significantly lesser financial burden.

If you choose the online college path, one of the first questions on your mind will be, “how much does online college cost?”

How Much Does Online College Cost

With the rise of internet use in all areas of our lives, higher education too has joined the shift, with many schools now offering online college options as well as the use of digital components like video conferencing in their traditional programs.

This alternative path to college typically offers students a more flexible, convenient, and cost-efficient way to attend college. Furthermore, with online colleges, students often also get several alternative payment systems like monthly tuition and interest-free payment.

However, the cost of online college education, like with traditional colleges, can vary significantly from school to school.

Here is a rough estimate of what you should expect to pay when attending an online college

Program Program Program
Undergraduate  $100 – $450  $5,000 – $20,000
Graduate  $300 – $600  $9,000 – $20,000
Furthermore, online colleges give students more freedom to adjust other costs like housing and food, as with online degree programs, there is no need for on or around campus housing or cafeteria use.

However, with an online college, you will typically still be paying close to the same on books and learning materials as students on traditional degrees.

Are Online Colleges Cheaper Than Traditional Colleges

In most cases, the answer is a resounding yes.

For many students today, the affordability of tuition and other school fees is the most crucial factor for deciding on a college. And online colleges often offer a significantly lower cumulative cost of education that traditional colleges.

The tuition cost for online programs are often relatively lower; students can avoid on-campus board and room cost, as well as transportation costs typical of off-campus residents.

Furthermore, since there are no geographical restrictions to an online college, students can take advantage of lower costs in online universities from any U.S state, irrespective of their current state of residence.

Why are Online Colleges Cheaper?

Serving students with an online program is generally quite cheaper than a traditional one. With online degree programs, schools use a less amount of facilities, smaller faculties can attend to a large pool of students, and the programs typically require less active management.

These factors quickly translate to cheaper costs both for the students and the school.

With universities that exclusively offer online programs, the cost-reducing elements of the system extrapolate even further. These colleges do not need to build and run elaborate physical structures or hire thousands of personnel and support staff.

Consequently, dedicated online colleges can typically offer significantly lower tuition and fees to students compared to most traditional brick-and-mortar universities.

Is Cheaper Better?

Many studies point to the fact that the cost of a degree program is often not directly correlated with the quality of education you are getting. Plus, educational standards vary significantly from school to school and can swing widely, even amongst schools in the same region.

Hence, whether you are opting for an online or traditional college, you must research the school considering stats like their admissions rate, graduation rate, alumni employment rate, accreditation, as well as subjective factors like the school’s reputation and the quality of their faculty.

Nevertheless, online colleges offer a reliable alternative to traditional colleges, and if you get the right school, you are sure to get an education on par with any physical institution.

Except if you are considering earning a prestigious certificate like one from Harvard or MIT, an online college program is an excellent alternative to a regular college, as long as you are okay with missing out on the campus experience.

Another exception is if you are venturing into a field of study that is exceptionally practicum-oriented like most high-tech disciplines. Here, you may want to live on campus and enter a traditional degree program for a more immersive learning experience.


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