How Much Does Online College Cost?

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Category: Value of Education

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Despite the economic uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of education persists. College degrees offer an advantage when it comes time to apply for jobs, ask for a raise, or demonstrate your expertise, skills, and value to an organization. And data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to show that earnings figures increase and unemployment rates decrease for workers with higher and higher levels of education.

College can be expensive in terms of tuition, fees, and additional costs. For prospective students who already work full-time, have responsibilities such as children or family care, or cannot afford to move across the country for their education, online universities are a valuable alternative to traditional, in-person instruction. But how much does online school cost?

In this article, we explore data about online college tuition and what every student should know about college fees and expenses.

Online College Tuition

Both public and private institutions offer online degree programs, but each type of institution comes with their own costs, tuition rates and expectations. However, there is data that suggests that, when compared to in-person programs, online college tuition costs less on average.

In a report by the Education Data Initiative last updated in 2022:

  • The average per-credit-hour tuition at public online institutions was $321 compared to $491 for public in-person institutions.
  • The average per-credit-hour tuition at private online institutions was $505 compared to $2,163 for private in-person institutions.

Keep in mind that these figures are averages, and they can shift dramatically, especially if you’re attending a public school in-state versus out-of-state. Also, as we’ll explore next, tuition isn’t the only expense when attending college.

College Fees and Other Expenses

Many colleges charge fees on top of tuition, which are then used to fund various services. For online universities, these fees typically go toward the upkeep, administration and continual improvement of online study platforms. For in-person colleges, these fees also pay for on-campus services, including fitness centers, libraries, social events, clubs, and so on.

These fees are typically a smaller percentage of a student’s overall college costs than tuition, but they’re not insignificant. And in some cases, online students enrolled at a school that also offers in-person services may be required to pay fees supporting those services.

All the various college expenses in addition to tuition and fees can add up. One example is textbooks, which the average student spent $186 on during the Fall 2020 semester according to Student Monitor. However, some schools – like here at Columbia Southern University – provide course materials at no cost for every degree program.

Transparency in College Costs

Choosing the right college is a huge decision and one not to be taken lightly, and we encourage you to get as much information as possible about the advantages and disadvantages of every program you research. Knowing how you’ll pay and what your total costs will be are an important factor for every prospective student.

Here at CSU, we believe in the importance of transparency in college costs. Our tuition rates and fees for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral classes can be found front and center on the Tuition and Financing page on our website.

To learn more about our online degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, visit our website.

Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes. CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.

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