For many aspiring online students, the most significant selling point of an online college degree is the savings. It’s no secret that most people believe that enrolling in an online college is cheaper than enrolling in a traditional college program. But is that true? Is it cheaper to pursue an online degree than it is to follow a conventional degree program? At OnlineCollegeWiz, we’ve decided to find out if it’s cheaper to enroll in an online degree and if it is, how much more affordable?

Rising Costs in Education

College can be expensive. Year after year, it seems like the cost of education continues to climb. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, students in the United States spend about $30,000/year on college, double the most other developed nations. 

With these rising costs, many students feel as though they are being priced out of the opportunity for an education and a future. Sure, students can apply for student loans, but many students balk at the idea of accruing tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.

Online degrees have long been seen as a way to mitigate the rising costs of higher education. By cutting out a lot of the overhead that comes with a traditional degree, online degrees can be offered cheaper. But what exactly are colleges cutting out to reduce these costs?

The Cost of Traditional Schools 

Before we break down the costs of an online college degree, we first must consider the costs of a traditional on-campus degree.
When most students consider the cost of a college degree, their mind immediately goes to tuition. What is the tuition cost of the school? Great, now I know how much this degree will cost me. But that’s not accurate, especially when it comes to traditional schools.

Traditional college programs include several hidden costs that can be staggeringly high. On-campus programs are riddled with additional expenses like Facilities Fees, Student Services Fees, and much more.

Beyond these fees, students must also consider how much it will cost to Room and Board on-campus if they plan to live there. If they’re choosing to live off-campus, they’ll also have to consider the cost of parking or commuting. 

With fees, housing, and transportation considered, traditional campus students also need to contend with purchasing textbooks and other supplies. 

These numerous additional costs can add up very quickly and push your total yearly expenses well into the $30,000-$50,000 range.

How you save with an online college

Just looking at the cost of a traditional college degree, it is easy to see places where money could be saved. 

While many traditional colleges charge a flat tuition rate for on-campus programs, online colleges typically operate on a tuition per credit approach. This can be anywhere as low as $120 per credit up to $700 per credit for many public universities. 

Online colleges also incur some additional fees with tuition accounted for, but they tend to be far less than their brick-and-mortar counterpart.

Students need to know that the main fee when enrolling in an online college is the Technology fee. Some online colleges and universities incur a small Technology fee that is typically charged once per semester. 

Other than that, online colleges tend to avoid most of the additional fees and costs of an online college. 

Fees and costs avoided through an online program include:

  • Student services fees
  • Facilities fees
  • Housing
  • Transportation fees

By avoiding having to pay these types of fees, students can save significantly on their college experience.

In-state Tuition Out-of-State though an Online College

Many traditional colleges offer either in-state or out-of-state tuition. In-state tuition tends to be considerably cheaper than out-of-state tuition.

One remarkable aspect of many online college programs is that they offer students the in-state tuition price instead of the out-of-state tuition price when enrolled online. This is not standard across the board for every college and university, but a large number of schools do operate in this fashion. 

Choosing to enroll in an out-of-state school through online learning can give students access to tuition savings by making this in-state tuition rate available to them.

Exactly how much cheaper is an online college degree

The exact amount of savings that can be had by choosing to pursue a degree online can vary depending on which school is determined and what degree program the student is enrolling in. 

With that being said, we’d like to provide an illustrative example of the types of savings a student can have by choosing to pursue an online degree. Let’s outline a scenario.

A student is considering enrolling in a four-year undergraduate program. If they choose to pursue the degree, traditionally, they will live on-campus. 

Using figures provided by ValuePenguin, the average total cost of a year at a public college is $25,920 in-state and $40,940 for out-of-state. In total, that students will spend $103,680 in-state and $163,760 out-of-state. That’s a lot of money! 

According to US News, the average tuition per credit for an online college is $316 per credit. A typical four-year undergraduate degree is comprised of 120 credits. That totals out to $37,920 for the entire degree. That’s a third of the cost of an in-state degree and less than a quarter of the cost of an out-of-state degree.

One thing to keep in mind is that the traditional cost average includes room and board. But even that being considered, even if you were to compare against an in-state school, you’d be saving on average $65,790 by enrolling online. Dividing that across 48 months, rent comes out to $1370/month in rent just to equal the cost of the on-campus program. Depending on where you live, that’s not too bad at all. 

With just some simple math, it’s clear that pursuing a degree online is considerably cheaper than earning a degree on-campus. So do yourself a favor, find an online degree that’s right for you and save yourself some serious money. 

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