Distance Learning Fees: Overview of Common Tuition and Fee Structures

Tuition and fees for online classes are often assessed at a similar rate to that of traditional classes. Explore the differences that exist between in-state and out-of-state tuition, full-time student status and student fees for online classes. View article »

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Video Transcript

Online and Traditional Tuition and Fees

When deciding whether to enroll in a distance learning or on-campus program, it can be helpful to understand how tuition and fee structures compare to those of on-campus programs. Specific areas to consider are per-credit charges, in-state and out-of-state tuition and additional student fees.

Online tuition and fees are typically comparable to on-site tuition and fees. Some institutions charge online students per credit hour at the same rate as on-campus students as if there were no difference. Other colleges set prices specifically designated for online courses and programs and may charge by course rather than by credit. Students must therefore research whether the institution considers distance learning the same as traditional learning for tuition purposes.

The college's policy regarding out-of-state tuition for online classes is another critical consideration. Each institution has different rules regarding in-state or out-of-state classification of online students for tuition purposes, and the difference in cost can be very significant. There may also be other minor differences in the way that student fees are charged to students in distance learning classes.

Let's discuss each of these areas in more detail.

Per-Credit Charges

Traditionally, colleges typically charge a set amount of tuition per credit hour for on-campus classes that a student is enrolled in. Charges per credit continue to accrue until a student reaches what the college considers full-time status, usually 12 credit hours. At this point, additional credits do not accrue more charges until a student reaches an overtime status, at which point some colleges add additional per-credit or tuition charges.

Like on-campus programs, online programs often charge students per credit hour, though they may charge per course. Full-time and overtime rates may also apply to online students, depending on the school.

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In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition

In on-campus programs, public and state schools throw an additional variable into the equation with two different tuition rates depending on whether a student is a resident of the college's home state or not. Tuition for in-state students is usually much lower than tuition for out-of-state students.

Some colleges treat distance-learning classes just as other classes, charging an in-state or out-of-state rate per credit with a price cap that kicks in once a student takes enough credits to be considered full time. However, several public schools charge all online students the in-state rate or the out-of-state rate regardless of their state of residence, so potential distance learners should research schools thoroughly.

Other Fees

In many colleges, the main difference in cost between distance learning and traditional classes is the fees charged apart from tuition. On-campus student fees typically cover computer technology and machinery costs, student athletic teams, activities, student life services, health center fees and other similar costs. In contrast, distance learning fees might include technology, equipment, and access fees, which on-campus students are not required to pay.

There can be similarities and differences between the payment structures for online and on-campus educational programs, so prospective students should carefully evaluate the offerings of a school before enrolling.

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