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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  • 0:04 Online & Traditional…
  • 1:22 Per-Credit Charges
  • 2:03 In-State vs.…
  • 2:46 Other Fees

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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 vs. out-of-state tuition
  • Additional student fees

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. 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 - so students may still pay for 12 credits, even if they are taking 15 credits during that semester.

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

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. However, online students may not be able to take advantage of the services these fees cover. So, most colleges have specific distance learning fees. These fees might include:

  • Technology and equipment fees are designed to cover the cost the university incurs to buy equipment and maintain current, functioning technology. Technology fees can vary dramatically from school to school. Some charge around $40 per class, while others charge upwards of $100.
  • Access fees typically go toward things like cloud services, VOIP expenses and all the costs associated with fostering an interactive learning environment. which on-campus students are not required to pay.
  • Graduation fees (sometimes called conferral fees) are charged for students who are graduating and receiving a degree. These can be around $100.
  • Assessment fees pay for the exams used to assess a student's aptitude and course placement in the online program. Assessment fees typically run around $25 each for the courses that require them.

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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