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Cheap Online College Degree Options

Oct 24, 2019

Pursuing a college degree online can save students money in room, board, supplies, parking and gas. Some schools may even offer cheaper tuition for distance learning students.

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The cost of college is always a consideration for students interested in post-secondary education. Major factors in deciding on a degree plan include tuition and fee costs and finding a cheaper degree option, either online or on campus.

Online College Tuition Overview

Tuition rates and philosophies vary widely from school to school, and the additional factor of in-state vs. out-of-state rates also impact comparisons at some schools. Some institutions, such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), offer lower tuition to online students than regular out-of-state students, making their distance learning programs less costly for many non-resident individuals than their traditional programs. Other programs, like Study.com, offer text Lesson Link online courses that you can complete at your own pace for a monthly fee. Online students might save money on lab and student activity fees.

College Costs: On-Campus vs. Online

According to U.S. News and World Report, the average costs of tuition and fees, as of the 2018-19 school year, are as follows:

  • Public, 4-year university for in-state students: $9,716 per year
  • Public, 4-year university for non-residents: $21,629 per year
  • Private, 4-year college is $35,676 per year

Of course, all of these costs are just 'sticker prices.' Because most students receive financial aid, the net costs of college can vary significantly and are often quite a bit lower. The average net price for in-state students at a public, 4-year university is between $3,700 and $3,800, according to College Board. It's important to look at a school's typical aid package and speak with a financial aid advisor.

Online college costs are a little harder to pin down. Some charge a flat rate for tuition and fees, while others charge per credit. At the least expensive end of the spectrum, there are schools that charge as little as $92 per credit hour for in-state students (which comes to a total of $11,040 for the whole 120-credit bachelor's degree program). At the more expensive end, students might expect to pay upwards of $500 per credit hour.

No matter the cost per credit, online students typically save money in several areas, including:

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Textbooks
  • Supplies
  • Gas/Parking

Finding an Online Degree

Looking for the perfect online degree? Study.com has an easy system for matching students with a degree that works for them. Users input their education level, their goals and a few more details and get a list of schools and programs that might work. Here are some things to consider for when searching for an online degree:

  • Is the school regionally or nationally accredited? Accreditation is incredibly important -- it tells potential students that certain educational standards are being met at the institution.
  • What are the costs per credit and what fees are added? Most colleges will list all of this information on their websites.
  • What is the school's average aid package? An online college might charge higher prices, but the scholarships, grants and financial aid could make the total annual costs lower than a 'less expensive' school.

There are many important cost considerations in choosing a higher education institution. Online schools and programs may become an important and affordable option when weighing tuition and fee costs at public or private universities.

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