What Is the Average Cost of an Online Undergraduate Degree?

average cost per credit hour for online college

As online colleges grow in popularity, many are wondering about the average cost of online college per credit hour. Though many students know that the cost of an undergraduate degree is less when they take classes online, they might not know just how much they can save. Some schools charge one flat rate for a degree, others charge a flat rate per semester and others charge based on the number of credit hours that students take. Online schools may also offer discounted rates for those who take more credit hours each semester. After looking at the average cost of tuition, students should also look at factors that might impact the price they pay and the expenses they’ll have while in school.


Average Cost of Online College Per Credit Hour

According to a U.S. News and World Report article by Devon Haynie, the average price that students pay for online classes is $282 per credit hour. This puts the price of taking 12 credit hours worth of classes, which is generally a full course load, at around $3,400 a semester. The report points out that some schools charge as little as $80 per credit hour and other schools may charge more than $400 per credit hour. This refers only to the tuition that students pay for their classes and not any other expenses, and only applies to undergraduate courses. Graduate school online courses are usually more expensive.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition

The cost of an undergraduate degree also depends on whether the school charges different rates for students living in or out of the state. Schools often offer in-state tuition, which gives a price break to students who live and study in the same state. Those living in a different state and taking classes online may pay twice as much as students who live in the state pay. Some colleges also prohibit students from certain states from taking online courses because they do not have accreditation in those states.

Online Fees

Students hoping to enroll in an online college should ask about the cost of any fees as well. Those living on campus often pay fees for using the school’s library or athletic complex. Online students often pay a technology fee that applies to the online learning system the school offers. Some schools charge a technology fee of $25 to $100 that students need to pay each semester. Online students are also responsible for paying fees when they reach graduation, fees for certain materials and other fees.

Personal Expenses

Though taking online classes is a good way to save money, students should still consider the personal expenses they face. While they don’t need to pay money for a meal plan or a dormitory room on campus, they may need to pay rent and buy food while living off campus. Online students must also pay for textbooks required in their classes and other educational supplies, including pens, pencils, papers and highlighters. Personal expenses may also include a new computer or tablet for completing their classes and assignments or software that their professors require.

Online classes appeal to students who work full time, those who do not want to move for school, and those who have other obligations that keep them from studying at a local school. Though the cost of an online undergraduate degree is generally less expensive than the tuition charged to students taking classes on campus, students will still want to consider all the costs that they face.

It’s important to note that it’s often the case that additional financial aid beyond the cost of tuition can be applied to college-related personal expenses. Since your financial aid can pay for room and board at a traditional college (or if you attend in person but live off campus) it can also pay for your rent, food, internet connection, books, computer and other supplies required for you to attend college online. You may need to apply for additional loans to cover some or all of these costs. However, it’s also important to remember that when it comes to financial aid, your financial aid will always go to paying your tuition and fees first. You may not have enough left over to cover housing and food. So it’s important not to bank on being able to pay everything with your student loans. You may need to work part time or even full time in order to make earning your online degree affordable. The best situation possible is one where you’re able to live with family for free, or greatly reduced cost, while you earn your degree.

If that’s not an option, there are other ways to reduce the cost of your education to more manageable levels. If you are an undergraduate student, consider doing your first couple years at a community college. Most community colleges offer programs online these days. And they are significantly cheaper than even state universities. Plus, if you get great grades in community college, you can transfer to even the best state universities (all of which are offering tons of online degrees these days) and get great scholarships and financial aid based on your grades. There are a lot of ways to handle your personal costs. They aren’t all easy, but there are systems in place that can make it much more manageable for many.

Alternative Tuition Rates

Some institutions offer high-value alternative tuition rates as long as you can do the work to take advantage of them. Thomas Edison State University offers out-of-state students a flat-rate tuition of $4,639 per term, which means if you take 18 credits, you pay $257.72 per credit. Which is a great rate. Western Governors University also offers flat-rate tuition at $3,225 per six-month term. Additionally, WGU’s format makes it possible to take courses at your own speed. Take their Bachelor of Business degree as an example. Most students graduate within 36 months. That’s six terms. For a 120 credit degree, that comes out to just $161.25 per credit, which is an insanely good value. It means the whole bachelor’s degree costs under $20,000! And it can be earned in just three years instead of four!

So keep your eyes open for incredible deals like this as colleges continue to try to find ways to make themselves more affordable. The online market is changing, and changing fast as it develops and we see more and more innovation. We have tons of articles right here on this website featuring some of the best, most affordable online colleges out there. So if the average cost of tuition still seems like too much, check out our articles that spotlight the schools on the lower side of the average cost. There are a ton of opportunities out there if you know where to look! And we know where to look.

We trust this breakdown serves you well as you consider the average costs of online college.

Maxim Sorokopud

Melissa Anderson

Julie McCaulley