Payment Plan Options at Affordable Online Universities

payment plan options at affordable colleges

Reviewed by: Julie McCaulley / First covered: April 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn about the various payment plan options available at affordable online universities, such as:
    • Monthly payment plans
    • Semester-based plans
    • Full-payment versus partial-payment options
  • Gain insights into how financial aid can be integrated with payment plans to create a comprehensive strategy for covering tuition and other expenses.
  • Learn how to make informed decisions about choosing the right payment plan and leveraging financial resources effectively to enhance their educational experience and outcomes.

I. Introduction

The cost of higher education in the US has surged, becoming a significant factor in college dropout rates, as reported by Fox Business. According to NCES data, the sticker prices for an on-campus education have soared by 26%, from $16,188 in 2014-15 to $20,401 in 2022-23. This alarming trend has led many students to question the value of incurring a lifetime of debt for their education. 

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We say yes! There are ways to pursue a college degree while minimizing the financial burden and maximizing the long-term benefits. The combination of affordable online universities and flexible tuition payment plans will make managing educational expenses easier. 

II. Understanding Payment Plan Options

With $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, many students in the US are seeking other ways to pay for their education. They consider financial aid integration from private and public agencies. Then comes payment option plans, the go-to solution for students and families to avoid breaking the bank for higher education. 

Online colleges and universities have payment plan options, but most use the services of outside providers, such as University Accounting Service (UAS), FACTS Tuition Management, ECSI Tuition Payment Plan (TPP), and Nelnet Campus Commerce. 

Utilizing payment plans has major benefits. 

Because you won’t be paying the tuition in full, you have the flexibility to manage your finances more effectively. You need not worry about paying a lump sum to start a program.

Payment plans, however, have set-up fees. Nevertheless, that amount is significantly lower than loan interest. You won’t have to undergo extreme background checks to get approved, like when getting loans. 

III. Types of Payment Plans Offered

A. Monthly Payment Plans

Monthly payment options are the most commonly offered online university tuition payment plan. This plan allows students to divide their tuition fees into monthly installments until graduation. 

The major benefit of the monthly payment options for students is that it allows you to plan ahead of your monthly budget for other expenses. 

B. Semester-Based Payment Plans

Students with better financial resources usually take semester-based payment plans. These plans are structured around the academic calendar, with payments due at the beginning of each semester or term. By aligning payments with the academic calendar and giving students a clear deadline for fulfilling their financial obligations, semester-based plans reduce the chance of late fees or missed payments.

C. Full-Payment vs. Partial-Payment Plans

Full payment and partial payment are two other payment options in online universities. These plans mandate that students pay their tuition costs in full at the start of the academic semester. It offers two main advantages. 

  1. You’ll be eligible for tuition discounts, which saves you money all in all. 
  2. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your whole tuition is paid off, allowing you to focus on other financial obligations.

However, paying the entire tuition upfront can be financially challenging or even impossible and may limit other investment opportunities or financial goals.

Partial–payment plans allow students to pay part of their tuition up front and the remaining amount in installments. These plans make higher education more accessible to a wider range of students, including those from low-income backgrounds or with limited financial resources. Advantages of this plan include:

  1. You’ll have more flexibility when paying your tuition.
  2. You’ll have more opportunities to invest in other important resources, like an upgraded desktop or laptop. 

However, it’s important to note that, depending on the institution’s policies, some partial-payment plans may have additional set-up fees or interest charges.

IV. Case Studies: Payment Plans at Select Affordable Online Universities

Each online university will have its specific payment plan options, conditions, and eligibility criteria. To give you an idea, we’ve selected three affordable online universities with budget-friendly payment options, comparing their features, requirements, and student experiences. 

Liberty UniversityWeber State UniversityFlorida State University
Per credit hour cost$390$299$180.49
Feature-Students can pay a portion of their tuition and the remainder in monthly installments. 
-Tuition freeze
-Tuition and fees are divided into equal monthly payments.
Students can select to pay in 2 or 4 installments
Requirements-One-time $50 payment plan fee-Must be enrolled full-timeRequires a $15 fee
What Students Say“I enjoyed receiving my online degree through Liberty University, thanks to its low tuition fee and financial assistance.”“It’s a decent college with relatively inexpensive fees with monthly payment plans.”“Offers a lot of online degrees and a very affordable tuition fee. Students have the best financial advisors!”

V. Financial Aid and Payment Plan Integration

In addition to affordable tuition and payment plans, you also need to exhaust all student finance assistance to make your college journey more manageable. This includes exploring gift aid in conjunction with flexible tuition payment plans.

Before inquiring about the payment plan options, prioritize financial aid that does not require repayment. Explore scholarships, grants, and discounts. To increase your chances of maximizing financial assistance, you should

  • Fill out the FAFSA early in the year
  • Keep taxable student income outside of the aid formula.
  • Minimize personal assets
  • Postpone parental income
  • Don’t report unnecessary assets
  • Minimize measured parental assets

While family contributions play a big role in obtaining financial assistance, it’s not the only factor to consider. You should also consider investing in your skills and experiences. The university will be more interested in giving you financial assistance if you have demonstrated a commitment to personal and professional growth. 

VI. Strategies for Choosing the Right Payment Plan

Some universities offer multiple payment plans, while others offer one or two plans (monthly and semester-based plans). However, universities that offer multiple plans are usually the ones that decide what the student needs. Nevertheless, we will give you a quick overview of how to choose the right payment plan.

  1. Consult your school’s financial aid office to determine your educational expenses, including any scholarships or grants you may receive.
  2. Assess your or your family’s contribution capacity if a student loan is necessary to meet tuition payment plan requirements. 
  3. Pay attention to the interest rates, repayment terms, and any associated fees with each payment plan option.
  4. Consider your financial stability and cash flow when deciding between monthly, semester-based, or other payment plans.
  5. Compare the total cost of each payment plan option throughout your education to understand the long-term financial implications.

VII. Conclusion 

With tuition fees continuously increasing, even in online colleges, it’s important to balance educational finances and personal expenses. You need to know your options to have a manageable learning experience. Thanks to payment plans, you can avoid pouring all your financial resources into your tuition fee and having zero balance for other important expenses. 

While tuition payment plans have associate fees, such as set-up fees, it’s much lower than taking large amounts of student loans to pay full tuition. Student loans often lock you into fixed repayment terms and interest rates that can lead to significant long-term debt. In contrast, payment plans allow you to spread out your educational expenses over time, giving you more control over your finances and avoiding the burden of hefty loan payments after graduation.