1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Are Online College Classes Cheaper for Students?

By

profile shot of a woman in a park with a l...
Dimitri Otis/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Are Online College Classes Cheaper for Students?:

Many penny-pinching students are interested in online college courses because of the cost. It’s true that some online colleges are cheap, but virtual learning isn’t always the most cost-effective option.

Cheap Degrees vs. Cheap Classes:

Overall, online classes tend to be less expensive than traditional classes. But, there’s a catch. Online colleges and trade schools that operate without a traditional campus are able to pass those savings onto the students. Meanwhile, traditional colleges still have to keep their buildings functional. While you may be able to save money by enrolling in an all-online degree program, don’t expect to get a discount when taking individual online classes from a traditional university.

Why Traditional Students Sometimes Pay More for Online Classes:

The truth is that traditional students usually pay just as much for occasional online classes as they pay for their in-person classes. Even more disheartening: many traditional colleges require students to pay an extra fee on top of their regular tuition when enrolling in an online class. Why? Colleges justify the extra expense as a necessary part of the infrastructure and administration of online courses. They often use the money to run separate online learning offices that offer online curriculum development assistance and tech support to instructors.

Opportunity Cost:

When comparing online and traditional colleges, don’t forget to add opportunity cost into the equation. Many students are willing to pay a little bit more for an opportunity that isn’t available elsewhere. For example, one student may be willing to pay extra for online courses so that he is able to work in the day and be with his family at night. Another student may be willing to pay extra for traditional courses so that he is able to network in-person, have access to research library, and enjoy a cap and gown graduation experience.

Online College Quality and Cost:

Quality is another major factor when it comes to online college tuition. It’s possible for online colleges, particularly state-funded schools, to offer a deal. But, be wary of virtual schools that are priced ridiculously low. Always check to make sure that an online or traditional college program is properly accredited before taking out your checkbook.

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Distance Learning
  4. Paying for School
  5. Are Online College Classes Cheaper for Students?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.