Surprise, Surprise! Hidden Expenses in Online College

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Hidden Expenses of Online College
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Surprise, Surprise! Hidden Expenses in Online College

Online col­lege is often assumed to be the cheap­er option for return­ing stu­dents. While this may be true, there are still many hid­den expens­es that prospec­tive stu­dents should con­sid­er. (1)

Tiered Tuition

It’s pret­ty obvi­ous that class­es cost mon­ey. But did you know that tuition can be high­er under cer­tain cir­cum­stances? Being an out-of-state stu­dent can dras­ti­cal­ly increase tuition, while tak­ing mul­ti­ple class­es in one ses­sion can low­er rates. Be sure to check with your prospec­tive school about what might raise your cred­it hour costs.


Aver­age cost per cred­it hour of under­grad­u­ate online cours­es (1)


As an online stu­dent, you dodge a few fees, like recre­ation­al facil­i­ty costs and lunch pro­grams. But there are still some fees that you are sub­ject to: tech­nol­o­gy fees, book or resource fees, assess­ment fees and even grad­u­a­tion fees. If your school offers a spe­cif­ic ser­vice, chances are there’s a fee for that.

Com­mon fees (2)

Appli­ca­tion: $20-$50

Enroll­ment: $100-$400

Grad­u­a­tion: $25-$100

Time for Travel

Don’t be sur­prised if your online course requires at least one trip to cam­pus per semes­ter. And if you’re in an online grad­u­ate pro­gram, many schools require a short, on-cam­pus res­i­den­cy in your field.

Park­ing pass­es can get expensive.

Annu­al stu­dent park­ing fee (3)

Howard Uni­ver­si­ty: $240

George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty: $224

Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty: $964

Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land: $412


To real­ly excel as an online stu­dent, you’ll need both a reli­able com­put­er and high-speed inter­net. That seems pret­ty obvi­ous. But there is often required soft­ware, and some­times pro­fes­sor also expect scanned doc­u­ments. E‑readers or tablets can make doing home­work on the go eas­i­er, too.

Stu­dents with gad­gets (4)

Device: Under­grads: Grad students

Cell phone: 96%: 99%

Desk­top com­put­er: 59%: 73%

Lap­top com­put­er: 88%: 93%

E‑reader: 9%: 7%

Tablet: 5%: 5%


Tra­di­tion­al, on-cam­pus stu­dents and online stu­dents have one thing in com­mon: the high price of books. Luck­i­ly for all stu­dents, rent­ing and buy­ing used books are more afford­able options.


Increase in aver­age cost of col­lege text­book since 2006, more than four times the rate of infla­tion (5)

Child Care

You may think that stay­ing home will keep you from need­ing a babysit­ter. But will you real­ly be able to con­cen­trate on your stud­ies when your kids are run­ning around and beg­ging for dinner?


Aver­age annu­al cost of child­care for chil­dren up to the age of 4. That’s more than the aver­age annu­al cost of col­lege tuition. (6)


Last­ly, don’t for­get the cost of office sup­plies. As an online stu­dent, you’ll still need note­books, pens, cal­en­dars and more. You can skip the back­pack, though find­ing some­thing to keep your school things togeth­er is recommended.

Hidden Cost of Online College



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