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The Cost of Online College Courses: Closer to Traditional School Fees Than Many Expect

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There’s alot of misunderstanding about the cost of online college courses, and about the real tuition for and associate, undergraduate, graduate and even doctoral degrees in general.

There are lots of shortcuts available if you want a fake degree from a “diploma mill” or a non-accredited online school. But if you want to study at a real quality school, you may be surprised to find that individual distance learning courses cost about the same as traditional classes.

The total tuition you’ll pay for an online degree, in fact, may be exactly the same as what you’d pay at a “brick and mortar” college for four years. But you’ll get a big financial benefit from the fact that you’ll live at home while studying. Students at traditional colleges have to budget tens of thousands of dollars for room and board over four years, especially if their school is in a major city.

You also tend to pay for online learning on a “per-course” basis. That’s important, because it gives you flexibility to stretch out your schedule if events in your life make it necessary. In most cases, when a full-time student at a traditional school doesn’t complete the required credits within four years, he or she has to pay for every additional semester needed to finish the degree.

If you study at a state school, you may also get a unique benefit from the “distance” in distance education. Most state colleges and universities charge a huge premium (sometimes almost double the basic tuition) for on-campus students who are not residents of their particular state. There’s almost never a premium charged to out-of-state e-learners.

Cost differences: Traditional and Distance Learning:

Most three credit-hour courses online run from $700 to $900 – a charge that’s roughly comparable to the fees at most mid-range traditional schools. That means that a full online degree, including textbooks and other supplies needed, will probably require an investment of about $7,500 per semester, or about $30,000 total. Certificate programs, even at a fairly high professional level, can cost less because they involve fewer courses. For example, a certificate degree in supervisory skills at Cornell eLearning, a top school, currently costs about $5,000. It requires 11 courses.

There are several ways to defray this cost. If you are employed, particularly by a mid to

large-sized company, you may be able to get a the company to fund some or even all of the cost of online college courses. The federal government, which has traditionally given grants only to on-campus students, has shown more flexibility in recent years about giving financial aid to online students. (Read more about smart ways to pay for your online education ).

Don’t wait until the last minute before finding out what your credit hours will cost. Many schools charge late application fees, late payment fees and other charges to people who apply just before school starts. You can keep your degree affordable by learning about “hidden charges” like graduation fees and other charges that don’t seem to make sense before signing on to your online school.

Here are some of the most reasonably priced bachelors and associates degree programs. which you can get free information on by filling out some information about your interests. Estimated fees here are for the school year 2013 – 2014, and don’t include books and other costs unless otherwise noted.

AIU, a large online school, has a low credit hour tuition, but it does require more credits than some other schools on bachelor programs. The school works very hard to keep student costs down, however, by giving credit to degree programs from up to 50% of transfers for previous coursework at another school, and in some cases actually giving 75% credit. That’s unusual. AIU offers associates’s degrees in Business and Criminal Justice, as well as online bachelor degree programs in:

– Business (many specialties)

– Accounting

– Computers & Information Technology

– Healthcare Management

– Criminal Justice (many specialties)

CTU is a large institution based on Colorado Springs with over 25,000 students. It has solid regional accreditation (the best kind) and has been ranked #1 Best for Vets in the category for online and non-traditional universities by Military Times Magazine. The school’s $325. per credit hour cost is very much at the affordable end of the spectrum for online schools.

Offers associate’s and bachelor’s degrees online in

Grand Canyon University A large private school offering online degrees at a relatively moderate price for a school with strong name recognition across the country. Grand Canyon has a vast array of bachelors degrees in specialties including:

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