Online Schools vs. On-Campus Programs: A Cost Comparison

Online Schools vs. On-Campus Programs: A Cost Comparison

As college tuition costs soar, many people have become interested in online study as a less expensive alternative to studying on campus. Online study is not always cheaper, however. Tuition costs are relatively comparable between the two, and differences generally arise in fees, supplies, transportation, and housing costs.

Traditional and online programs share some costs:

  • Tuition
  • Fees, such as administrative, health, or lab fees
  • Textbooks
  • Supplies, such as laptops or pens.

Online students, for example, will not have to worry about leaving home and having to cover the cost of a dormitory or apartment. Parking permits or quarters for a meter are another non-issue.

Costs that vary include lab and activity fees: campus students might have to pay for access to computer labs or science labs, while online students might have to pay extra for access to required software or Internet connection.

A large cost difference often comes in the cost of a personal computer.

While many on-campus students elect to have their own computer and Internet access, many rely on campus computer labs for access to the web, software programs, and printing. An online student, whether she owns her own computer or not, must have reliable and speedy access to the Internet, and depending on the service, that can cost hundreds of dollars a year..

Each student will find unique situations with associated costs in both online and on-campus study. When weighing the differences between the two, it's wise to look beyond tuition costs and examine the costs that might come with travel, child care, computer equipment, and more.

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