The rising cost of college tuition is causing many people to think twice about pursuing higher education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average annual cost for one year of college across institution types was $24,623 for the 2018-2019 school year. Students who attended a private college paid $44,306 in the 2018-2019 school year while those who attended a public college paid $18,383.
In the two years since NCES published this data, the data indicates that the costs are at least a few percentage points higher now. And that’s bad news for prospective (and current) students. The good news is that there are several alternative options available that can help to lower the expense of a post-secondary education.
One popular way students can reduce their education expenses is to attend a community college for the first two years of a bachelor’s degree program. Another option is to enroll in an online degree program. Before choosing, students should be sure to compare the costs of completing a degree program online versus traditional in-person coursework. Prospective students can use this information along with details about degree programs inclusions, accreditation and career services to make the best decision for their education.
Typical Cost of Completing an Online Degree or Certificate Program
U.S. News and World Report assessed the factors that impact costs and differences in expenses between online degree programs. Typical costs are difficult to broadly state since costs such as per credit hour fees vary by institution. Trends indicate that in many cases, private college tuition for online classes exceed those for public institutions, a factor that also affects in-person tuition rates. Furthermore, students be mindful that classes can be worth a different number of credits and that colleges sometimes publish per-credit data to make attendance seem less expensive.
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When comparing the cost of attending college on campus versus completing the same degree online, perhaps surprisingly, the tuition costs students pay can end up being close to the same. Where online students have the advantage is the money they save on non-tuition expenses. Typical areas of savings include transportation, not buying meals on campus, purchasing electronic textbooks instead of physical materials and childcare costs. Online students also save a significant amount of time and can enjoy greater flexibility in their schedules.
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Costs Associated with Attending a Traditional College
The cost of traditional college attendance is not as straightforward as online school. Several individual factors come into play including:
- Whether the school is in state or out of state
- Whether the school is public or private
- Whether students attend a two-year or a four-year college
|Institution Type||Average Tuition Cost||Average Room and Board Charges||Average Total for One-Year Expenses|
|Public in-district two-year college||$3,770||$9,080||$12,850|
|Public in-state four-year college or university||$10,560||$11,620||$22,180|
|Public out-of-state four-year college or university||$27,020||$11,620||$38,640|
|Private not-for-profit four-year college or university||$37,650||$13,120||$50,770|
Most of the money that students spend on higher education goes toward tuition and fees, which means the school they choose to attend will have the biggest influence on overall costs. However, it is worthwhile to consider miscellaneous expenses such as transportation, meals and textbooks as well. To put this in perspective, the College Board reports that the average cost of books and supplies was $1,240 at a public in-state four-year school for the 2020-2021 school year.
Tips for Saving on College Expenses
Some choices for reducing higher education costs are obvious such as choosing a public college or university over a private one. Students who plan to complete an undergraduate degree can save considerable money by enrolling in a community college for the first two years and then transferring their credits to a four-year institution.
University of Phoenix, which has offered online degree programs for over 30 years, provided these additional money-saving tips for students facing steep college expenses.
- Apply for as many grants and scholarships as possible since students do not need to repay these funds.
- Look for a school that offers fixed tuition for the entire time of attendance. That means students pay the same rate during their first year as their fourth year when completing a bachelor’s degree program. With an average annual tuition increase of 2.6 percent, knowing tuition rates will remain the same makes budgeting easier.
- Employed students should check with their employer to see if the company offers tuition reimbursement. Many businesses offer this benefit if the student can use their degree to advance within the company.
- Find out whether the school offers prior learning assessment credits that convert real-life experiences into credits toward a degree.
About University of Phoenix
Established in 1976, University of Phoenix offers more than 100 online degree and certificate programs for students in a wide range of disciplines. Associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs start monthly, eliminating the need to wait until the start of a new school year to begin a program. University of Phoenix offers both fixed tuition and prior learning assessment evaluation for potential credit to help students offset the expense of paying for higher education. The University also invests in student success while in school and after graduation with its Career Services for Life program.
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