How much is an online master’s degree?

Before ever entering into an online masters degree program, it is important that you understand your financial responsibilities. Unfortunately, master’s degrees aren’t cheap. They are usually more expensive than bachelor’s degrees, and tuition tends to increase annually. For instance, U.S News & World Report found that the average master’s program in 2002 was $13,600, only to increase to $20,800 by 2008. In addition to tuition, students need to consider the various costs that accompany a masters degree online, such as annual technology fees and book costs. Overall, online masters programs differ greatly in overall costs, as each school charges different tuition rates and fees.

Understanding Tuition

Every school differs not only in how much it charges for tuition, but also in the way in which it charges for tuition. Some schools will display their tuition rates as a lump sum per semester or year. Others will present their tuition rates as a price per credit hour or price per course. It is important that you know how much to expect in tuition costs for your entire degree before enrolling. Reviewing past semesters’ tuition rates to plan for rate increases will help you calculate a rough estimate of your total degree cost.

Traditional Campus-Based Programs Vs. Online Programs

While many think that online master’s degree programs are cheaper than traditional, on-campus programs in terms of tuition and fees, this is not always the case. According to U.S News & World Report, the Babson Survey Research Group conducted a survey of 1,700 educational institutions, both online and on-campus, in 2008. The survey found that 55% of the institutions surveyed had the same tuition expenses.

However, there are differences between online and on-campus master’s programs in terms of fees and miscellaneous costs. First, with an online program, you will save on costs associated with commuting to and from campus (i.e. parking permits and gas), room and board, and fees incurred by on-campus students. Second, there are often fees incurred in on-campus programs not incurred by online programs. Take Texas Tech University, for example, which offers both online and on-campus programs. While both online and on-campus share fees such as student services, ID card, technology, library, and financial and record services fees, on-campus students pay medical services, student recreation, student union, recreation sports, cultural activities, student athletics fee, energy, and advising and retention fees. Not having these fees, small of not, add up to savings for online students.

Will I Pay In-State or Out-of-State Tuition?

This is another cost area that depends on the school you attend. For instance, Texas Tech University charges out-of-state tuition to online students, so online distance graduate students pay about $350 more per credit hour and more than $3,000 more for nine credit hours than in-state distance graduate students. Keep in mind that private colleges and universities that provide online education are less likely than public schools to charge out-of-state tuition.

Know Before Your Enroll

Your best bet for understanding the true cost of your online master’s degree is to meet with an admissions counselor, whether it is face to face, over the phone, or through email correspondence or video chat. Ask your counselor to break down the costs for you, and whether there are any ways to save on your costs. For instance, some schools allow work experience to exempt you from some courses. There are also scholarships, financial aid, and tax breaks available to graduate students. After you discuss your options with your counselor, compare your various prospective schools to determine which the best choice is financially.


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