Going to college – or returning to college – comes with the potential for a new career, earning a promotion or finding a job. One factor that hinders many students from enrolling for college courses is finding a way to afford tuition. With many colleges and universities charging extra for out-of-state tuition fees the dollars can add up quickly, especially for a four-year degree.


One way to avoid out-of-state tuition is to attend a school located in your community. Or, if you’re interested in finding additional bachelor’s and graduate degree programs available in the career field you want, consider checking out online universities where every state is considered in-state.


Not every online university operates this way. The majority of top-tier traditional universities that offer online programs have an in-state determination based on the location of the campus. There are several online degree programs that charge a universal tuition for all students, no matter where they reside.


Paying in-state tuition can save a lot of money, especially for a four-year bachelor’s degree. The American College Board reports the cost for in-state tuition at a public four-year college for the 2013-14 school year was on average $8,893 across the country. That price increased to $22,203 for out-of-state tuition. Room and board fees were identical for in-state and out-of-state students at $9,498 for the year.


There are other ways students can help to minimize the cost of tuition and make college a more affordable option:


Scholarships and grants – Many universities offer scholarship programs, which often can be renewed annually. Sometimes the university will require the student to maintain a certain grade-point average or participate in a specific program. If the university offers the scholarship, this discount will directly apply to the tuition and the student will not be responsible for handling the money. Students should connect with the university about any available scholarship and grant programs.


Universities aren’t the only organizations that offer scholarships. Many community organizations encourage college students to apply for grant money. Some will specify the degree program the student needs to enroll in, a few may restrict the student to attend a certain university, and others may offer only a one-time payment that will not renew for all the years the student will be taking classes. A quick online search of scholarships results in hundreds of possibilities. Tracking the opportunities requires a time commitment, and students will need to be organized to stay on top of deadlines for different scholarship applications – as well as the requirements they need to meet in order to qualify for the money.


Transferring credits – Students returning to school can get a reduction in the number of courses they need to take if they are able to receive credit for classes already taken. For example, Ashford University will accept up to 90 approved credits transferred from another college. Transfer credit policies allow a student to not only pay less in the long run for the full degree, but also potentially earn the degree faster.


Receiving credit for non-traditional programs – Students in high school often have the opportunity to take advanced-placement (AP) courses. If they receive a certain grade on the final test, many universities will accept that the student has proficiently mastered the given subject and won’t require them to take the equivalent course required by the school. For professional adults looking to return to school, universities may also offer credit for knowledge learned in the working environment. Schools may require students to take an assessment to determine what courses for which they can receive credit. Like the topic of transferring credits, earning credit for non-traditional programs allows students to reduce their overall tuition for a degree, and potentially spend less time earning the degree.


Military benefits – The military gives students lots of financial benefits when it comes to paying for tuition. For students already enrolled in service, they can “pick a state” identifying where they reside, even if it isn’t a state where they’ve lived before. This choice allows students to declare in-state tuition for their school preference.


These aren’t the only benefits available to service members, of course. Thanks to the G.I. Bill of Rights, service members and their families can receive discounts, if not complete payment of tuition, during their service and for several years after being discharged. Plus, many military-friendly universities offer additional tuition programs, including credit earned for military training and free textbooks and supplies needed for each course.


Changing the number of courses taken – Taking one or two courses each semester can help students keep the cost of tuition down – at least in the short term. It might not make the most financial sense overall, though, as they might be paying full price for each credit earned.


Many universities will offer one tuition price for part-time students taking a specific – but low – number of credits. Then they’ll offer a tuition price (very likely with a slight discount for each credit earned) for full-time students taking an average number of courses. Finally, they’ll offer a tuition price with a bit of a larger discount on each credit earned for full-time students taking a high number of courses. In the long run, students who are able to go full-time and afford the higher semester costs with an above-average number of classes will pay the least for their entire degree overall. This advanced rate of schooling, however, can exhaust many students after just one semester.


Any student looking to return to school or to earn their first degree should carefully review the degree programs offered by the universities they’re interested in. They should also estimate how much they’ll be paying for the full degree, whether it’s an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree. Students may quickly discover that less expensive programs such as those offered at online universities make the most sense financially because they don’t charge out-of-state tuition. Plus, any online university program allows a student to live at home, helping to save on potential room and board costs.


Author Bio

Lizzie Wann is the Content Director for Bridgepoint Education. She oversees all website content and works closely with New Media, Career Services, and Student Services for Ashford University.

Online Universities Offering in-state Tuition Rates Reduce the Pinch of Tuition


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Online Universities Offering in-state Tuition Rates Reduce the Pinch of Tuition



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