Affording and Registering for Your Online Class
Affording and Registering for Your Online Class

If you are interested in taking an online class, it’s time to work out the logistics with your school. What are the costs? How does financial aid work? What is the registration process like? What happens if you end up wanting to drop the class? When you can answer those questions with the help of an advisor or school official, you can start the enrollment process.

Tuition Costs and Financial Aid

How much does it cost to take an online class?

The cost of tuition varies between schools as does the way that tuition is calculated (per semester, per course, or per credit hour), so it’s best to check with your school’s bursar for the most accurate tuition rates.

If you attend a research university, it is likely that you will be charged for your online class by the credit hour or by class. At some schools, like the University of Minnesota, you will pay the same amount for an online class as you would for an in-person class; if you are an in-state student, you pay in-state tuition, and if you are an out-of-state student, you pay out-of-state tuition. The University of Kentucky, on the other hand, charges in-state tuition rates for all students in online classes regardless of their residency status, making online classes the cheaper option for out-of-state residents.

At other schools, the cost isn’t as straightforward. The University of Louisville has its own policy. Online classes cost the same for in-state and out-of-state students, but cost more than the in-state tuition rate. This makes traditional classes cheaper than online classes for in-state students only. The reverse is true for out-of-state students. At the University of Florida, there are distinct tuition rates between online and in-person classes for both in-state and out-of-state students. UF students, regardless of their residency status, will find online classes to be cheaper.

Private schools also maintain their own policies regarding tuition rates, but in-state and out-of-state distinctions are unlikely to factor into the equation. Because tuition policies vary so much between schools, the best way to find out how much your institution charges per online class is to check directly with your school’s bursar.

Can my financial aid package be applied toward the cost of an online class?

If you qualify for federal financial aid, you can absolutely apply it to the cost of your online class, provided you’re taking an online class offered by an accredited institution. You can apply for federal aid by filling out the FAFSA each year and sending the results to your school. Note that your federal aid package may be reduced if you are enrolled less than full time.

Depending on your school and your financial situation, you may also be eligible for institutional grants or scholarships. Often, filling out the FAFSA is enough to automatically put you into consideration for these forms of aid, but you may be required to submit additional materials. Check with your school’s financial aid office for more information.

If you’re having trouble gathering the funds to pay for your online classes, there are other options. Additional sources of financial aid include:

If you have any further questions about your tuition bill or your aid package, contact the bursar or the financial aid office at your institution.


Does my (prospective) school offer both online and in-person classes?

In the world of distance learning, colleges with physical campuses are referred to as brick-and-mortar colleges. It’s likely that if you’re enrolled (or intending to enroll) at a brick-and-mortar college, you can opt to take at least one class online during your college career. In fact, 98% of all public colleges and universities give their students online learning options, and many private colleges do as well.

Even if your college doesn’t offer online classes that have been developed by its own professors, it might still allow you to take online classes developed by third-parties or other universities that have partnered with your school. Ask your academic advisor or an admissions representative for more information.

How do I add an online class into my schedule?

You can check your school’s course catalog to see its online offerings. Once you have picked your schedule for the next semester, you can usually register for online classes just as you do for traditional classes. Work with your school’s registrar if you have any questions.

How do I add an online class to my schedule if it is not offered by my university?

Your school’s course catalog might not offer a class in every subject that interests you. Some students want to take classes in highly specialized or uncommon subjects and languages. If your school does not offer these as traditional or online courses, you may be able to take them from a third-party or partner university while still receiving college credits. If this is the case, you will often need to petition your department or registrar to let you take the outside course for credit. This may involve presenting an argument to your advisor or department chair or writing an email to the faculty in the department. Each school has its own policy, so check with your advisor.

If you are planning on taking a course at another school, you may need to be admitted as a student before enrolling. Before applying to a second institution, make sure to confirm that your credits will transfer. Note that taking one of your classes at a different school may also affect your financial aid package, so it’s always best to go through your advisor and the financial aid department. Save all correspondence in writing in case there’s trouble down the line.

How do I make sure that my online class counts toward my degree?

Provided you’re not retaking a course you’ve already completed or taking a course at a level far below your abilities, chances are that you’ll get credit for an online class. To be safe, you should work with your academic advisor to make sure that any credit you earn counts toward your degree and toward your major, if applicable. It is best to do this before you register so that you do not end up wasting time on a class that you won’t get credit for.

What if I don’t end up liking the class I registered for?

Online classes can take some getting used to. If you are sure that you want to withdraw from your class, however, you must do so before the drop date. This is the last day you can leave your class without it being reflected on your transcript and/or affecting your tuition bill. After this date, your transcript may show that you dropped or didn’t complete the class and you’ll be billed (at least partially).

Traditional classes have drop dates as well, (usually they’re the same for both types of classes), but they are particularly important for online learners. You might forget about the class you don’t want to take as soon as you log out of the course platform; if you forget for long enough, this will have academic and financial consequences. It is important to officially drop online classes if you do not want to take them or be charged for them. Ask your professor or the registrar for information about the semester’s drop dates if you aren’t sure you want to stick with a certain class.

Page last updated: 12/2018