OSU Ecampus classes more expensive for Oregon residents, but at what cost?


El Guo

A photo illustration depicts an iPad with money surrounding it taken on Feb. 14. Ecampus classes are typically more expensive per credit than in-person classes for students who are Oregon residents, however, ecampus courses are cheaper per credit than in person classes for out of state students.

Nino Paoli, News Reporter

Carisa Womack-Hakala is no stranger to online classes — COVID-19 broke out during her junior year of high school, causing her school to go fully online — but now she feels as though she is “missing some aspects of education” as she pursues a degree in business administration through Oregon State University’s Ecampus program. 

Womack-Hakala is just one of many Oregon-resident Ecampus students paying a higher per credit tuition than her in-person counterparts; the undergraduate base tuition matriculated at OSU during the 2022-23 academic year is $338 per credit, while Ecampus’ base tuition is $346, according to OSU’s finance and administration website.

Even so, Womack-Hakala said she enjoys online classes because they allow more flexibility in her work schedule. 

Conversely, Ecampus courses do not vary in price between Oregon-residents and out-of-state students, like Charlie Thompson, a California native, which caused him to remain fully-online even after OSU resumed in-person classes. 

“I moved to Corvallis freshman year, and that was all in person… but then COVID-19 happened,” Thompson, a fourth-year marketing major, said. “I went back home, and I did online classes… and then the bill came, and I realized that it was extremely cheaper to do online classes as an out- of-state student.”

Whether the pull of Ecampus courses is cheaper tuition for out-of-state students such as Thompson — or the opportunity for a more flexible schedule, in Womack-Hakala’s case — they share similar frustrations in regards to online education.

“I don’t think I’m getting my money’s worth while at OSU Ecampus, since I feel like I’m teaching myself the materials,” Womack-Hakala said. 

Thompson noted that even though he continues to take online courses currently, he had to withdraw from an online course last term and is now attending in-person. 

“The structure wasn’t right for me online… I was confused out of my mind,” Thompson said. “I decided to withdraw from that class and retake it again this term in person.” 

How effective Ecampus classes are depends on the student, Kristin Griffin, a senior instructor in the OSU School of Writing, Literature and Film said. 

“There are some folks who wouldn’t be able to take a class at all if not for the flexibility of our Ecampus offerings…others really need in-person interaction to learn,” Griffin said. “I’m just grateful both modes exist so we can support our students, whatever their circumstances might be.”

Griffin has taught in-person classes at OSU for 11 years, and has been teaching Ecampus courses for roughly nine years. She attributes a difference in expectations of online classes and their in-person versions mostly because the former is synchronous, while the latter is asynchronous. 

“Evaluating participation and engagement is different, but equally as important in either mode,” Griffin added. 

Despite paying more per credit, second-year Womack-Hakala plans to complete her bachelor’s degree online.

“I do prefer online classes because I get to go at my own pace and not have to worry about getting all the reading done before I go to class again,” Womack-Hakala said. “I don’t think I can complain because I chose this route and I’m content.”

Ecampus classes are charged a flat rate per credit and with no mandatory fees, while on-campus classes are charged both tuition and mandatory fees, Student Accounts Receivable Manager Gregory Balck said. 

“For Oregon residents, Ecampus classes could be more expensive if they are taking both on-campus and Ecampus classes,” Balck said. “For non-residents, Ecampus classes will be less expensive regardless.”

Steve Clark, the vice president of University Relations and Marketing, said in-person tuition includes mandatory fees that help fund resources all in-person students can use.

“On-campus tuition includes the costs of maintaining, operating and using the physical campus in Corvallis,” Clark said.

On the other hand, Clark said Ecampus courses are priced the way they are because the majority of students enrolled in Ecampus courses aren’t Oregon residents. 

“Ecampus courses and tuition are developed largely for students who are truly taking OSU courses at a distance from campus,” Clark said. “Approximately 75% of Ecampus students reside outside (of) Oregon.”

Additionally, Clark said online tuition is decided in comparison to other universities across the nation. 

“The online education space is very competitive and OSU’s tuition rates are informed by what other universities and colleges are charging for similar quality programs in the same academic areas,” Clark said. 

Womack-Hakala has only ever taken online courses during her higher-education; on the other hand, Thompson said, in regards to online and in-person classes, he “can tell the difference right away,” and he is more engaged during in-person classes. 

“You don’t have to teach yourself as much,” Thompson said. “But, you lose the convenience, and you lose that kind of time management aspect… you have a set schedule, and you have to work around that.”

As tuition across campus continues to increase at OSU, Sherm Bloomer, associate vice provost and university budget officer, said this is largely to inflationary cost increases in critical expense areas of the university’s operations, such as faculty or other employee salaries, benefit costs set by the state of Oregon or the cost of insurance paid by OSU.  

“Tuition is the largest source of funding for supporting the academic mission of the university,” Bloomer said. “Tuition pays for approximately 63% of the Corvallis’ campus academic budget, while legislative funding pays about 24% and other sources about 13%.”

Whether due to convenience, money or a general shift towards online education, Clark said that OSU Ecampus has seen dramatic growth in recent years.

“Ecampus enrollment… saw significant increases during the pandemic; meanwhile, the number of high school students graduating in Oregon has grown only slightly in recent years and is predicted to begin to decline in 2025,” Clark said. 

According to Clark, these trends have caused enrollment at OSU’s Corvallis campus to stay relatively the same in the recent past. 

“In fall of 2012, Ecampus had 3,175 students, while the Corvallis campus had 23,218 students,” Clark said. “In fall 2022, Ecampus had 10,679 students (and) the Corvallis campus had 23,613 students.”

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