OSU Ecampus provides more course flexibility at potentially lower costs

Alexis Campbell, News Contributor

Although Oregon State University’s Ecampus may offer a cheaper and more flexible alternative to taking classes on campus, students may find that taking online courses can present unexpected costs.

During fall of 2018, 6,565 students were enrolled solely in Ecampus courses. This represented a nearly 8 percent increase from the previous year. According to Jessica DuPont, the executive director for Ecampus in market development and the student experience, OSU online enrollment has been growing year after year. While Ecampus has experienced consistent growth, enrollment of on-campus students in Corvallis has fallen recently.

For the fall term of 2018, Ecampus per-credit tuition was raised by 2.9 percent while resident on-campus tuition went up by 4.1 percent. This trend will continue in 2019, with on-campus tuition set to increase at a higher rate than Ecampus tuition.

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Although cost is a factor for many students in deciding to take Ecampus courses, the tuition cost for Ecampus can potentially exceed the cost of taking on-campus courses, dependent on the number of credit hours and the degree program.

According to DuPont, roughly 75 percent of full Ecampus students are nonresidents. Although many online degree programs charge separate tuition costs for nonresidents and residents, OSU Ecampus does not differentiate between the two groups. The base cost for one online credit is $297, compared to the on-campus tuition of $817.19 for residents and $1,457.97 for nonresidents.

Tanya Chavez, an OSU alumna who graduated last year with a degree in psychology, became a full Ecampus student beginning in spring term of 2017. As an out-of-state student who started out at OSU taking classes on-campus, Chavez found the online tuition rates to be more affordable.

“Switching to Ecampus classes … was one of the biggest reasons that I could even afford to finish my degree at OSU,” Chavez said via email.

In addition to the lower cost as an out-of-state student, Chavez said that not having to pay for on-campus services was also a financial benefit.

“Student finance didn’t charge me the health and counseling fee, or the Dixon Rec fee that gets added onto on-campus students’ accounts automatically,” Chavez said via email.

Chavez generally took between 12 to 15 credits per term online.

When taking 12 credits, the tuition of Ecampus is less expensive than nonresident on-campus tuition. However, it is more expensive than resident on-campus tuition. According to DuPont, it is relatively uncommon for most Ecampus students to take a full-time course load. On average, they tend to take six to eight credits at a time. DuPont said that tuition for resident on-campus and Ecampus is nearly equal at six credits, with on-campus tuition only costing $85.97 more.

At 12 credits, Ecampus tuition becomes around $463 more expensive than resident on-campus tuition and the difference continues to grow with an increasing number of credits.

According to Sherman Bloomer, the director of Budget and Fiscal Planning, Ecampus was not started with the intention of serving full-time students in Corvallis.

“We were looking to be able to reach students that couldn’t come to Corvallis but were interested in our programs,” Bloomer said. “The tuition rate was set with that in mind.”

Although Ecampus tuition does not include a separate technology fee as some online schools do, certain degrees delivered by Ecampus cost more than other degrees. This is referred to as differential tuition and exists on-campus, but at a different cost than Ecampus.

“It’s usually an added fee per credit hour. That’s set by the colleges, not by Ecampus,” DuPont said.

According to Bloomer, colleges can make a proposal to the University Budget Committee to get a differential tuition rate, or to adjust the current differential rate.

There are five Ecampus programs that have differential tuition, including a degree in business administration and three College of Engineering programs. Students in the College of Engineering may pay up to $348 per credit hour for an undergraduate course, according to DuPont. This is compared to the usual Ecampus tuition of $297.

According to Bloomer, differential tuition is the result of some programs costing more to provide.

“Engineering is a much more expensive program to deliver than philosophy,” Bloomer said.

Another fee that Ecampus students may have to keep in mind is the cost to take proctored exams. According to DuPont, students at a distance often pay fees for proctoring that vary by location. OSU offers free testing to those who can make it to its in-campus testing center. However, some students may experience added costs if they do not have access to this free resource. 

“It was really inconvenient if you did not attend or live near a college campus testing center,” Chavez said. “You would have to pay for a testing center to proctor exams or do a virtual proctor which cost a lot just to take an exam.”