“Flat rate tuition” means very different things at different schools. But almost all the options can help you save on your degree. With college costs squeezing students more and more financially, schools have become more open to letting students pay for an entire program in one lumps sum up front, guaranteing no cost increases in over the four years of a bachelor degree program, or taking other creative approaches to holding down the cost of a program.
It can be a valuable option to consider. Many students sign up at a school at one tuition level without ever contemplating the fact that in a year or two, that tuition may have risen very significantly. Students in four year programs, in particular, can wind up experiencing major “sticker shock” at the price of their senior year versus the year they started. Here are some of the flat rate tuition options out there:
Best Known Flat Payment Plan
Western Governor’s University has probably gotten more attention than any other school for it’s version of flat rate tuition. It’s a straightforward system that can offer big savings — if you are the kind of student who can take lots of courses at once. WGU simply charges a standard fee per term that ranges from about $3,300, with slight variations for specialty (pre licensure nursing programs are more) The fee is based on a student taking a minimum of 12 credits per term in an undergrad program or 8 credits per term in a graduate program. But the big benefit is this: if you can take more than 12 credits per term the tuition doesn’t change. Students who can really push through college at an accelerated pace at WGU can, potentially wind up paying a good deal less than four years’ worth of tuition for a four year degree. The flat rate is of less benefit to part time students, though it’s worth noting that WGU’s tuition rates are generally quite low compared with other online universities.
No Tuition Rise Guarantee
Colorado State University Global is the centralized online teaching facility of the Colorado State University System. The school offers tuition plans that guarantee the same rate for the entire multi-year degree program. Locking in one rate from the time you start to the time you graduate can provide real savings, especially if you move through the program at a slower pace.
In State Versus Out Of State Tuition
State Universities across the U.S. have traditionally charged a much higher tuition rate to students who come from out of state than those that come from within the state. But the popularity of online degree programs has gradually changed this. Colorado State University Global, mentioned above, now charges the same tuition to all students, regardless of their “residency” status. University of Minnesota at Crookston is another state school that’s taken this approach. Students who attend on-campus courses there pay a per credit rate up to 12 credits per term. From 13 credits per term up, a flat rate of $5,219. per semester is charged, with no limit to the number of courses taken. UMC’s website proclaims that “students who take advantage of the flat rate and graduate in 4 years will pay significantly less and can save nearly $20,000.” The school applies the same flat rate structure to it’s many online degree programs, though there is a $45.00 fee charged for each online credit above 12 per term.
Other Types of Flat Tuition at State Universities
Many other state Universities across the country have adopted some type of flat rate tuition, but the offer comes in many different forms. Most offer “stepped” flat tuition programs that charge one price for, say, taking 12 to 17 credits in a semester and another rater for taking more classes in one term. But you need to look carefully around your prospective school’s website to see exactly what it’s rules are. Some examples:
- Indiana University at Bloomington: flat rate per term for undergrads taking 12 – 17 credits per term, with each credit above 17 being charged on a per credit basis. Also offers a flat rate per term on it’s MBA program.
- New York University’s undergraduate school of business charges a flat rate for taking 12 – 18 credits per term, with addition courses being charged on a per credit basis.
- Parsons, the art section of The New School in New York, charges a flat fee for 12 – 19 credits or for 12 – 21 credits, depending on major.
- Stockton, a college in the New Jersey State University system, charges a flat rate for full time students taking anywhere from 12 – 20 credits per term.
- University of Texas at Brownsville charges a flat fee for students taking 15 or more semester hours per term. The school says that since this offer has been in place, the number of students enrolling in 16 or more credits per semester has increased dramatically. The school is quite creative about tuition. It gives a 25% discount to students who take classes in “non-peak hours” early in the morning or at night.
If you want to shop for a flat-fee degree program, be aware that some schools say they are offering it when it’s really only available on the last two years or the “completion” part of a degree program. Beyond that, be prepared to spend some time looking at college websites and using a calculator. There are all kinds of variations on how schools charge flat rates and whether or not they add fees for books, registration or online study on to the tuition. But it’s an effort that can result in you saving a good deal of money, particularly if you want to study at an accelerated pace.
“Level Tuition” And Other Creative Approaches
Another option colleges are using to respond to all the talk out there on affordability is the “level tuition rate.” This can also come under the heading of block tuition, fixed tuition or guaranteed tuition. It’s a concept that does not abandon the per credit pricing system, but does set a rate during your first year that’s guaranteed not to rise. The guarantee is usually good for five years on a bachelor’s program, as long as you stay in school continuously. Some examples of schools offering level tuition – a number of more prestigious private colleges appear on this list:
- University of Phoenix: Freshman tuition locked for 5 – 9 years, depending on the type of degree you are pursuing.
- Pace University, New York: Freshman tuition rate locked for five years.
- University of Texas, El Paso: tuition rates of new students locked for four years.
- Vanderbilt University: Freshman tuition rate locked for four years.
- Niagra University: Level tuition plan allows incoming freshman to set a fixed rate for four years, though the first year is more expensive than the regular tuition rate.
- Concordia University: Freshman tuition rate locked in for four years.
In most cases, if you stop attending school, your locked tuition rate is lost. If you return to school after a break, you can once again set a locked tuition, but you’ll be starting from a new, higher base.
Finally, a creative option from Capella University is a “flex path” fee structure that makes it possible for students to save by accelerating their studies as much as possible. Under Capella’s plan, you pay a basic fee for a semester and take as many courses as you want at a time. This is mainly a benefit only to students who are able to buckle down and do a tremendous amount of school work. But to those who can push themselves, the savings can be as much as 50% on some programs.