Adult Learner

Estimating college tuition: 9 Factors adult learners should consider

Cost of College

When it comes to choosing a college as an adult learner, one of the first things you want to know is: how much will my degree cost? This may be the piece of information you immediately look for in your research.

While schools often share tuition information on their website, you may be surprised to learn just how many factors have the potential to influence the total cost of college. Institutions like UMass Global offer multiple ways to reduce college tuition fees for adult learners who are returning to the classroom.

9 Factors that could impact your college tuition costs

The cost of college is not always clear-cut. There are a number of things that could impact your total tuition expenses. Some are related to the institution itself and some depend more on your own experience or circumstances.

We worked with Scott Saltman, director of One Stop Student Services at UMass Global, to determine the various factors affecting your total tuition costs. Consider the following:

1. Federal financial aid

Most students need some kind of financial aid to help cover their tuition. Filling out the FAFSA application is the first step to finding out if you’re eligible for grants, loans and work-study programs. These forms of assistance can dramatically reduce your overall cost of college.

If it’s been a while since you dealt with student loans and you need a refresher course, check out our article “Financial aid definitions: 14 terms college students should know.

2. Type of school

In the United States, there are two main categories of higher education institutions:

  • Public universities and colleges, which are mostly government funded
  • Private universities and colleges, which are mainly funded by grants, donations, endowments and alumni contributions

Generally speaking, public colleges tend to have larger student bodies and thus more program offerings compared to smaller, private liberal arts schools.

Private schools tend to be more expensive than their public counterparts. But some might also offer additional grants or scholarships, so be sure to do your research. Students looking for a specific experience or program may ultimately decide that the higher cost is worth it.

3. Residency status

One factor that sometimes goes overlooked is a student’s state residency status. This can impact your cost of college because in-state tuition is often less expensive than out-of-state tuition. It can also affect your eligibility for some types of financial aid.

Residency requirements vary significantly from institution to institution, so make sure to research each school’s policy. Some universities, including UMass Global, offer the same tuition rate to in-state and out-of-state students. 

4. Modality

In some cases, the modality — or the format in which courses are delivered — has an effect on the cost. For example, a school may choose to charge less for online classes because students can’t access all of the on-campus resources available for those who attend in person.

Some schools also have competency-based programs that allow students to progress through the coursework at their own pace. UMass Global’s MyPath programs offer this kind of flexibility with a subscription-based tuition model, where students pay by the billing period rather than by the number of credits.

5. Program type

Another thing to consider when estimating college tuition is the type of program you’re pursuing. The length of the program will obviously affect the total price, as will the degree level. For example, the cost per credit for a bachelor’s program will typically be less than that of a master’s program at most schools.

Once again, a self-paced option like UMass Global’s MyPath programs allows highly motivated students to save time and money by accelerating the speed at which they complete their degree.

6. Military service

If you have served or are currently serving in the military, you may have access to education benefits earned through your service. As a military-friendly institution, UMass Global has a Veteran Resource Center (VRC) staffed with experts who can help you understand your certificate of eligibility and make the most out of your benefits. The VRC also provides a space for specialized career counseling, mental health support, academic advising and more.

7. Scholarships

Scholarships are widely known but often underutilized because it can take a bit of digging to discover the right opportunities. You should always check with your school first to see what scholarships are offered internally. But no matter what you find, you should definitely keep looking for scholarships outside your college, as there are thousands to be found online. Consider using the following reputable websites:

  • Free search tool that allows you to set up a user profile and get new scholarships sent to your email.
  • BigFuture: Free database search created by The College Board and updated annually.
  • Student Loan Hero: Free database search and several helpful articles.

8. Employer tuition assistance

If you’re like the majority of UMass Global students, you are working full time while completing your degree. It’s worth checking to see if have access to any education benefits through your employer. Many companies offer tuition assistance or partner with a university that offers a discount to employees.

“There are a number of employers that offer benefits towards education but it’s incumbent on the employee to ask and get the details,” Saltman says.

9. Transfer credits

Whether you’re transferring directly from another school or heading back to the classroom after a long hiatus, figuring out how many college credits you have is essential. After all, you don’t want any of your hard work to go to waste.

The process of evaluating credits can be tedious but working with an enrollment coach will make it much easier. It’s well worth the effort, as credit transfers can save you a lot of money in the long run. The main ways to get earn credit for prior experience include:

For more information on this topic, check out “4 Ways transfer students can get college credits for prior experience.”

Making college tuition more affordable

UMass Global is committed to making education affordable and accessible for working professionals. Our One Stop specialists and financial aid advisors are experts in getting you the help you need to reduce your college tuition costs.

“Our goal is always to act in the best interest of the student and advocate for them,” Saltman says. “We help guide students through the administration maze so they can focus on what really matters: their academics.”

This is one of the many advantages you’ll experience upon enrolling. Discover more in our article “What students can expect from UMass Global.”

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