Factors That Affect Cost

Do you know why the tuition rates at some schools are higher than others? Factors such as the length of the degree, geographic location of the school, marketability upon graduation, and program resources are things that can affect the cost of your education.

It is not surprising to know that a two-year associate’s degree will be less expensive than a four-year program. The 2008-09 College Board report showed that the average cost of a two-year school is $2,700 as compared to $7,000 for tuition at a four-year in-state school. Some schools do not charge for credits over a certain limit, so one way to save money is to take as many credits as possible during a semester. The student will save money, as well as time to complete the degree. Other schools offer joint undergraduate/graduate programs, whereby the student can complete a degree in less time. In five years, a student could graduate with a master’s in business, as opposed to the traditional six-year timeframe.


A doctoral program is more intensive study, with more than half of the students not completing the program. This statistic is very sad when taking into consideration the amount of time it took to get accepted into the program. The application process for a Ph.D. program sometimes begins with informal networking to get into a program of your choice. Some schools require interviews, sample work, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores. Once a student is admitted into a program, a doctorate requires a lot of time and research, as well as involvement from faculty members. The expense of utilizing their expertise in a specialized field is one reason why the program is so expensive. Given that, a Ph.D. program could take two to five years or more to complete (after earning one’s master’s degree), and many schools bear the salary and research-related expenses to provide the programs. Many schools have a residency requirement, which means the student needs to spend a certain number of years at the school conducting research. A stipend is usually paid to the student to help with the student’s expenses.

Where your school is physically located will affect the amount of money you pay.

Attending an online school will be substantially cheaper than a traditional classroom-based program. Although an online school might have physical locations, the overall cost of running the program is cheaper because some buildings, classrooms, and certain staff positions are not required. The overhead cost of maintaining a school and capital structures such as buildings, plus the employment of administrative personnel required to run the school, are expenses the student pays for. It is no wonder that schools with large athletic fields, numerous building structures, eating halls, and other niceties have higher tuitions than a less elaborate campus. Local and in-state colleges will cost less than an out-of-state school because of the taxes residents pay. Schools outside of a student’s state, including international schools, cost more because the student does not pay taxes to that locale.

School recognition can mean extra cost. The accounting major résumé from a top business school, like University of Pennsylvania – Wharton or MIT’s Sloan School of Business, is sure to receive notice by employers. These schools have world-renowned faculty teaching students, with impressive student-faculty ratios. At Wharton, the student-faculty ratio is 8:1! Median salaries for graduates of Sloan are the highest in the nation, starting at $100,000.

Schools that have labs, libraries, and a lot of technology on campus will be considerably more expensive than other schools. The equipment and staffing required to maintain these resources is considered overhead to the school. In addition, when equipment becomes outdated or needs repair, the school needs to pay for the expense. Ultimately, the cost of all the perks received on campus is passed back to the student in the form of tuition or fees.