TN Comptroller’s Office Reviews Cost of Online University Courses



The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a new report examining the cost of online courses at public colleges and universities in Tennessee. Public higher education institutions in Tennessee have offered online courses for more than two decades, and the prevalence of online courses has increased during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The report found that more than half of Tennessee’s public colleges and universities charge fees for online courses. The fee amount varies by institution, but students who register for online courses generally pay the same tuition and mandatory fees as students who attend classes in person, as well as online course fees. In most cases, students pay more to enroll exclusively in online courses than to take courses on campus. On average, community college students pay $ 256.57 more; University students pay an additional $ 630.81 per semester to enroll exclusively in online courses, based on a 15-hour course load.

Revenues generated from online fees are used by institutions for online course development, student support, faculty training, and technology. Most institutions indicated that the revenue generated from online course fees is critical to providing online course options. Without online course fees, these institutions would either reduce or eliminate their online course offerings or turn to other sources of revenue to fund the same level of online course offerings. Basic tuition fees and / or compulsory fees paid by all students could be increased, for example.

Some institutions have significantly increased their online course offerings in 2020 and 2021 in response to the pandemic, and most have adjusted their assessment of online course fees. In most cases, students were not charged an online course fee for courses that were converted to an online delivery method as a result of the pandemic. Some institutions have waived online course fees for all courses or have adjusted their assessment method.

About 97,700 undergraduates (about half) enrolled in at least one online course at one of Tennessee’s public colleges or universities in the fall of 2019 (the semester before the pandemic). Many institutions have reported a steady increase in demand for online course options in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this demand is expected to continue.

The report also highlights some recent changes that will take effect in the fall of 2021. For example, the University of Memphis has permanently removed its fees for online courses and the Tennessee Board of Regents has temporarily suspended the assessment of fees. of online courses for the 2021-22 academic year.

To view the report, please visit the Controller’s OREA website at:

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