Hidden online college fees
Photo credit: Got Credit

All college students pay some fees associated with their education, and online students are no exception. Some of these fees are relevant to online students and others are, at least, reasonable. However, recently schools have been caught imposing illogical fees on online students. Do you know what unreasonable charges to watch out for, and how to deal with these fees?

Reasonable Fees

As an online college student, why should you pay for parking lots and fitness centers if you’ll never set foot on campus? Despite this point, many schools – particularly those with brick-and-mortar campuses – have a policy of charging online students the standard fees. After all, traditional students don’t get to choose whether they want to pay fees for athletics, student activities, and the campus library, either, even if they never use those services.

You will have to pay fees for an online program like you would for a traditional program – but exactly which fees you pay varies by school. While it’s understandable that you don’t want to pay for services you don’t use, these fees support the infrastructures that keep your school operating. Some services, like access to library databases and tutoring, are available online for distance learning students.

Some colleges tailor their fees to online students. A school might to waive a fee for a service online students won’t have the opportunity to use. It might also, however, charge a separate “distance learning” or “distance education” fee for the cost of virtual learning technology.

Unreasonable Fees

Not every fee a school charges online students falls into the “reasonable” category. A Kennesaw State University student was taking classes primarily online, but the school still hit her with a $475 meal plan cost, according to Georgia news source 11 Alive. The school apparently told the student that the meal plan was mandatory for full-time students, 11 Alive reported.

What to Do If You’re Charged an Unreasonable Fee

The best way to protect yourself from unreasonable fees is to carefully review your school bill. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea if you’re paying for an illogical service. If you’re unsure what a fee is for, don’t hesitate to contact the financial aid office at your school and ask for clarification.

If you do find an unreasonable fee on your bill, calmly and politely contact the school to find out why you have to pay that fee and if there are any alternatives or exemptions available. The student who was charged for the mandatory meal plan managed to get the fee removed, but it took several phone calls, 11 Alive reported.  Making progress might require a slew of additional phone calls, emails and paperwork, so if you truly believe the fee is unreasonable, be persistent.

Being vigilant about checking your tuition bill and persistent about finding out what costs you really have to pay can shave hundreds of dollars – or more – of the cost of your online education.