College Cost Per Credit Hour

The cost of one college credit can range from $120 to over $1,000, depending on the type of school. Find the average cost per credit hour for different school types and online programs.
portrait of Lyss Welding
Lyss Welding
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Lyss Welding is a higher education analyst and senior editor for BestColleges who specializes in translating massive data sets and finding statistics that matter to students. Lyss has worked in academic research, curriculum design, and program evalua...
Updated on January 12, 2024
Edited by
portrait of Jordan Stewart-Rozema, Ph.D.
Jordan Stewart-Rozema, Ph.D.
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Jordan Stewart-Rozema writes data-driven education content focusing on higher education trends, student finances, and alternative education pathways such as coding bootcamps. She previously worked to promote online learning and media literacy educati...
Fact-checked by Marley Rose
Learn more about our editorial process
Image Credit: SolStock / E+ / Getty Images

Data Summary

  • Check
    The average cost of college tuition per credit hour is $477.[1]
  • Check
    Four-year private nonprofit colleges charge the highest tuition at roughly $1,200 per credit hour.Note Reference [1]
  • Check
    Two-year public schools, or community colleges, charge the least at just under $120 per credit hour.Note Reference [1]
  • Check
    Online colleges may charge less money per credit hour compared to all schools.
  • Check
    College classes are typically three credit hours for students on a semester system, but this varies.
  • Check
    A college credit typically equals three weekly hours of students' time in class or completing coursework outside of class.

The average college tuition is close to $20,000 a year for full-time students at four-year colleges. But what if you're a part-time student or just taking a few classes? That's when it's important to know your school's cost per credit hour.

Credit hours measure how much work you're expected to do for a college course per week. One credit hour typically equals one hour of class time and two hours of work outside of class, such as homework, lab work, or a student internship.[2]

Colleges and universities often have thresholds for when students pay tuition by the credit hour versus paying a flat rate. A part-time student might pay by credit hour. Meanwhile, a full-time student might pay the same flat rate once they reach a certain number of credits regardless of whether they take extra classes to graduate early.

It's helpful to know your school's policy because it can make getting your degree more affordable. Keep reading to find the average cost colleges charge for credit hours, so you can better balance your course load and your budget.

Average Cost Per Credit Hour

Below, we've calculated the average cost per credit hour based on the average cost of college in the U.S. with a couple of assumptions:

  1. Most schools use semesters versus quarters. Semester-system schools have two 15-week terms, one in the fall/winter and one in the spring. Quarter-system schools have four 10-week terms, including an optional summer term. If you're in a semester system, you need fewer credits to earn your degree (120 for bachelor's) compared to students in the quarter system (180).
  2. Students complete 30 credits per year. Most accrediting bodies require students to complete 120 credits for a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years. Associate degree programs require at least 60 credits and last about two years.[3]

Tuition Per Credit Hour

Across all school types, the average college cost per credit is $477. However, credit hours are priced differently across institution types.Note Reference [1]

  • At four-year institutions, the average cost of tuition and fees per credit hour is $575.
  • Credit hours are over $400 cheaper at two-year schools, where the average tuition per credit hour is $129.
  • The most affordable college credits are at community colleges. The most expensive are at four-year private nonprofit schools. Credits at these schools cost over 10 times more than at two-year public schools.

Total Cost Per Credit Hour

College students encounter expenses beyond the cost of tuition alone. Textbooks, transportation, and room and board add up. To find the all-in cost of college per credit hour, we divided the average total cost of one year of college by 30.

  • The average total cost of college per credit hour for students living on campus at four-year colleges is $1,215.[4]
  • The average cost per credit hour at all two-year schools is about half that of four-year schools, assuming similar living situations.
  • Across school types, students save the most money when they can offset dorm expenses or rent by living with family.

Net Cost Per Credit Hour

Many college students receive financial aid in the form of scholarships or grants. Their net cost of college equals their total college price tag minus the amount of aid they receive.

In 2020-2021, the average net price of college per credit hour was $612 at four-year institutions and $337 at two-year institutions.[5]

The net cost of college credit hours varies across institution types, as seen in the graph below. It also depends on students' income level. Lower incomes typically correspond to more financial aid.Note Reference [5]

Historical Tuition Per Credit Hour

Fifty years ago, the average cost of college tuition per credit hour was just $27 — roughly $160 in today's dollars.Note Reference [1]

Tuition per credit hour has grown over the years. Two-year schools, including private schools and community colleges, have remained the most affordable option.

Cost of Online College Per Credit Hour

Students may try to save money by earning credit hours online, and sometimes they can. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator Database, the average net price per credit hour for online colleges is $614.[6]

(Note: Just 38 distance-learning-only institutions reported their 2021-2022 net price to NCES.)

When comparing costs for online college credit hours, the type of school makes a difference. Online college credit hours are the most affordable at public institutions. Private for-profit schools charge the most.

Cost Per Credit Hour by State

Two-year public schools offer the most affordable college credits to in-district students. Community colleges in six states charge less than $100 a credit hour for in-district students:[7]

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Texas

When it comes to public four-year schools, Florida offers the least expensive college credits for in-state students at $154.Note Reference [7] Vermont charges the most at $589. Even so, Vermont's four-year public schools are less expensive per credit hour for in-state students than the average four-year private nonprofit school.

Average Tuition Per Credit Hour at Public Colleges by State

Sort Results by:
Average Tuition Per Credit Hour at Public Colleges by State
State Four-Year In-State Four-Year Out-of-State Two-Year In-State Two-Year Out-of-State
Alabama $358 $905 $164 $322
Alaska $295 $847 No Data No Data
Arizona $382 $868 $73 $244
Arkansas $287 $733 $116 $163
California $285 $1,148 $43 $298
Colorado $319 $1,057 $111 $318
Connecticut $499 $1,247 $151 $450
Delaware $390 $1,081 No Data No Data
District of Columbia $205 $433 No Data No Data
Florida $154 $611 $84 $304
Georgia $254 $778 $106 $285
Hawaii $345 $1,068 $108 $279
Idaho $249 $825 $111 $274
Illinois $500 $978 $140 $378
Indiana $326 $976 $155 $298
Iowa $322 $942 $182 $234
Kansas $307 $799 $118 $159
Kentucky $370 $844 $151 $509
Louisiana $325 $780 $141 $182
Maine $355 $1,003 $129 $225
Maryland $328 $904 $146 $354
Massachusetts $467 $1,076 $185 $357
Michigan $471 $1,333 $129 $260
Minnesota $412 $841 $193 $210
Mississippi $298 $695 $120 $196
Missouri $331 $760 $130 $243
Montana $237 $915 $131 $310
Nebraska $292 $732 $111 $141
Nevada $219 $785 No Data No Data
New Hampshire $562 $1,068 $237 $511
New Jersey $495 $989 $164 $272
New Mexico $244 $732 $60 $215
New York $285 $677 $189 $296
North Carolina $245 $782 $84 $285
North Dakota $312 $466 $181 $215
Ohio $349 $896 $150 $270
Oklahoma $276 $738 $143 $314
Oregon $396 $1,143 $173 $296
Pennsylvania $497 $881 $185 $422
Rhode Island $472 $1,097 $166 $442
South Carolina $420 $1,107 $166 $344
South Dakota $304 $440 $246 $240
Tennessee $347 $813 $149 $574
Texas $273 $847 $95 $264
Utah $237 $741 $136 $424
Vermont $589 $1,397 $231 $455
Virginia $476 $1,222 $173 $403
Washington $261 $1,047 $158 $281
West Virginia $282 $764 $151 $336
Wisconsin $297 $901 $153 $221
Wyoming $164 $489 $136 $329
Source: NCESNote Reference [7]

Frequently Asked Questions About College Credit Hours

What does "per credit hour" mean in college?

Chevron Down

When colleges list tuition costs "per credit hour," the amount students pay depends on how many college credits they enroll in for a given term. Usually, once a student is enrolled in a certain number of credits that's considered a full-time load, they pay a flat fee.

How many credits is one college class?

Chevron Down

On a semester system, it's typical for college classes to equal about three credits. That way students can take an average of five courses per term to earn an associate degree (60 credits) in two years or a bachelor's (120 credits) in four.

That said, the amount of credits you earn for one college class varies. It depends on how much work you're expected to do for the class. One credit hour equals at least three hours of work per week, including class and out-of-class time.Note Reference [2]

How much do college classes cost?

Chevron Down

The cost of taking one college class usually depends on how many credits it's worth. On average, one college credit costs about $500Note Reference [1] — that's $1,500 for your typical three-credit course. However, there is a massive difference in costs between college types.

Four-year private nonprofit universities might charge $1,200 or more per credit hour. By comparison, community colleges charge around $120 per credit hour, on average. That's $360 for a class. If you're wondering if you can afford to go back to school, make sure to consider all of the budget-friendly options.

How much is a college credit at community college?

Chevron Down

On average, public two-year colleges charge $119 per credit hour.Note Reference [1] However, community college costs vary across states.

California, New Mexico, and Arizona have the least expensive community college tuition rates for in-district students — all under $75 per credit hour. New Hampshire, Vermont, and South Dakota have the most expensive rates — all over $200 per credit hour.Note Reference [7]