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How do the costs of online study compare to campus study?

BY: SGI|14 February 2019
BLOG| Deciding to study online

Trying to decide whether to study online or through a more traditional tertiary institute? Cost will inevitably be a big part of your decision, so here, we’ve tried to break down some key expenses and how they differ between the campus and online option.

Let’s start with tuition:

The cost of tuition:

Online: Online degrees vary between R22 000 and R165 000 – it all depends on what you study and how you break it down over the years.

Traditional: It depends on the degree you choose, but a typical BCom degree ranges from R36 000 to R65 000.

And now let’s look at the ‘extras’:


Online: Usually free. The cost of accessing online textbooks is commonly built into the module fee.

Traditional: Anything from R3000 to R6000. Sourcing second-hand textbooks is an excellent way to cut costs but can still amount to quite a lot of money over the course of a course!


Application and registration fees:

Online: Online applications are usually free – SGI has no application fee, for example.

Traditional: Often, there’s an application fee of between R100 to R500, an acceptance fee of R500 to R5000, and a registration deposit of R1000 to R10 000.


Residence and accommodation fees:

Online: You can opt to study anywhere, so let’s assume you choose to stay at home. You might have to pay your parents rent, but it’s likely your accommodation costs will be very low or zero. The cost of a room in a ‘digs’/ house-share set-up varies, but seems to be around R5000 a month, based on listings on Facebook group Huis Huis.

Traditional: If you choose to live in a residence or self-catering accommodation option through a university of tertiary education institute, you’re likely to be looking at annual fees of R38 000 to R70 000. *Based on fees from two well-known SA universities. Of course, living in a house-share situation will be the same as studying online.



Online: Again, if you’re living at home, you’ll probably need to contribute to groceries, but food expenses should stay quite low. If you’re living in a house-share set-up it’s tricky to say how much you’d spend, but let’s say you share the expense of basic provisions like milk and cereal and rotate turns to make dinner, so you cook for everyone one night a week: your grocery bill should come to about R300 to R500 a week.

Traditional: If you’re staying in university accommodation, catering costs R18 000 to R31 000 for the year.


Extra costs:

Online: No extra fees usually.

Traditional: Other fees might include a fee for the use of sporting facilities, the library, SRC fees, copyright fees and student levies.



Online: You can study anywhere, anytime, so there’s no need to drive to a lecture.

Traditional: This is impossible to estimate. If you’re living on campus, obviously there won’t be any transport costs. If you’re living off campus, transport costs could be anything. Petrol prices have been persistently high, which has implications for filling a tank or taking public transport. Parent24 estimates transport, pocket money and sundry costs to equate to around R8000.

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