How Much Does Virtual Schooling Really Cost?

Jovanmandic / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Jovanmandic / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The pandemic forced many parents, teachers and students to quickly pivot to virtual schooling. Though some students are participating in hybrid learning right now, where half of their time is spent in a physical school and half of their time is spent learning at home, some have completely returned to virtual learning. Though it seems like a virtual setting would cut costs, there are still expenses for both schools and parents that can’t be ignored.

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For Schools

In the United States, the average cost per in-person public school pupil for elementary through high school is $14,376, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This was when school was five days a week, 180 days of the year, which is not exactly the case with virtual schooling.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that students receive 3.8 hours a week of live teaching, while the rest of their material is delivered via reading materials and online videos. If the online instruction isn’t coming directly from the teachers at the school, it’s coming from tutoring companies such as TutorMe, Varsity Tutors or Outschool. These typically cost around $20 per hour for a class of nine students or more. The typical class size is 21, according to Zippia. If you break this down for 36 weeks, with 3.8 hours of live instruction a week, this comes out to about $131 per student.

The supplemental material can come from the teachers or from companies that specialize in crafting those, such as Study Island. Study Island costs $5.50 per student per subject for schools. This includes practice, assessments and learning games.

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If students don’t have access to the internet or the necessary technology, schools cover that as well. USA Facts reports that 17% of children ages 3-18 live in households without laptops or desktop computers. The Chromebook typically used in schools costs about $220.

About 14% of children 3-18 do not have access to internet, USA Facts reports. A school would have to pay $64 a month per student for internet access.

In May 2020, 95% of schools reportedly were providing meals to students. The School Nutrition Association estimates that it costs $3.81 per student for lunch and $2.72 per student for breakfast. That’s $6.53 per eligible student per day, or $1,175.40 per year per participating student.

Not all schools deliver these meals. If they did, there’s a typical delivery fee of $3.99, which would be $718 per participating student per year. It’s reported about one in six students is getting meals delivered; that is a meal cost of $720 per year per student.

Take a Look: Explore the Cost of Education in the United States

For Parents

A lot of parents are back at work, so childcare is a necessary expense. If your kids are learning remotely, you’ll need a babysitter, which costs $16 an hour on average, which could equal $320 to $500.

If you decide to invest in a teacher or tutor to augment your child’s virtual schooling, that could cost $1,500 to $3,000 a week, according to If this cost is too much, consider forming a “pod” with other families to split the cost, which could help lower your weekly bill to $250 rather than $1,500.

Your kids will need a place to study. Though a kitchen table will do the trick, if you want them to have their own space, they’ll need a desk, which can cost $100 per child. They might also need noise-canceling headphones — for both yours and their sake. This is another $40 per student.

The average amount spent on various items during back-to-school shopping was $849.90 per household in 2021. The majority of this was spent on new electronics for virtual learning environments. Although some supplemental learning resources will be paid for by the teachers, parents might be on the hook for those subscriptions as well. There might be movies kids need to watch on Netflix, or other news sites that parents need to pay for during the course of remote learning.

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This article originally appeared on How Much Does Virtual Schooling Really Cost?