Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees

As one of the most common requirements to be employed in any salaried position, a bachelor’s degree opens opportunities in almost every industry. The number of individuals with bachelor’s degrees has soared since 1940, increasing from 4.6% to 32% of the population age 25 and over in 2015. In addition to having increased job opportunities, bachelor’s degree holders also have more resilience to fluctuations in the job market and the economy: at the peak of the 2008 recession, bachelor’s degree holders had a 5.9% unemployment rate compared to 17.9% for high school graduates. If you want to build a career that will eventually get you to a mid or senior level position while providing long term job security, then a bachelor’s degree is probably the best place to start.


What Can You Do With an Online Bachelor’s Degree?

With an online bachelor’s degree you can do almost anything. Below are the Top 5 highest paying jobs for people with a bachelor’s degree. This is just a small sample of the possibilities that will be open to you.

5 Highest Paying Jobs for People With a Bachelor’s Degree


Dollars and Cents

Traditionally you need 120 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. If you multiply your school’s cost per credit hour by the number of hours it takes to get a degree, you will get a number that roughly approximates how much your bachelor’s will cost. However, there are a number of costs and fees that students may forget to consider when calculating the price of an education. Outside of your cost per credit hour, here are some other expenses to keep an eye on:

Books
Estimated Maximum per Semester$800 Estimated Minimum per SemesterFree
If you buy your textbooks new each semester, you can sometimes pay up to several hundred dollars for a single book. This can quickly add up to well over a thousand dollars per year. Luckily, most bookstores offer used textbook sales or even textbook rental programs. Using a combination of these methods you should be able to keep your book expenditures to a reasonable level. For the truly frugal, you can get away with not buying your books, though this can often times make classes difficult. Your school library should have versions of your textbook available on loan. These are often checked out very quickly though. If they don’t have the book, check if they have an earlier edition. You can also see if you have any close friends that have taken the class previously and will be willing to lend or give you their book. If all else fails, you can ask a classmate to borrow their copy.
Internet
Estimated Maximum per Semester$150 Estimated Minimum per SemesterFree
If you do not live on campus, you will likely want to pay for a home internet service. These prices vary depending on your location and the speed of service you want, but on the high end they often max out around $150. ISPs usually offer discounted services for new subscribers though, and you should be able to get internet for around $20/month if you do a little research. If you live on campus, you should have access to wi-fi in most on-campus locations. The fee for this service is included in your housing and facility fees. If you live off campus, you can use your public library to get free internet. If there is not a convenient library nearby, you can use the internet at a coffee shop, but be aware that you will have to purchase something and that cost can quickly add up.
Housing
Estimated Maximum per Semester$1,500 Estimated Minimum per SemesterFree
It is hard to provide a definitive figure for potential housing costs, because they vary significantly depending on your location. If you live on-campus, your housing will be covered in your room and board fees. If you live off-campus, you shouldn’t be paying more than $1,500/month as individual. If you live with roommates you can significantly lower this cost to several hundred dollars per month. It is possible to get your housing costs down to zero, if you can find a friend or relative that will let you live in their home for free. This is easiest to do for online students who live with a relative or for campus students who attend their local university and have a relative living nearby. Keep in mind that for many young students, college is exciting because it is their first chance to live away from home. If that is important to you, you should look into affordable housing options.
Social Activities
Estimated Maximum per SemesterUnlimited Estimated Minimum per Semester$250
The amount you spend on social activities can be as expensive as you like it. The social aspect of higher education is a big part of the college experience for many people, and going out to bars, restaurants, and clubs multiple times per week can quickly add up to over $1000/month. Luckily most college students are on a budget and campus is usually filled with budget-friendly options. With concerted effort, you could possibly get away with spending almost no money on social activities, but this will likely leave you feeling very stressed. In practice, it is healthy to set aside at least a small budget to treat yourself as a relief from the daily stressors of academia. There are many free options available for social activities, like parks, museums, and campus events; however, you will likely end up spending at least a few dollars doing these things, so budget realistically.
Transportation
Estimated Maximum per Semester$725 Estimated Minimum per Semester$15
If you live off-campus and commute by car, you may be spending up to $725/month after insurance, maintenance, and fuel costs. Though having a car is a convenient luxury, you may want to consider forgoing it. Look into biking, walking, ride-sharing, or public transportation as a means of getting around. Using these methods can easily bring you transportation costs under $100/month. If you can find a housing situation that allows you to walk to campus and walk to a grocery store, you can cut your transportation budget to almost zero. If you are an online student and don’t need to travel to campus, try and find housing that has everything you need within walking distance. It’s not realistic to expect to never spend any money on transportation, but with careful planning you can make these costs very low.
Emergency Funds
Estimated Maximum per Semester$200 Estimated Minimum per Semester$0
Medical bills, auto accidents, traffic tickets, deaths in the family, all these expenses can come unexpectedly and put students in a situation where they are scrambling for money. Ideally you can put away between $100 and $200 every month to help offset the costs of emergency expenses. You can also take the risk of not saving for these types of incidents. Many students get through their education without ever experiencing an emergency situation, or they rely on family to help them out in the event of an emergency. This is a personal decision and may be an expense you forgo if you are on a tight budget.

The Quickest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor’s

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Test Scores

Why it’s important College admission officers heavily weigh ACT and SAT scores when reviewing applications, and individuals who score higher will find that they are eligible for a wider range of schools. These scores are also taken into account when students apply to scholarships and other types of financial aid, meaning high test scores can help them cut tuition costs.
Associated Costs Registration Fees:

  • ACT (with essay) — $56.50
  • ACT (without essay) — $39.50
  • SAT (with essay) — $54.50
  • SAT (without essay) — $43

Test Prep Fees:
Prep books for SAT and ACT tests can cost anywhere from $10-$50. Practice tests and sample questions can also be found online for free.

Sending Scores:
For the ACT, students can choose up to four free score sends when registering for the test. If students want to wait to send scores or send them to additional schools, it will cost $12 per report ($16.50 for priority processing). Students who take the SAT can also send scores to four colleges for free upon registering, and pay $11.25 for each score report thereafter.

Retesting:
Registration fees are the same price every time.Ways to Reduce Costs

  • The College Board will allow a $30 fee reduction for students who show demonstrable financial need, while also dropping the $9 rebate charge.
  • Some states use federal/state funding to further reduce exam fees for eligible students.

Getting Credits (AP scores)

Why it’s important

Earning college credit early on can help ease the costs and time spent completing a bachelor’s degree program. One way to do this is by testing out of colleges courses through the Advanced Placement Program (AP), the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), or the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. All of these options work similarly, but for brevity’s sake, we will explore only the first one in detail.

Almost all US colleges and universities award credit and/or placement for qualifying AP scores, allowing students to bypass introductory college courses or fulfill a general election requirement. Students who get a head start on college with AP credits will ultimately end up investing less time and money in earning their degree. To see your prospective college’s policy on AP credits, visit the AP database here.

Associated Costs Registration fees:
Advanced Placement courses are usually offered through all private and public high schools at no additional charge; the fee for each exam is $92.Test prep fees:
Students can purchase AP test guides to help prepare for the exam. They may cost anywhere from $10-$30 per subject.Sending scores:
Students get one free score send by designating a college/university on the AP registration sheet. It costs $15 to send scores to any additional colleges/universities. Rush processing costs $25.Ways to Reduce Costs

  • The College Board will allow a $30 fee reduction for students who show demonstrable financial need, while also dropping the $9 rebate charge.
  • Some states use federal/state funding to further reduce exam fees for eligable students.

Getting Credit (Community College)

Why it’s important

Another cost-effective way to earn credit towards your bachelor’s degree is through community college courses. An increasing number of outgoing high schoolers opt to earn their associate degree at an affordable two-year college, then transfer the credits towards their bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution.

Students also have the option of starting their college studies even earlier by taking individual classes at a local community college while still in high school. Students can attend courses on the weekends and in the evenings, and many high schools programs allow students to commute to a nearby community college during the day to attend class.

Associated Costs Tuition:
The average cost of yearly tuition and fees at a public two-year college (for in-district students) is $3,347. Comparably, the annual tuition and fees at a public four-year college (in-state students) comes to around $9,139.Course materials:
According to NACS, students in 2013 spent an average of $79 for each required college textbook (new), although this price varies depending on the course subject. Other material costs that may be factored in include technology such as laptops and USB drives.Transportation:
Students should consider the costs of commuting to and from a local community college.Ways to Reduce Costs

  • Rent textbooks, buy used ones, or check them out from the library. Typically, college textbooks cost less when purchased online, and occasionally students can download an electronic version for even cheaper.
  • Online classes offered through community colleges often end up being more affordable. See our guide to online community colleges for more information.
  • Various types of financial are available for students attending a two-year college.

Finding the Cheapest School

Why it’s important Ideally, students should be able to go to whichever college or university they believe will best help them excel. However, relocating to an expensive city or attending a private college may not be feasible for students on a budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available for individuals seeking a good education at an affordable price.
Associated Costs College Counselor:
Most schools offer a designated college counselor to help you with your admissions. However, if you feel you are not getting enough attention, there are a number of private firms that offer admissions counseling for a price.
Ways to Reduce Costs
  • Many students choose a local college or university for the benefit of in-state tuition. According to College Board, the average cost of a public four-year out-of-state college during the 2015-2016 was $34,031. Comparably, tuition at a public-four year in-state school was $19,548.
  • For students who do choose an out-of-state college, consider relocating to a city with a low cost of living.
  • Several four-year institutions offer scholarships to undergraduate students. Students can use the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool to find scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid that go towards their prospective college or university.
  • Use the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator to search for/ compare colleges based on tuition, fees, and other estimated student expenses.

Application

Why it’s important In 2012, the average cost of a college application fee was $37.88, with the most expensive application (Stanford University) setting students back a hefty $90. These fees add up, especially considering some 32% of incoming freshmen report filling out seven or more college applications.
Ways to Reduce Costs

Of course, one way to avoid racking up application fees is by applying to fewer colleges. Some students also take advantage of the Common Application, a college admission form that can be used when applying to multiple participating colleges and universities.

The Common App can be filled out once and submitted to multiple schools. Currently, more than 600 higher education institutions accept the Common App. Undergraduates and transfer students can search the site’s database to see if their prospective school falls on the list.

Maximum Credit Loads

Why it’s important Colleges usually set a limit on the number of courses or credits students take each semester, however, students can sometimes waive this limit to take extra classes, minimizing the amount of time spent meeting credit requirements for graduation. Some students manage to shave off an entire semester or more by maximizing credit loads. This results in massive savings on tuition, course material, and room & board.
Associated Costs Some colleges may charge a fee for going over the maximum credit load. Students should talk with their college advisor to determine if such fees apply at their school.

Living Frugally while in School

Why it’s important Many students in college are living on their own for the first time, and may not have yet mastered the craft of money management. Fortunately, there are several ways to cut costs of day-to-day expenses while attending school.
Ways to Reduce Costs
  • Take advantage of free or discounted transportation available at your school, including shuttle busses between campuses and late-night carpools.
  • Students can easily spend over $100 every month on coffee. Invest in a coffee maker and brew your own.
  • Buy groceries rather than going out to eat. If you have the option, forgo your school meal plan and prepare meals at home. Coupon apps are a good way to find bargains at local grocers.
  • Take advantage of student services, such as free health services, testing, and counseling services.
  • Keep an eye out for student discounts offered by local businesses.
  • Explore work/study options on campus. These jobs are available specifically for students and allow them to work around their school schedule. Some jobs, such as front desk positions, allow students to study while they earn money.

Graduation

Why it’s important Graduation commencements are a great way for students to celebrate the end of their college careers. However, many students may be unaware of the fees that are often tacked on during the process of graduating.
Associated Costs Grad fees:
Some schools require students to pay a fee when they submit their application for graduation. For example, Iowa State charges a $75 fee which covers the costs of the commencement ceremony, diplomas and covers, mailing of diplomas (for students who do not attend the commencement), and a final audit of the degree completion.Ensemble:
Students may also have to rent or purchase a cap, gown, tassel, and other regalia in order to walk during the graduation ceremony. The package usually costs around $40.Ways to Reduce CostsIn many cases, students who want to receive their diploma will find that graduation fees are unavoidable. However, they can avoid extra charges by making sure all fees are paid by the given deadline.

Relocation

Why it’s important After graduating college, many students end up relocating. This could mean moving back to their respective home states or relocating for a new job. Either way, the costs of moving add up, and can add strain on an already stressful situation.
Associated Costs Transporting items:
Students manage to accumulate a lot of stuff throughout their four years of college, and naturally, moving it all can become a costly undertaking.
Ways to Reduce Costs
  • Renting a budget truck is often a cheaper alternative to shipping items or hiring a professional mover.
  • Graduates may choose to sell their possessions, including furniture, appliances, and textbooks, in order to mitigate the costs of relocating.
  • Find used boxes from local grocers or businesses.

Upgrading From an Associate Degree

A two year degree provides opportunity to get the credentials to enter a field and gather experience before investing in a bachelor’s degree. If you have earned your associate, you’re already halfway to your bachelor’s! Going back to school to get a four year degree is an excellent way to increase your earning power, opportunities for promotion, and marketability. On average, those with a bachelor’s earn 26% more than those with an associate degree. Check out the difference in pay for associate and bachelor’s in these common fields

Associate vs Bachelor’s Pay
Field Associate Pay Bachelor’s Pay
Information Technology $39,100 $53,156
Graphic Design $32,100 $40,750
Architecture $38,300 $45,470
Marketing $35,500 $46,021
Computer Science $40,900 $62,905
Figures based on early career salary data as collected by Payscale.com

The work experience that many associate graduates posses puts them in a strong position to gain admission to schools that might have been initially out of their reach. A strong resume demonstrating dedicated to progress towards a specific career goal is very appealing to admissions officers. In addition, because you will have already completed the majority of your general education requirements and may qualify for credits based on work experience, you will be able to get through school quicker and for less money than a traditional student. Online programs are especially convenient for associate degree holders, as they allow you to continue working while earning your degree on a flexible schedule.


Affordable Schools With Online Bachelor’s Programs

50 Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degrees
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1

Huntsville Bible College

Value Score 8.31
Average Tuition $4,200
Students Receiving Financial Aid 100%
Net Price $10,235
Graduation Rate 100%
Student to Faculty Ratio 5:1
Admissions Rate 100%
Enrollment Rate 35%
Retention Rate 35%

Huntsville Bible College is a non-denominational Christian seminary and is one of the smallest post-secondary institutions in the state of Alabama. Despite its size, HBC still serves a wide variety of students thanks to the school's online bachelor's degree programs. The school offers three 124-credit bachelor's programs as well as an assortment of associate, certificate, and master's programs. Distance learners can earn a bachelor's degree online in pastoral ministry, mission and evangelism, or Christian education.

HBC’s mission is to teach Christian men and women to live in accordance with biblical teachings. The school is a great choice for adult and nontraditional learns, as the school offers both online and on-campus options as well as some weekend classes. All online students at HBC pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. The school is accredited by the Association of Biblical Higher Education.


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2

University of Florida

Value Score 8.17
Average Tuition $4,477
Students Receiving Financial Aid 96%
Net Price $7,024
Graduation Rate 87%
Student to Faculty Ratio 20:1
Admissions Rate 48%
Enrollment Rate 50%
Retention Rate 50%

UF is a large, public research institution that was founded in 1853 in Gainesville, Florida. Today, the school serves more than 35,000 students each year split between on-campus and online studies. Distance learners can choose from more than a dozen affordable bachelor's degree programs online through UF on subjects such as business administration, computer science, or sports management. The school also features an online bachelor’s degree completion program in digital arts and sciences.

This flagship state institution is home to many famous graduates, including senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack as well as a steady stream of professional athletes. Distance learners at UF have access to a variety of student support services, such as the Career Resource Center, which helps new graduates work with fellow alumni to find networking opportunities. UF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


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3

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Value Score 7.56
Average Tuition $6,648
Students Receiving Financial Aid 97%
Net Price $4,229
Graduation Rate 90%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 31%
Enrollment Rate 43%
Retention Rate 43%

UNC was founded in 1789 in Chapel Hill as North Carolina University. Today, the school is consistently rated as one of the top public universities in the world and offers a variety of distance learning programs. UNC has established itself as a top-tier academic institution with a variety of academic offerings, a popular basketball team, and a strong alumni network. Notable UNC alumni include President James Polk and Michael Jordan.

Students can enroll in both hybrid or fully online distance learning programs through UNC Online. UNC Online is a distance education service provided by the school in conjunction with 16 other state schools and UNC campuses. This allows students to study at any one of the member institutions, providing students with a wide range of options to choose from. UNC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


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4

University of Georgia

Value Score 7.51
Average Tuition $9,364
Students Receiving Financial Aid 95%
Net Price $7,792
Graduation Rate 84%
Student to Faculty Ratio 18:1
Admissions Rate 53%
Enrollment Rate 45%
Retention Rate 45%

UGA is a public research institution that was founded in 1785 in Athens, Georgia, and is one of the oldest public universities in the country. Today, the school is the flagship university of the University System of Georgia and serves more than 36,000 students each year through a mixture of on-campus and online programs. Best known to sports fans for its Bulldogs football team, UGA is comprised of 17 different schools and colleges.

Students can earn an affordable online bachelor’s degree from UGA through the school’s online learning service. Students can choose between a bachelor's of business administration or bachelor's of science in special education degree programs, as well as a wide variety of graduate and certificate programs. The school offers a wide variety of student support services for distance learners, including financial aid, tutoring, academic advising, and a dedicated distance learning librarian. UGA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


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5

Truman State University

Value Score 7.49
Average Tuition $7,152
Students Receiving Financial Aid 89%
Net Price $7,823
Graduation Rate 73%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Admissions Rate 79%
Enrollment Rate 41%
Retention Rate 41%

TSU is a public liberal arts university that was founded in 1867 as North Missouri Normal State and Commercial College. In 1996, the school changed its name to Truman State University in honor of former President of the United States Harry S. Truman. Today, the school serves over 6,400 students each year and offers some of the most affordable online bachelor's degree programs in the country.

Most TSU online classes are offered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Some courses have consistent attendance requirements, but there are no scheduled times when students must sign-in. Distance learners have access to a variety of student support services, including financial aid, counseling, writing center, and an IT help desk. Online courses are delivered via Blackboard. TSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


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