50 Most Affordable Online Colleges

College education has become more accessible throughout the 20th century, and technological developments have helped to increase access — students can now learn in just about any space with an internet connection. Online learning gives students the ability to study on their own schedule, offering flexible course hours and the ability to maintain a career. The convenience and flexibility of distance learning has most colleges turning to online programs; trade publication EdTech reports that more than 28% of current college students are enrolled in at least one online course, a figure that equates to more than 5.8 million students.

This ranking compiles some of the cheapest online colleges in the country, all of which allow you to earn a four-year degree fully online. These schools are all fully accredited, academically respected, and offer affordable tuition that won’t leave you drowning in debt. We’ve ranked these schools by cost and by return on investment, highlighting programs that offer the greatest earnings potential after graduation.


50 Most Affordable Online Colleges
Rank School Score Toggle Content
1

University of Florida-Online

Value Score 7.95
Average Tuition $3,358
Students Receiving Financial Aid 88%
Net Price $9,009
Graduation Rate 87%
Student to Faculty Ratio 35:1
Admissions Rate 55.92%
Enrollment Rate 91.88%
Retention Rate 91.88%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 11

The University of Florida, based in Gainesville, offers highly flexible online curricula and a variety of degree paths. Students can enroll in as many as classes as they choose, up to full-time status (15 to 18 credit hours per semester). Online students may take a semester off without penalty. UF’s online courses are asynchronous; students may view lectures and complete assignments according to their own schedules.

UF offers 19 online bachelor’s degree programs, including microbiology and cell science, environmental management, fire and emergency services, and communication sciences and disorders. Students may choose specialized minors, such as business administration, sociology, and mass communication. Over 500 courses are offered throughout the year, and with two Pulitzer Prize-winning faculty members, the University of Florida offers a notable and affordable online college experience.


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2

Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

Value Score 7.81
Average Tuition $13,248
Students Receiving Financial Aid 81%
Net Price $14,470
Graduation Rate 75%
Student to Faculty Ratio 12:1
Admissions Rate 34.27%
Enrollment Rate 54.10%
Retention Rate 54.10%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 54%
Number of Online Programs 8

Located in Omaha, NMC provides on-campus and online programs in nursing and health. The school offers bachelor’s degrees, such as respiratory care and imaging sciences, and graduate degrees, such as wellness and health promotion management and business administration in healthcare. Specializations prepare students to work in any medical profession.

NMC offers both bachelor's and master’s degrees in nursing, as well as a nursing informatics certificate program. Applicants to online nursing programs must be registered nurses and must have a cumulative GPA of 2.75 and an ACT composite of 20 or above. NMC’s online nursing programs are among the most competitive in the nation.


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3

University of Central Florida

Value Score 7.45
Average Tuition $4,478
Students Receiving Financial Aid 89%
Net Price $11,028
Graduation Rate 70%
Student to Faculty Ratio 30:1
Admissions Rate 48.57%
Enrollment Rate 37.92%
Retention Rate 37.92%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 52%
Number of Online Programs 15

With a main campus in the entertainment hub of Orlando, Florida, UCF boasts 80 online degrees and certificates. UCF has offered online degrees for 20 years, including bachelor’s and graduate degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Online classes are taught by the same faculty as on-campus classes. The university’s affordable, highly specialized programs prepare students for a wide range of career paths.

Online graduate programs include industrial engineering, digital forensics, and hospitality and tourism management. Online bachelor’s degrees include Latin American studies, interdisciplinary studies, and technical education. UCF also offers online doctorates in nursing. The Access to Opportunities scholarship application system allows students to automatically apply for the many scholarships available.


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4

Florida International University

Value Score 7.28
Average Tuition $4,721
Students Receiving Financial Aid 88%
Net Price $9,785
Graduation Rate 58%
Student to Faculty Ratio 25:1
Admissions Rate 50.40%
Enrollment Rate 38.89%
Retention Rate 38.89%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 53%
Number of Online Programs 13

FIU, based in Miami, offers 20 online master’s degree programs and 12 bachelor’s degree programs, as well as a doctorate in nursing. Bachelor’s degrees require 120 credit hours, and master’s degrees require 30 credit hours, which can be completed in as few as 10 months. Since tourism is a keystone of the Florida economy, FIU offers several online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality management.

FIU offers hospitality management programs in event, hotel lodging, restaurant and food service, and travel and tourism management. Additional online bachelor’s degrees include business, religious studies, and sustainability and environment. Online courses are delivered through Blackboard.


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5

Grace College of Divinity

Value Score 7.26
Average Tuition $4,080
Students Receiving Financial Aid 83%
Net Price $3,532
Student to Faculty Ratio 6:1
Admissions Rate 52.78%
Enrollment Rate 94.74%
Retention Rate 94.74%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 1

Grace College of Divinity, located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is one of the cheapest online colleges for biblical studies. The college provides entirely online biblical programs across four paths: leadership, worship, ministry, and family life. Ministry, divinity, and Christian leadership degrees are available at associate, bachelor’s, and master’s levels. Bachelor’s degrees require 120 credit hours, 12 of which are electives in church and organizational leadership.

Online courses are offered asynchronously. Grace is accredited by the Association of Biblical Higher Education and offers flexible course schedules. Degree-seeking students may earn certificates in biblical and theological studies, missions leadership, and Christian leadership. A two-year internship-based associate degree is also available, in which students earn approximately half of the required 60 credit hours through an approved internship. Grace’s programs emphasize biblical training, practical ministry, and personal development.


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6

Valley City State University

Value Score 7.19
Average Tuition $5,153
Students Receiving Financial Aid 71%
Net Price $8,720
Graduation Rate 41%
Student to Faculty Ratio 11:1
Admissions Rate 86.35%
Enrollment Rate 60.06%
Retention Rate 60.06%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 70%
Number of Online Programs 8

VCSU, based in Valley City, North Dakota, offers nine entirely online bachelor’s degrees for distance learners. Founded in 1890 as a teachers college, VCSU now also offers degrees in related disciplines, along with certificate programs for teaching and business, including teaching English language learners, library and information technologies, and enterprise applications.

VCSU offers online degrees such as professional communication, English education, and music. Available minors include library media, psychology, and technology education. Certain majors, such as business education and history education, require three field experience courses in North Dakota. Online classes are asynchronous and have a student–faculty ratio of 11-to-1.


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7

Clarkson College

Value Score 7.11
Average Tuition $12,480
Students Receiving Financial Aid 71%
Net Price $17,579
Graduation Rate 67%
Student to Faculty Ratio 13:1
Admissions Rate 51.81%
Enrollment Rate 74.42%
Retention Rate 74.42%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 91%
Number of Online Programs 4

Since 1888, Clarkson College has educated healthcare workers in Omaha, Nebraska. In recent years, the school has developed online degree programs to serve healthcare students across the greater Nebraska area and the country. Degrees in nine fields of study are offered at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

Online majors include radiologic technology, education and leadership, and physical therapy assistant. Online students are admitted on a rolling basis, with semesters in the spring, summer, and fall. The student–faculty ratio is 25-to-1, which provides a small classroom atmosphere while allowing students to partake in virtual discussions. Clarkson offers a mentoring program for first-year students, in which students are paired with faculty or staff members for guidance and support.


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8

University of South Florida-Main Campus

Value Score 7.10
Average Tuition $4,559
Students Receiving Financial Aid 88%
Net Price $7,544
Graduation Rate 68%
Student to Faculty Ratio 24:1
Admissions Rate 44.64%
Enrollment Rate 30.69%
Retention Rate 30.69%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 50%
Number of Online Programs 2

USF, based in Tampa, Florida, is one of the most respected and affordable online colleges in the country. Its Department of Innovate Education offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as certifications. Out-of-state students should contact the institution to confirm their state’s eligibility for online admission.

Online bachelor’s degrees include criminology, applied sciences, and information studies. Certain bachelor’s degree tracks are only available to degree completion students; however, all master’s degrees may be completed entirely online through USF. The university offers more than two dozen master’s degrees, such as cybersecurity, global sustainability, and pharmaceutical nanotechnology, each requiring 36 credit hours. Hundreds of courses are offered online each semester, which helps students complete degrees at their own pace.


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9

The Baptist College of Florida

Value Score 7.05
Average Tuition $9,600
Students Receiving Financial Aid 76%
Net Price $8,539
Graduation Rate 51%
Student to Faculty Ratio 11:1
Admissions Rate 52.17%
Enrollment Rate 55.56%
Retention Rate 55.56%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%
Number of Online Programs 12

Located in Graceville, Florida, BCF provides affordable online programs for Christian leaders. BCF offers two online master’s degrees: Christian studies and music and worship leadership. Many faith-oriented bachelor’s degrees are available, such as biblical studies, Christian studies, and ministry studies. BCF also offers non-biblical bachelor’s degrees, such as English, psychology, music education, and elementary education.

All undergraduate degrees require 18 hours of biblical and theological foundation courses. BCF does not charge out-of-state tuition for online students. The college offers several scholarship options, including ministerial scholarships, BCF scholarships, and the Bright Futures scholarship. Online courses are delivered through the BCF learning platform, which uses direct communication between students and professors as a fundamental part of the learning experience.


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10

University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Value Score 6.99
Average Tuition $1,454
Students Receiving Financial Aid 86%
Net Price $10,440
Graduation Rate 56%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 56.79%
Enrollment Rate 26.90%
Retention Rate 26.90%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 29%
Number of Online Programs 12

UMass Lowell offers more than 50 online degrees, which prepare students to operate current technologies. UMass Lowell’s technology-focused online degree programs include a master’s degree in security studies, which prepares graduates to work in the IT and information protection fields. Undergraduate concentrations include homeland defense, cybersecurity, and critical infrastructure protection. UMass Lowell’s online master’s degrees include accounting, criminal justice, and engineering management.

UMass Lowell offers more than 400 courses each semester. Flexible online programs allow students to complete courses according to their own schedules. Along with its variety of degree programs, UMass Lowell offers fully online certificates in Java development, paralegal studies, and contemporary communications.


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11

Minot State University

Value Score 6.90
Average Tuition $5,066
Students Receiving Financial Aid 75%
Net Price $7,685
Graduation Rate 43%
Student to Faculty Ratio 12:1
Admissions Rate 56.79%
Enrollment Rate 71.49%
Retention Rate 71.49%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 49%
Number of Online Programs 7

MSU is based in Minot, North Dakota. Its nine undergraduate, three graduate, and two certificate programs are offered entirely online, both synchronously and asynchronously. Undergraduate degrees are available in marketing, international business, and general studies. Online graduate degrees include special education, specific learning disabilities, early childhood special education, and special education strategist.

Bachelor’s degrees require 120 credit hours, and master’s degrees require 25 to 27 credit hours. MSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has awarded online degrees for 18 years. MSU teaches students from across the United States, as well as Canada. MSU charges students per credit hour.


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12

Piedmont International University

Value Score 6.90
Average Tuition $8,850
Students Receiving Financial Aid 74%
Net Price $13,671
Graduation Rate 35%
Student to Faculty Ratio 7:1
Admissions Rate 24.20%
Enrollment Rate 77.36%
Retention Rate 77.36%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 80%
Number of Online Programs 3

PIU in Winston, North Carolina, is a leader in bible-centered secondary education. Online degrees include biblical studies, church music, ministry, and elementary education with a missions emphasis. PIU is one of the most affordable online colleges in the country; three years of studies at PIU costs the same as one year at other Christian universities. Class sizes are notably small, and all online courses are delivered through Blackboard.

PIU is a leader in developing online coursework and online degree plans. In addition to the traditional online format, which utilizes video lectures and discussion boards, PIU offers two alternative course formats: the integrated class and the flipped class. In flipped classes, students speak with professors over video chat, if needed. Integrated classes allow students to participate in classes both on-campus and remotely. PIU offers six enrollment dates throughout the year, and its online classes are completed over seven weeks.


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13

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

Value Score 6.87
Average Tuition $6,220
Students Receiving Financial Aid 93%
Net Price $6,966
Graduation Rate 76%
Student to Faculty Ratio 15:1
Admissions Rate 50.43%
Enrollment Rate 40.5%
Retention Rate 40.50%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 36%
Number of Online Programs 1

NC State, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, is a large and affordable university with more than 90 degree, certificate, lateral-entry, and teacher-licensure online programs. Each semester, more than 350 courses are offered asynchronously. NC State offers primarily master’s degrees online. The university is a leader in science and innovation; online degrees include aerospace engineering, nuclear engineering, soil science, and textile chemistry, and NCSU’s online programs utilize cutting-edge technology.

NCSU is a historically veteran-friendly university and also supports active military members and military families by assisting with credit transfers and scholarship searches. NCSU’s leadership in the public sector bachelor’s degree is popular among military members. Online classes are offered both fully online and in a hybrid format.


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14

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Value Score 6.86
Average Tuition $4,129
Students Receiving Financial Aid 77%
Net Price $6,915
Graduation Rate 56%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 58.60%
Enrollment Rate 44.78%
Retention Rate 44.78%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Online Programs 7

UNCG has both a liberal arts and a research focus and is considered a research university by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. UNCG’s online degree programs are available to students in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. UNCG distinguishes itself from other cheap online colleges with online tuition that is lower than tuition for on-campus learning.

UNCG’s online graduate degrees include peace and conflict studies, dance education, and supply chain management. Online courses match the academic rigor of traditional courses and are offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Up-to-date technology and multimedia content fosters online learning, and online classes are offered in seven-week and semester-long formats. Online bachelor’s degree programs require either 60 transferable credits or an associate degree.


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15

Fort Hays State University

Value Score 6.84
Average Tuition $3,574
Students Receiving Financial Aid 70%
Net Price $8,911
Graduation Rate 42%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Admissions Rate 85.88%
Enrollment Rate 47.93%
Retention Rate 47.93%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 77%
Number of Online Programs 22

Located in Hays, Kansas, FHSY offers more than 50 online degrees for distance learners and is fully accredited. FHSY has provided online courses for 20 years and has graduated 40,000 students from its online programs. FHSY currently has more than 6,000 online degree-seeking students, from 20 countries. With 600 online courses offered per semester, students have maximum flexibility in fulfilling their degree requirements.

Online undergraduate programs include criminal justice, marketing, elementary education, and business management and require 120 credit hours. Online master’s degrees include public history, education, and nursing administration and require 32 credit hours. FHSY welcomes transfer credits from regionally-accredited institutions and offers credit for military experience. No ACT or SAT scores are required for applicants over the age of 21.


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16

Fayetteville State University

Value Score 6.83
Average Tuition $2,833
Students Receiving Financial Aid 79%
Net Price $3,452
Graduation Rate 32%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 60.39%
Enrollment Rate 26.50%
Retention Rate 26.50%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 51%
Number of Online Programs 6

Fayetteville State offers an online bachelor’s degree completion program, with junior and senior level online courses. Degree completion programs require 75% of upper-division coursework to be earned through Fayetteville State. The university also offers two fully online graduate programs.

Bachelor’s degree options include criminal justice, birth to kindergarten, psychology, sociology, nursing, and fire and emergency services administration. Master’s in criminal justice and business are offered online. No more than 64 credits earned at a two-year institution may be applied to degree requirements. All online courses are taught asynchronously; however, certain courses may involve live chats or other synchronous elements. Courses are offered in 8-week and 16-week blocks.


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17

East Carolina University

Value Score 6.78
Average Tuition $4,157
Students Receiving Financial Aid 80%
Net Price $10,740
Graduation Rate 62%
Student to Faculty Ratio 18:1
Admissions Rate 69.04%
Enrollment Rate 36.94%
Retention Rate 36.94%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 42%
Number of Online Programs 19

ECU, in the heart of Greenville, North Carolina, offers an online distance education program, which includes undergraduate degree completion programs, completely online master’s degrees, and certifications and licensures. Degree completion programs require 24 credit hours from an accredited university.

Online bachelor’s degrees are offered in fields such as education, communication, business, nursing, and hospitality management. ECU also offers an interdisciplinary study. In terms of military benefits, ECU stands out among affordable online colleges. ECU’s student body includes many veterans and active military members, and the university provides in-state tuition to all active duty members of the armed services who are re-assigned outside the state.


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18

SUNY College at Oswego

Value Score 6.78
Average Tuition $6,470
Students Receiving Financial Aid 80%
Net Price $9,389
Graduation Rate 66%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 51.01%
Enrollment Rate 26.77%
Retention Rate 26.77%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 18%
Number of Online Programs 3

SUNY offers several undergraduate and graduate degree programs online, with average class sizes of 17 students. Online courses are available year-round, and SUNY provides a significant number of course offerings: 180 in the summer, 100 in the fall and spring, and 50 in the winter. This affordable online college makes scheduling classes easy.

Online bachelor’s degrees include vocational teacher preparation, public justice, and broadcasting and mass communication, in addition to several post-baccalaureate certificates. SUNY offers two master’s of business administration programs, one of which focuses on health services administration. Tuition and fees are the same for both online and on-campus classes, and online courses are asynchronous. Fall and spring classes require 15 weeks to complete, and summer classes are offered in 3-week, 6-week, or 12-week formats.


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19

The University of West Florida

Value Score 6.75
Average Tuition $4,319
Students Receiving Financial Aid 72%
Net Price $8,909
Graduation Rate 47%
Student to Faculty Ratio 22:1
Admissions Rate 41.54%
Enrollment Rate 46.05%
Retention Rate 46.05%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 54%
Number of Online Programs 8

UWF, located in Pensacola, Florida, offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degrees. UWF offers 600 online classes each semester. Many bachelor’s degrees are available in the technology and healthcare fields, including health science, nursing, and engineering technology. The university offers 18 fully online master’s degrees, with 30 specializations.

UWF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Out-of-state students may be eligible for an out-of-state tuition waiver. Transfer students with fewer than 60 credit hours are required to submit ACT or SAT scores for admission.


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20

Summit University of Pennsylvania

Value Score 6.73
Average Tuition $21,850
Students Receiving Financial Aid 74%
Net Price $14,405
Graduation Rate 56%
Student to Faculty Ratio 11:1
Admissions Rate 61.47%
Enrollment Rate 51.41%
Retention Rate 51.41%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 47%
Number of Online Programs 6

Founded in 1932 as a Baptist Bible seminary, Summit’s undergraduate and graduate degrees feature faith-oriented curricula and affordable tuition. Online learning formats such as dual enrollment, degree completion, and seminary allow students to take college classes while in high school, to finish degrees, and to complete degrees while in the ministry, respectively.

Online courses at Summit are available in eight-week and twelve-week formats and are offered year-round. Master’s degrees require 33 credit hours, 6 of which comprise biblical and theology courses such as principles of Bible interpretation and biblical archaeology. Online doctoral degrees are offered in ministry and philosophy, but one of every twelve weeks must be spent on campus.


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21

Cleary University

Value Score 6.72
Average Tuition $20,000
Students Receiving Financial Aid 65%
Net Price $6,673
Graduation Rate 38%
Student to Faculty Ratio 11:1
Admissions Rate 72.31%
Enrollment Rate 63.12%
Retention Rate 63.12%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 8

Located in Howell, Michigan, Cleary University has educated business leaders since 1883 and continues to do so with affordable online degree programs. Focusing exclusively on business and related fields, Cleary offers online degrees such as international business management, accounting and finance, and global leadership.

Cleary encourages a project-based online education that prepares students for work in the business community. Cleary is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, some of which can be completed in a single year. Cleary’s tuition program encourages public sector workers--police officers, firefighters, municipal employees, and first responders--to continue their education.


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22

Amridge University

Value Score 6.72
Average Tuition $6,000
Students Receiving Financial Aid 67%
Net Price $8,453
Graduation Rate 40%
Student to Faculty Ratio 10:1
Admissions Rate 100.00%
Enrollment Rate 36.1%
Retention Rate 36.10%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 11

Amridge University, in Montgomery, Alabama, offers more than 30 online degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. As a faith-based university, Amridge offers several degrees in Christian education, including biblical studies, divinity in ministerial leadership, and Old Testament studies. Amridge’s graduate programs also focus on therapy and counseling, with degrees such as marriage and family therapy and professional counseling.

Already one of the cheapest online Christian colleges, Amridge offers scholarships to further reduce the cost of tuition, especially for ministers, military members, law enforcement, and first responders. Master’s degrees require 60 hours, which students complete in as few as seven semesters. Online courses are accessed through the Canvas platform and are offered in eight-week semesters.


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23

Texas A & M University-Commerce

Value Score 6.72
Average Tuition $3,832
Students Receiving Financial Aid 73%
Net Price $6,231
Graduation Rate 42%
Student to Faculty Ratio 20:1
Admissions Rate 47.44%
Enrollment Rate 31.64%
Retention Rate 31.64%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 64%
Number of Online Programs 4

A&M-Commerce offers 28 degrees online at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, with the two primary fields of study being business and education. Online degrees include business administration, higher education, and early childhood education. A dual enrollment program is also available.

On-campus students have access to an even wider number of programs, which are offered at least 50% online. Online classes are delivered asynchronously through myLeo and last 16 weeks, the same as on-campus classes; summer classes last eight weeks. Applicants to this affordable online college may qualify for automatic admission if they ranked in the top 30% of their graduating class, have a composite ACT score of 21 or better, or have an SAT score of 1060.


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24

Western Carolina University

Value Score 6.71
Average Tuition $3,779
Students Receiving Financial Aid 80%
Net Price $8,921
Graduation Rate 57%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Admissions Rate 40.27%
Enrollment Rate 23.00%
Retention Rate 23.00%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 30%
Number of Online Programs 7

Based in Cullowhee, North Carolina, WCU offers more than 20 online majors, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Fields of study include entrepreneurship, human resources, emergency and disaster management, and special education. Online bachelor’s degrees are only available through degree completion programs; applicants must have a certain number of completed credit hours. Entirely online graduate degrees include health sciences, nurse leadership, and sports management.

Average class size is 17 students. Online tutoring resources are available; more than 80% of these tutors have a master’s degree or a PhD in their discipline. WCU’s veterans resources center and military student services offer support such as veteran counseling services, which may be used remotely by active military members.


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25

University of Illinois at Springfield

Value Score 6.70
Average Tuition $9,405
Students Receiving Financial Aid 77%
Net Price $10,879
Graduation Rate 48%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 63.12%
Enrollment Rate 27.86%
Retention Rate 27.86%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 64%
Number of Online Programs 10

UIS offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as certificates, in 67 degree programs in various fields of study, including philosophy, political science, and environmental science.

All online bachelor’s degrees are degree completion programs, which require at least 30 previous credit hours, with preference granted to applicants with an associate degree or with 60 completed credit hours. Master’s degrees require 40 credit hours and can be completed fully online. Popular graduate degrees at this cheap online college include computer science, public health, and legal studies. Programs are highly flexible, with heavy elective requirements. Over 50% of students take at least one online class each semester from UIS.


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26

Mississippi University for Women

Value Score 6.66
Average Tuition $5,681
Students Receiving Financial Aid 75%
Net Price $10,012
Graduation Rate 49%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 96.13%
Enrollment Rate 38.14%
Retention Rate 38.14%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 63%
Number of Online Programs 6

MUW, affectionately called "The W" by students and faculty, was founded in 1884 as a women’s university, but has accepted male applicants since 1982. MUW stands out because of its small class sizes, its commitment to celebrating diversity, and its low tuition and ample scholarship opportunities.

MUW offers 50 degrees, including accounting, legal administration, nursing, culinary arts, family studies, and business administration. Online graduate programs include business administration and health education, in addition to 2+2 bachelor’s degree programs in fields such as nursing, business administration, and public health education. Students of 2+2 online bachelor’s degree programs complete two years of general studies at community college, before finishing their degree online from MUW.


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27

Appalachian State University

Value Score 6.65
Average Tuition $3,961
Students Receiving Financial Aid 86%
Net Price $7,991
Graduation Rate 71%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Admissions Rate 66.38%
Enrollment Rate 35.11%
Retention Rate 35.11%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 15%
Number of Online Programs 7

App State, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Boone, North Carolina, has one of the highest elevations of any higher education institution in the country and one of the most scenic campuses. App State educates nearly 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students per year.

App State offers 174 online bachelor’s degrees, such as accounting, economics, computer science, psychology, and communication. The university also offers 37 online graduate degrees in fields such as elementary education, management, and nursing. All of App State’s programs are flexible, designed for distance learners with busy schedules.


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28

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Value Score 6.64
Average Tuition $5,420
Students Receiving Financial Aid 77%
Net Price $9,198
Graduation Rate 47%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Admissions Rate 75.94%
Enrollment Rate 48.66%
Retention Rate 48.66%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 49%
Number of Online Programs 14

UNO is located in Omaha, Nebraska, the state’s major metropolitan hub. UNO’s ties with local corporations ensure the success of its graduates. In fact, approximately 80% of UNO students acquire internships or jobs in their field during their studies. The quality of UNO’s online degree programs stands out among affordable online colleges. All online classes are taught by core faculty members.

UNO has more than 15,000 students, on-campus and distance learners. Popular online bachelor’s degrees include sociology, library science, information technology, and gerontology. With flexible formats, UNO’s online degrees allow adult learners and nontraditional students to schedule their education around their life and work.


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29

SUNY College at Plattsburgh

Value Score 6.63
Average Tuition $6,470
Students Receiving Financial Aid 83%
Net Price $7,823
Graduation Rate 65%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Admissions Rate 49.69%
Enrollment Rate 23.46%
Retention Rate 23.46%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 30%
Number of Online Programs 1

SUNY College at Plattsburgh is based in idyllic upstate New York and belongs to the State University of New York system. SUNY Plattsburgh distinguishes itself from other cheap online colleges in New York by offering degree options in practical fields such as nursing, accounting, and education.

The college offers 100 online degrees, including anthropology, cytotechnology, and multimedia journalism. SUNY Plattsburgh prides itself on providing ample study abroad opportunities; online students can study abroad in more than 500 locations around the world. For added convenience, SUNY Plattsburgh students can also take online and on-campus courses from the college’s branch campus in Queensbury.


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30

Midway University

Value Score 6.62
Average Tuition $22,000
Students Receiving Financial Aid 78%
Net Price $17,114
Graduation Rate 53%
Student to Faculty Ratio 15:1
Admissions Rate 45.59%
Enrollment Rate 40.33%
Retention Rate 40.33%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 84%
Number of Online Programs 18

Midway is a small, liberal arts university in Midway, Kentucky. The university has two divisions: a Day College, which educates traditional undergraduate and graduate students, and a School for Career Development, which educates nontraditional students. Until the fall of 2017, Midway’s Day College division only accepted women, but the university now accepts male students, as well.

Midway offers an array of online degrees in the education, nursing, equine studies, and business, with majors including teacher education, business administration, psychology, criminal justice, and sport management. Accelerated programs are available, and Midway’s low tuition makes it one of the most affordable online colleges in the country.


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31

University of South Dakota

Value Score 6.62
Average Tuition $4,341
Students Receiving Financial Aid 77%
Net Price $13,344
Graduation Rate 52%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 73.54%
Enrollment Rate 41.49%
Retention Rate 41.49%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 47%
Number of Online Programs 8

USD is a public research university based in Vermillion, South Dakota. USD houses South Dakota’s only medical school, graduate-level business school, and law school. USD is often considered the premier university in the state. Graduates have been awarded honors such as Rhodes Scholarships. USD provides inexpensive, rigorous online options; this affordable online college does not sacrifice quality.

USD offers more than 70 online programs, including anthropology, addiction studies, marketing, public health, occupational therapy, and philosophy. Online programs prepare students to enter the workforce or pursue higher levels of education. All degree programs, on-campus and online, feature small classes taught by distinguished professors.


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32

North Carolina Central University

Value Score 6.60
Average Tuition $3,555
Students Receiving Financial Aid 80%
Net Price $8,968
Graduation Rate 42%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Admissions Rate 65.87%
Enrollment Rate 21.98%
Retention Rate 21.98%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 32%
Number of Online Programs 7

NCCU belongs to the group of universities in North Carolina’s "Research Triangle"--Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham--which includes NC State, Duke, and UNC Chapel Hill. This region is known for its high-quality educational and research opportunities, as well as its economic opportunities for job seekers. NCCU is also a member of the renowned Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

NCCU offers 85 online degree programs, including programs with entirely online coursework. Online bachelor’s degrees include criminal justice, nursing, hospitality and tourism, and early childhood education. NCCU is one of the most budget-friendly online colleges in the region, especially considering that many of the university’s students are offered scholarships.


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33

Louisiana Tech University

Value Score 6.59
Average Tuition $6,400
Students Receiving Financial Aid 80%
Net Price $6,539
Graduation Rate 53%
Student to Faculty Ratio 23:1
Admissions Rate 63.84%
Enrollment Rate 48.18%
Retention Rate 48.18%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 27%
Number of Online Programs 3

Louisiana Tech is located in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas region. Louisiana Tech is the only Tier One university in the University of Louisiana system and is the state’s top university for STEM majors. The university’s ties with organizations such as NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Federal Aviation Administration increase job opportunities for graduates.

Louisiana Tech is one of the most affordable online colleges in the state, with online degree programs such as biomedical engineering, civil engineering, forestry, and molecular science & nanotechnology. In addition to STEM fields, Louisiana Tech offers degrees in business and the liberal arts, such as English and business administration.


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34

Nazarene Bible College

Value Score 6.58
Average Tuition $10,800
Students Receiving Financial Aid 100%
Net Price $13,037
Graduation Rate 40%
Student to Faculty Ratio 9:1
Admissions Rate 100.00%
Enrollment Rate 98.00%
Retention Rate 98.00%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 89%
Number of Online Programs 5

NBC, affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and boasts stunning views of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. NBC uses one of the most forward-thinking course delivery systems. The college caters to both traditional and nontraditional students, and the average age of students is 38. NBC offers small class sizes, a convenient quarter system, and Christian-infused coursework.

NBC students choose from two degree programs: a bachelor’s of science in ministry and an associate of science in ministry. Both degree programs can be completed online or on-campus. The college also facilitates certificate programs, allowing those involved in ministry work to boost their credentials and skills.


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35

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

Value Score 6.58
Average Tuition $4,029
Students Receiving Financial Aid 71%
Net Price $3,348
Graduation Rate 40%
Student to Faculty Ratio 20:1
Admissions Rate 84.49%
Enrollment Rate 51.69%
Retention Rate 51.69%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 67%
Number of Online Programs 11

UTPB is a public university within the University of Texas system. The university is located in Odessa, home to many of the state’s oil refineries and plants, which employ a large number of UTPB alumni. UTPB is one of few cheap online colleges in Texas that provides an early college high school, which allows Texas high school students to complete college coursework online, accelerating their college degrees. UTPB also offers several online degree options for nontraditional students and working professionals.

Online bachelor’s degrees include communication, sociology, political science, and business administration. UTPB’s online graduate degrees, such as a master’s of business administration and a master’s of arts in educational leadership, prepare students to become leaders in their fields.


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36

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Value Score 6.56
Average Tuition $5,325
Students Receiving Financial Aid 80%
Net Price $12,885
Graduation Rate 56%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 85.38%
Enrollment Rate 43.75%
Retention Rate 43.75%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 50%
Number of Online Programs 4

UNK, located in Kearney, Nebraska, belongs to the University of Nebraska system. Originally a normal school and then a teachers college, UNK remains one of Nebraska’s most respected universities for educators. Additionally, the Nebraska Medical Center Health Science Education Complex provides opportunities for healthcare students to gain hands-on experience. UNK’s affordable online degrees are taught by doctoral-level professors.

Online degrees include early childhood education, sociology, business administration, and criminal justice. Flexible online graduate programs in business and education allow working professionals to advance their careers.


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37

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Value Score 6.55
Average Tuition $6,648
Students Receiving Financial Aid 97%
Net Price $4,229
Graduation Rate 90%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 30.54%
Enrollment Rate 42.86%
Retention Rate 42.86%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 12%
Number of Online Programs 1

UNC is a major public research university within the University of North Carolina system. It is one of three schools in the country that opened in 1795, which are considered to be the first public universities in the nation. UNC has a rich history of providing outstanding educational opportunities.

UNC partners with other universities in the University of North Carolina system to provide more than 400 fully online programs. These opportunities include degrees such as agriculture and website development. Independently, UNC offers online graduate programs in fields such as communication, business, and healthcare administration.


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38

Ball State University

Value Score 6.53
Average Tuition $8,836
Students Receiving Financial Aid 82%
Net Price $8,671
Graduation Rate 61%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 60.50%
Enrollment Rate 26.14%
Retention Rate 26.14%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 42%
Number of Online Programs 5

BSU is a public research university based in Muncie, Indiana, with satellite campuses online and in two other Indiana locations: Fishers and Indianapolis. BSU is the alma mater of television personality, David Letterman, and several facilities on campus are named in his honor, including the building in which BSU’s online division is housed. This cheap online college offers more than 70 online degree programs.

Online bachelor’s degrees include business administration, general studies, criminal justice & criminology, and early childhood education. BSU also offers online master’s degrees, such as business administration, career & technical education, and applied behavior analysis. Online courses are taught by on-campus faculty, many of whom have earned the highest honors and accolades in their fields.


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39

University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus

Value Score 6.53
Average Tuition $4,296
Students Receiving Financial Aid 86%
Net Price $12,302
Graduation Rate 66%
Student to Faculty Ratio 18:1
Admissions Rate 77.64%
Enrollment Rate 45.07%
Retention Rate 45.07%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 28%
Number of Online Programs 7

OU is a public university located in Norman, Oklahoma, about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City. A large number of OU students are National Merit Scholars, and the university produces many Rhodes Scholars. Graduates of the OU College of Professional and Continuing Studies, OU’s online division, pursue high-level careers and further studies.

Online bachelor’s degrees include world cultural studies, criminal justice, administrative leadership, and liberal studies. Online graduate degrees in criminal justice, prevention science, and human & health services administration help professionals advance their careers. OU offers low tuition prices to fit nontraditional students’ budgets.


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40

University of St Francis

Value Score 6.53
Average Tuition $29,630
Students Receiving Financial Aid 76%
Net Price $13,365
Graduation Rate 65%
Student to Faculty Ratio 11:1
Admissions Rate 50.53%
Enrollment Rate 25.17%
Retention Rate 25.17%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 60%
Number of Online Programs 4

USF is a Catholic university associated with the Franciscan order. Its main campus is in Joliet, Illinois, a residential suburb of Chicago. USF has offered online degrees for over 15 years and has recently increased both its online degree offerings and its graduate degree offerings. Approximately 1,500 students are currently enrolled in online degree programs at USF.

The school offers two online undergraduate options: a BS in business administration and a BS in healthcare leadership. The business administration program offers concentrations in marketing, entrepreneurship, management, managing human resources, and transportation & logistics management. USF offers fully online graduate programs in nursing, education, business, health administration, and social work, as well as a doctor of education.


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41

Winston-Salem State University

Value Score 6.51
Average Tuition $3,238
Students Receiving Financial Aid 76%
Net Price $7,806
Graduation Rate 46%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 58.53%
Enrollment Rate 33.84%
Retention Rate 33.84%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 29%
Number of Online Programs 5

WSSU is a public research university in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and belongs to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. A historically black university, WSSU prides itself on its diverse student body. WSSU’s degree programs for nontraditional students may be completed entirely online.

Online bachelor’s programs include clinical laboratory science, nursing, interdisciplinary studies, and kindergarten education. WSSU also offers two online graduate programs: rehabilitation counseling and advanced nurse education. These programs are ideal for working professionals in the healthcare industry who want to advance their careers. Although most of WSSU’s online courses are asynchronous, students are expected to meet assignment deadlines.


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42

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Value Score 6.50
Average Tuition $5,180
Students Receiving Financial Aid 72%
Net Price $8,632
Graduation Rate 39%
Student to Faculty Ratio 20:1
Admissions Rate 83.97%
Enrollment Rate 46.92%
Retention Rate 46.92%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 73%
Number of Online Programs 14

NSU is a public university with a main campus in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and additional campuses throughout the state. NSU was the first higher education institution in Louisiana to grant degrees in business and nursing. Although the university has expanded its degree offerings considerably since its inception in 1884, NSU’s nursing and business programs remain integral to the school’s reputation as an educational leader in Louisiana.

NSU provides a large range of undergraduate and graduate online degrees. Bachelor’s degrees from this cheap online college include allied health, addiction studies, business administration, psychology, criminal justice, and computer information systems. Master’s degrees in education and nursing help working professionals advance their careers.


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43

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Value Score 6.48
Average Tuition $4,392
Students Receiving Financial Aid 75%
Net Price $7,088
Graduation Rate 41%
Student to Faculty Ratio 11:1
Admissions Rate 73.10%
Enrollment Rate 70.25%
Retention Rate 70.25%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 46%
Number of Online Programs 7

UAF is a public research university based in Fairbanks, Alaska. The flagship university of the University of Alaska system, UAF is the premier educational institution in the state and educates the largest number of students of any college or university in Alaska. UAF offers multiple programs for online students living in Alaska and beyond.

Online undergraduate degrees include business administration, homeland security & emergency management, psychology, and justice. Additionally, the university provides online bachelor’s degree completion options for students with associate degrees. Flexible online graduate programs are available, including business administration, administration of justice, and security & disaster management.


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44

Dakota State University

Value Score 6.48
Average Tuition $4,170
Students Receiving Financial Aid 74%
Net Price $11,799
Graduation Rate 39%
Student to Faculty Ratio 18:1
Admissions Rate 81.25%
Enrollment Rate 46.69%
Retention Rate 46.69%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 57%
Number of Online Programs 11

Dakota State is a public university with a main campus in Madison, South Dakota. The university is South Dakota’s top STEM school, and many of its degree offerings are in the IT, natural sciences, and business sectors. On-campus students are required to bring laptops or tablets to class--integration of technology is a large part of the educational experience. Dakota State is equally innovative in the online education sphere. Its numerous fully online programs to undergraduate and graduate students.

Dakota State offers online programs in fields such as cyber operations, computer science, health information administration, and network & security administration. Online graduate degrees include business administration, health informatics, and analytics. Dakota State offers select associate and doctoral degree options for online students.


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45

University of Southern Mississippi

Value Score 6.46
Average Tuition $7,224
Students Receiving Financial Aid 73%
Net Price $11,554
Graduation Rate 50%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 58.04%
Enrollment Rate 43.52%
Retention Rate 43.52%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 43%
Number of Online Programs 14

Southern Miss is a public research university based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The university is considered to be one of the major academic and research hubs in the state. Online students benefit from the school’s research prowess and take classes from professors who belong to the upper echelon of experts in their niches. Southern Miss provides affordable tuition and ample financial aid opportunities.

Southern Miss offers fully online undergraduate and graduate degrees, in addition to hybrid degree programs. Online bachelor’s degrees include special education, child & family studies, applied technology, and industrial engineering technology. Online graduate students study business administration, human capital development, nursing, and medical laboratory science.


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46

University of Maryland-College Park

Value Score 6.46
Average Tuition $8,152
Students Receiving Financial Aid 95%
Net Price $5,924
Graduation Rate 86%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 44.88%
Enrollment Rate 31.03%
Retention Rate 31.03%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 8%
Number of Online Programs 5

UMCP, a public university based in College Park, Maryland, is Maryland’s flagship university and educates approximately 40,000 students each year, including online students across the globe. UMCP dedicates a significant amount of resources to its online degree programs, including online graduate degrees.

UMCP offers graduate degrees in fully online, hybrid, and in-person formats; available programs include chemical & life sciences, applied entomology, and entrepreneurship with a concentration in corporate innovation. UMCP also offers fully online, graduate-level certificate programs in select areas of study.


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47

Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus

Value Score 6.46
Average Tuition $3,065
Students Receiving Financial Aid 57%
Net Price $9,938
Graduation Rate 32%
Student to Faculty Ratio 19:1
Admissions Rate 49.83%
Enrollment Rate 51.56%
Retention Rate 51.56%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 95%
Number of Online Programs 9

ENMU is a public university based in Portales, New Mexico, with branches in Roswell, Ruidoso, and online. ENMU’s motto is "Student success--that’s what it’s all about!"ENMU’s affordable online programs deliver long-term value for career advancement and personal development. ENMU provides high-quality programs with low tuition rates.

Fully online undergraduate programs include aviation science, business administration, electronics engineering technology, marketing, and Spanish. Online graduate programs such as elementary education, nursing, special education pedagogy, communication, and sports administration establish ENMU as a leader in education for working professionals. All ENMU students have access to tutoring, IT help, and career counseling.


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48

University of Memphis

Value Score 6.46
Average Tuition $7,320
Students Receiving Financial Aid 77%
Net Price $10,883
Graduation Rate 45%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 39.78%
Enrollment Rate 31.74%
Retention Rate 31.74%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 31%
Number of Online Programs 17

A public research university in Memphis, Tennessee, U of M is the flagship university of the Tennessee Board of Regents and educates more than 20,000 students each year, including a growing number of online students. U of M partners with other schools belonging to the Tennessee Board of Regents to provide a range of fully online degrees. Online coursework taken through either U of M or through partner schools appears on transcripts as credit from U of M. This innovative model of online education contributes to the low tuition that establishes U of M as one of the most affordable online colleges in the country.

Entirely online bachelor’s and master’s degrees are available in professional studies and liberal studies.


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49

SUNY Polytechnic Institute

Value Score 6.45
Average Tuition $6,470
Students Receiving Financial Aid 74%
Net Price $9,047
Graduation Rate 49%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 60.46%
Enrollment Rate 24.75%
Retention Rate 24.75%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 39%
Number of Online Programs 3

SUNY Poly is a State University of New York research institution with satellite campuses in Albany, Marcy, and the Utica-Rome area. It is the state’s premier polytechnic school, and it emphasizes degrees and coursework in technical, STEM, and practical application fields. The school is known for its innovation in fields such as nanoeconomics and nanoengineering.

SUNY Poly serves a growing number of online students. Its online graduate degrees can be completed entirely online, and many undergraduate programs are available partially online. Online graduate programs include technology management, accountancy, nursing education, and information design & technology. Students may earn bachelor’s degrees in nursing and health information management partially online.


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50

University of North Carolina Wilmington

Value Score 6.45
Average Tuition $4,188
Students Receiving Financial Aid 85%
Net Price $10,379
Graduation Rate 71%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 60.96%
Enrollment Rate 29.09%
Retention Rate 29.09%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 30%
Number of Online Programs 3

UNCW is a public university on the coast of North Carolina. Coursework is taught from a global perspective and encourages diversity of thought. UNCW has the highest transfer student retention rate of any university in North Carolina. The university’s growing number of affordable online degree programs establishes UNCW as a leader in distance education.

Online undergraduate programs include elementary education, international studies, nursing, and criminology. Online graduate degrees are offered in fields such as liberal studies, elementary education, clinical research, chemistry, and school administration. Online classes are offered in the fall, spring, and summer, and students may complete coursework at an accelerated pace or on a part-time basis.


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15 Honorable Mentions for the Most Affordable Online Colleges

University of Iowa6.45

Average Tuition $6,678
Net Price $8,188

Fort Valley State University6.44

Average Tuition $3,886
Net Price $13,732

New Mexico State University6.42

Average Tuition $4,956
Net Price $7,920

Brigham Young University - Idaho6.41

Average Tuition $3,830
Net Price $6,407

Apex School of Theology6.41

Average Tuition $4,800
Net Price $9,623

Georgia Southwestern State University6.40

Average Tuition $3,886
Net Price $10,621

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities6.38

Average Tuition $12,240
Net Price $7,951

Arkansas State University6.38

Average Tuition $6,000
Net Price $10,521

University of Massachusetts - Amherst6.38

Average Tuition $11,684
Net Price $9,941

Eastern Kentucky University6.35

Average Tuition $8,150
Net Price $9,253

SUNY College of Technology at Alfred6.35

Average Tuition $6,470
Net Price $10,970

University of North Carolina at Charlotte6.35

Average Tuition $3,628
Net Price $5,288

Madonna University6.34

Average Tuition $18,600
Net Price $11,078

Harvard University6.34

Average Tuition $41,632
Net Price $6,603

Mount Carmel College of Nursing6.34

Average Tuition $12,000
Net Price $9,908

Accredited Online Colleges

When choosing an online program or college, accreditation status is one of the most reliable indicators of academic excellence. Accreditation is the process of review that ensures an institution offers a quality education to students and meets certain state, national, or academic standards. Both colleges and their academic programs are assessed for accreditation at regular intervals to guarantee that standards are met. Accreditors are essentially academic inspectors who make sure colleges are being run properly.

Types of Accreditation

There are several types of accreditations, and while they can function at different levels, they all indicate academic quality. Most regionally accredited colleges are nonprofit institutions that focus on academics. Nationally accredited colleges are often for-profit institutions that focus on technical and vocational education, such as medical assisting or automotive technology. Individual programs are often accredited by independent agencies dedicated to accreditation in that field, such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which focuses solely on assessing and accrediting nursing programs. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which accredits most of these academic accrediting organizations, maintains a comprehensive, searchable database of institutions and programs accredited by recognized U.S. accrediting organizations.

Diploma Mills

While online learning has made higher education more accessible, the anonymous nature of the internet has also made it easier for illegitimate colleges (often referred to as “diploma mills”) to offer fraudulent education to students. These schools are often accredited by false “accreditation mills” that have no government authority or academic recognition. Before investing in an online program, it’s important to investigate its accreditation status and accrediting agency to assure the legitimacy of both. The vast majority of accrediting organizations are recognized by either CHEA or the U.S. Department of Education, so exercise extreme caution if an accreditation organization doesn’t appear on their list.

The Cost of Online Education

For many students, one of the most appealing aspects of online education is its reduced cost, which can often be half that of conventional campus education. A study from the University of the Potomac reports that the average cost of a traditional degree comes to about $85,000, while the average cost of an online degree is just $35,000. Online students also save on many of the built-in costs of campus education, such as commuting and travel expenses, room and board, and other fees. The flexible nature of online learning also makes it easier for students to maintain a job while pursuing their degree, particularly adult students, who are often able to balance an online program with the demands of a full-time job.

Though there are hundreds of affordable online colleges, it’s important to realize that tuition can vary widely, and that “online” doesn’t always mean “cheaper.” Some schools offer the same tuition rate for online courses and campus courses, and others may even charge an additional online education fee. Avoid overpaying for online courses by comparing tuition rates between schools, and consider purchasing digital rather than physical textbooks, which can reduce costs substantially.

In-State Vs. Out-of-State Online Colleges

While many online programs allow students to attend from anywhere in the country, most still choose schools within their state of residence, primarily due to the reduced in-state tuition cost. However, as a measure to attract students, many affordable online colleges around the country now offer tuition waivers for out-of-state residents, allowing them to receive the same tuition rate regardless of where they live. These tuition initiatives give online students a wider range of options when choosing online programs, allowing them to select a program for academic quality, rather than just proximity.

Who Should Pursue Online Education?

Whether it’s online or on-campus, higher education is for anyone looking to increase their career options and earnings potential. The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard reports that college graduates can expect to earn more than $1 million over their lifetimes compared to those who only complete high school. For many students, a primary concern is earning a degree without incurring huge amounts of student debt. In fact, 45% of students in a 2015 Learning House survey reported that cost was their main or only concern when choosing a college. There are many other reasons students might choose to enroll in an online college, several of which are outlined below.

  • You want to transition into a college learning environment
  • You put your education on hold to fulfill other commitments and would like to finish your degree
  • You’re seeking a promotion or new position in your current field
  • You’re interested in entering a new field
  • You need to update your skills to keep up with requirements of your job
  • You’re re-entering the job market and need to refresh your skill set

Traits of Online Learners

Online learning is convenient, flexible, and affordable, but it’s also very different from traditional in-class schooling, and may not work with every student’s learning style. The nature of most online learning platforms means that students must often be more independent and self-motivated than in campus courses. In the same Learning House survey, online students report motivation, focus, and attention as their biggest concerns when it comes to online learning. Successful online learners generally possess a combination of the following traits:

  1. Self-motivated Online students are accountable to themselves, and they bear the responsibility for remaining dedicated to schoolwork without a classroom environment to motivate them.
  2. Self-disciplined Many online assignments are performed independently, on the student’s own schedule. Online learners must be disciplined to make sure they don’t fall behind in their studies.
  3. Adaptable Online learning environments can vary widely, and students must be able to adapt to changes in different technology tools and online instruction methods, which can differ between classes.
  4. Effective communicator Communication becomes even more important when students can’t interact in a classroom environment. Online learners need strong written and oral communication skills to interact with peers and faculty.
  5. Highly organized Online students must keep track of all their assignments and coursework, and many of them balance their education with work and family.

How to Find the Most Affordable Online College

Tuition is often the primary concern when searching for the cheapest online college, but it’s hardly the only factor that should be considered. Another important concern is return on investment: not just what you pay for your degree, but what you get out of it in terms of career and overall earnings potential. When considering a school, think about the programs it offers, whether these programs align with your career goals, and whether these degrees can open the door to job opportunities in the future.

The Most Popular Online Majors

While online learning often differs from the traditional classroom experience, most students pursuing their bachelor’s degree online still choose the same majors as their campus counterparts. A report on online learning from the University of the Potomac found that the most popular majors for online and on-campus students include psychology, business, elementary education, and nursing. Online learners also commonly pursue healthcare administration programs.

Below, we’ve outlined career, salary, and employment information for these common degrees. Keep in mind that this is just a sample of the options available for online students, and can serve as a starting off point in your search for an online program.

Psychology

$75,230 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Psychologists examine emotional and social processes in humans, assessing and interpreting how people interact with one another. They may work in research, healthcare, or in a variety of public and private settings

Career Options: Clinical psychologist, counselor, industrial organizational psychologist

Job Growth: 19%

View our ranking of the most affordable online psychology programs

Business

$66,530 Avg Annual Salary
Associate Degree Required

Businesses provide goods and services to consumers, but the field is so vast that it encompasses a wide range of positions and industries. Business workers are typically concerned with helping a company maximize profits and function as efficiently as possible.

Career Options: Accountant, manager, human resources specialist

Job Growth: 8%

View of our Ranking of the most affordable online business and accounting programs

Elementary Education

$55,490 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Elementary educators prepare young students for future learning, teaching them the basics of academic subjects and concepts of socialization.

Career Options: Public school teacher, private school teacher, education specialist

Job Growth: 6%

View our ranking of the most affordable online education and early childhood education programs

Health Administration

$96,540 Avg Annual Salary
Associate Degree Required

Nurses provide medical assistance to patients and physicians, coordinating patient care, offering emotional support, and educating patients about healthcare.

Career Options: Registered nurse

Job Growth: 16%

View our ranking of the most affordable RN to BSN and nursing programs

Unemployment rates can vary widely by both education level and industry. The following table collects information from Georgetown University’s study The Economic Value of College Majors.

Unemployment Rates Among Popular Majors
Major Unemployment Rate for Bachelor’s Graduates (No Experience) Unemployment Rate for Bachelor’s Graduates (Some Experience) Unemployment Rate for Master’s Graduates
Agricultural and Natural Resources 7.0% 3.5% 2.4%
Life and Physical Sciences 7.7% 4.7% 2.2%
Architecture 13.9% 9.2% 7.7%
Humanities and Liberal Arts 9.4% 6.1% 3.9%
Communications and Journalism 7.3% 6.0% 4.1%
Computers and Mathematics 8.2% 5.6% 4.1%
Education 5.4% 3.9% 1.9%
Engineering 7.9% 4.9% 3.4%
Law and Public Policy 8.1% 4.5% 3.5%
Social Science 8.9% 5.7% 4.1%
Health 5.4% 2.2% 1.9%
Psychology and Social Work 7.3% 5.9% 3.2%
Recreation 8.3% 4.5% 2.0%
Arts 11.1% 7.1% 6.2%
Business 7.4% 5.3% 4.4%
The Economic Value of College Majors, Georgetown University (2015)

The Highest Paying Majors

This chart, also based on data from Georgetown, collects salary information for different career stages and industries.

Median Annual Wages of College-Educated Workers By Major Group
Major Group Median Salary (Age 21-24) Median Salary(Age 25-59)
Architecture and Engineering $50,000 $83,000
Computer, Statistics, and Mathematics $43,000 $76,000
Health $41,000 $65,000
Business $37,000 $65,000
Social Sciences $33,000 $60,000
Physical Sciences $32,000 $65,000
Education $32,000 $45,000
Law and Public Policy $31,000 $54,000
Communications and Journalism $31,000 $54,000
Humanities and Liberal Arts $30,000 $52,000
Agriculture and Natural Resources $30,000 $56,000
Biology and Life Sciences $29,000 $56,000
Psychology and Social Work $28,000 $47,000
Arts $28,000 $49,000
Industrial Arts, Consumer Services and Recreation $27,000 $52,000

The Economic Value of College Majors, Georgetown University (2015)

Financing Your Online Degree

Even if you’ve chosen a cheap online college, funding an education can be a heavy burden. There are several options for financing higher education that are accessible to online students. Remember that financial aid is only available to students enrolled at accredited colleges recognized by federal accreditation agencies.

Completing the FAFSA

FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an annual form students complete to determine their eligibility for various financial aid programs, including grants, scholarships, loans, and work study opportunities. Completing the FAFSA is one of the most important steps to attain student aid. The FAFSA form is released on January 1 each year, and most of the financial aid opportunities are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Consult our FAFSA guide for help completing the form and ensuring that you get the maximum amount of aid available.

Types of Financial Aid

  • Scholarships A scholarship is a financial award intended to cover the cost of education. Most scholarships are merit-based, meaning they’re awarded to students contingent on achievement, such as athletics, academics, or community activism. Organizations, both public and private, offer awards that generally correspond to their unique values. Many scholarships are also offered to students pursuing a specific field. Scholarships don’t have to be repaid, so they typically require an application process that can be competitive. Many require students to meet certain criteria, such as maintaining a specific GPA, and funding can be withdrawn if the student falls below the set standards.
  • Grants Most grants are need-based, meaning they are available to students based on financial circumstances. Many grants are intended for students who are low-income, members of an ethnic minority group, or first-generation college students. Grants are commonly offered through state and federal funding, such as the Pell Grant, which is the most widespread program in the country. By simply filling out the FAFSA, students can determine whether they qualify for Pell Grant funding. Other grants may be available through community organizations, state governments, and schools.
  • Loans Loans must be paid back after graduation, typically in the form of monthly payments. Many student loans offer lower interest rates and lower payments than conventional loan. While grants and scholarships are offered for a set monetary amount, loans allow students to borrow as much as they need to cover the cost of their education, which can be a blessing and a curse. Several student loan options become available after filling out the FAFSA, but it’s important to research different options and borrow responsibly.
  • Work-Study Work-study programs use federal and state funding to provide students with part-time jobs while they’re in school. While it won’t cover full tuition costs, a work-study job can provide extra cash to pay for textbooks, rent, or other expenses during college. Many work-study jobs are offered on campus, allowing students to find convenient work and gain experience that may be related to their academic interests. Most work-study jobs aren’t available to online students, but there are some exceptions. Check with college financial aid offices to find out about available work-study options.

Visit our Affordability Center to learn more about financial aid and to view our catalogue of scholarships.

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