The 20 Most Affordable Online Colleges and Universities

Thanks to the advancement of technology, you don’t need to attend an expensive in-person college to get a degree. You can enroll at an affordable online college for an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. All you have to do is choose one of the top 20 affordable online colleges and universities in the United States.

Student loan debt is a growing problem across the country. If you want to avoid unnecessary expenses, you should choose one of these affordable online schools. You can save yourself a significant amount of cash and avoid unnecessary debt.

The tuition figures in the table below were sourced from the schools’ websites.

At a Glance: The 20 Most Affordable Online Colleges and Universities of 2021

School Average Annual Tuition Top Programs
Fort Hays State University $4,478 Bachelor’s Degree in Web Development
Clayton State University $5,079 Bachelor of Arts in Accounting
Georgia Southern University $5,646 Master of Economics
Eastern New Mexico University $6,114 Bachelor of Science in Aviation
University of Wisconsin – Green Bay $6,298 Bachelor of Applied Studies in
Organizational Leadership
Western Governors University $6,450 Master’s Degree in Information Technology
Arkansas State University $6,540 Bachelor of Science in Criminology
Minot State University $6,690 Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied
Business Information Technology
Florida State College at Jacksonville $6,812 Bachelor of Applied Science in
Information Technology Management
Columbia Southern University $7,050 Master of Business Administration
Southern Utah University $7,200 Bachelor of Science in Communication
Ohio University $7,290 Bachelor of Applied Human and
Consumer Sciences
Mississippi University for Women $7,425 Bachelor of Applied Science in
Business Administration
Louisiana State University Shreveport $7,482 RN to BSN – Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Fayetteville State University $7,556 Bachelor of Science in Fire and
Emergency Services Administration
Athens State University $7,626 Bachelor of Science in Supply
Chain Management
Valley City State University $7,649 Bachelor of Science in Communication –
Digital Media Management Cognate
Central Methodist University $7,800 Bachelor of Science in Education
Idaho State University $7,872 Bachelor of Health Science in Emergency
Medical Services
University of Missouri at Saint Louis $7,891 Bachelor of Science in Organizational
Leadership – Information Systems

Most Affordable Universities for Online Learning

Online vs In-Person Learning

The appeal of online and distance learning has increased significantly in the last decade. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are opting for online schools. Both administrators and students are realizing that online degrees are viable alternatives to traditional schools. Most schools now offer online programs.

Below is a list of the 20 most affordable online colleges and universities in the US.

Fort Hays State University

Located in Kansas, this university has an acceptance rate of 91 percent. If you have decent grades, getting admitted is almost guaranteed. Fort Hays State University offers more than 200 degrees, and they are all affordable. This public school is about 119 years old and is well established in the state.

Fort Hays State University is one of the few schools that offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Web Development. Many other schools only offer computer science degrees. The annual cost of an online master’s degree at Fort Hays is $4,478, which makes it the most affordable option on this list.

Clayton State University

Clayton State University is located in Morrow, Georgia. It is also a public school, and it has been around since 1969. It is one of the most recognized schools in Georgia, and every in-person program is available online. This means you can get the same quality of education either way.

Clayton State University has excellent accounting, dental, and supply chain programs on undergraduate and graduate levels. The average tuition for bachelor’s degrees is $5,079.

Georgia Southern University

This is another old-timer in Statesboro, Georgia, and it has been around for over 114 years. It has a few in-person campuses and an online learning portal. It is one of the few schools in the United States that offers online doctoral programs. You should try Georgia Southern University if you’re interested in getting a PhD online.

This university is best known for its Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. It offers programs in topics like public administration, economics, and sociology, all of which are top online options. The online tuition is about $5,646, but it might change depending on the program.

Eastern New Mexico University

Eastern New Mexico University has a campus in Portales, New Mexico, but its accredited online programs will give you the degree you want. You can find both undergraduate and graduate programs. There are also certificate programs if you want to study for less than four years.

This university is perfect for STEM majors who want to specialize in aviation, mathematics, or computer science. It also has an MBA for business majors and many other great programs in the art department. The online tuition is $6,114, and it varies depending on the program.

University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

This is another HLC-accredited regional university with a solid online platform. The online version of the school is known for its rich curriculum of applied studies across disciplines. You can choose from either instructor-led or self-directed classes, depending on your learning style.

The online bachelor’s degrees at this school cost approximately $6,298. There are also associate and master’s degrees available. UW Green Bay says on its website that 84 percent of new students receive financial aid, so you should be able to check out your options and save extra money.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University is a strictly online university, and it doesn’t have any physical campus for classes. It has four major faculties: IT, business, teaching, and health. You can apply for a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. The cost of these online programs is approximately $6,450, but this can vary.

This school offers a strong financial aid program. Some students are eligible for the $5,000 leadership scholarship fund for impacting local communities. If you are active in your community and enjoy helping others, Western Governors University is a good option for you.

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University is known across the United States for its high acceptance rate. It is a public, non-profit school that offers accessible online classes. If you want to get an online bachelor’s or master’s degree, Arkansas State University may be a good way to go.

The school is one of the best options for a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The online tuition at Arkansas State University is about $6,540 per year, and you can apply for financial aid programs.

Minot State University

Minot State University is a regional public school located in North Dakota. It is currently the largest school in the region, and it was founded in 1913. You can choose an online degree that takes place in real time or courses that you can take on your own. This makes it a great way to learn if you already have a job or family.

The most popular online programs at Minot University are in the education department. The tuition for online bachelor’s degrees is $6,690. If you want to get a master’s degree, you can study special education, disability human services, sports management, and more.

Florida State College at Jacksonville

Florida State College is a community college in Jacksonville that awards online associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. The online school is accredited by the SACSCOC, and it is known for its incredible applied studies programs.

The associate degrees run for about two years, while the bachelor’s degrees run for four years. The online tuition at Florida State College is $6,812, and there are dozens of degree options. You can also opt for the Associate in Arts program that can help you transfer to a four-year university when you’re ready.

Columbia Southern University

Columbia Southern University, also known as CSU, is a fully online university. It is accredited by both the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This means that you can be confident in the quality of your online degree.

This school is unique because it is completely self-paced. You can enroll at any time of the year and graduate whenever you have the time to complete the curriculum. Columbia Southern University may have only been around for 25 years, but it has extensive degree options. The online tuition cost at this school is $7,050.

Southern Utah University

This school is located in Cedar City, Utah, and it has over 140 programs at different levels. These include bachelor’s and master’s degrees. You can also work with the school to build your own program, which is useful if you want to double major.

The school’s online version has several communication programs for people who want to dive into the media industry. Communication degrees can be helpful across different disciplines as well because the skills are applicable everywhere. The approximate cost of an online program at Southern Utah University is $7,200.

Ohio University

Ohio University is your one-stop destination for every program related to human services, criminal justice, and psychology. The school also has a host of accelerated programs for people who prefer fast-paced learning.

This accredited university offers six associate degrees, 12 bachelor’s degrees, 53 master’s degrees, and three doctoral degrees online. The tuition cost for online bachelor’s degrees at Ohio University is $7,290.

Mississippi University for Women

This is a public university in Columbus. Despite the name, it accepts students of all genders, and one in five students is male. This school has an impressive 97 percent acceptance rate, so you are likely to get in. The school was founded in 1884 and has gained global recognition since then.

Mississippi University for Women is known for its programs in business administration, nursing, and public health education. It also has a great culinary institute for aspiring chefs. You can qualify for financial aid at all levels. Online tuition is about $7,425.

Louisiana State University Shreveport

Louisiana State University is a public school that was founded in 1967. While it started out as a two-year school, LSU Shreveport has added several four-year programs to help you get a well-rounded education.

This school offers a range of online degree programs at different levels. One of the best is the Accelerated Degree in Nursing. This program allows nurses with associate degrees or diplomas to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. LSU Shreveport also has an excellent accounting program. Online degrees at this school cost approximately $7,482.

Fayetteville State University

Fayetteville State University is a public regional university in North Carolina. It is one of the most diverse schools in the United States for people of color, especially Black people. The online school is accredited by the SACSCOC.

If you want to become a fire service official, you can get started with an online Bachelor of Science in Fire and Emergency Services Administration. Fayetteville State University also offers strong psychology programs at bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.

Athens State University

Athens State University is an Alabama-based public university that offers online degrees. It is known for three major departments: Education, Sciences and Arts, and Business. You can get either your undergraduate or graduate degree online.

This school should be your first choice if you want a degree in religion or supply chain management. Both of these programs are some of the best online options in the country. Degree tuition ranges from $4,335 to $7,626 per year. This varies depending on which program you choose.

Valley City State University

Valley City State University is a public university that was founded in 1890. The online version offers a range of specialized disciplines that allow you to get a degree in the topic that interests you most.

The school’s best online programs are in communications. The Bachelor of Science in Communication – Digital Media Management Cognate is currently one of the most in-demand programs. These online programs cost about $7,649, but they can vary.

Central Methodist University

It might be a private school, but Central Methodist University is one of the most affordable in Missouri. Keep in mind that this school is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, so it is a good option if religion is important to you. This school is known for offering great degrees from its College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

If your goal is to start a career in education, Central Methodist University might be the most affordable option for you. One of the best degrees is the Bachelor of Science in Education – Early Childhood Education. You can become a kindergarten or elementary school teacher. The bachelor’s degrees cost $7,800, but the master’s degrees cost less.

Idaho State University

This public school in Pocatello, Idaho boasts over 280 programs at different levels of education. Most of these programs are offered online. Some of the best options include health science, fire science, and psychology. There are online programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

The online school is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Tuition for most online programs at Idaho State University is $7,872, and you may be eligible to receive financial aid.

University of Missouri at Saint Louis

The University of Missouri at Saint Louis is a public school with extensive programs in business, art, education, social sciences, nursing, and optometry. The school was established 61 years ago, and it has an AACSB-accredited School of Business and Accounting.

Almost every in-person program at this school is available online. One of the best online degrees is the Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership. It is a great option if you already have an associate degree and want to upgrade. The cost of online programs at the University of Missouri at Saint Louis is approximately $7,891.

What to Look for in an Affordable Online College Degree or Online School

Types of Online Degrees

Most online universities offer the same degrees as traditional schools, so you can get the same education online. You can earn an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree from home. Only a few schools offer online doctoral degrees.

Online Associate Degree

An online associate degree runs for about two years, and it is typically available for technical disciplines. The cost for this degree is low compared to others because it takes less time. In most cases, you will need about 60 credits to graduate successfully. You can get an entry-level job or land technical roles with an associate degree.

Online Bachelor's Degree

Online bachelor’s degrees are the most common programs you can find. You will need to complete 120 credits in the discipline of your choice before you can graduate. This should take four years, but it could be less if you opt for an accelerated program. You will have more job opportunities and earn more money than someone with an associate degree.

Online Master's Degree

Online master’s programs are advanced degrees that you can get once you get your associate or bachelor’s degree. They require between 30 and 60 credits, depending on the program. This means that master’s degrees can vary in length from one to four years. You will need a master’s for certain jobs, and you can earn more money with more education.

What to Look for in an Affordable Online College Degree or Online School

There are a few different factors to consider when choosing an online school. You should decide which are most important to you when you do your research. Try looking at accreditation, credit transfer opportunities, curricula, career services, and tuition costs.

Is It an Accredited Institution?

The United States has three primary forms of accreditation. Find out if the online school is nationally or regionally accredited. Check to see if it is only accredited to offer specific programs. The best form of accreditation is from the US Department of Education. However, regional and specialized accreditations are just as good.

Does It Provide Transfer Credits?

You should choose an online university that allows you to transfer credits across institutions. For example, if you have an associate degree from one school, you could be able to use the credits you accumulated during that time to enter a bachelor’s degree program. This can save you time and money.

What Online College Programs Does It Offer?

The school has to offer the program that interests you. You should choose a school based on your interests instead of choosing a program based on only what the school offers. So, if you want to become a registered nurse, you need to look for a school with a solid nursing program.

Can You Afford Tuition?

It’s always a good idea to attend a school with affordable tuition that can be paid upfront. Even if you want to apply for financial aid, make sure that the debt will not be too much for you to bear in the long run. It is also vital that you check the available payment options and history of financial aid.

Does It Provide Career Services?

Career services can help you find a job after you graduate. You should find out what the school has put in place for this purpose. Are there courses dedicated to teaching you how to survive in the job market? Will you have a direct line to a career counselor? Do graduates of the school find jobs within a certain amount of time?

Online vs In-Person Learning

Online learning can be just as effective as in-person learning. It offers more flexibility because you can learn from any part of the world. The cost of attendance is also more affordable in online schools compared to in-person universities. However, you need to be motivated and ready to learn independently.

Is Online Education Right For You?

Yes, online education is most likely right for you. Online education is a great option if you are a dedicated student who wants to get an education despite distance or financial restrictions. You should be self-motivated and ready to invest time into your degree.

You can enroll in a US university degree program from anywhere in the world. While online learning isn’t an ideal option for some practical courses, it can be perfect for many different topics. Do your research and choose which online college or university is right for you.

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