Most Affordable Online Colleges with Quality Programs: 2015-2016

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The cost of an online program often depends on the type of institution attended. Community colleges, for example, carry lower cost structures than four-year schools and therefore have more affordable tuition rates for their online programs. Four-year colleges and universities may have slightly higher tuition and fees than community colleges, but many still have affordable price tags for their online programs, especially when students qualify for financial aid, scholarships and other monetary bonuses. Both provide solid options for students looking to earn an online degree or certificate.

For-profit colleges, which specialize in distance learning, come with a different set of cost-related issues. For instance, many of these schools are a business, so they do not receive state or federal funding like public colleges or universities do. This can mean higher-than-usual tuition and fees than their traditionally brick-and-mortar counterparts. Yet taking an online class at a for-profit school offers a unique set of cost-saving benefits, including the lack of commuting, parking and other campus-specific fees that may arise. Bottom line, when looking at online colleges, whether traditional or for-profit, analyze the school and program carefully to make sure you get the education you need at the price you want.

Two-Year Colleges: Cheapest Path to an Online Degree

When it comes to cost, non-profit versus for-profit is only part of the online college equation. Students looking for a quality program for cheap should also consider institutional level. Two-year colleges with distance learning options, which includes online community colleges and junior colleges, offer a pair of distinct advantages not always found at four-year universities:

  • Cheaper tuition rates: Two-year schools often cost far less than their four-year counterparts. These more cost- and community-friendly institutions keep tuition lower to ensure a wider variety of students can afford to attend. Many students also use two-year colleges to earn as many pre-requisites as possible before transferring to a university – a much cheaper two-year option.

  • Targeted learning: Two-year colleges allow students to earn online certificates and diplomas in very specific areas. For example, a medical assistant may need special training in medical coding in order to qualify for promotion.

One student’s idea of a cheap online college may be different from another’s. Each college hopeful has a unique set of monetary needs that shape what he or she can and can’t afford. Yet in general, the cheapest online colleges provide their students with quality distance learning opportunities at an affordable price. A great place to start researching such colleges is by getting a better handle on their cost structures.

A Closer Look at Cost

On the surface, cost may seem simple. If tuition at College A is more than tuition at College B, then College B is cheaper, right? Not necessarily, especially with distance learning. In addition to standard tuition and fee differences between colleges, students need to think about secondary costs that may seem less important, but that surely contribute to the bottom line. Here’s a look at the entire cost spectrum when it comes to online education.

Understanding Tuition & Fees

Tuition serves as the primary cost of a college education, campus or online. Post-secondary institutions usually set tuition rates by credit and academic period. For example, a university may charge $200 per credit to attend graduate school for a full semester. Therefore, if a student takes 10 credits per semester, that’s $2,000 per semester and $4,000 per year.

Of course, certain elements influence the price of tuition for each student. Residency, for instance, can dictate whether someone pays in-state tuition or out-of-state tuition. Many state colleges and universities require applicants to live in the same state as the institution for a minimum of six months before enrollment to qualify for the cheaper in-state rate. Applicants who moved to the state to attend the college specifically may need to pay the out-of-state amount. Some schools with distance learning alternatives allow students to take online programs and pay in-state tuition – a big money saver. Others, however, charge all students the same amount regardless of where they live.

While not as hefty as tuition, fees can add up. Some college bills include charges for lab use, library access, parking, health insurance and, when the time comes, graduation. Although both campus and online programs come with fees, they can differ rather significantly. For example, a parking pass for a campus-based student can run up to $500 per year, something an online student won’t need to pay. In contrast, many online programs charge technology fees for every single class, no matter the subject, which can reach into the triple digits. Tech fees for campus students are usually reserved for tech-oriented courses. Potential fees to watch out for with online learning include:

  • Technology fees
  • Assessment fees (English and math) to gauge aptitude before enrollment
  • Graduation fees
  • Travel fees (hybrid programs, or online programs at the graduate level, may require campus visits at the student’s expense)

Some students may also avoid certain fees by learning remotely. The parking pass is the most ready example, but others include computer fees, campus/service fees and recreation/activity fees. Always keep in mind that when researching programs and courses, account for all fees that could occur from day one to commencement. It’s always good to overestimate.

Room & Board

Students enrolled in campus-based programs often live in a dormitory – at least during their first year or two. According to The College Board, the cost of on-campus housing ranged from $9,500 to $10,830 in 2013, depending on the type of college (public or private) and the package chosen by the student. Online learning, however, allows students to select from a wider variety of living options, including room and board farther away from campus and/or in a place with cheaper rent and amenities.

Others Costs to Consider

It’s also important to account for the often-overlooked costs that can creep up and bite you in the wallet. For campus commuters, this means one or more travel-related expenses, including car maintenance, gas and tolls. For online learners, heftier Internet bills, Skype and other tech-based education solutions could mean less money for leisure time. The good news is, although colleges serve as the source of many of these costs, they also provide myriad ways for students to save.

Online College on the Cheap: Ways to Save

Many students qualify for some sort of financial assistance to help pay for college. Student loans are the most popular, but need to be paid back with interest after the student leaves school – with diploma in hand or not. One of the best ways to defray college costs lies in funding that doesn’t require payback during or after program completion. The following “ways to pay” give students (and parents) a chance to make the college experience manageable when it comes to money.

  • Scholarships: Numerous types of scholarships exist. Each year college students receive money for tuition based on academics, athletics, family history, race, gender and more. Even those who may not qualify for these traditional scholarships can (and should!) research creative scholarships to see what’s out there. Private companies, research firms, non-profits and other organizations offer scholarships for things as offbeat as being left-handed or having the best duck call.

  • Grants: Grants are another type of financial aid award that does not have to be repaid. Federal grants, such as the Pell Grant, are awarded based on need. States and college also award student grants. There are even career-specific grants, such as the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, which provides up to $4,000 to students who agree to teach in low-income school districts upon graduation.

  • Assistantships: This form of financial agreement usually occurs at the graduate level. Students work for a professor (grading papers or running discussion groups or labs) in exchange for discounted tuition. Some assistantships allow students to apply their earnings to housing, fees or any other way they see fit.

In addition to big-ticket money items, there’s a ton of ways students (and parents) can make college cheaper. Some may be common sense, but others could be difference makers. Ways to save a little hard-earned cash include:

  • Buying or borrowing used textbooks: Amazon has a strong collection of used books, and if you’re a Prime member, some can be borrowed at no additional cost. And if you’re a history major, some texts may be available online for free.

  • Eat in: Seems easy, but grabbing coffee and a bagel in the morning and a sandwich in the afternoon adds up. Take your breakfast and lunch as much as you can.

  • Cheap transportation: If you have a bike, use it. Live near a bus line? Get a pass. Taking an online program? You don’t need to go anywhere.

  • Take advantage of student discounts: Many businesses on or around a campus will give ANY college student a discount. If you’re an online student, it still applies. See which restaurants, department stores and other business help students save.

Making a college education cheaper should be the goal of every student. No one wants to pay more than required. Yet when researching cheap online colleges, or even campus-focused colleges, no education should come at the expense of quality.

The Importance of Quality

Cost is important, but it isn’t everything. A cheap college or university carries zero academic and professional value without quality programs for students. But how do students and parents know an institution has sufficient quality standards? It starts with accreditation, but other factors should be weighed, as well. Learn what to look for to ensure all colleges on the short list have the right cost and quality balance.

  • Accreditation:  The first step to assessing the quality of an online college or program is checking its accreditation. Accreditation means that an independent agency endorsed by the Department of Education has thoroughly vetted a college and/or program for academic excellence, faculty credentials, student support, available resources and more. Earning full accreditation can take years to achieve, and usually entails multiple visits to an institution. For a complete look at the types of accreditation and how the process works, visit our new, expert-driven online guide to college accreditation.

  • Graduation rates:  If you start a program, you want to finish it. Dropping out can mean a huge loss of time and financial investment. If an online college has a high graduation rate, it often means they support their students and provide top-notch education and career services. Low rates can be a huge red flag. It could mean many things, among them that students can’t get the courses they need to graduate, that the online classes are falling below what students expected, that students are discovering the online school is actually a diploma mill, and more.

  • Reputation with employers:  Getting a job is a main reason students pursue college credentials. Knowing a school’s reputation with employers can help you gauge how well you might do in the job market after graduation, and how much you might earn. However, it is also an indication of the value of the diploma and how much students learn. If eager students are failing in the workplace time and time again, it could be a reflection of the online program, not of the students themselves. Or it could be an indication that students are allowed into the program too readily and are given a great amount of leniency during the course. Remember: Just because a course or program is online, or just because it is an inexpensive option, doesn’t mean that the quality should be any less than in-person classes.

Most Affordable Online Colleges for 2015-2016

For maximum student benefit, online schools must maintain a balance between cost and academics. Though all schools may try, not all will succeed, which can have a direct effect on a student’s pocketbook. Some schools, however, have managed develop not only academically rigorous, quality online degree programs – with the additional services that students need for support – but do so at a lower tuition rate than their more expensive counterparts. The schools below have demonstrated their ability to bring academic excellence to online students with a more manageable price tag. See which schools provide the most programs, services and financial aid options at the lowest rates with our ranking of the Most Affordable Online Colleges for 2015-2016.

1 University of Wyoming 97.8492% $119 per credit hour

The University of Wyoming includes over 38 diverse online programs in its Outreach Credit program. Students are required to log in to online classes on a regular basis through video, audio or web conferencing, and, depending on the professor, may sometimes collaborate in hands-on activities with professors and other students in intensive day or weekend sessions at a central location. UW also provides doctoral outreach programs in educational administration and nursing, which can be completed in person, online or in a blended format. Doctorate students complete one or two years of additional classes, which must usually be taken on campus.

2 University of Illinois at Springfield 96.2396% $286 per credit hour

There are 11 baccalaureates offered online by the University of Illinois at Springfield, as well as multiple graduate programs, certification programs and certificate courses. The university prides itself on its diverse student body and the personalized instruction students receive from professors. The university’s most popular undergraduate programs are business administration, computer science and biology, while the graduate programs with the highest enrollment are computer science, public administration, management information systems, educational leadership and a business administration MBA. All of the online programs utilize Blackboard as the main software platform for courses.

3 Murray State University 95.9199% $317 per credit hour

In addition to multiple certificate programs, Murray State University has online programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students enrolled in one of the many online programs offered at MSU should expect to spend 6 to 8 hours per week on their studies. All course materials and textbooks are furnished by the student. Enrolled students have access to a variety of specialized support services, including career advising and counseling, as well as comprehensive access to library resources through the MSU website. Murray State is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

4 Lee University 95.5494% $7,200 per semester

Lee University is a Christ-centered liberal arts school based in Tennessee. The Division of Adult Learning caters to nontraditional students by offering both a fully online format and a hybrid format composed of online and on-campus classes. Online program offerings include baccalaureates in Bible and theology, Christian studies, ministry leadership and liberal studies. The university also has two master’s credentials and multiple certificate programs for distance learners. Applicants are required to have a high school diploma or GED and three years of “life experience” after high school.

5 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus 95.4294% $691 per credit hour

Students of Penn State World Campus do not have to attend webinars or have specific class times, but still must meet all homework and test deadlines. The typical length of each course at PSU is 12 to 15 weeks. The college offers two plans of study for distance students: a cohort-based program that requires a fixed amount of credits each semester, or the option to complete courses at a slower pace. While some students may never set foot on campus throughout their program, all are invited to participate in graduation ceremonies on campus. A wide selection of graduate and undergraduate programs are available to online students.

6 University of Minnesota-Crookston 95.3392% $391 per credit hour

The Center for Adult Learning at UMC has multiple online graduate programs, minors, and certificate programs designed for working professionals who need flexibility to achieve their educational goals. The university accepts interested students’ transcripts, free of charge, for potential transfer credit evaluation. Students enrolled in an online program full time are given priority over on-campus students when registering for online courses to allow them to complete their program on time.

7 University of Massachusetts-Amherst 95.2988% $6,341 per semester

The online education programs at UMass Amherst have been formatted specifically for working professionals and other nontraditional students who want to learn on their own schedule. Courses are available to students 24 hours a day, and the curricula meet the same academic standards as on-campus courses. Programs utilize the Blackboard platform to encourage students to interactively collaborate with professors and colleagues, while course instructors use multiple teaching methods to accommodate individual learning styles.

8 The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga 95.1196% $529 per credit hour

The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga has a variety of online and hybrid programs for students seeking undergrad and graduate education through distance learning. The requirements for online course delivery and campus attendance vary for each program. Courses are delivered through video streaming and video conferencing, and the university utilizes Blackboard for quizzes, assignments and tests. Academic advising and counseling are available for students through each college or department, and students are encouraged to contact their college for help determining their course load and creating an academic plan. Other resources available to students include library materials and tutoring.

9 New Mexico Highlands University 95.0195% $200 per credit hour

New Mexico Highlands University offers affordable online options for both undergraduate and graduate students. One bachelor program offered by the university is designed so registered nurses can earn their BSN, allowing them to advance to higher level positions in the healthcare industry. NMHU also offers a baccalaureate in oil and gas management, with classes in petroleum economics, finance, management and accounting. Lastly, NMHU offers an online MBA program, with flexible pathways that allow students to focus on specific branches of management, such as finance or international business.

10 Northern Illinois University 94.7696% $4,733 per semester

Northern Illinois University offers a variety of online courses and complete programs covering numerous topics, including a Certificate of Graduate Study in Eating Disorders and Obesity and a Bachelor of General Studies. Coursework will prepare nutritionists for advanced work in their field in numerous industries. Students may choose to study through the blended path, which combines online classes with on-campus classes taught during the evenings or weekends, making it possible for students to continue working while furthering their education.

11 Mid-Atlantic Christian University 94.67100% $400 per credit hour

Mid-Atlantic Christian University offers five online programs to distance students. Online students interact with professors and peers through Internet message boards, email and some live lectures. As its name suggests, Mid-Atlantic Christian University has a focus on Christian philosophy and the faith-building focus is available to online students through curriculum, podcasts of guest-speakers and interaction with fellow students. Students can choose from several plans, including programs in Business Administration and Biblical Studies.

12 Langston University 94.6294% $200 per credit hour

The online bachelor’s in business administration program offered by Langston University can have one of five areas of concentration: Entrepreneurship, Human Resource Management, International Business or Supply Chain Management. Before graduation, students must earn an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science from a two-year college, along with 21 hours of required courses and 12 hours of elected courses. Students have the chance to work at their own pace and may be able to graduate faster than on-campus students.

13 Hodges University 94.4999% $530 per credit hour

Variety is the word that describes Hodges University’s online course catalogue. Offering numerous online bachelor’s and master’ programs, Hodges’ programs can be completed entirely online. Some programs allow students to choose between completing some courses on campus and some online. Program topics include Criminal Justice, Information Systems and Marketing. The UPOWER program allows students to choose their own comfortable pace for themselves, making it more conducive for those with busy schedules.

14 Middle Georgia State University 94.1291% $109 per credit hour

Information Technology is the one online bachelor’s program offered at Middle Georgia State University, but the university offers multiple associate programs in a variety of academic fields and certificate programs for film and aviation. MGSC partners with Georgia ONmyLINE, an Internet education system for multiple colleges and universities, where students will find technical requirements, tuition costs and required credit hours for each program. MGSC takes pride in providing distance learning that is just as rigorous as their on-campus classes, while accessible to all.

15 Fayetteville State University 94.0596% $6,992 per year

Offering seven online bachelor’s programs and two master’s programs, Fayetteville State University will suit the needs of many students. Programs are varied, with specialized topics such as the Fire and Emergency Services Administration program, which prepares to prepare students to move from firefighter to chief officer positions and qualifies students to apply for the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. FSU also offers an online MS in Criminal Justice and MBA program. All online classes use a system called Blackboard 9 for coursework.

16 Grace Bible College 94.05100% $295 per credit hour

Grace Bible College offers associate and bachelor’s credentials in three categories: Leadership and Ministry, Business and Human Services. These programs are accelerated so they may be completed in a shorter amount of time than traditional college classes. For an associate program, students can complete a total of 60 credits in 24 months. Bachelor’s students have the option to compress 120 credits of core classes into just 24 months. Along with internet classes, there is an option to meet in groups of 10-16 cohorts once a week, which fosters more interaction and learning from professors. All programs at GBC can be completed fully online, if desired.

17 Youngstown State University 93.9896% $3,950 per semester

The Office of Distance Education at Youngstown State University runs undergraduate BS and BA programs, as well as MA and MS programs. There are 11 different distance learning programs offered at YSU, based out of Ohio. Approximately 1,500 students are enrolled in an online program, and the average student-to-professor ratio is 17:1. Matriculated students have access to services such as e-tutoring, the math assistance center, the writing center and the library. Interested students can sample one of the university’s actual distance learning courses through the school’s website.

18 University of Massachusetts-Lowell 93.9090% $340 per credit hour

UMass Lowell runs a large, nonprofit, online distance education program designed for students looking to complete graduate and undergraduate or certificate programs on a part-time basis. The university offers 40 such options in technology, liberal arts, psychology, criminal justice, education, science and healthcare. Enrolled students have access to university services such as tutoring, career guidance and academic advising. Materials, including textbooks, can be purchased online. Students have the option of taking courses completely online or in a hybrid format that combines on-campus classes and online work. Interested students can sample an online course through the university website before applying.

19 Florida Atlantic University 93.8487% $105 per credit hour

Florida Atlantic University, based out of Boca Raton, has 35 undergraduate and graduate programs that can be taken completely online. Interest students should contact the program’s academic department by phone or email for program details. Matriculated students have access to many support services, such as tutoring, library materials and Blackboard help. The university’s online student handbook can answer questions about the university, admission requirements and academic programs. Out-of-state students should check to ensure that FAU’s online courses are approved in their state. Florida Atlantic University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

20 Southern Illinois University-Carbondale 93.8288% $1,206 per credit hour

A total of nine bachelor’s and six master's programs are available through Southern Illinois University, in addition to multiple certificate programs. At the bachelor’s level, students can enroll in programs including healthcare management, accounting, technology, fire service management or business administration. Master's credentials can be earned in medical dissymmetry, architecture or landscaping. Online students have access to a writing center called Upward Bound, disability support services, and Achieve, which provides support for students with learning disabilities. The college uses the system SalukiNet as the platform for online courses.

21 Central Michigan University 93.6692% $395 per credit hour

Several bachelor’s, master's and doctorate programs are taught completely online at Central Michigan University. Popular options include a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Administration, Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Master of Art in Education, Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Educational Technology. These programs prepare graduates for careers in government, private healthcare, education and business. MU uses an online portal system known as Global Campus, which consists of an online resource center and access to CentralLink, where assignments, exams and live lectures are located.

22 University of South Carolina-Columbia 93.5990% $400 per credit hour

The University of South Carolina in Columbia uses a combination of Blackboard, webmail and to enable students to complete undergraduate and graduate programs from home. After logging into, adults can click through from the dashboard to Blackboard, a help desk, webmail, their financial records, student transcripts and academic advising. Online programs are offered in fields such as technology, healthcare, education and engineering. Some baccalaureates require that students have at least 60 credit hours of study prior to admission. It takes approximately 24 months to finish master's programs. International students are accepted, provided they pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL.

23 University of South Florida-St Petersburg 93.5298% $186 per credit hour

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg is accommodating the growing number of busy adults who continue working full time while completing their education by offering non-degree online courses and a fully online Master of Business Administration. Adults do not complete their online courses in a vacuum. Instead, their learning is enhanced with virtual class discussions, presentations and group projects. Instructors who teach online classes also teach the same subjects in on-campus settings. The College of Business administers the MBA, which features core courses in areas such as financial statement analysis, corporate accountability, global business and organizational strategies. Students register, access course catalogs, view grades and interact in discussion forums using the USF NetID portal.

24 The University of Tennessee-Martin 93.3696% $288 per credit hour

Online options at The University of Tennessee-Martin provide support for careers in paralegal, agriculture or business positions. Online students can choose to pursue a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Science in Agriculture and Natural Resources or programs in Paralegal Studies. High school students have the option to enroll in a dual degree program. The structure of the online program allows students to complete assignments whenever they choose. However, projects still have deadlines for completion. The school uses the online portal myUTMartin for accessing assignments, written exams and reading material.

25 Baker College 93.32100% $240 per credit hour

Baker College offers multiple online programs, from the associate level to the doctorate level. Online classes are small, with as few as 12 students, so instructors can provide personalized learning opportunities to students. Students learn asynchronously, allowing them to log into their classes when it’s convenient for them. They can participate in discussions, share ideas, answer questions and receive feedback at any time. Course focus is on reading and writing to learn, rather than the typical lecture-and-discussion format. All online students have access to the same resources as on-campus students from the library to student services.

26 Albany State University 93.1499% $162 per credit hour

Busy adults can earn an online bachelor’s or master’s in fire services, nursing, business information systems, nursing or education from Albany State University. The school recently launched a new online portal for all its online programs, providing one go-to resource for students and faculty members. ASU’s electronic core-curriculum allows students to earn all their core general education credits online before diving into major-specific classes. Most of the programs are available entirely online, however some may require an on-site or practicum component to meet state licensure requirements.

27 Cabarrus College of Health Sciences 93.0393% $375 per credit hour

At Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, students can study nursing online or choose from a variety of certificate, associate and master’s programs. Key programs include occupational therapy, interdisciplinary health studies and medical imaging. Cabarrus College offers a variety of support systems to assist online students throughout their programs. A “cyber coffee shop” allows students to socialize and get to know one another outside the online classroom environment and interaction with instructors occurs in discussion boards, email and by phone.

28 National Louis University 92.9686% $347 per credit hour

National Louis University’s online options are designed to help students further their education while still meeting personal and professional obligations. Online bachelor’s programs are available in human services, management, criminal justice and applied communications. Students also have the option to choose from several master’s and education programs online. While most programs are completely online, some may require practicum experience or on-site collaborative workshops. Exit interviews at the end of every term helps move the student forward through their chosen program of study.

29 Plymouth State University 92.9489% $10,700 per year

Whether it’s business administration, nursing, communication studies or criminal justice, Plymouth State University allows students to complete their education completely online. The college offers four online baccalaureate programs and several online master’s programs, covering topics such as education, library media, technology and accounting. Students collaborate online, working together using the latest technology to work on assignments and view class materials using the college’s online course management system and support services.

30 Touro University Worldwide 92.93100% $400 per credit hour

Touro University Worldwide’s online programs provide flexibility for students who want to earn a college credential from a remote location. Students at the college can choose from one associate program, five bachelor’s and master’s programs or a doctorate. All programs provide hands-on learning experiences while working with peers on real-world applications. Touro University is a military-friendly institution with special services for active duty service members that their family, employees of the Department of Defense, veterans and Reserve members can all access.

31 Western New Mexico University 92.9397% $189 per credit hour

Online students at Western New Mexico University customize their education based on their own interests. Program options — from the associate to the graduate level — include business administration, occupational therapy, nursing, secondary education, social work and liberal studies. Online student advisors and 24-hour tutoring services provide support to students. The average class size is only 15 students, so professors are better able to assist students and create a rapport with them. Classes are asynchronous, allowing students to tailor their school schedule around their busy lives.

32 Clayton State University 92.9294% $220 per credit hour

Online students can earn one of 12 degrees from Clayton State University. The university is an affiliate of eCore, where students can take care of general education credits before earning a bachelor’s in management, homeland security, technology, English, nursing or one of the other seven online programs. Students can log into their coursework when it is convenient to them, where they will interact with peers and professors. Students may complete assignments at their convenience, so long as they meet the class deadlines.

33 Missouri Southern State University 92.8093% $177 per credit hour

Both degree completion programs and full undergraduate options can be found at Missouri Southern State University. Students who have existing college credit can finish their programs in applied science, general studies or dental hygiene. Students may also start from scratch and earn a Bachelor of Science in business administration, criminal justice or life-health science. Online programs are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to access their coursework around their busy lifestyles. Some programs may require an on-campus visit or practicum experience at a location near the student’s home in addition to online courses.

34 Eastern Illinois University 92.7993% $285 per credit hour

Eastern Illinois University offers four bachelor’s and six master’s credentials through their online programs, covering areas of study including art education, child care education, organizational and professional development and nursing. While most of the programs are completely online, a few programs require low-residency components, meaning students must complete at an extended location for some courses or may participate in brief residential study. Online students may use services provided by OASIS, a connection program for online students known as the Organization of Adult Students, Informal and Supportive program.

35 Arkansas State University-Main Campus 92.7595% $254 per credit hour

Arkansas State University offers numerous flexible online programs, from the associate through the doctoral level. Students can choose from several options, including sport administration, educational leadership, criminology, political science and sociology. Students work closely with peers and instructors in an online learning management system. Students can log into classes when it’s convenient for them, view lectures, read supplemental materials, submit assignments and respond to discussion boards on their own time. All programs require a core general education component in addition to specialized courses.

36 East Tennessee State University 92.7294% $407 per credit hour

Attending traditional on-campus classes is not an option for every student, and at East Tennessee State University students have the option of enrolling in one of more than 40 completely online programs. Online credentials are available at the certificate, bachelor’s and master’s level. Classes are both synchronous and asynchronous, depending on the course and instructor. Synchronous classes require students to log in at a specific time to interact with other students and the instructor. Online classes are taught using the Desire2Learn leaning system and may take more time than on-campus classes because of the amount of reading and writing involved.

37 Valley City State University 92.7099% $5,769 per year

Online programs are available from Valley City State University in diverse subjects such as English education, history education, music and professional communication. Classes in the programs, which require little or no on-site presence, are delivered using interactive online videos and correspondence. Education programs typically include practical, hands-on experiences such as student teaching or other state-mandated licensure requirements. Students may either collaborate with other online students as they work through course materials or work individually. The student services department provides VCSU’s online population with access to counseling, library resources and tech support.

38 New Mexico State University-Main Campus 92.6997% $254 per credit hour

Online learning at New Mexico State University utilizes innovative technology for students who can’t attend classes at the traditional campus. Students can earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate in multiple topics of study, including sociology, business, communication technology, agriculture or education. Certificate programs and licensure alternatives are also available. Some programs require brief residencies on the Las Cruces campus, but most are completely online. In addition to online programs, individual classes are also available online for the student who wants to supplement an on-campus program.

39 University of Central Florida 92.6996% $105 per credit hour

The University of Central Florida has been providing online education for 15 years, and all online classes are taught by the same instructors that teach on-campus classes. Students can choose from undergraduate programs in creative writing, applied science, anthropology, technology education and industry training, Latin American studies or history. Master’s, doctoral and certificate programs are also available online and follow the same calendar progression as traditional classes.

40 University of North Carolina at Pembroke 92.6892% $3,211 per year

Students who have already completed some of their general education credits can finish their bachelor’s online from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. From criminal justice to finance to interdisciplinary studies, there are nine baccalaureate options to choose from. Online tutors can assist students with coursework, and the Mary Livermore Library is accessible online to help students with research needs. Distance learning courses are available for active duty service members, veterans, National Guardsmen and reserve members so they can study in a flexible format that meets their needs.

41 University of Central Arkansas 92.6895% $197 per credit hour

An online credential from the University of Central Arkansas helps non-traditional students further their education and careers. Three completely online baccalaureates are available in health and safety, RN to BSN nursing and general business. UCA also offers 15 online master’s programs, a doctorate and a handful of certificate programs. Some may require campus visits, depending on the program and licensure requirements. Online students are expected to actively participate in class, plan ahead and stay on top of due dates just like on-campus students.

42 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin 92.6392% $2,014 per semester

The online bachelor’s and master’s programs at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin are designed to help graduates move forward with their careers. Program options include child and family studies, kinesiology, special education, management, marketing and other areas. Online general education courses are also available for high school students who want to start earning college credits before receiving their diploma. UTPB utilizes the REACH Distance Learning Center for online course delivery, which allows for online tutoring, student-teacher interaction, access to materials and coursework, and instructor feedback.

43 Shasta Bible College and Graduate School 92.63100% $350 per credit hour

Students may pursue individual courses, certificates, and bachelor's and master's programs entirely online at Shasta Bible College and Graduate School. Online semesters follow the same 15-week class schedule as the itinerary followed by on-campus students. Students will conduct research online and download lectures that contain both audio and video and may pursue coursework at their own pace. Most programs have a Christian focus, with academic studies in Christian teaching, biblical counseling, church administration or pastoral ministry.

44 Virginia University of Lynchburg 92.63100% $3,600 per semester

Several graduate and undergraduate programs are available across a diverse range of subjects, including business administration, religious studies, organizational management and divinity. Students may be granted supplementary credits not only from college learning, but also through several types of life experience, including military service, certifications and national examinations. Online students receive an orientation to prepare them for the nontraditional learning format. The university belongs to the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the U.S. Department of Education and the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education.

45 University of Florida 92.6096% $105 per credit hour

Online students get the true Gator experience at the University of Florida — they can even graduate on campus and receive the same diploma and credentials. Students may pursue undergraduate, graduate and even doctoral programs, plus international specializations, completely online. Once applicants meet the university's general admission requirements, they can choose from a wide range of subjects, including agriculture and life sciences, nursing, medicine, pharmacy, arts, dentistry, business administration, engineering, construction, design and planning. E-students enjoy the exact same library services and privileges as their on-campus counterparts, including access to workshops, theses and dissertations.

46 University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth 92.5990% $939 per course

Online course schedules at UMass Dartmouth follow the same timeline as traditional courses, with classes running a full semester except during intercessions and in the summer. In those cases, the coursework is completed in an accelerated schedule of five to seven weeks. All classes are taught by university instructors, and courses cover the exact same content as their on-campus counterparts. Online students aren't required to ever appear on campus. Instead, they can communicate with professors through email and live chats. If they cannot be online when a class is scheduled, students can view a recorded copy of the session.

47 Brigham Young University-Idaho 92.5571% $156 per credit hour

Students may pursue any one of more than 210 courses and 15 full programs completely online at Brigham Young University. Students may choose to accelerate their course of study by taking classes all year, or they may take time off when needed. Students at BYU will receive a secular education in a wholesome environment designed to encourage spiritual growth. To qualify, students must have earned at least 15 credits from a previous college institution and have maintained a GPA of at least 2.5. Online courses have the same learning objectives and format as their on-campus counterparts.

48 University of South Florida-Main Campus 92.5598% $211 per credit hour

Students can earn a bachelor's or master's completely online — or they can just take a single course or two. The Electronic Campus and Florida Virtual Campus include databases, course descriptions and other resources for distance learners. Students may enroll in undergraduate programs in criminal justice, nursing and public health, or graduate programs such as instructional technology, electrical engineering, global sustainability and public administration. The school’s Innovative Education program extends to distance learners all of the university's offerings and academic services, including workshops, consultations, library resources and instructional technology support.

49 Washington State University 92.5579% $543 per credit hour

Washington State University has online programs for seven baccalaureates, 11 master’s degrees, eight undergraduate certificates, and five graduate certificates and teaching endorsements. Subjects are as varied as sport management and criminal justice. Online students also enjoy access to many resources, including free tutoring and student government representation. For students who want to study on campus, there are 95 undergraduate majors, 66 master’s programs, 47 PhD programs and three professional credentials. Academic offerings range from standard programs to rarer ones, such as interior design and winemaking.

50 Washburn University 92.5192% $335 per credit hour

The School of Nursing and Applied Sciences and the School of Business are just two of the 29 departments at Washburn University that provide online courses. The Partnership for Learning and Networking (PLAN) degree completion program allows students who graduated from an associate program at a qualified school to pursue their baccalaureate. These include the Bachelor of Health Science, Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, Bachelor of Applied Science in technology administration, Bachelor of Integrated Studies and Bachelor of Applied Science in human services.

Search the Most Affordable Online Colleges

Tuition, fees and other college-related costs remain a worry for students and parents alike. Therefore, the search for the right school often starts by finding and short-listing those with affordable price tags. This includes both campus-based and online programs, which have slightly different cost structures. The following tool helps prospective students identify the most affordable online colleges with the quality and support services they need to graduate and start a career.

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