Online schools can be a top option for many reasons. Students save time without a commute, classes can be taken after work hours, and students can often move through course material at their own pace. But, perhaps most importantly for those on a tight budget, online schools are often the least expensive option for higher education.
So, how much cheaper are online programs than traditional, brick-and-mortar colleges? Though it is often the least expensive choice, the price for online options varies depending on the school and degree. Very cheap classes may be indicative of a poor quality program or a diploma mill, or a program that gives students degrees without asking students to do enough work and that aren’t typically accepted by employers. But, overall, the online option is cheaper. Why? Well, aside from the fact that classes can be cheaper, students at brick-and-mortar institutions have to spend money on commuting, expensive room and board (especially for on-campus housing), and additional fees, including lab or teaching assistant fees.
Typically, tuition at a private four-year university is $30,090 while tuition at public universities costs about $8,893 for in-state students. Online colleges usually costs just as much per unit as traditional schooling, but without the additional costs of lab fees, on-campus housing, and more.
There are so many colleges launching online programs and the number of options is growing quickly. Many state schools and other public, not-for-profit universities now offering online degrees provide online degrees for in-state tuition no matter where students live. That can result in huge savings if you have your heart set on attending a particular pricey, out-of-state school.
Cost is important, but it isn’t everything. The guide below can help you navigate the world of cheap online degrees:
Perhaps the most essential thing to look for is accreditation.The best online programs are accredited, and some of the best universities from across the nation are now offering online classes and degree programs. These top programs certainly include some of the cheapest online colleges and programs. Still, though, when looking for the cheapest option you must be careful. A cheap school can sometimes indicate an unaccredited school, though that isn’t always the case. The process of accreditation exists to make sure that tax money only goes to programs with a good educational infrastructure,that students are getting a proper education, and that schools are not running diploma mills, or a school that offers a fake degree for a fee with little to no class work required. Both traditional and online schools must apply for accreditation and undergo a review. If your school is accredited, you can ensure that it can provide the resources it claims to have.
Here are some resources to find out more about college accreditation:
Diploma mills, or degree mills, present themselves as real colleges, universities, or schools and, often, as cheap online colleges. However, these schools lack the accreditation to give legitimate degrees that will have weight in the working world.
The worst of these programs may even be fraudulent, selling fake transcripts and degrees to those willing to purchase them for little t no actual academic work. Others say that you can earn a degree in very little time or that life experience can count toward earning a cheap online degree. Some actually allow students to start doing work that will never be evaluated.
Some are drawn to diploma mills because it seems like an easy degree from a cheap online college. Don’t fall for this trap. As mentioned earlier, always make sure that your cheap online college is accredited before enrolling.
If you start a degree program, you want to finish it. Dropping out can mean a huge loss of time and financial investment. If a cheap online school has a high graduation rate, it often means that they support their students and provide the type of education that those students were expecting when they enrolled. 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 complete their degree, that the online classes are falling below what students expected, that students are discovering the online school is actually a degree mill pumping out useless diplomas, and more.
Getting a job is the main reason why students pursue a degree. Knowing a school’s reputation with employers can help you gauge how well you might do on the job market after graduation, and how much you might earn. However, it is also an indication of the value of the degree and how much students learn. If eager students are failing in the workplace time and time again, it might 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 of the online program. Remember: Just because a course or program is online, or just because it is an inexpensive option, that doesn’t mean that the quality should be any less than in-person classes.
Programs are available for everything from basic diplomas and certificates to master’s and doctoral degrees. Be sure when you enroll that you know your education goals and are choosing a program that is right for you. If you’re hoping to obtain a bachelor’s degree, for example, make sure that you know what that will entail and that you are prepared to take all the online courses required. Many cheaper online options, whether for undergraduate-level courses and beyond, allow students to enroll part-time or to take classes at their own pace. This can be a great choice for those working or with families who would like to take on classes at a slower pace, or those who want a challenge by speeding through at an accelerated pace. Not all online programs have this flexibility, though. If that is important to you, be sure to fully explore your online school’s options.
Interested in learning more about the lowest tuition online colleges? Let this site act as your guide. We have pages on the most affordable options, type of degree program, major, and more.
When looking for a college education, it’s difficult to not let price factor into your decision. We want to help you narrow down your top picks with our list of the most inexpensive colleges in the nation. Whether you’re looking for a federally-funded military experience, a large urban university, or a small-town college, we have found what you’re looking for. Check out our list below and be sure to explore each university of interest to make sure the program you’re looking for is available at your school of choice.
For details on the selection methodology click here.
The OU Health Sciences Center is located near the state capitol in Oklahoma City and is comprised of seven health-related colleges. Students study public health, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing and allied health as well as graduate coursework. Students enjoy several academic-based and extracurricular activities throughout campus.
Located in central New Mexico about an hour south of Albuquerque, Tech offers an outstanding education in science, engineering and technology-related fields. Students may choose from a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs including petroleum engineering, mineral engineering, mathematics, information technology, computer science and geochemistry. Most students graduate with experience doing research with a professor or through an internship.
SDSM&T was established before South Dakota even became a state to provide instruction in mining and engineering. More than 2,300 students enjoy an award-winning education in 36 degree programs. With a low student-to-teacher ratio, students receive the attention they need to excel in their program of choice.
This engineering and maritime academy offers highly-regarded bachelors and masters degrees to students wishing to pursue a rigorous, military-based institution. Degrees are available in environmental science, marine safety, maritime transportation, international maritime business and more. Hands-on learning opportunities and state-of-the-art technology, along with some of the lowest tuition in the U.S. makes MMA a great place to get an education.
With only about 1,000 undergraduates, WVU Tech students enjoy a very personalized education in 34 majors. More than 30 student organizations ensure that students enjoy a well-rounded education with opportunities similar to larger universities. The Career Services center ensures that students are ready to seek out their ideal job upon graduation.
The flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system, Umass Amherst serves nearly 30,000 students on its scenic campus in western Massachusetts. Recognized as one of the nation's top public research facilities, the college offers 108 bachelor's degrees, and 76 master's and 50 doctoral programs.
A member of the Texas A&M University System, Prairie View is the second oldest public institution of higher education in Texas. Originally designated to "act to establish an agricultural and manual school for colored youths of the state" in 1876, the first white students began attending the university in the 1960s. Prairie View continues its dedication to excellence in teaching, research and service with both undergraduate and graduate programs for its student population.
Started as a teacher college in 1925, Texas A&M-Kingsville became part of the Texas A&M University System in 1989 in changed its name to reflect that membership in 1993. It offers more academic programs, conducts more research, and awards more scholarships than any other college or university in its region. Texas A&M-Kingsville's ethnically and culturally diverse population participate in student government, Greek organizations, and various student clubs and activities.
Though Texas Tech serves more than 30,000 students, students still enjoy personalized attention from faculty members as they explore 150 undergraduate degree programs. More than 100 master's programs and 50 doctoral programs are also available on this beautiful and culturally-diverse campus.
Miami University Hamilton is a regional campus of Miami University. This commuter campus offers certificate programs, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and beginning coursework for most four-year degrees. Miami University has an open admission policy, which means that all first-time college students are accepted with a high school diploma or GED, no matter their age. A variety of student organizations and athletics are available to round out students' college experience.
Louisiana Tech is selective in its admissions process to ensure students enjoy a challenging educational environment with like-minded peers. With an enrollment of just 11,000, the student to faculty ratio is small enough for students to develop quality professional relationships with their professors. The pedestrian-friendly campus is close to parks, lakes and world-class mountain biking trails.
Idaho State University is a Carnegie designated research high university offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in more than 275 programs/majors. With 14,500 students, ISU offers rigorous academic programs in the health professions, teaching, humanities, engineering, technology and many more. ISU has a small student-teacher ratio and more than 160 clubs and organizations so students can enjoy their college experience and take advantage of the university’s close proximity to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons.
Just 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the 6,200 students of Southern Polytechnic State University enjoy all the conveniences of a big city, but with a small-town feel. SPSU has schools of architecture and construction management, computing and software engineering, engineering technology and management, arts and sciences, and engineering and offers both undergraduate and graduate-level education, along with non-degree certificate programs in technology-related areas. All programs focus on applying knowledge and using technology to solve real-world problems.
One of the nation's most academically diverse public universities, UF offers more than 100 undergraduate majors in classes of about 25 students. Students can also choose from nearly 200 graduate programs as well as professional degree programs in dentistry, law, medicine, pharmacy and veterinary medicine.
Bowie State was founded in 1865 and serves 5,400 ethnically diverse students. Students choose from 23 undergraduate majors and 35 master's doctoral, and advanced certification programs. Primarily a commuter campus with evening and online courses, Bowie also has seven residence halls for students who want to have the full college experience. The university is located just 30 minutes from Washington, D.C.
Located in southern New Mexico, NMSU is a NASA Space Grant College and home to the first Honors College in the state. Students can enjoy a wide variety of NCAA Division I sports as well as numerous recreational activities, museums and art galleries, professional theater, on-campus public radio and television stations, and more. The university's 23,000 students can choose from certificate programs to doctoral programs.
Weber State University offers a variety of two- and four-year degrees, and multiple graduate programs for 26,000 students. A leader in undergraduate education, WSU provides a small-class environment, where students work closely with faculty in research and community-service opportunities. Outside the classroom, students take part in more than 175 clubs, cheer on 16 NCAA teams and enjoy cultural offerings. The university is located at the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, which offer tremendous outdoor recreation.
Recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the country's most environmentally-responsible colleges, James Madison University is also one of the most financially-friendly. With 115 total degrees available, students are certain to find a program of interest.
At OU, undergraduate students work with professors and industry leaders on cutting-edge research projects, allowing students hands-on experience in their field of study. With an average class size of 32, students can build relationships with their professors. The Big 12 university offers more than 150 majors and more than 350 student organizations, ensuring every student finds what they are looking for.
UMW offers small and highly interactive classes to its 5,000 students. Founded in 1908, students may choose from more than 40 areas of study in the schools of arts and sciences, business, and education. Resources are available to first-year students to assist in the transition to college.
LSU has been named one of the best national universities by U.S. News & World Report several times and is home to 26,000 students studying in 194 degree programs. The campus boasts numerous museums and libraries that are used by students and visitors alike
UNC has grown from a small teacher's college 60 years ago to a large urban research facility today. With more than 170 undergraduate and graduate programs, students have a wide range of academic choices. UNC's extensive research department assists students in applying for grants as well as researching possible donors, managing the awarded grant, and ensuring compliance.
OSU is home to about 20,000 students seeking one of the college's more than 200 degree options. Pre-law, pre-health, and pre-veterinary advising is available. Students can grow their leadership skills, participate in service and civic opportunities, and engage in the many entertainment venues offered on and around campus.
The University of Idaho's nearly 13,000 students study on a beautiful campus with world-class research and learning opportunities. The university works hard to offer interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and advanced diversity, citizenship and global outreach.
Located in Houston's central business district, UHD is primarily a commuter campus that serves a diverse group of students that range from first-generation college students, full- or part-time workers, students with family obligations, and transfers from community colleges. Students may choose from one of 44 bachelor degrees and six master's degree programs.
UW was established in 1886 and has grown from 42 students to its enrollment now of more than 13,000. With 197 areas of study and a renowned faculty, students receive a stellar education in their field of choice. Students enjoy year-round recreational activities on the southeastern Wyoming campus.
Founded in 1930 by the College of William and Mary, Old Dominion was granted independence in 1962 and has since grown in enrollment and offerings to become an award-winning university. ODU offers more than 100 bachelor's and master's programs and 42 doctoral programs as well as military and international options.
With all the benefits of a large city and large university, UNM students can earn anything from a certificate and associate degree to bachelor, master's, and doctoral degrees. The award-winning faculty educates nearly 30,000 students who earn degrees in 215 certificate and degree programs. About 12,000 students attend flexible classes in the evenings and on weekends.
Dedicated to liberal arts and sciences as well as education for the professions, CCSU offers 100 majors in more than 80 fields of study. Students can choose from many modes of study including academic research, career-starting co-op programs and internships, and a variety of community engagement activities.
Located in Southwest Louisiana in an area that is known for its friendly people, outdoor recreational opportunities and great food, McNeese is quickly becoming the University of Innovation through the promotion of innovative teaching and learning methodologies, regional partnerships, service-learning opportunities, applied research, cultural engagement and athletic excellence! McNeese students from 50 counties, 30 states and 40 countries can select from a wide variety of majors in business, education, engineering, languages (a McNeese alumnus won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction), communication, visual and performing arts, social sciences, health care and agricultural, biological and environmental sciences. Recognized nationally as one of the best regional universities in the South and for providing individual attention to students, the McNeese motto is Excellence With a Personal Touch.
Heralded by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 20 most popular national universities for two years in a row, UNO is an ethnically-diverse university serving 8,200 undergraduates and 2,600 graduate students representing a whopping 90 nations. UNO is home to 20 research centers, 120 student organizations, NCAA Division I athletics, and an average class size of 22.
MSU considers itself a hometown college with nearly 75 percent of its alumni living and working in Denver. One of the largest universities in the country, MSU strives to give each student individualized attention with small class sizes, accessible professors, industry mentors, and targeted advisement. With the average student being 26 years old, MSU is anything but your typical university.
Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs such as nursing, justice and law administration, music performance and education, and the sciences. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.
Located in rural Princess Anne, Maryland, UMES became part of the University of Maryland system in 1970 after enjoying nearly 100 years as its own entity. Students have access to career and counseling services, a health center and support for incoming freshmen. This historically black college offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate programs to its approximately 4,500 total students.
USU boasts prominent political, athletic and business alumni from its historical, scenic campus. Its undergraduate research program is the second oldest in the country with many undergrads performing their own research. Students choose from more than 200 undergraduate and graduate programs.
Midwestern State University is the only university in Texas to become a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). Midwestern State, located in Wichita Falls, offers the individual attention of a private education but the affordability of a public university. The university is home to 6,000 students who choose from more than 60 majors and several pre-professional programs. MSU is recognized for its strong programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences as well as accredited professional programs in mechanical engineering, social work, nursing, radiologic science, respiratory care, athletic training, and business, among others.
Located in rural Langston, Langston University is a historically black college with four-year guaranteed tuition rates for qualifying students. Langston participates in UpwardBound, a federally-funded college prep program for low-income, first generation high school students. Numerous athletic, academic, and social extracurricular activities ensure that students receive a well-rounded college experience.
Designated as Maryland's Public Urban University, Morgan State has served an increasingly diverse population of students for more than 140 years. Morgan programs emphasize arts and sciences at the undergraduate level as it prepares students for more advanced study. The university awards more bachelor's degrees in engineering to African American students than any other campus in Maryland.
ULM offers a variety of associate, bachelor, master, doctoral programs to about 8,500 students on its 238 acre campus, surrounded by Bayou DeSiard. High school students can get an early start on coursework with ULM's dual-enrollment and collegiate programs. With more than 40 undergraduate majors and 16 programs that can be completed 100% online, there is something for nearly everyone's interests.
A public metropolitan research university with more than 22,000 students, Boise State is powered by creativity and innovation. Located in Idaho’s capital city, the university has a growing research agenda and plays a crucial role in the region’s knowledge economy and famed quality of life. In the past 10 years, the university has quadrupled the number of doctoral degrees, doubled its masters degrees and now offers 13 online degree programs.
Located in New York City, FIT is an internationally-recognized college for design, fashion, art, communications and business. FIT offers its 10,000 students a rigorous real-world curriculum with hands-on instruction designed o inspire creativity and excellence.
As a liberal arts and teacher's college, Fitchburg offers 14 academic departments with 30 undergraduate programs and 22 graduate programs with high academic and professional standards. Both day and evening programs are available so students can choose a program that works with their busy schedules. Students have opportunities to broaden their horizons with the variety of activities going on in and around campus.
Undergraduate and graduate students enjoy small class sizes on Framingham State's traditional New England campus. Numerous avenues for student success exist including student transition programs for freshmen. Diverse academic programs are available to students regardless of their personal schedules, with online and evening classes available. Located 20 miles west of Boston, all the luxuries of a large metropolitan area are within easy access while FSU still maintains small-town charm.
Located 60 miles northeast of Dallas, A&M-Commerce is situated in the rural town of Commerce, Texas. With more than 115 student organizations, students will find activities and events to enhance their university experience. Class sizes of about 20 students provide one-on-one attention and help maintain the small-school charm that students need while exploring more than 100 degree programs with prestigious faculty and highly accessible administrators and staff. A&M-Commerce boasts job-placement rates higher than 93%.
The only remaining historically black university in the State University System of Florida, FAMU educates about 12,000 students each year from more than 70 countries. More than 50 bachelor's degrees, 28 master's degrees, and 12 doctoral degrees are available on FAMU's Tallahassee campus. Professional degrees in juris doctor, doctor of pharmacy, doctor of physical therapy, and doctor of public health.
This mid-sized university is located just over an hour southwest from Fort Worth in a small manufacturing community. Tarleton has two associates degrees, 64 undergraduate programs, 22 graduate programs, and one doctorate program. Students have many support services to help ensure their success in school, including student research programs, supplemental instruction, tutoring, and a writing center.
As the only university in the nation located on its own island, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi offers a unique tropical setting. More than 10,000 students study in one-of-a-kind programs such as coastal and marine system science. A wide variety of student activities round out the college experience, including university-sponsored events, clubs and organizations, volunteer and leadership opportunities, and cultural programs.
Located on the Atlantic coast in Savannah, AASU serves about 7,500 students who study more than 100 academic programs. AASU was founded in 1935 and is part of the University System of Georgia. With a student-faculty ration of 19:1, a personalized education is not difficult to find. With easy access to historic Savannah, students enjoy Revolutionary and Civil War-era homes as well as unique shopping systems nearby.
This state university was founded in 1881 with an emphasis on infusing the latest technology into every undergraduate and graduate program. DSU has a student to faculty ratio of 18:1, virtually guaranteeing that students receive one-on-one attention from professors. DSU grads have an overall 96% job placement rate in all academic areas that include computer technology and computer security, digital arts and design, business, and education. Distance courses are also available for students who need flexibility in their college schedule.
SDSU has a comprehensive range of academic programs and extracurricular activities with 175 fields of study and more than 200 student organizations. With a 95% graduate placement rate, highly-qualified students worry little about their job prospects after graduation. SDSU offers an extension program to empower citizens to help grow the local and global economy through education and technical training.
Salem State's diverse student body is comprised of nearly 10,000 students that travel from 33 states and 51 countries to attend one of the largest universities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Located 15 miles north of Boston, Salem State has coursework for those interested in undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as continuing education, certificate programs, corporate training, enrichment programs, and more.
Recently named one of the best institutions in the Southeast by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report, UNF is also a great value to its 16,000 students. With more than 200 clubs and organizations, 24 fraternities or sororities, and 19 NCAA Division I sports teams, students have as many opportunities at UNF than at a larger university. Students also gain leadership experience in the Institute for Community, Values, and Leadership.
A large university in a large city, UTSA has it all. From a wide variety of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees to more than 250 student activities and organizations, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Two state-of-the-art recreation and wellness facilities offer recreation on and around campus and 17 Division I athletic programs help give back to the community of San Antonio.
Located in Pittsburg, Kansas in the southeastern corner of the state, PSU's 7,000 students choose from more than 100 academic programs in arts and sciences, business, education, and technology. Placement rates for graduates are near 100% with starting salaries typically higher than the national average. After enjoying academic internships, cooperative education, and independent projects, students can round out their education with more than 150 student clubs and organizations.
Southeastern boasts nationally-recognized experts in economics, e-commerce, and history among its stellar faculty members. Students receive hands-on learning experiences as they master their programs of study through studying and solving real-world problems. Southeastern's 15,000 students can choose from a variety of programs and cheer on (or participate in) the 15 NCAA Division I athletics teams.
With more than 20 bachelor's and graduate degrees offered entirely online, SHSU works hard to make a college education available to every student with a desire to succeed. On its land campus, there are more than 80 bachelor's programs, more than 50 master's programs, and six doctoral programs. Numerous extracurricular programs keep students busy and active, including the leading intercollegiate rodeo program.
According to the Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, UTPA is one of the top colleges in graduating Hispanic students ranking second and third in the number of bachelor's and master's degrees respectively. With a total of 17,000 students, UTPA is located just 10 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border in Edinburg. Students may choose from 56 bachelor's, 53 master's, three doctoral, and two cooperative doctoral programs.
Stephen F. Austin State University offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and 120 areas of study. Our new first-year student residence hall, Lumberjack Landing, supports academic achievement with its Student Success Center where tutoring and a computer lab help students make the grade. More than 200 student organizations, including Greek life and academic-oriented clubs are available. Rich in tradition and driven by a determination to be the best, SFA enrolls students from 46 states and 38 foreign countries.
Sometimes the price tag is the deciding factor when looking for a college to attend. And while it’s important that you don’t break the bank, you also want to ensure a good starting salary after graduation in addition to a quality education. When making a choice as important as where you will spend the next four (or six) years, you want to make an informed decision.
Keeping that in mind, we took many factors into account as we developed our list of Low Cost Colleges with High Starting Salaries. All schools included in our list are four-year, fully-accredited public institutions. In-state tuition for these colleges starts at less than $5,000 per year with starting salaries for graduates averaging more than $40,000 per year. We also looked at mid-career salary averages as well as the overall return on investment for the degree.
At Affordable Colleges Online, we want to do the hard work for you. We’ve done the research and scoured the numbers from colleges and universities across the United States to bring you the most meaningful, up-to-date information possible. Our data comes from highly-respected sources including the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS), both provided by the federal government.
In addition to government sources, we also used The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education™, which provides updated research and classifications of colleges and universities. Payscale.com data provided us with surveys from hundreds of thousands of people from public and private sectors to assist with assembling salary data by school and occupation at various points in a career.
Using the data sources at our disposal, we took a number of factors into account to assemble our list of Low Cost Colleges with High Starting Salaries. To be considered for the list, the college must have all of the following criteria: