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Affordable Online Associate Degrees

Associate degrees offer a fantastic way to get a college degree quickly and affordably. In fact, earning an associate degree in the typical two years or less means a student can enter the workforce faster. Another advantage of associate degrees is that they can serve as stepping stones to a bachelor’s degree by allowing students to take a wealth of general education courses that create a firm foundation for further instruction. Because they can often be obtained online, and are markedly cheaper than pursuing a bachelor’s degree, it’s easy to see why associate degrees are growing in popularity. This guide will look at the associate degree level, provide an overview of what students can expect and give them an idea of what it will take to get to the finish line.

What Are the Highest Paying Online Associate Degrees?

Even though an associate degree typically leads to entry-level work, that doesn’t mean it will result in entry-level pay. In fact, many high paying jobs now require an associate degree to get started. The below table provides insight into some common majors students can pursue through an associate degree program and what they can expect to earn upon graduation. By looking at these impressive wages, it’s easy to see why certain associate degrees are extremely popular—after all, it might only take two years of higher education to earn a wage that’s comparable to or higher than many positions requiring a bachelor’s degree.

Subjects 2014 Median Pay
Registered Nurse $68,450
Paralegal $49,500
Radiologic Technologist $57,450
Web Developer $66,130
Police Officer $61,600

The Best Online Associate Degree Programs at 4-Year Schools for 2018

Looking for the best associate degree options? The following ranking lists the best online associate degrees available to prospective college students. We carefully prepared the rankings by looking at several characteristics of each school, including tuition cost and availability of online associate degree programs. Interested students can sort through this information to better understand why one school is ranked higher than another.

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Methodology

To find the best colleges of 2016-17 for earning an online associate degree, our researchers and higher education experts collected and analyzed data from every accredited postsecondary institution in the United States. The goal? To see which colleges offered the most notable balances of academic rigor, program availability, student support and affordability for online learning. The specific criteria and scoring metrics for the ranking are as follows:

  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution
  • Must offer at least 10 online associate degree programs (2-year schools)
  • Must offer at least 5 online associate degree programs (4-year schools)
  • Annual in-state tuition & fees below $5,000 (2-year schools)
  • Annual in-state tuition & fees below $25,000 (4-year schools)
  • In-state tuition & fees for undergraduate students
  • Count of online associate degree programs available
  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • 3-year graduation rate
  • Percentage of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college
  • Average amount of scholarship/grant aid students receive from the college
  • Availability of academic/career counseling services
  • Availability of job placement services
  • 3-year loan default rate
  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

*PBV: is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or “bang for your buck” – of an online degree.

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Goodwin College East Hartford, CT 99.76 $19,400 20 91% 10:1N/AYes Yes Yes
2 Great Basin College Elko, NV 98.90 $2,700 14 40% 17:114%Yes Yes Yes
3 Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale, FL 98.71 $16,936 12 77% 12:160%Yes Yes Yes
4 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK 98.28 $6,466 10 43% 14:133%Yes Yes Yes
5 Davenport University Grand Rapids, MI 97.33 $15,072 9 89% 14:140%Yes Yes Yes
6 Bismarck State College Bismarck, ND 97.21 $3,520 12 25% 14:1N/AYes Yes Yes
7 Hawaii Pacific University Honolulu, HI 96.96 $21,130 10 78% 13:140%Yes Yes Yes
8 Vincennes University Vincennes, IN 96.82 $5,174 18 18% 17:1N/AYes Yes Yes
9 Bethel University McKenzie, TN 96.62 $10,750 8 51% 12:129%Yes Yes Yes
10 Baker College Flint, MI 96.45 $8,280 13 85% 25:114%Yes Yes Yes
11 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA 96.18 $21,000 11 78% 18:146%Yes Yes Yes
12 College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas, NV 96.15 $2,700 17 20% 24:1N/AYes Yes Yes
13 St Petersburg College Clearwater, FL 96.15 $3,347 14 23% 22:1N/AYes Yes Yes
14 Tiffin University Tiffin, OH 95.81 $21,535 9 92% 18:133%Yes Yes Yes
15 Southwestern Assemblies of God University Waxahachie, TX 95.47 $19,450 10 73% 16:138%Yes Yes Yes
16 University of Northwestern Ohio Lima, OH 94.86 $9,868 13 33% 26:130%No Yes Yes
17 Northwood University-Michigan Midland, MI 94.78 $23,132 7 95% 16:154%Yes Yes Yes
18 Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, IN 94.63 $24,102 9 50% 16:170%Yes Yes Yes
19 Colorado Christian University Lakewood, CO 94.56 $20,935 6 97% 14:140%Yes Yes Yes
20 Peninsula College Port Angeles, WA 94.44 $4,191 8 23% 15:1N/AYes Yes Yes
21 Presentation College Aberdeen, SD 93.94 $17,875 7 99% 10:144%Yes No Yes
22 Colorado Mountain College Glenwood, CO 93.84 $3,930 6 36% 13:1N/AYes Yes Yes
23 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY 93.46 $9,140 7 37% 18:150%No Yes Yes
24 SUNY Empire State College Saratoga Springs, NY 93.44 $6,665 11 75% 15:117%Yes No Yes
25 University of Alaska Southeast Juneau, AK 93.35 $6,669 6 48% 15:110%No Yes Yes
26 Miami Dade College Miami, FL 93.22 $3,486 8 24% 23:1N/AYes Yes Yes
27 South Texas College McAllen, TX 93.02 $3,590 13 1% 27:1N/ANo Yes Yes
28 Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City Oklahoma City, OK 93.00 $2,859 9 10% 19:1N/AYes Yes Yes
29 Peirce College Philadelphia, PA 92.93 $13,800 6 83% 12:156%Yes No Yes
30 Columbia College Columbia, MO 92.84 $6,582 7 24% 34:142%Yes Yes Yes
31 University of Maine at Augusta Augusta, ME 92.77 $7,448 7 26% 17:113%Yes Yes Yes
32 National University La Jolla, CA 92.71 $12,384 18 1% 20:123%Yes No Yes
33 Drury University Springfield, MO 92.61 $23,885 7 76% 19:148%No Yes Yes
34 Hodges University Naples, FL 92.43 $13,220 8 37% 15:118%No Yes Yes
35 Daytona State College Daytona Beach, FL 92.15 $3,306 7 24% 18:1N/AYes Yes Yes
36 Lewis-Clark State College Lewiston, ID 92.07 $8,624 5 62% 16:126%Yes Yes Yes
37 Broward College Fort Lauderdale, FL 91.21 $2,542 7 23% 27:1N/AYes Yes Yes
38 Ohio Christian University Circleville, OH 90.86 $17,720 5 53% 10:136%Yes No Yes
39 Northwestern Michigan College Traverse City, MI 90.46 $5,555 6 24% 18:1N/AYes Yes Yes
40 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide Daytona Beach, FL 90.28 $8,040 5 14% 12:148%Yes Yes Yes
41 Seminole State College of Florida Sanford, FL 90.17 $3,131 7 18% 29:1N/AYes Yes Yes
42 Granite State College Concord, NH 90.05 $7,065 5 N/A 12:150%Yes Yes Yes
43 Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville, FL 89.97 $2,609 5 15% 22:1N/AYes Yes Yes
44 Humphreys College-Stockton and Modesto Campuses Stockton, CA 89.72 $12,456 5 19% 18:151%Yes Yes Yes
45 Darton State College Albany, GA 89.37 $3,502 7 9% 22:1N/AYes No Yes
46 Clarion University of Pennsylvania Clarion, PA 88.72 $9,788 5 11% 19:148%Yes Yes Yes
47 Thomas Edison State University Trenton, NJ 88.23 $5,871 9 N/A 15:1N/AYes No Yes
48 Indiana Institute of Technology Fort Wayne, IN 86.31 $24,860 5 63% 36:131%Yes No Yes

Best 2-Year Online Associate Degree Programs

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 East Mississippi Community College Scooba, MS 99.81 $2,600 62 78% 12:127%Yes Yes Yes
2 Western Wyoming Community College Rock Springs, WY 98.51 $2,400 22 39% 16:153%Yes Yes Yes
3 Holmes Community College Goodman, MS 97.54 $2,288 41 37% 18:125%No Yes Yes
4 Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City, KS 97.05 $2,640 15 22% 13:120%Yes Yes Yes
5 Tulsa Community College Tulsa, OK 96.58 $2,820 15 39% 17:114%Yes Yes Yes
6 Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia, MS 96.30 $2,550 17 26% 23:118%Yes Yes Yes
7 State Fair Community College Sedalia, MO 95.68 $3,288 17 14% 17:121%Yes Yes Yes
8 Allen County Community College Iola, KS 95.42 $2,784 53 68% 20:123%No No Yes
9 Pamlico Community College Grantsboro, NC 95.41 $2,347 13 11% 9:167%Yes Yes Yes
10 Central Texas College Killeen, TX 95.33 $2,790 20 13% 18:114%Yes Yes Yes
11 Odessa College Odessa, TX 95.32 $3,900 15 32% 17:120%No Yes Yes
12 St Philip's College San Antonio, TX 95.19 $5,550 63 15% 15:14%No Yes Yes
13 Northeast Community College Norfolk, NE 94.70 $3,030 13 38% 17:143%Yes Yes Yes
14 Rio Salado College Tempe, AZ 94.63 $2,046 16 4% 20:117%No Yes Yes
15 Tyler Junior College Tyler, TX 94.54 $3,762 17 17% 21:115%No Yes Yes
16 Pitt Community College Winterville, NC 94.45 $1,979 12 11% 17:113%Yes Yes Yes
17 Three Rivers Community College Poplar Bluff, MO 94.24 $4,968 18 17% 24:117%No Yes Yes
18 Stanly Community College Albemarle, NC 94.18 $2,523 12 15% 15:125%Yes Yes Yes
19 Palo Alto College San Antonio, TX 94.04 $5,550 35 20% 20:113%No Yes Yes
20 Amarillo College Amarillo, TX 93.71 $2,898 16 17% 22:115%No Yes Yes
21 Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville, NC 93.61 $2,394 17 1% 20:17%Yes Yes Yes
22 Metropolitan Community College Omaha, NE 93.58 $2,610 10 20% 14:112%Yes Yes Yes
23 Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill, CA 93.54 $1,298 17 N/A 27:139%No Yes Yes
24 College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls, ID 93.49 $3,760 12 46% 21:118%No Yes Yes
25 Bluegrass Community and Technical College Lexington, KY 93.48 $3,704 14 2% 16:118%Yes Yes Yes
26 Gateway Community and Technical College Florence, KY 93.40 $3,704 13 9% 12:134%Yes Yes Yes
27 Guilford Technical Community College Jamestown, NC 93.32 $2,201 13 5% 20:110%Yes Yes Yes
28 San Antonio College San Antonio, TX 93.27 $5,550 55 9% 19:17%No Yes Yes
29 Madisonville Community College Madisonville, KY 93.24 $3,624 11 22% 14:130%No Yes Yes
30 Mitchell Community College Statesville, NC 93.09 $2,404 14 9% 21:119%No Yes Yes
31 Truckee Meadows Community College Reno, NV 93.08 $2,700 11 22% 19:121%Yes Yes Yes
32 Crowder College Neosho, MO 93.05 $3,048 10 18% 15:122%Yes Yes Yes
33 North Central Missouri College Trenton, MO 92.88 $3,870 20 21% 19:130%Yes No Yes
34 Maysville Community and Technical College Maysville, KY 92.82 $3,624 10 9% 11:130%Yes Yes Yes
35 Northwest Vista College San Antonio, TX 92.55 $5,550 28 9% 22:111%No Yes Yes
36 Laramie County Community College Cheyenne, WY 92.48 $2,832 10 31% 15:114%No No Yes
37 Central Georgia Technical College Warner Robins, GA 92.16 $2,568 14 N/A 15:131%Yes Yes Yes
38 Columbus State Community College Columbus, OH 92.05 $3,808 11 20% 19:18%Yes Yes Yes
39 West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah, KY 92.01 $3,624 11 1% 14:138%No Yes Yes
40 Forsyth Technical Community College Winston Salem, NC 91.94 $2,056 11 N/A 13:114%No Yes Yes
41 Somerset Community College Somerset, KY 91.89 $3,624 11 8% 18:125%Yes Yes Yes
42 Mohave Community College Kingman, AZ 91.76 $2,610 12 9% 14:118%No No Yes
43 Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood, PA 91.75 $6,990 16 4% 18:112%Yes Yes Yes
44 Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls, MN 91.56 $5,338 16 5% 21:132%Yes Yes Yes
45 Owensboro Community and Technical College Owensboro, KY 91.17 $3,624 10 4% 13:130%Yes Yes Yes
46 Foothill College Los Altos Hills, CA 91.10 $1,551 11 6% 27:162%No Yes Yes
47 Cuyahoga Community College Cleveland, OH 91.08 $3,953 15 2% 21:14%Yes Yes Yes
48 Georgia Piedmont Technical College Clarkston, GA 91.04 $2,834 13 N/A 17:120%Yes Yes Yes
49 Bucks County Community College Newtown, PA 91.00 $7,394 13 10% 15:112%Yes Yes Yes
50 Wake Technical Community College Raleigh, NC 90.89 $2,640 11 2% 18:116%Yes Yes Yes

What Are the Most Popular Associate Degrees to Earn Online?

There are numerous online associate degrees for prospective college students to choose from, although certain topics seem to be more popular than others. Luckily, many of these popular subjects are available online. That may be one reason the number of associate degree seeking students taking online courses rose from 18.2 percent in the 2003–2004 school year to 33.9 percent in the 2011–2012 school year. With the popularity of associate degrees catching on across the nation, that percentage is likely even higher today. For more information about these popular subjects, check out the below chart.

Search by Subject

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Associate Degree Online?

An online associate degree usually takes two years, or the same amount of time as a traditional, on-campus associate degree. However, as with a traditional associate degree program, online curriculums can be modified so students can complete them at their own pace. That means for one student, the associate degree takes three years; but for another student, it might take as little as 18 months. The following timeline provides a good approximation of the time required for the typical associate degree program available through distance learning.

Are Online Associate Degrees Cheaper?

Online associate degrees can be cheaper than associate degrees from brick-and-mortar schools. No, tuition might not be cheaper, but certain expenses can be avoided. On the other hand, these savings can be somewhat offset by costs not normally associated with a traditional on-campus degree. The following discussion addresses some of the costs that students enrolled in an online associate degree program can avoid, or must pay, compared to a traditional program.

Can You Get Financial Aid for Online Associate Programs?

Students entering an online associate degree program can expect the same financial aid opportunities as anyone attending a traditional one. The only condition is that the online program must be accredited by an organization recognized by the United States Department of Education. The accreditation requirement is extremely important, as students who attend a non-accredited school will be ineligible for any financial aid from the state or federal governments. They will almost certainly be ineligible for most scholarships, grants and fellowships as well. In other words, students who choose a school that is not accredited can expect to pay high rates out of pocket, with no financial aid to help them.

For most students, their financial aid awards will include private scholarships, school-based scholarships, state-based financial and federal-based financial aid. Even though these financial aid dollars come from different sources, they almost all require the student to complete the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Also, the bulk of many students’ financial aid awards will be loans and grants from the federal government. More information about federal financial aid can be found at Federal Student Aid.

How Can I Find the Best Online Associate Programs?

Defining what constitutes the “best” program depends largely on the specific needs and considerations of the individual student. For some, a specific degree is necessary to enter a desired profession. For others, a bachelor’s degree is the ultimate goal and the associate degree is a stepping stone. In that case, the cost of attendance may play a more important role.

Obviously, choosing the best associate program involves consideration of any number of factors. The following rankings examine several factors that are important to students, to help them sort through the various options and find the best associate programs based on what matters most to them.

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