As of August 2013, the majority of college seniors graduated with over $26,000 of student loan debt. About 8% of those graduates are still unemployed, and of the lucky ones, half are working jobs that do not require a college degree. Many grads are asking themselves: was my debt worth it?
This year, OnlineU has released the first rankings of its kind: the 25 most affordable online degrees by subject. We’re trying to help prospective students get a college degree without the burden of massive debt.
141 colleges on our lists offer an annual tuition of less than $10,000, and 7 are less than $5,000 per year. With fully online programs and total tuition costs under $40,000, these schools are making education accessible and affordable.
All tuition numbers are from the current year, verified by the school's website or by contacting an academic representative directly. Please refer to our methodology for more details.
Affordable Schools by Subject
If you are interested in a particular online degree program, please browse our lists of affordable schools by subject. Each list offers at least 10 affordable online degrees and many have options for as little as $4,000 per year.
1. Western Governors University 2. University of South Dakota 3. Chadron State College
1. Eastern New Mexico University 2. Chadron State College 3. Southern Arkansas University
1. Ohio Christian University 2. Fort Hays State University 3. University of Wisconsin
1. Penn Foster College 2. Aspen University 3. California Coast University Online
Early Childhood Education
1. Aspen University 2. Fort Hays State University Online 3. University of the Southwest
1. Eastern New Mexico University 2. Tennessee Temple University 3. Chadron State College
1. University of S. Mississippi - Online 2. Rowan University 3. S.D. School of Mines and Technology
1. Aspen University 2. Granite State College 3. Columbia Southern University
1. Liberty University Online 2. National University 3. American InterContinental University
1. Columbia Southern University 2. Western Governors University 3. Weber State University
1. Fort Hays State University 2. Western Governors University 3. Columbia Southern University
1. Wilmington University 2. University of the Cumberlands 3. Chadron State College
IT & CS
1. Fort Hays State University 2. Jones International University 3. Southern Arkansas University
1. California Southern University 2. Central Washington University 3. Saint Leo University Online
1. Chadron State College 2. California Coast University Online 3. Western Governors University
1. Sam Houston State University Online 2. University of North Dakota 3. West Texas A & M University
1. Wayland Baptist University 2. Southeast Missouri State University 3. Broward College
1. University of Northern Colorado - Online 2. Louisiana Tech University 3. Mississippi State University
1. Penn Foster Career School 2. Penn Foster College 3. Drury University
1. Fort Hays State University Online 2. Columbia Southern University 3. Tennessee Temple University
1. University of North Dakota 2. New Mexico State University 3. Youngstown State University
1. Athens State University 2. Amberton University 3. University of the Cumberlands - Online
1. University of North Dakota 2. South Texas College 3. Florida State University
1. Chadron State College 2. University of Central Missouri 3. West Texas A & M University
All of the colleges that made our lists are making strides in offering affordable, online degrees. However, we wanted to congratulate and honor these five schools that we feel stand out from the rest.
Chadron State College is well-represented on these affordable lists, earning top spots in marketing, teaching, business, accounting, education, and human services. This regionally-accredited, non-profit institution currently offers prospective students 38 different online programs to choose from at the bachelor's and master's level as well as a number of education endorsements for students who've already earned education degrees. The school proudly demonstrates their committment to affordable education by offering their "Chadron State Eagle Rate," which stipulates that all out-of-state undergraduate students at CSC pay a rate equivalent to in-state tuition plus $1 per credit hour.
Eastern New Mexico University has exceptionally affordable options for online degrees. It ranked 1. for both our most affordable online business and education degrees, with degrees costing just around $4,000 each year for out-of-state students. It also has the most affordable online master's degree through a variety of education programs. But the most important reason we chose Eastern New Mexico University as an editor's choice is because of its fantastic deal for out-of-state students: if you enroll in six or fewer hours per semester, you can pay the in-state rate. This means huge discounts for part-time, out-of-state students. Furthermore, the university offers in-state tuition to active-duty military personnel and their dependents stationed in New Mexico, and Colorado residents through a special Colorado Scholar Scholarship.
Fort Hays State University ranked in our top 5 for many of our lists: counseling, human resources, IT & computer science, and nursing. It also has the most affordable bachelor’s degree: $3,472 annually for a B.S. in Information Networking & Telecommunications. The school currently offers 27 fully online degrees, with the most popular undergraduate programs being business management and organizational leadership. Fort Hays also stands out with its military support, consistently ranking among the top colleges for student support services.
The University of North Dakota has one of the best deals for online students: full in-state tuition discounts. This gives the university the most affordable online master’s of social work at $4,969 and the most affordable master’s of science in public health at $6,977. The school has over 30 online degrees across all major subjects including art, business, education, engineering, and nursing, as well as over 140 online certificate programs. The university is also known for its support of military members, providing in-state tuition as well as additional support through the Yellow Ribbon Program, monthly housing allowances, tuition assistance, and dedicated veteran and military advisors.
Western Governors University is a public, non-profit school that was founded in 1997 by governors from 19 U.S. states. We applaud the efforts of WGU to acheive their stated mission, which is to "improve quality and expand access to post-secondary educational opportunities by providing a means for individuals to learn independent of time and place." This Yellow Ribbon school, which currently enrolls over 40,000 online students, boasts 52 online degree options, three of which rank among the top three most-affordable degrees on our lists for healthcare, human resources, and marketing.
SR Education Group, the creator of OnlineU.org, implemented the following methodology to compile the 2014 Most Affordable U.S. Online College Rankings.
Participant eligibility criteria
To be considered for inclusion in the 2014 Most Affordable U.S. Online College Rankings, online colleges need to:
- Currently be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Offer fully online programs, so that students located anywhere in the country can pursue their degrees.
Participant Selection Process and Tuition Fee Compilation
To compile OnlineU.org’s 2014 Most Affordable U.S. Online College Rankings, SR Education Group first chose online colleges for each listing based on their annual undergraduate tuition numbers provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. As this data was reflective of the 2010-2011 academic year, SR Education Group updated each number to the current annual tuition based on primary research conducted online. This implies finding the degree-specific tuition on the college’s web site and contacting an academic representative whenever necessary. Quoted annual tuition numbers do not include any extra fees that may apply for each degree. Tuition rates may vary by program. Please contact a representative from the online college you're interested in for further details on their respective tuition fees.
SR Education Group compiled all rankings based on annual tuition for an online bachelor’s degree for the specific subject covered, except when only online graduate degrees for a particular school were available. The master’s level tuition fee was then used. The numbers are also representative of out-of-state, non-discounted tuition fees (unless all online students receive the discount), so some students may be eligible for even lower tuition rates than indicated.
Future Ranking Updates
These rankings were last updated in June of 2014. SR Education Group will update OnlineU.org’s 2014 Most Affordable U.S. Online College Rankings on a quarterly basis as new online college tuition fee information becomes available. Any changes in tuition fee information and / or addition of new online colleges (provided they meet all criteria for eligibility) moving forward may affect future ranking by discipline/degree.
SR Education Group has compiled and posted the 2014 Most Affordable U.S. Online College Rankings on OnlineU.org for informational purposes only and cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the information contained on the site. The accuracy of the tuition information will be improved over time as more tuition information becomes available. Students consulting the 2014 Most Affordable U.S. Online College Rankings should not rely exclusively on these rankings to make their online college selection decision, but rather use these rankings as one of many tools that are necessary in the process of selecting the most appropriate online college program for their needs and objectives. Many other factors should be considered when selecting an online education, such as programs offerings, accreditation, student reviews, delivery methods, etc.
- ^ FACT SHEET on the President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. Published August 22, 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/22/fact-sheet-president-s-plan-make-college-more-affordable-better-bargain-/.