Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 4/13/2021

Bachelor's degrees open doors to higher salaries and lower unemployment rates, and online bachelor's programs provide flexible options to an increasing number of college students. To connect students with programs that fit their budgets, we've compiled a list of the 25 most affordable colleges offering online bachelor's degrees. All schools on this list have tuition rates under $8,000. Read our methodology to learn more about how we created this ranking.

This resource also highlights some of the most popular subjects for bachelor's students, the best affordable online colleges for earning a bachelor's degree, how to choose an affordable program, and cost considerations for your online education.


2021 Most Affordable Bachelor's Degrees Badge

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Most Affordable Online Colleges For Bachelor's Programs

All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Locations Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 University of North Carolina at Pembroke Pembroke (NC) $5,067
# 2 #2 Clayton State University Morrow (GA) $5,079
# 3 #3 Valdosta State University Valdosta (GA) $5,463
# 4 #4 Kennesaw State University Kennesaw (GA) $5,562
# 5 #5 Georgia Southern University Statesboro (GA) $5,646
# 6 #6 Western Carolina University Cullowhee (NC) $5,670
# 7 #7 Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus Portales (NM) $6,114
# 8 #8 University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Green Bay (WI) $6,298
# 9 #9 Western Governors University Salt Lake City (UT) $6,450
# 10 #10 Arkansas State University Jonesboro (AR) $6,540
# 11 #11 Minot State University Minot (ND) $6,690
# 12 #12 Fort Hays State University Hays (KS) $6,806
# 13 #13 Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville (FL) $6,812
# 14 #14 Columbia Southern University Orange Beach (AL) $7,050
# 15 #15 Louisiana State University - Shreveport Shreveport (LA) $7,070
# 16 #16 Southern Utah University Cedar City (UT) $7,200
# 17 #17 Ohio University-Main Campus Athens (OH) $7,290
# 18 #18 Mississippi University for Women Columbus (MS) $7,425
# 19 #19 Louisiana State University-Alexandria Alexandria (LA) $7,482
# 20 #20 Fayetteville State University Fayetteville (NC) $7,556
# 21 #21 Athens State University Athens (AL) $7,626
# 22 #22 Valley City State University Valley City (ND) $7,649
# 23 #23 Central Methodist University Fayette (MO) $7,800
# 24 #24 Idaho State University Pocatello (ID) $7,872
# 25 #25 University of Missouri at Saint Louis St. Louis (MO) $7,891

Most Popular Subjects for Online Bachelor's Degrees

Business
# 1 Aspen University
Tuition: $4,500
# 2 California Coast University
Tuition: $4,725
# 3 Clayton State University
Tuition: $5,490
Computer Science
# 1 Fort Hays State University
Tuition: $6,560
# 2 Western Governors University
Tuition: $6,750
# 3 Lamar University
Tuition: $7,440
Engineering
# 1 Lamar University
Tuition: $7,440
# 2 University of the Potomac
Tuition: $7,785
# 3 American Public University System
Tuition: $8,640
Law
# 1 Western Carolina University
Tuition: $5,670
# 2 Fort Hays State University
Tuition: $6,778
# 3 Abraham Lincoln University
Tuition: $7,500

Best Affordable Online Colleges for Bachelor's Programs

All Tuitions Under $17,000, High Salary Scores

For students who want to make cost-effective choices about higher education, looking at tuition alone might not be enough. To help students make informed decisions, our list of the 10 best affordable colleges for online bachelor's degrees considers both tuition rates and alumni earning potential. Schools are ranked by Salary Score, which measures alumni earnings one year after graduation. Bachelor's graduates tend to earn different salaries based on their major, so we compared like majors across schools and then compiled the data for all majors at a single school to find its Salary Score.

Each school featured here has a Salary Score of at least 85 (out of 100) and an annual tuition rate below $17,000. Excelsior College heads the list with a Salary Score of 96.51 and annual tuition of $15,300. Thomas Edison State University (TESU) and Northeastern University Global Network follow closely with scores of 94.2 and 93.32, respectively. To learn more about how we determined this ranking, view our methodology.


2021 Most Affordable Bachelor's Degrees Badge

All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
#1
#1

Excelsior College

Albany (NY)
Annual Tuition: $15,300
Salary Score: 97
Annual Tuition: $15,300
Salary Score: 97
Annual Tuition: $15,300
Salary Score: 97

Excelsior College has an overall Salary Score of 97 for its bachelor's degrees, with several individual programs earning high scores. Psychology tops the charts with a Salary Score of 100, while criminal justice has a score of 99. Also earning a score of 99 is liberal arts, for which Excelsior offers a number of concentrations including logistics operations management, population health, and professional and technical writing. Excelsior charges $510 per credit for undergraduate students, which means... that a full course load of 30 credits costs $15,300 per year.

Financial Support Overview

Excelsior offers many general and program-specific scholarships for undergraduates, as well as several payment plans. In-state students may also be eligible for New York state-funded aid. Tuition discounts and fee waivers are available for active duty service members, veterans, reservists, and their families. Some incoming students may qualify for prior learning credits earned through previous college coursework, military service, work experience, or other professional training.

Online Student Resources

  • Online reading and writing labs
  • 24/7 technical support
  • Online library support
  • Alumni and mentor matching

Explore programs at Excelsior College >>

  • Online Degrees: 47
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 27,207
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,801
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (518) 464-8500

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Business and Management
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Technology Management - Electrical Technology
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Technology Management - Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Technology Management - Nuclear Technology
#2
#2
Annual Tuition: $9,278
Salary Score: 94
Annual Tuition: $9,278
Salary Score: 94
Annual Tuition: $9,278
Salary Score: 94

Among the top-performing fields at the bachelor’s level at Thomas Edison State University (TESU) is sociology, with a program Salary Score of 93. TESU's sociology program focuses on the factors that influence human behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. Nursing also scores well with a Salary Score of 92, and liberal arts received a score of 85. TESU's Salary Score for all bachelor's programs combined is 94. The university charges a flat rate of $4,639 per semester for full-time undergraduate students,... resulting in an annual tuition rate of $9,278.

Financial Support Overview

Undergraduate TESU students taking fewer than nine credits per semester can opt for a per-credit tuition fee rather than the flat rate for full-time students. For some students, prior college, professional, or military experience may be counted as transfer credits. Current military and veteran students, as well as their dependents, may be eligible for tuition discounts. Online students are eligible for a number of school-sponsored scholarships funded by the Thomas Edison State University Foundation.

Online Student Resources

  • Academic advising
  • 24/7 technical support
  • Alumni networking opportunities
  • Veterans’ services

Explore programs at Thomas Edison State University >>

  • Online Degrees: 44
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 10,140
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 696
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (609) 984-1100 x2025

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Communications
  • Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Bachelor of Arts in History
  • Bachelor of Arts in International Studies
#3
#3
Annual Tuition: $16,230
Salary Score: 93
Annual Tuition: $16,230
Salary Score: 93
Annual Tuition: $16,230
Salary Score: 93

The bachelor's programs at Northeastern University Global Network have earned an overall Salary Score of 93. Some of the top programs include degrees in leadership, project management, and digital communication, which all have scores of 100. These programs provide students with a global perspective as they acquire knowledge and develop application-oriented skills. With a per-credit tuition rate of $541 for all online undergraduate students, a full course load of 15 credits for two semesters totals... $16,230 in annual tuition.

Financial Support Overview

Northeastern University's Global Experience programs enable students to study, volunteer, or engage in internships at industry hubs across the U.S. and abroad in countries such as Canada, England, Greece, and Ireland. Students participating in these global learning programs do not pay the standard tuition rates and fees. Instead, incoming exchange students pay standardized fees for housing and dining. Participants in the program will also need to purchase health insurance, and they will need money for personal expenses while abroad.

Online Student Resources

  • Global experience advisors
  • Cultural adjustment services
  • Diversity and inclusion support while abroad
  • Passport, visa, and international travel support

Explore programs at Northeastern University Global Network >>

  • Online Degrees: 13
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 749
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,742
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (617) 373-2000

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Digital Communication and Media
  • Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting Management - Entrepreneurship
  • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology - Applications Development
#4
#4
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Salary Score: 90
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Salary Score: 90
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Salary Score: 90
  • Online Degrees: 186
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 42%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 37,746
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 8,342
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (877) 468-6268

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor in Arts in Communication
  • Bachelor in Arts in Communication - Digital Communication and Media Design
  • Bachelor in Arts in Communication - Strategic Communication
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Sciences
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Technical Management
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Technical Management - Logistics and Supply Chain Management
#5
#5

Colorado State University Global

Greenwood Village (CO)
Annual Tuition: $10,500
Salary Score: 89
Annual Tuition: $10,500
Salary Score: 89
Annual Tuition: $10,500
Salary Score: 89
  • Online Degrees: 27
  • Graduation Rate: 64%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 8,054
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 4,422
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (800) 920-6723

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS - Accounting
  • BS - Business Management
  • BS - Communication
  • BS - Computer Science
  • BS - Computer Science - Intelligence and Homeland Security
  • BS - Criminal Justice
#6
#6

National University

La Jolla (CA)
Annual Tuition: $16,650
Salary Score: 88
Annual Tuition: $16,650
Salary Score: 88
Annual Tuition: $16,650
Salary Score: 88
  • Online Degrees: 65
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 0%
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,130
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 4,497
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Phone #: (800) 628-8648

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development - Inspired Teaching and Learning Preliminary Multiple Subject Teaching Credential (California)
  • Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education
  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Bachelor of Arts in English - Creative Writing: Fiction
  • Bachelor of Arts in English - Creative Writing: Poetry
  • Bachelor of Arts in English - Single Subject Matter Preparation and ITL Single Subject Credential (California)
#7
#7

Columbia Southern University

Orange Beach (AL)
Annual Tuition: $7,050
Salary Score: 87
Annual Tuition: $7,050
Salary Score: 87
Annual Tuition: $7,050
Salary Score: 87
  • Online Degrees: 30
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 15,245
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,859
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
  • Phone #: (251) 981-3771 x1278

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • B.S. Business Administration
  • B.S. Business Administration-Finance
  • B.S. Business Administration-Hospitality and Tourism
  • B.S. Business Administration-Human Resource Management
  • B.S. Business Administration-Information Technology
  • B.S. Business Administration-International Management
#8
#8
Annual Tuition: $15,840
Salary Score: 87
Annual Tuition: $15,840
Salary Score: 87
Annual Tuition: $15,840
Salary Score: 87
  • Online Degrees: 17
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 244
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 24
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NWCCU
  • Phone #: (503) 883-2447

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Accounting
  • BA in Business Information Systems
  • BA in Computer Information Systems
  • BA in History
  • BA in International Business
  • BA in Management
#9
#9

Brandman University

Multiple Locations
Annual Tuition: $15,000
Salary Score: 86
Annual Tuition: $15,000
Salary Score: 86
Annual Tuition: $15,000
Salary Score: 86
  • Online Degrees: 29
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 80%
  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 6,616
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 5,782
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: WSCUC

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA in Applied Studies
  • BA in Applied Studies - Applied Communication
  • BA in Applied Studies - Applied Humanities
  • BA in Applied Studies - Leadership
  • BA in Communications and Media
  • BA in Criminal Justice
#10
#10
Annual Tuition: $14,970
Salary Score: 86
Annual Tuition: $14,970
Salary Score: 86
Annual Tuition: $14,970
Salary Score: 86
  • Online Degrees: 44
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 53%
  • Graduation Rate: 15%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 36,550
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 11,882
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (301) 985-7000

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies - China
  • Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies - Japan
  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Communication

Overview: Online Bachelor's Degrees

Is It Possible to Get a Bachelor's Degree Online?

Online learners comprise a significant portion of total undergraduate students in the U.S., with 34% taking at least some online courses and 14% taking exclusively online courses. The COVID-19 pandemic drove many traditional campus students into distance education in 2020, an experience that may spur colleges to both increase and improve their online offerings. Online education is clearly here to stay. But what can students expect from an online bachelor's program?

Most colleges design bachelor's degrees to take four years (usually 120 semester credits), whether they're offered online or in person. The admissions requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent, a minimum GPA, and possibly a minimum score on either the ACT or SAT (though not all schools require admissions tests).

Students may wonder what the online learning environment will be like. In contrast to traditional classrooms, where students and faculty gather for lectures, discussions, and exams, most online programs offer asynchronous coursework and instruction. Students view lectures and complete coursework at convenient times rather than live. Faculty are still required to hold office hours, though meetings may take place over the phone or video conference.

If you decide that the online learning environment seems like a good fit for you, there are three types of institutions where you can earn an online bachelor's degree: public, private non-profit, or private for-profit colleges.

  • Public colleges receive part of their budget from state taxes and funnel the money they earn back into the school after covering operating expenses.
  • Private non-profit colleges also channel earnings back into the school.
  • Private for-profit colleges pay money to shareholders and are run more like businesses. They made early headway in the distance learning space, but the others are catching up.
Bachelor's Degree Quick Facts
  • Average Credits: 120
  • Average Duration: 4 years

Choosing an Online Program

Before deciding where to study, you may want to consider what to study, though you can usually make this decision during college or change your mind while attending. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the most popular majors are in business, assorted health disciplines (e.g., nursing and health information management), social science, psychology, and the biological sciences. We offer lists of the most affordable online bachelor's degrees in all these subjects and more.

Depending on your choice, you may pursue a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or bachelor of science (B.S.) degree. B.A.s generally interrogate a subject through a humanities lens, asking students to think critically by examining the historical, social, and philosophical context behind a topic. B.S. degrees are more common in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, in which students conduct experiments and analyze numerical data to draw conclusions.

You can choose a major that interests you, that will help secure the kind of job you want, or that can translate to several kinds of careers. There are many factors to weigh, but you normally won't need to declare your major until your second or third year of college. Some programs have limited capacity and you'll be asked to declare during the application process. A school's website will make it clear if this is the case, and will detail any special application procedures.

Can You Get a Bachelor's Degree in Two Years Online?

There are two ways to get a bachelor's degree in just two years online: attending a school with an accelerated option or transferring credits from an associate degree program.

Some schools structure online degrees to have eight-week terms instead of traditional 15-week semesters, which allows students to complete more classes per year. To finish in two years at a school with eight-week terms, the college also needs to allow students to take three courses at a time, which is more than the typical course load. It takes discipline to complete a degree on this accelerated schedule, along with the means to study full time.

If you've earned an associate degree at an accredited school, you may be able to complete online bachelor's degree requirements in two years. Some schools allow students to transfer up to 90 credits, so check the credit transfer policy for each school you're considering.

Finding an Accredited Undergraduate Program

Colleges that earn national accreditation have proven that they've periodically met quality standards set by the Department of Education. Regional accreditation is even more highly sought-after because it allows students to easily transfer credits between institutions accredited by one of the seven regional-accrediting bodies (one accrediting body for two-year colleges and six for four-year colleges in different areas of the country). Individual programs may also earn programmatic accreditation from organizations that specialize in particular subjects. For example, the #6 best affordable school, Western Carolina University, is nationally accredited, regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and programmatically accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education for its online B.S. in nursing (among several other accredited programs).

You may want to check a school's accreditation first during your research, because it's a good baseline indicator of a school's quality. Attending a nationally accredited school means you can apply for federal financial aid, and attending a regionally accredited school ensures easier credit transfer if you decide to switch schools or pursue a graduate degree. Every school on our site is nationally or regionally accredited, and you can find the accrediting bodies that certify them listed below our rankings lists.

Cost of an Online Degree

How Much Does an Online Bachelor's Degree Cost?

Of the schools we researched in order to rank the most affordable online bachelor's degrees, the median annual tuition is $11,728 at public schools and $13,950 at private institutions.

In general, online tuition is lower than tuition for on-campus programs at both private and public institutions because schools can increase their enrollment without making large infrastructure upgrades. In addition, public schools sometimes charge the in-state tuition rate regardless of an online student's residency (e.g., at #2 Clayton State University).

During a school search, you can estimate the total price by calculating the tuition cost per credit hour at a given school and multiplying this by the total number of hours needed to graduate (usually 120 for bachelor's degrees). Then add any fees noted on a school's website, such as technology fees, e-books, or equipment rental — you'll often find these fees in the tution or financial aid sections of a school's site. Financial aid can help alleviate some costs.

How Can I Get My Bachelor's Degree Online for Free?

You're unlikely to find a program that's completely free, but some colleges do offer competitive merit-based scholarships or need-based grants that cover 100% of tuition and leave the student responsible only for additional fees. There are also tuition-free online colleges, but tuition is not the whole story. These schools often charge course-completion fees and other costs, which may still add up to less than the typical cost of tuition at other colleges. However, always make sure you check the accreditation of any school you're considering — some tuition-free colleges aren't accredited. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) reviews accrediting organizations to make sure they maintain high standards and features a search tool where you can check the status of schools, programs, and accrediting bodies.

What Is the Most Affordable Way to Get a Bachelor's Degree?

Online degrees usually cost less than in-person degrees, so review the colleges on our most affordable and best affordable online bachelor's programs lists for any that interest you. Also review the available financial aid options, especially funding that doesn't need to be repaid, such as scholarships and grants. You can earn credits at a two-year college and transfer them toward a bachelor's degree, because community colleges tend to have relatively low tuition. Most transfer students move to four-year colleges before graduating with an associate degree, but completing the two-year program can provide a more affordable option. Make sure to attend an accredited junior college and choose a bachelor's program that accepts at least half the total credits from outside (many online programs allow up to 90 out of 120 credits).

Funding an Online Bachelor's Degree

Higher education is more expensive than ever, but most students secure at least some financial aid to ease the burden. In the 2017-2018 academic year, 86% of undergraduates accepted federal, state, institutional, or private funding to help pay for their degrees. The types of financial aid vary greatly, and the most sought-after forms are need-based grants and merit-based scholarships. These funds reduce future debt because they don't need to be paid back, so it's best to exhaust these opportunities before turning to loans that require repayment with interest. Prospective students might also choose a federal work-study program in which they work part-time for their college in order to receive a tuition grant.

Online students can pursue all of these options, though work-study may not be possible unless they live near their school. In addition, some scholarships may be specific to campus-based students (though others may be tailored to online students). Finally, state aid is usually unavailable to online students who don't live in their college's home state. Check your institution's financial aid page to learn what's available and how to apply, and call the financial aid office if you have questions that the site doesn't answer.

Careers for Online Graduates With a Bachelor's Degree

What Are the Highest Paying Online Degrees?

In general, earning a degree will set you up for a higher paying job. Professionals with bachelor's degrees earn more than those without (a median of $500 more a week than workers with a high school education).

Payscale's College Salary Report details the high starting salary potential of a bachelor's degree in any type of engineering, with petroleum engineering strong in both early-career and mid-career pay. Operations research and physician assistant graduates tend to land high-paying jobs early in their careers as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also breaks down the highest paying occupations by the level of education required for entry. This might be a helpful resource, but the data on the bachelor's degree chart requires some nuance. BLS lists chief executives and several types of business managers among the highest earning jobs requiring a bachelor's degree for entry, but people in these positions often earn master's degrees and work for years before reaching the highest levels of pay.

Are Online Bachelor's Degrees Worth It?

Bachelor's degrees lead to higher wages and reduced unemployment over the course of a career, and the stigma around online education is decreasing as more schools create accredited online-only programs. The COVID-19 crisis could accelerate this process, but HR managers were warming to online degrees even before the pandemic forced college students into remote learning: a 2019 survey reported that 61% viewed online and in-person degrees equally. Still, most colleges understand the lingering perception of low-quality online degrees, so many of them use identical transcripts and diplomas for online and traditional students (e.g., Southern Utah University).

Any degree requires a significant upfront investment in money and time, even if the salary and employment security benefits pay off in the end. If you do decide to earn a degree, your learning style may not be conducive to remote education or you may be admitted to an on-campus program that you feel is a better fit. Undergraduate degrees can confer many benefits, but you have a wealth of choice in where and how you study — only you can decide whether an online program is worth it for you.