Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 11/24/2021

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, how to choose an affordable program, accreditation, cost considerations for your online education, and whether online bachelor's degrees are worth it.


2021 Most Affordable Bachelor's Degrees Badge

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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

Art & Design
# 1 Southern New Hampshire University Online
Annual tuition: $9,600
# 2 Liberty University
Annual tuition: $11,700
# 3 Central Michigan University
Annual tuition: $13,454
Business
# 1 Aspen University
Annual tuition: $4,500
# 2 California Coast University
Annual tuition: $4,725
# 3 Clayton State University
Annual tuition: $5,490
Computer Science
# 1 Fort Hays State University
Annual tuition: $6,560
# 2 Western Governors University
Annual tuition: $6,750
# 3 Lamar University
Annual tuition: $7,440
Engineering
# 1 Lamar University
Annual tuition: $7,440
# 2 University of the Potomac
Annual tuition: $7,785
# 3 American Public University System
Annual tuition: $8,640
Law
# 1 Western Carolina University
Annual tuition: $5,670
# 2 Fort Hays State University
Annual tuition: $6,778
# 3 Abraham Lincoln University
Annual tuition: $7,500
Nursing
# 1 Tallahassee Community College
Annual tuition: $2,570
# 2 Florida SouthWestern State College
Annual tuition: $2,753
# 3 East Georgia State College
Annual tuition: $2,850

2021 Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degree Details

#1
#1
Annual Tuition: $5,067
Annual Tuition: $5,067
Annual Tuition: $5,067

Part of the state's public college system, the University of North Carolina's Pembroke campus was founded in 1887. The school offers 28 online bachelor's degree completion programs, many in interdisciplinary studies. To enroll in a program, students must have completed at least 45 credit hours of general education classes at UNC or another accredited institution. The school has an 85% acceptance rate, and incoming first-year students typically have an average ACT score of 20, an SAT score of 1000, and a 3.4 GPA.

Financial Support Overview

UNC's online tuition fees are significantly lower than its on-campus tuition, regardless of whether students are in-state or out-of-state residents. Students can also save money by attending full time, as UNC charges a flat tuition fee for students taking 12 or more credit hours. In addition, enrollees may be eligible for numerous school-sponsored scholarships, including approximately 300 endowed scholarships and NC Promise, a state-run last dollar scholarship program.

Online Student Resources

  • Library services
  • Tutoring
  • Academic advising
  • Technical support

Explore programs at University of North Carolina Pembroke >>


  • Online Degrees: 28
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Acceptance Rate: 81%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1080
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,435
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 853
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (910) 521-6000

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Sociology
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Applied Education Studies
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Applied Education Studies - Learning and Development
  • Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Applied Professional Studies
#2
#2
Annual Tuition: $5,079
Annual Tuition: $5,079
Annual Tuition: $5,079

Clayton State University, a public university near Atlanta, has been educating college students since 1969. The school currently offers over 15 online bachelor's degrees. The most popular program is nursing, but students can also study business management, history, and more. CSU offers some degree completion programs, but students must have completed at least 35 credit hours of preliminary coursework to be accepted. The school uses the Brightspace learning platform to deliver online courses, enabling students to access coursework and interact with peers and instructors remotely.

Financial Support Overview

CSU's online tuition rates are comparable to its traditional, in-state tuition rates. Online students are also eligible for many institutional and departmental scholarships. For example, the Coca-Cola Foundation provides scholarships for first-generation students and women who demonstrate academic achievement and financial need. Also, veterans are eligible for the school's tuition assistance program.

Online Student Resources

  • Writing center
  • Tutoring
  • Academic advising
  • Technical support

Explore programs at Clayton State University >>


  • Online Degrees: 19
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 30%
  • Acceptance Rate: 42%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,153
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 275
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (678) 466-4000

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Administrative Management
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Administrative Management - Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Administrative Management - General Studies
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Administrative Management - Organizational Leadership
  • Bachelor of Arts in English
  • Bachelor of Arts in English - Literature
#3
#3
Annual Tuition: $5,463
Annual Tuition: $5,463
Annual Tuition: $5,463

Opened in 1913, Valdosta State University is a public institution offering degrees in a diverse range of fields. The school features eight fully online, 120-credit hour bachelor's programs in subjects such as business management, office administration and technology, and organizational leadership. VSU accepts 57% of applicants, and incoming students typically have an ACT score of 34 and an SAT score of 920. The school offers special programs for first-year students to help them adjust to college life, and a Military Outreach Center provides services for active-duty service members and veterans. One of VSU's strengths is its study abroad program for students who want a global experience.

Financial Support Overview

The school's online tuition rate is the same as its in-state tuition rate. At VSU, 97% of full-time incoming undergraduates receive financial aid in some form, with 87% receiving federal grants. The school also offers several alumni-sponsored scholarships.

Online Student Resources

  • Counseling services
  • Job placement services
  • Academic advising
  • Technical support

Explore programs at Valdosta State University >>


  • Online Degrees: 10
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,107
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,886
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (229) 333-5800

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in French - Language and Culture
  • Bachelor of Arts in French - World Languages and Cultures
  • Bachelor of Arts in Spanish - Language and Culture
  • Bachelor of Arts in Spanish - World Languages and Cultures
  • Bachelor of Business Administration - Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
#4
#4
Annual Tuition: $5,562
Annual Tuition: $5,562
Annual Tuition: $5,562

Kennesaw State University is a public institution that was established in 1963. Students can select from 17 fully online bachelor's degree programs in disciplines such as information technology, geography, and software engineering. Some programs require students to complete 120-123 credit hours, while others are degree completion programs requiring students to have accumulated at least 40 credit hours before entering the program. KSU accepts 75% of applicants. Typically, first-year students have a 3.36 GPA, an SAT score of at least 1140, and an ACT score of 70.

Financial Support Overview

KSU's online tuition rates are lower than either its in-state or nonresident tuition rates. The school offers a number of need- and merit-based scholarships, and 92% of full-time first-year students receive some type of financial aid. Military students may earn some credits for their service experience, which could reduce the number of classes they need to take.

Online Student Resources

  • Health and wellness services
  • Tutoring
  • Academic skills workshops
  • Technical support

Explore programs at Kennesaw State University >>


  • Online Degrees: 25
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Acceptance Rate: 61%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,315
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,792
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (470) 578-6000
#5
#5

Georgia Southern University

Statesboro (GA)
Annual Tuition: $5,646
Annual Tuition: $5,646
Annual Tuition: $5,646

Founded in 1906, Georgia Southern University is a public university that is part of the University System of Georgia. GSU has been classified as a research institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The school offers five online bachelor's degrees, most notably in World Languages with French, German, and Spanish concentrations. GSU's bachelor's programs typically require 124 credit hours. To be accepted, adult and non-traditional students must have graduated from high school at least five years ago. Those with transferable credits should have a minimum 2.0 GPA. The school has an acceptance rate of 54%, and incoming first-year students have an average SAT score of 1077.

Financial Support Overview

At GSU, online students pay the same tuition rates as on-campus students with in-state residency. Although 95% of first-year undergraduates receive financial aid, it is primarily federal and state aid due to the school’s limited funding for scholarships. However, military students are eligible for special school-sponsored scholarships and other benefits.

Online Student Resources

  • Library services
  • Counseling services
  • Academic advising
  • Technical support

Explore programs at Georgia Southern University >>


  • Online Degrees: 16
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Average SATs: 1050 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,088
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,619
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (912) 478-5391
#6
#6
Annual Tuition: $5,670
Annual Tuition: $5,670
Annual Tuition: $5,670

At Western Carolina University, a public university established in 1889, students may choose among 10 fully online, 120-credit hour bachelor's programs in subjects such as criminal justice and engineering technology. Since some are degree completion programs, incoming students are considered transfer students. Programs are designed with asynchronous classes, so students can complete their education on a full- or part-time basis at their convenience. To apply, students must submit transcripts, standardized test scores, and a fee with their application. Applicants are also subject to a background check.

Financial Support Overview

All online students pay lower tuition rates than on-campus students. However, remote learners can get an even cheaper rate if they are in-state residents. Students may be eligible for WCU merit- and need-based scholarships, and the NC Promise program covers additional tuition expenses unaddressed by federal and state financial aid. Military students may also qualify for special scholarships, tuition assistance, and other benefits.

Online Student Resources

  • Library services
  • Bookstore services
  • Academic advising
  • Technical support

Explore programs at Western Carolina University >>


  • Online Degrees: 12
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 85%
  • Graduation Rate: 62%
  • Acceptance Rate: 39%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,691
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 704
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (828) 227-7100
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $6,114
Annual Tuition: $6,114
Annual Tuition: $6,114

Eastern New Mexico University's main campus, established in 1927, is the state's largest public, comprehensive university. The school offers more than 30 online bachelor's degree programs, typically requiring 120-126 credit hours. Possible online majors include business administration, aviation science, nursing, and accounting. ENMU's primarily asynchronous online courses are taught by the same faculty as on-campus classes but delivered remotely through the Canvas learning platform.

Financial Support Overview

ENMU charges the same flat tuition rate for traditional in-state students and full-time online students who are in-state residents. However, it charges a higher flat tuition rate for full-time online students if they are nonresidents, which is similar to nonresident students studying on campus. The school sponsors several scholarships, such as ENMU Foundation Scholarships. Overall, 97% of first-year undergraduates receive financial aid in some form. This military-friendly school also provides scholarships and other services for active-duty members and veterans.

Online Student Resources

  • Library services
  • Tutoring
  • Counseling services
  • Writing center

Explore programs at Eastern New Mexico University - Main Campus >>


  • Online Degrees: 41
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Acceptance Rate: 60%
  • Average SATs: 900 -1110
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,514
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 917
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (575) 562-1011
#8
#8
Annual Tuition: $6,298
Annual Tuition: $6,298
Annual Tuition: $6,298

Established in 1965, the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay is an eco-friendly campus that’s part of the public University of Wisconsin system. Psychology, accounting, and HR management are a few of the 12 online bachelor's degree programs offered. Most programs require 120-126 credit hours. Applicants must submit transcripts with their application, but standardized test scores are optional. UW Green Bay uses the Canvas learning platform to deliver primarily asynchronous courses to their online learners, who can also take some courses on campus.

Financial Support Overview

At UW Green Bay, tuition fees for online students are slightly higher than in-state, on-campus tuition rates. Students can reduce costs by attending full-time because the school charges a flat rate for 12 or more credit hours. Additionally, online students are eligible for several scholarships sponsored by the university, and military students may be granted credit for their service experience, which may reduce the number of required classes.

Online Student Resources

  • Library services
  • Job search assistance
  • Career skills training
  • Technical support

Explore programs at University of Wisconsin - Green Bay >>


  • Online Degrees: 34
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Acceptance Rate: 76%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,419
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 226
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (920) 465-2111
#9
#9

Western Governors University

Salt Lake City (UT)
Annual Tuition: $6,450
Annual Tuition: $6,450
Annual Tuition: $6,450

Since its inception in 1997, Western Governors University has provided exclusively online college degrees. This non-profit, private institution offers 25 online bachelor's degrees in four fields — business, health, information technology, and education. Applicants must submit transcripts with their application and may need to meet additional requirements depending on their course of study. The school requires students to complete 38-41 courses rather than credit hours. When students demonstrate proficiency in a course's competencies, they may bypass it, allowing some to complete a program in just two years.

Financial Support Overview

At WGU, students pay a flat tuition fee and resource fee every six months. The school offers more than 20 scholarships ranging from $2,000-$6,000, which may contribute to the fact that 75% of first-year undergraduates receive financial aid. Students employed full time may also take advantage of corporate reimbursement programs, and WGU provides tuition assistance for military students.

Online Student Resources

  • Program mentors
  • Career counseling
  • Job search assistance
  • Technical support

Explore programs at Western Governors University >>


  • Online Degrees: 29
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 72%
  • Graduation Rate: 21%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 98,630
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 37,509
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NWCCU
  • Phone #: (801) 274-3280
#10
#10

Arkansas State University

Jonesboro (AR)
Annual Tuition: $6,540
Annual Tuition: $6,540
Annual Tuition: $6,540

Opened in 1910 as an agricultural school, Arkansas State University is now a comprehensive public research university. Students can choose from 14 online bachelor's degrees in business administration, digital technology, and more. Faculty teach both on-campus and online classes, and the mostly asynchronous online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning platform. Most programs require 120 credit hours, and multiple start dates throughout the year allow students to complete their online degrees more quickly. A-State has an acceptance rate of 80%, and applicants typically have an average ACT score of 23.6 and a 3.48 average GPA.

Financial Support Overview

A-State online students pay the same tuition rate as in-state students. To further reduce costs, the school offers six annual institutional scholarships ranging from $2,000-$14,000, and an additional scholarship to military members and their families. Many students also qualify for state and federal aid, with 98% of first-year undergraduates receiving aid in total.

Online Student Resources

  • Program mentors
  • Library services
  • Job search assistance
  • Technical support

Explore programs at Arkansas State University >>


  • Online Degrees: 24
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Acceptance Rate: 66%
  • Average SATs: 1013 -1220
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,064
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,414
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (870) 972-2100

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 most affordable school, Western Carolina University, is 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.

School accreditation can be found in the expanded section of the ranking list items

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 online bachelor's degrees list 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 2018-2019 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 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 business computing 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.