Most Affordable Online Colleges & Degrees Methodology

Eligible schools for this list must meet the following requirements:

  • The institution has fully online degrees that meet degree requirements for a given ranking.
  • The school is institutionally accredited.
  • The school meets online representation requirements.

Schools are then ranked by manually researched online tuition.

Fully Online Degrees

In order to qualify for OnlineU's rankings, a school must have fully online programs available. A fully online degree is defined as such when the majority of lectures, discussions, and assignment submissions occur through a remote learning management system. OnlineU manually collects this information from college websites. Schools with programs requiring some on-campus coursework are still considered for OnlineU's rankings if the amount of in-person work is limited to two weeks per year.

Overall Rankings for Degree Levels: Colleges must offer a minimum number of distinct and fully online degrees at the featured degree level for inclusion on OnlineU lists. In this way, OnlineU prioritizes the colleges with a variety of online degree options for potential students to choose from.

Program Rankings: Schools must offer at least one fully online degree in a given subject for the featured degree level.

Online Representation

In order to qualify for OnlineU's rankings, a school must have sufficient "online representation." Therefore, all ranked schools must have a significant portion of the student population represented as distance learners. This information is based on enrollment data from the NCES' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Data Sources

Manual Collection

The OnlineU staff manually researches tuition costs and online degrees on official school websites. Out-of-state tuitions are represented unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Colleges with tuitions over $30,000 are excluded from rankings. Figures are accurate at the time of publication; please check with the institution for its current tuition rates.

If you are a school representative and have corrections or additional data on your school's offerings, please contact us.

National Center for Education Statistics

Acceptance rates, programmatic accreditation, and the profit status of schools is based on data from the NCES, the primary governmental entity that gathers and presents data related to education. Although the NCES updates its data annually, it does not release data into downloadable formats until it has been approved. Therefore, the most current available data is not based on the most recent academic year. Additionally, OnlineU utilizes data from the NCES to determine a school's eligibility for inclusion on rankings lists.

Our ranking lists sometimes include partner schools, however we use the same methodology for all schools (partner or non-partner) when developing these lists.