Most Affordable Overall Online Colleges & Degrees Methodology

To be considered for our Most Affordable Online Colleges, schools needed to meet the following requirements:

  • Overall list: offer at least five fully online degrees at the bachelor's level and at least five fully online degrees at the master's level
  • Bachelor's list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees at the bachelor's level with programs that cover at least three subject areas
  • Master's list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees at the master's level with programs that cover at least three subject areas
  • Doctoral list: offer at least three fully online degrees at the doctoral level with programs that cover at least two subject areas

Tuitions were manually researched and reflect the lowest tuition rate available at the specified degree level. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Tuition was calculated assuming full-time status. Unless otherwise stated, bachelor’s programs were assumed to require four years to complete and associate and master’s programs were assumed to require two years to complete.

Fully Online Status

Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work required was limited to less than two weeks. This allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.

Data Sources

Acceptance rates, programmatic accreditation, and profit status of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES is the primary governmental entity for gathering and presenting data related to education. NCES data are updated annually. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until they have been approved, so the most current available data will not be for the most recent academic year. We also use data from the NCES to determine the list of eligible schools for these rankings. Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from official school websites, reflecting data for the 2019-2020 school year. These data were collected in August of 2019.

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