Students can save money and benefit from a flexible learning format with affordable online degrees. An increasing number of schools feature online programs in their academic offerings. Learners can pursue affordable higher education to begin or enhance their careers.
The following ranking highlights the top affordable colleges online. We selected these schools from a thorough research process focusing on what makes an affordable online college degree a worthwhile pursuit. For more information on distance learning, visit our ranking of the top online colleges.
Tuition and enrollment data were sourced from College Navigator and the online colleges' respective official websites.
Questions About Online College
Q. What is the cheapest online university?
A. Students who are looking for affordable college options should consider looking into in-state or online courses. Students can also make college more affordable by applying for scholarships or grants.
Q. Is getting a degree online cheaper?
A. While some online colleges offer a lower rate per credit than in person courses, often online degrees are cheaper because students do not need to pay for on-campus housing, meal plans, commuting, and other fees that are required when attending school on campus.
Q. Can you get an online college degree for free?
A. There are a few online colleges that offer free online tuition, including University of the People. Students who are interested in taking classes for no credit can also find online courses available for little to no cost.
Featured Online Schools
How Much Does Online College Cost?
According to the Education Data Initiative, in 2021 the average cost of an online bachelor's degree was $38,496, an out-of-state degree was $54,183, and an online private college degree cost $60,593 on average. Students who are pursuing a bachelor's degree online can expect to be in school for about four years, some programs offer accelerated or summer courses which allow students to graduate sooner. While students do not need to pay for on-campus housing, meal plans, or commuting costs, they may need to pay for technology, online materials, or books. Students should also look into any in-person requirements, some programs may require students to attend orientation or a lab on-campus.
Online College vs On-Campus Experience
Students who are interested in online college can benefit from course flexibility. Most online colleges offer both asynchronous and synchronous coursework. Asynchronous courses mean the students can learn at their own pace, generally this means watching videos, viewing seminars, and completing assignments by a designated deadline. Synchronous courses mean the class will meet a designated time every week or other week. Generally students who prefer self paced programs should seek out asynchronous courses, while students who prefer conventional courses should enroll in synchronous courses.
If an on-campus experience is still appealing to students, then a hybrid schedule may work well. Hybrid courses mean students complete part of the course online and then go to campus for a lab or in-person meetings. This type of coursework allows students to still have an on-campus experience, without needing to be on-campus for all courses.
Top Most Affordable Colleges Online
The University of Alabama is the state’s flagship institution. The school has proven high academic standards for its students, faculty, and curriculum. UA is known to produce high-achieving graduates, some of which include Rhodes Scholars, Goldwater Scholars, and other distinguished alumni. The University of Alabama also has a top affordable college online, offering over 70 online degrees. For continued affordability, UA grants credits based on prior learning or work-related projects.
Based in Chicago, Columbia College is a respected school that attracts strong students and seasoned professors. Columbia’s low-tuition online college is designed to meet the flexibility needs of almost any type of student. Columbia College online offers associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. Students can major in business, computer science, or history. Other options include political science, psychology, or nursing. Columbia College’s online students benefit from the same advisement and career services as on-campus students.
Georgia Southwestern State University offers small class sizes and a variety of degree paths. GSW’s online division provides the same quality education at affordable tuition rates. Georgia State Southwestern keeps its per-credit-hour rate well below $300. Among the affordable online school’s degree options include a BS in criminal justice and a BS in business administration. Students can also earn a BS in information technology, an MS in nursing, and an MS in computer science. Georgia Southwestern State designed its online programs to cater to students with varying needs.
American Public University is an exclusively online institution. It provides over 200 degrees and certificates. Courses run on either eight or 16-week plans. As one of the most affordable colleges online, APU features a low cost-per-credit rate for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Among American Public’s most popular online academic programs include sports and health sciences and psychology. Learners can also study criminal justice, environmental science, and intelligence studies. Online students also benefit from small class sizes, study resources, and academic advisors.
Since 1854, Central Methodist University has made high-value, low-tuition education possible for students with diverse interests. This top school has an education model that fosters communication, curiosity, and community. CMU’s affordable online college features eight or 16-week courses, providing flexibility for distance learners seeking a bachelor’s or advanced degree. Among Central Methodist’s low-cost degrees online include accounting, child development, and RN-to-BSN. Learners can also study sociology, criminal justice, and sports management. CMU online master’s programs include an MS in either math or nursing.
Fort Hays State University's affordable online college offers a student-centered education that works with individual career goals. The school boasts low tuition rates and committed faculty and prepares students for the workforce. FHSU’s online students may select from twenty bachelor’s degrees and ten master’s degrees. This college has the unique distinction of requiring no fees associated with the online tuition rate.
A public polytechnic institution, Oregon Institute of Technology offers degrees in health technologies, communication, and psychology. Students can also major in management and applied sciences. The school provides online degrees from the associate to master’s level, as well as certificate and specialization options. Oregon Tech Foundation offers over 125 scholarships.
Affordable with a wealth of educational resources, the University of Virginia has repeatedly been recognized for its high-value degrees. UVA online provides the same academic rigor as the college’s on-campus counterpart. Students seeking to enroll in the low-cost online college can take undergraduate degrees or graduate certificates. For example, learners can study health sciences, interdisciplinary studies, information technology, and cybersecurity management.
The University of Arkansas maintains a 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio, ensuring personal attention in courses. This school's affordable distance learning degrees vary from certificate to doctoral opportunities. Among the low-tuition online degrees include a bachelor of arts in communication, master of education, and doctor of education in educational leadership. UA has consistently been ranked among the best value online degrees in the nation.
Designed for working students seeking an affordable and flexible degree, Amberton University offers the same tuition rate for both undergrad and graduate degrees. Amberton is a Christian-based institution, with low-cost online degrees that students can begin at the start of any semester that works with their goals. Amberton offers online degrees such as a BA in professional development and a BS in applied studies. Other options include an MA in Christian counseling and an MBA in strategic leadership.