By BCR Staff
Distance-learning programs can be an excellent way to save money and earn a degree with needed flexibility. An increasing number of schools are adding online degrees to their academic offerings, thus casting a global net to students pursuing affordable higher education.
The following ranking represents the top 25 affordable colleges online for 2018. These schools were selected from a thorough research process focusing on what makes an affordable online college degree a worthwhile pursuit. For more information on distance learning also visit our ranking of the top online colleges.
In determining the order of this ranking, we awarded points based on:
- Affordability and high value of online colleges (1-6 points)
- Scholarship opportunities available to students enrolled in the online degree programs (1-5 points)
- Range and available online degrees and online courses (1-5 points)
- Quality of online learning environment (1-5 points)
- Level of degree track and course flexibility for adult learners (1-5 points)
- Recognition from other recognized, credible academic publications (1-3 points)
- An additional point was awarded for noteworthy features that made it a top affordable college online
In the event of a tie in points, the school with the lower net price appears higher in the ranking
Tuition and enrollment data was sourced from College Navigator and the online colleges' respective official websites.
The following list of ranked colleges represents the 25 affordable colleges online.
#25 – Northern Arizona University
Program Cost: $458 per credit-hour (undergraduate)
Founded in 1899, Northern Arizona is a progressive academic community that values diversity in student body and faculty. NAU's affordable online school has over 125 areas of study for students to pursue; students who enroll in these degrees receive the same top-notch education as NAU's campus students. Among the degrees in this wide-ranged online school include health sciences, business administration, psychology, nursing, sociology, education, and much more. To make tuition even more affordable, NAU provides numerous scholarship and grant opportunities for qualified students.
#24 – Valdosta State University
Program Cost: $250 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $505 per credit-hour (graduate)
Based out of Georgia, Valdosta State University has a rich academic history that spans over a century. VSU's online learning division is home to highly affordable distance-learning degrees. VSU online is a flexible option for students to earn a degree in multiple study areas; these specialization areas include communications, health professions, education, business, liberal arts and STEM. Valdosta State's online college also offers a SmartPath program that allows distance learners to accelerate their degree track.
#23 – Indian River State College
Program Cost: $390 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $530 per credit-hour (graduate)
Indian River State College is a reputable school with a committed faculty and diverse academic profile. IRSC's virtual campus is where students can find a multitude of associates and bachelor's degree choices; among these choices include associate degrees in business administration, computer information, and technology. IRSC undergraduate online students can also enroll in bachelor's degrees in business administration, criminal justice, organizational management, and more. Indian River State College works with each student to find ways to maximize tuition financing.
#22 – Florida International University
Program Cost: $212/329 per credit-hour (undergraduate only)
With a distinguished faculty and 96% student-retention rate, Florida International University has proven to be a high-value, low-cost degree option. FIU online has distance-learning opportunities that include bachelor's of arts in anthropology, biology, business administration, computer science, nursing, and several others. Additionally, FIU has over 80 master's degrees and specialization options. FIU consistently reassesses the quality level of its online learning environment.
#21 – Park University
Program Cost: $399 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $549 per credit-hour (graduate)
Widely considered a best value college, Park University has earned accolades for both its academics and low-tuition rates. This top affordable college online is especially suitable for working adults who require flexibility. Park University is also popular with military members and their families, largely due to their accommodating practices and considerable tuition discounts. Park's online programs include 24 bachelor's eight graduate and multiple certification opportunities; these programs include online degrees in management, business administration, education studies, military history, computer science, communication, and much more.
#20 – Southern Utah University
Program Cost: $200 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $300 per credit-hour (graduate)
A community-focused school, Southern Utah University is continuously included among the best value colleges in the country. SUU maintains its excellence in its distance-learning paths, proving to be a top affordable online college. Distance learning students enrolled in SUU can major in accountancy, communication, management, and general studies. Southern Utah is among the growing list of schools that will assess life and work experience for college credit; this possibility adds to potential savings to earning a top affordable online college degree.
#19 – The University of North Dakota
Program Cost: $350 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $400 per credit-hour (graduate)
With nearly 15,000 enrolled students from over 80 countries, the University of North Dakota is a large institution recognized on a global scale. UND's low-cost online program has an area of interest for nearly any student; these areas include arts/humanities, business, education, engineering, nursing, math, human sciences, and technology. This affordable distance education college has earned accolades from U.S. News and World Report, Affordable Colleges Online, and among several others. UND is reported to have one of the lowest loan default rates.
#18 – Brigham Young University
Program Cost: $167 per credit-hour (undergraduate only)
Brigham Young University in Idaho is a wholesome private college that is affiliated with the Church of Latter-day Saints. BYU Idaho has affordable online degree options, offering certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor's degrees. Among BYU's top online degrees include applied management, software engineering, interdisciplinary studies, nursing RN to BSN, among many others. Additionally, BYU online offers the option of "stackable degrees," allowing students to complete associates, bachelor's and certificate programs concurrently.
#17 – Jackson State University
Program Cost: $405 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $480 per credit-hour (graduate)
A designated "high research activity university," Jackson State University is a technically advanced, affordable opportunity in higher learning. JSU's quality degree programming extends to its inexpensive online school; this distance learning offering has undergraduate, graduate and specialist programs, all of which designed to establish or advance students' careers. Among the numerous online degrees include a B.S. in criminal justice, B.S. in childcare and family education, master of business administration, M.A. in history, M.S. in special education, or M.S. in sports science. For further degree enhancement, speciality programs are available in education, special education, or educational administration.
#16 – King University
Program Cost: $305 per credit-hour (undergraduate)
Based in Tennessee, King University is a private college with a dynamic academic community. This high-ranked university expanded its degree opportunities to distance-learning, providing an affordable college online with career-centered degree paths. The majority of King's online degrees are on a bachelor's level, including but not limited to a B.A. in English, B.S. in communication, B.S. in criminal justice, B.S. in social work, and B.S. in information technology. On a graduate level, King's online has an MBA, master of education, and an MS in nursing. King's online school has earned accolades from numerous respected names in education such BestColleges.com, Niche, and Colleges of Distinction.
#15 – Mississippi State University
Program Cost: $340 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $430 per credit-hour (graduate)
Founded in 1878, Mississippi State University has continuously evolved as a global-minded, diverse education opportunity. MSU has established an affordable school online, offering in-state tuition rates for all students, making education accessible to even more budget-conscious applicants. Students enrolled in MSU online are provided with advanced technology, seasoned professors, and excellent curriculum. Among Mississippi State's distance-learning degrees include B.S. degrees in elementary education, industrial technology, and interdisciplinary studies; MSU's affordable online master's degrees include engineering, agribusiness management, biology, engineering, and many others.
#14 – West Texas A&M University
Program Cost: $300 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $400 per credit-hour (graduate)
A top college with high academic standards, West Texas A&M University has a proud history in education. This college's online division is a mainstay on U.S. News and World Report's "Best Online Programs" ranking, largely due to its stellar accessibility for veterans. West Texas' "Education on Demand" option is a self-paced online course opportunity, where distance learners can accelerate a specific course length. WTAM's low-tuition online degree programs span business administration, health sciences, criminal justice, RN to MSN, finance, and economics, and an MBA with multiple available emphasis areas.
#13 – Aspen University
Program Cost: $150 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $325 per credit-hour (graduate)
Aspen University is a 100% online school, offering numerous academic options and degree flexibility. Aspen is an affordable online school with a mission to keep their tuition rates low; additionally, this college works with each individual's ability to pay, offering generous monthly payment plans and assistance. This top school has over 50 degree options, spanning associates to doctoral degrees; this range of degrees are divided into four specialized schools that include School of Professional Studies, School of Nursing, School of Education, and School of Business and Technology.
#12 – University of Iowa
Program Cost: $312 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $522 per credit-hour (graduate)
The University of Iowa is an enormous academic network of eleven schools, all combined to provide degree options to a vast spectrum of special interests. University of Iowa's affordable online college is another means to earn a degree, and distance-learners can flexibly select from 40 different programs. The University of Iowa online has academic programs from that range in undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates; among these programs include a BA in enterprise leadership, political science, BS in sport and recreation management, an MA in learning sciences, strategic communication, MS in nursing, and many more. Adding to this school's affordability is its scholarship opportunities for online students.
#11 – Drury University
Program Cost: $299 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $359 per credit-hour (graduate)
Recently ranked a best value school by Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Drury University has a solid reputation for high academic standards. Drury's affordability extends to its low-cost online degrees, which are part of Drury's college of continuing professional studies. Drury's online course professors are known to be attentive, knowledgeable, and tech-savvy with the online course interface. This school has associates and bachelor's distance learning degrees, some of which specialize in behavioral science, history, criminal justice, emergency management, psychology, and more. Drury has numerous scholarship opportunities for qualified applicants.
#10 – Amberton University
Program Cost: $265 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $265 per credit-hour (graduate)
Designed for working adults seeking an affordable and flexible degree, Amberton University uniquely offers the same tuition rate for both undergraduate 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. Among Amberton's online degree offerings are six bachelor's and twelve master's programs; these degrees include a BA in professional development, BS in applied studies, an MA in Christian counseling, MBA in in strategic leadership, MA in marriage and family therapy, and more. This college encourages payment options that lessen the potential for accruing long-term student loan debt.
#9 – University of Arkansas
Program Cost: $246 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $420 per credit-hour (graduate)
The University of Arkansas is a large academic institution, enrolling nearly 30,000 students in 2017. UA maintains a 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio, ensuring personal attention in courses. This college's highly impressive and affordable distance learning degrees run the gamut from certificate to doctoral opportunities. Among the low-tuition online degrees include a bachelor of arts in communication, master of education, doctor of education in educational leadership, to just name a few. UA has consistently been ranked among the best value online degrees in the nation.
#8 – University of Virginia
Program Cost: $313 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $418 per credit-hour (graduate)
Affordable with a wealth of educational resources, the University of Virginia has repeatedly been recognized for its high-value degrees. UVA online is no exception, proving to provide the same academic rigor as the college's campus counterpart. Students seeking to enroll in the low-cost online college can take undergraduate degrees or graduate certificates, some of which include health sciences, interdisciplinary studies, information technology, cybersecurity management, and more. Kiplinger's Personal Finance has recently ranked Oregon Tech as 3rd in "Best Public College Value."
#7 – Oregon Institute of Technology
Program Cost: $245 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $350 per credit-hour (graduate)
A public polytechnic institution, Oregon Institute of Technology is a truly unique academic experience. Oregon Tech's flexible, affordable college online is focused on areas of study in health technologies, communication, psychology, management, and applied sciences. The distance-learning opportunity gives degrees from associates to master's, additionally including certificate and specialization programs. Oregon Tech Foundation offers over 125 scholarships, adding up to $345,000 for its students.
#6 – Fort Hays State University
Program Cost: $213 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $280 per credit-hour (graduate)
Fort Hays State University's distance learning program has ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News and World Report. FHSU's affordable online school is a student-centered education that works with individual career goals. FHSU's graduates have given the online degree experience glowing reviews for its low tuition, faculty commitment, and workforce preparedness. FHSU's online students may select from twenty bachelor's degrees and ten master's degrees. This college has the unique distinction of having no fees associated with the online tuition rate.
#5 – Central Methodist University
Program Cost: $200 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $300 per credit-hour (graduate)
Since 1854, Central Methodist University has made high-value, low-tuition education possible for diverse degree-area interests. This top school has an education model that fosters communication, curiosity, and community. CMU's affordable online college has eight or sixteen-week courses, maximizing flexibility for the distance-learner seeking a bachelor's or advanced degree. Among Central Methodist's low-cost degrees online include, but are not limited to accounting, child development, nursing RN to BSN, sociology, criminal justice, and sports management; CMU online master's programs include an MS in either math or nursing.
#4 – American Public University
Program Cost: $270 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $350 per credit-hour (graduate)
American Public University is an exclusively online institution, providing the utmost flexibility in earning a degree. APU has over 200 degrees and certificates, and courses run in either eight or sixteen-week plans. Among the most affordable college online, APU has low cost-per-credit for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Among American Public's most popular online academic programs include sports and health sciences, psychology, criminal justice, psychology, environmental science, and intelligence studies. Online students additionally benefit from small class sizes, highly resourceful study resources, and attentive academic advisors.
#3 – Georgia Southwestern State University
Program Cost: $216 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $257 per credit-hour (graduate)
Georgia Southwestern State University is a student-centered higher learning experience, offering small class sizes and a wide range of degree paths. GSW's online division provides the same quality education at affordable tuition rates. Georgia State Southwestern's distance learning degree programs are accessible to nearly any student's budget, keeping its per-credit-hour rate well below $300. Among this affordable online school's degree options include a BS in criminal justice, BS in business administration, BS in information technology, MS in nursing, MS in computer science, and more. Georgia Southwestern State's online programs are designed to suit a diverse range of student needs.
#2 – Columbia College
Program Cost: $305 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $415 per credit-hour (graduate)
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 has degrees spanning associate to master's, all of which offer such topic areas as business, computer science/mathematics, history, political science, psychology, nursing, criminal justice, or general studies. Columbia College's online students benefit from the same advisement and career services as campus students.
#1 – The University of Alabama
Program Cost: $355 per credit-hour (undergraduate), $375 per credit-hour (graduate)
The University of Alabama is the state's flagship institution, welcoming a record-setting 38,563 students in 2017. This college 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 online college, offering degree choices from undergraduate to doctoral level. For continued affordability, UA grants credits based on prior learning or work-related projects.
The preceding list represents the top 25 affordable colleges online.