One of the reasons people choose to attend college online is because it is a more affordable option than traditional schooling. You can save money by living at home, avoiding lengthy – and sometimes costly – commutes, and opting for cost-effective e-textbooks and online modules over traditional resources. That being said, not all online colleges are created equal, and many are hiking tuition rates as distance education becomes more mainstream. So if you’re living on a budget, what are your options? For starters, please see below for our list of the 30 cheapest online colleges ranked according to raw affordability.
Cheapest Online College Programs – 30 Best Values Methodology
For this ranking, we focused exclusively on cost and only considered schools with tuition rates below $13,000 per year. After narrowing our list, we used data from College Navigator to pick schools with the lowest undergraduate tuition. Our list of schools are ranked according to raw affordability.
#30 – New England College of Business
Undergraduate Tuition: $12,120
New England College of Business offers some of the cheapest online college programs on our list. Even if you manage to obtain a cheap online degree and graduate without debt, that won’t mean much if you can’t earn a decent income after graduation. Luckily, schools like the New England College of Business and Finance offer students accredited online degrees cheaply, conveniently, and efficiently. One of the college’s biggest financial aid initiatives is the Corporate Partnership Program, which provides 25% tuition discounts to eligible employees of certain companies. And because NEC focuses on industry-relevant topics such as business administration, digital marketing, and international marketing, students can feel confident that they’ll be successful in the job market after they graduate.
#29 – Colorado Technical University
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,960
Accredited and cheap online colleges like Colorado Technical University provide opportunities where students of all financial means can enjoy a high-quality education. CTU works to make its impressive academic programs available to as many people as possible, as evidenced by its supportive financial aid programs and advisers who can help you map out a plan for success. And unlike some other online colleges, which only offer loans or minor discounts, Colorado Tech provides an impressive number of scholarship opportunities to students; awards such as the Advantage Grant, which assists those with “extreme personal and/or financial hardships,” go above and beyond in making CTU home of some of the cheapest degrees online. In addition to affordability, CTU is recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.
#28 – Adams State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,440
Adams State University ranks as one of the cheapest online colleges on our list. The school offers comprehensive online programs for non-degree students seeking certificates and access to online courses. In addition to certificates, the school offers bachelor’s, master’s, and select doctoral degrees that can be completed online. Undergraduate programs include bachelor’s degrees in business, media industry and communication, sociology, and teacher education. Graduate programs, particularly master’s degrees, include counselor education, kinesiology, MBA, and public administration. The programs are highly affordable, with eight-week fast-track or traditional sixteen-week class formatting. Adams State is a top online institution in Colorado and ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Recent 2020 rankings for Adams State include #87-#113 in best regional universities in the West.
#27 – University of Arkansas
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,130
University of Arkansas, one of the most affordable online colleges on our list, offers in-state tuition for students enrolled in approved online degree programs. These programs are flexibly designed to give students balance to work, family, and school responsibilities. A large number of online undergraduate and graduate programs are available, as well as doctoral, licensure, and certificate programs. A sampling of the online bachelor’s programs includes disciplines such as accounting, communication, general business, interdisciplinary studies, human resource and workforce development education, and nursing. All courses offer a self-paced structure that add to the convenience of earning an online degree. In addition to offering budget-friendly tuition, University of Arkansas ranks with U.S. News and World Report. These rankings include #153 in best national universities and #167 in best value schools.
#26 – Tennessee State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,792
Tennessee State University (TSU Online) ranks among the most affordable online colleges on our list. TSU’s distance education allows access to high quality courses and programs to residents of Tennessee, as well as individuals living anywhere in the nation. If you’re looking for an online bachelor’s degree, you’re in luck. Affordable options from TSU include bachelor’s programs in interdisciplinary studies, professional studies, sociology, and urban studies. Graduate online degrees include business administration (MBA), nursing, professional studies, public administration, and social work. TSU offers online programs for less than $9,000 per year. TSU ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.
#25 – University of Central Arkansas
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,752
University of Central Arkansas (UCA Online) ranks among our top picks for cheap online colleges. UCA Online provides quality programs at an affordable price. In fact, the benefits of attending a UCA Online program include 24/7 technical support, access to UCA instructors, affordable tuition rates, and financial aid for qualified students. UCA offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Bachelor’s programs include general business, insurance and risk management, management information systems, and RN to BSN nursing. Master’s programs include business, education, and instructional technology, to name a few. With affordable tuition, UCA is a top choice for online education. Also, UCA ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.
#24 – Arkansas State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,607
Arkansas State University, recognized among the cheapest online colleges on our list, offers accredited programs at all degree levels. Known as the A-State Online community, nearly 5,000 students participate in online programs. For those seeking online bachelor’s degrees, Arkansas State offers programs in business administration, communication, creative media, criminology, psychology, and sociology. An online RN to BSN is also a popular program. Graduate students are also in luck with choices like an online master’s in education, engineering management, or public administration. Arkansas State ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national university and top performer on social mobility.
#23 – Lamar University
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,373
Affordable tuition (less than $8,400 per year) earns Lamar University a spot on our list of cheapest online colleges. Lamar University (LU) provides bachelor’s and master’s degrees to qualifying students, which may be completed entirely online. LU Online undergraduate degree programs include business, criminal justice, entrepreneurship, general studies, industrial engineering, industrial technology, management, and sociology. Online courses run in an accelerated eight-week semester session or traditional 15-week semester session. Lamar prides itself on offering quality accredited programming at an affordable price. In addition to accreditation, Lamar ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national institution.
#22 – Marshall University
Huntington, West Virginia
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,128
Marshall University, one of the affordable online colleges on our list, offers undergraduate and graduate online degree programs for working students. Interested in a bachelor’s degree online? Great news! Undergraduate degree programs at Marshall include studies in geography, medical laboratory science, and nursing (RN option only). These degrees offer online classes taught by Marshall’s qualified faculty. Graduate degrees are also available online. Some popular online master’s degree programs include counseling, education, journalism, and leadership studies. The online MBA, also available at Marshall, offers emphasis areas in management and military management. Marshall also ranks with U.S. News and World Report. Ranking include #293-#381 in best national universities.
#21 – West Texas A & M University
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,935
Fully online degree programs can be found at affordable online colleges like West Texas A&M University. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, West Texas A&M’s online programs are both flexible and conveniently designed for working students. Several online undergraduate programs are offered for qualifying individuals. These programs include bachelor’s degrees in communication studies, computer information systems, criminal justice, economics, emergency management, marketing, and nursing (RN to BSN) to name a few. Graduate online programs include master’s degrees in computer information systems and business analytics, counseling, education, engineering, and nursing (MSN). West Texas A&M offers one of the most comprehensive pool of online programs on our list. In the most recent edition of Best Colleges, U.S. News and World Report ranks the institution #75 in best regional universities in the West.
#20 – Thomas Edison State University
Trenton, New Jersey
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,519
Thomas Edison State University offers some of the cheapest online college programs on our list. For close to $7,500 per year, students may earn online bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Also, online certificate programs and associate degree programs are available. With over 30 online bachelor’s degrees offered, Thomas Edison meets the needs of its working students. Programs cover a wide range of disciplines, including communications, criminal justice, nursing (BSN), organizational leadership, and psychology. There are 15 online graduate programs, including accounting, cybersecurity, educational leadership, liberal studies, management, and nursing. Thomas Edison State is recognized by major publications like U.S. News and World Report as a top regional university in the North.
#19 – Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,418
For cheap online colleges in the Midwest, Southeast Missouri State University offers affordable bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Accredited, ranked, and budget-friendly programming earn Southeast Missouri a spot on our list. For those seeking online bachelor’s degrees, a variety of disciplines are available. Undergraduate programs include applied technology, business administration, computer information systems, criminal justice, family studies, healthcare management, and nursing. The online nursing degree is an RN to BSN program. In addition to bachelor’s programs, Southeast Missouri offers a large number of master’s programs. Graduate degrees may be earned in general management, healthcare management, public administration, or secondary education to name a few. According to U.S. News, Southeast Missouri ranks #78 in best regional universities in the Midwest.
#18 – Chadron State College
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,384
Chadron State College earns a spot on our list of cheapest online colleges with affordable annual tuition of less than $7,400. In addition to affordable in-state tuition, Chadron does not have out-of-state tuition costs. In other words, everyone pays the same low price no matter where you live. Both online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are offered by Chadron. Bachelor’s degrees may be acquired in applied sciences, business, education, math, and psychological sciences. Master’s degree programs include business administration (MBA), education (M.Ed.), and organizational management (MSOM). Chadron State ranks with U.S. News and World Report among top regional universities in the Midwest.
#17 – Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,364
Ranked as offering some of the cheapest online college programs on our list, Appalachian State University allows students to connect to its vibrant campus whenever they want and from wherever they are. By taking online classes taught by university professors, students may earn their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Online certificate programs are also available. Some of the online bachelor’s degrees offered include a BS in communication studies, BS in elementary education, BSBA (business administration), BSN (nursing), and BSW (social work). Online master’s programs include the MBA (business administration) and MLS (library science). App State ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 6th best regional university in the South.
#16 – University of Alaska Southeast
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,092
University of Alaska Southeast, recognized as one of the most affordable online colleges, offers degrees and certificates through distance learning. Occupational endorsements include accountant, financial institutions, and healthcare IT. Certificates in accounting technician, healthcare privacy and security, and small business management are also available. In addition to certificates, bachelor’s and master’s degrees are offered online. Degrees may be earned in business, education, public administration, or teaching for an affordable price. In addition to offering accredited and affordable online programs, University of Alaska Southeast has received rankings from reputable publications. U.S. News ranks University of Alaska Southeast #87-#113 in best regional universities in the West.
#15 – Minot State University
Minot, North Dakota
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,064
With a $7,000 annual undergraduate tuition sticker price, Minot State University lands a spot on our list of cheapest online colleges. Undergraduate and graduate programs and certificates are available online. Popular Minot State bachelor’s degrees available online include criminal justice, early childhood education, management information systems, marketing, and nursing (RN to BSN). Online graduate programs include education, information systems, management, special education, and sports management. In addition to degree programs, online certificates for grad students are also available in areas like cybersecurity and special education. Minot State ranks #111 in best regional universities in the Midwest and #32 in top public schools.
#14 – Amridge University
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,900
At Amridge University, there is a multitude of ways students can take advantage of its affordably cheap online degrees. In addition to the typical federal financial aid programs and government grants that most schools offer, Amridge has developed some unique initiatives for eligible students. For example, the Corporate Alliance Program offers tuition discounts to applicants who are currently employed by one of the school’s corporate partners (check the website for more details). What’s more, Amridge has designed its curriculum so that you can attain full-time status (and thus maximize your eligibility for financial aid) with three classes instead of four. Amridge is one of our top picks for cheap online colleges.
#13 – American Public University
Charles Town, West Virginia
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,880
Another cheapest online college on our list includes American Public University, or APU. In its effort to offer a high-quality education at a low cost, American Public University has left no stone unturned, inventing some very creative ways to save students money. Undergrads can take advantage of a “university book grant” that provides textbooks at no charge, while a staggered withdrawal schedule provides students the opportunity to receive partial course refunds – even if they have to drop classes late in the semester. Military members, as well as the “military affiliated,” (which includes military spouses, dependents, and those in the National Guard/Reserve) can earn generous tuition grants that actually cap the maximum amount they can pay per credit. In addition to affordable tuition, APU has earned recognition from major publications like U.S. News and World Report.
#12 – Southern Utah University
Cedar City, Utah
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,770
Southern Utah University lands a spot on our list of most affordable online colleges thanks to its low undergraduate tuition and financial aid awards. Online programs are plentiful at Southern Utah University. For those seeking bachelor’s degrees, online options are available in accounting, business administration, communication, elementary education, general studies, and nursing. In addition to online bachelor’s degrees, online master’s programs are also available for working students. These programs include accounting, business administration, communication, education, and public administration. Also, two associate’s degrees can be completed online – Associate of Arts or Science and AA or AS in legal studies. Southern Utah University ranks #72 in best regional universities in the West, according to U.S. News and World Report.
#11 – Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, Utah
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,670
Western Governors University describes itself as an “innovative and surprisingly affordable online university.” Why is it so surprising? Because you wouldn’t expect such a superior college to provide so many accredited, cheap degrees online. WGU’s programs are flexible, self-paced, and customized to your schedule and experience, and many students finish their bachelor’s in less than four years. Given the rock-bottom tuition, it’s understandable that so many distance ed. learners choose Western Governors. Affordable undergraduate tuition of less than $7,000 per year earns WGU a top spot on our list of affordable online colleges.
#10 – Grantham University
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,540
Grantham University makes the top 10 for most affordable online colleges on our list. Even among the best cheap online colleges, Grantham University has attracted attention as the source of some of the absolute cheapest online degrees available nationwide. Its low tuition rate is among the 5% most affordable in the country (among private and for-profit schools) and nearly 95% of Grantham students receive some level of financial assistance from the university. And that doesn’t just include loans that students will have to pay back; Grantham is also incredibly generous when it comes to scholarships. The school has been recognized by U.S. News and World Report and is fully accredited.
#9 – Valdosta State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,410
Looking for cheap online colleges? Valdosta State University offers affordable undergraduate degrees that can be completed entirely online. For less than $6,500 per year, Valdosta State offers online bachelor’s degree programs in areas of business, education, health professions, humanities and communication, science and technology, and social and behavioral services. Online master’s programs include M.Ed. degrees in adult and career education, education leadership, elementary education, and instructional technology. Additional master’s degrees are also available online. Valdosta State ranks with U.S. News and World Report. In addition to offering accredited programs, Valdosta boasts rankings like top national universities and top business programs.
#8 – Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,326
Eastern New Mexico University’s budget-friendly tuition price for undergraduates make it one of the affordable online colleges on our list. With a designated Office of Distance Learning, the school offers 100% online courses for both graduate and undergraduate degrees. Online bachelor’s degree programs at ENMU include one of the largest selections on our list. Students may earn an online bachelor’s in accounting, aviation science, business, criminal justice, electrical engineering, hospitality management, nursing, and more. Online graduate programs at ENMU include master’s degree in business administration, communication, elementary education, English, nursing, sport administration, and more. In addition to the wide array of online courses and accredited degree programs, ENMU ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 87th-113th best regional university in the West.
#7 – Columbus State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,134
Columbus State University ranks among our top affordable online colleges due to its low tuition price for undergraduate students taking online courses. There are eight online undergraduate degrees, twenty-eight online graduate degrees, and several certificates and endorsements also available online. For bachelor’s degrees online, students may enroll in programs like business, communication, information technology, liberal arts, nursing, or sociology. Columbus State’s online master’s programs include applied computer science, curriculum and leadership, education, nursing, public administration, and teacher leadership. In addition to being a SARA approved institution, Columbus State ranks with U.S. News and World Report. In fact, 2020 rankings include #75 in best regional universities in the South.
#6 – Columbia Southern University
Orange Beach, Alabama
Undergraduate Tuition: $5,535
Columbia Southern University ranks among the cheapest online colleges on our list. For nearly 25 years, CSU has offered online resources for adult learners to achieve academic goals. Carefully designed programs include all levels of education, such as bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and associate degrees. Courses are taught by CSU professors and programs are fully accredited and affordable. Bachelor’s programs available online include studies in business, criminal justice, emergency medical services, health, homeland security, and more. The online master’s degree programs include business, criminal justice, health, human resources, and public administration, to name a few. For those interested in a doctoral program in business, CSU offers the Doctor of Business Administration.
#5 – Clayton State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $5,419
Looking for cheap online colleges that are accredited? Clayton State University has affordable programs designed for working individuals. Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are available online. Bachelor’s programs include accounting (BBA), administrative management (BAS), English (BA), homeland security (BAS), and political science and government studies (BS) to name a few. Clayton State’s master’s programs include the MBA, MSN, MSLD, and MS in supply chain analytics. Clayton State offers affordable tuition under $5,500 per year for undergraduate students earning an online degree. Also, Clayton State ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report among the best regional universities in the South.
#4 – Georgia Southwestern State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $5,381
One of the cheapest online colleges on our list, Georgia Southwestern State University, offers undergraduate programs costing less than $5,400 per year. As part of the school’s mission to cultivate academic excellence in learning and teaching, GSW offers both courses and degree programs online taught by university professors. Through distance learning, students from any geographic location may earn their online degree. Programs include bachelor’s degrees in business or criminal justice and master’s degrees in business, business and computing, and nursing and health sciences. Georgia Southwestern ranks #96-#122 in best regional universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report.
#3 – Fort Hays State University
Undergraduate Tuition: $5,130
Fort Hays State University, one of the cheapest online colleges on our list, offers undergraduate degrees online for nearly $5,000 per year. With more than 200 online degree and certificate programs, Fort Hays State has one of the largest number of programs available for online students. Whether you are seeking an associate’s degree, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, or certificate, Fort Hays offers a variety of studies. Popular online FHSU bachelor’s programs include accounting, agricultural business, business education, computer science, management, or marketing. Master’s programs available online include business administration (MBA), counseling, education, and special education among others. Fort Hays also offers one doctorate in nursing practice (DNP).
#2 – Aspen University
Undergraduate Tuition: $3,920
Cheap online colleges, such as Aspen University, offer online programs for less than $4,000 per year. Aspen University even offers payment plans that allow students to make affordable monthly payments while earning their degree. These payment plans start as low as $250/month. Online bachelor’s programs include studies in business administration, criminal justice, early childhood education, nursing (RN to BSN), and more. Master’s degrees, associate’s degrees, and certificates may also be earned online. Aspen University is a fully accredited institution that has received rankings with U.S. News and World Report. Some of the college’s rankings include the graduate nursing school and its quality programs.
#1 – Great Basin College
Undergraduate Tuition: $3,128
The cheapest online college on our list is Great Basin College, an accredited institution that has received rankings with U.S. News and World Report. Great Basin is recognized as a pioneer in long-distance education and offers a diverse array of degrees and certificates that are entirely online. Programs include bachelor’s degrees in digital information technology, English, graphic communications, management and supervision, nursing, and social science. Fully online associate’s degrees are also available with specializations in criminal justice, education, general business, and other disciplines. Great Basin lands the #1 spot on our list of cheap online colleges thanks to its low undergraduate tuition of approximately $3,000 per year.
This concludes our ranking of the 30 best values among cheap online colleges.
By CVO Staff
Published February 2020