In this ranking, we examine the best values among cheap online colleges.
One of the reasons people often choose to attend college online is because it is a more affordable option than traditional school. 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, see below for our list of the 10 cheapest online colleges.
10. National Paralegal College
National Paralegal College’s affordable tuition rates aren’t the only reason this school is one of the best cheap online colleges. Before you even pay a dime, you can sign up for a two-week trial period and try out NPC’s classes at no cost – and it doesn’t get much cheaper than free! National Paralegal College also provides all textbooks for 100-level courses through its “custom-developed online courseware,” thus saving you an extra financial burden when you first start the program. You can also earn credits for past general education and paralegal courses, so you’ll only pay for exactly the education you need. Veterans are especially likely to agree that NPC offers some of the best, cheapest degrees online thanks to special military tuition assistance programs.
Net Price: $13,709/yr
9. Colorado Technical University-Online
Accredited, cheap online degrees are in abundance at Colorado Technical University, 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 advisors 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.
Net Price: $13,796/yr
8. Bryant & Stratton College
Bryant & Stratton College believes that “your decision to attend college shouldn’t be driven by your ability to pay…but by your interest in the degree program.” And while plenty of universities tout similar values, few can genuinely claim to be among the cheapest online college options. B&S, on the other hand, combines its already affordable tuition with loans, grants, and scholarships that will give you plenty of financial flexibility as you pursue your degree. Students can also talk to expert financial advisors and use the school’s online Net Price Calculator to determine how much they can expect to pay over the duration of their time in college.
Net Price: $13,172/yr
7. Grantham University
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 you’ll have to pay back; Grantham is incredibly generous when it comes to scholarships also. In fact, in 2013, this top online college awarded some $4.7 million in scholarships to its students.
Net Price: $12,808/yr
6. Amridge University
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.
Net Price: $12,992/yr
5. Trident University International
Trident University International has become successful among cheap online colleges because it saw an opportunity – an opportunity to deliver “a compelling pedagogy at affordable tuition levels.” In pursuit of its goal, TUI has created some of the top cheapest degrees online. Students can access unique financial aid options at each level of study (bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and non-degree seeking) and tap into Trident’s useful online resources, like the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet and Net Price Calculator. There are some particularly great options for veterans and members of the armed services: the Military Education Grant provides tuition discounts of up to 36%!
Net Price: $11,572/yr
4. City Vision College
In keeping with its Christian mission statement and strong moral values, City Vision College is committed to helping those who cannot help themselves – and that includes struggling college students! In addition to Pell Grants and loan programs, CVC offers some impressive tuition discounts, including 25% off to military members/veterans and employees of both Rescue Missions and the Salvation Army. And if you’re a ministry intern, you could get an incredible 40% off advertised tuition rates! It’s not surprising that the school performs so well on this cheapest online degree ranking, and other sources agree; CVC has been ranked the 16th most affordable Christian college in America and is in the 95th percentile among all nonprofit private universities for its low tuition rates.
Net Price: $10,409/yr
3. New England College of Business and Finance
Even if you manage to obtain a cheap online degree and graduate without debt, your fiscal responsibility won’t mean much if you can’t earn a decent income post-grad. 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, International Marketing, and Digital Marketing, students can feel confident that they’ll be successful in the job market – and watch their savings account grow even larger!
Net Price: $9,563/yr
2. American Public University System
In its effort to offer a high-quality education at a low cost, American Public University has left no stone unturned, inventing some 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.
Net Price: $9,572/yr
1. Western Governors University
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 – the lowest on this cheap degree online ranking – it’s understandable that so many distance ed. learners choose Western Governors. In addition, alumni of the university regularly achieve 98% employer satisfaction and earn an average of $9,000 in salary increases within three years after graduation, making WGU not just a cheap college, but also a smart investment.
Net Price: $8,624/yr
See our methodology page for more information about how we calculated this ranking.*
*For this ranking, we deviated slightly from the standard methodology. Because the focus was exclusively on cost, we only considered schools with tuition rates below $20,000 a year. After narrowing our list, we then used data from College Navigator to pick those with the lowest net price. However, we did not use graduation rates in the methodology in order to maintain a strict focus on affordability.
This concludes our ranking of the 10 best values among cheap online colleges.
By CVO Staff
Published March 2016