We developed this ranking for readers interested in identifying graduate schools with the most affordable online master degree programs.
Thanks to affordable online master’s degree programs, a good graduate education doesn’t have to cost you as much or more than a house. In this ranking of the cheapest graduate degrees we feature schools like Georgia Tech, University of Arkansas, and Arkansas State. These are top-notch schools that offer some of the cheapest online graduate degrees around. All of Georgia Tech’s online graduate degrees are in the STEM field, which means they have incredible return on investment, and the investment is still small. Still, whether you’re looking for an accredited program in information science, teacher education, or fine arts, there’s an affordable program available for you fully online. Our methodology for uncovering these affordable online master’s programs was simple. Universities were ranked from least expensive to most expensive, with ties broken by the school offering the greatest number of low-cost graduate programs. Annual tuition for online master’s degree programs was determined by taking the per-credit tuition of each school and assuming a pace of nine credits per semester. All universities ranked here are regionally accredited (schools without regional accreditation were not considered for this ranking).
Ranking the Top Affordable Online Graduate Programs
#1. Georgia Institute of Technology
Computational Science and Engineering
Georgia Tech offers high-value online STEM degree programs, which happen to be some of the most affordable online master degree programs. Among these online master’s degree programs is the online computational science and engineering degree, which is just $170/credit. At 30 credits, the course comes out to just $5,100 for a full world-class engineering degree. The graduate program in engineering and computer science online degrees at Georgia Tech are consistently ranked in the top ten in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has fully accredited Georgia Institute of Technology to offer these affordable online master’s programs.
#2. Amberton University
MBA in Management
All master’s degrees online at Amberton University cost the same, whether it’s an MBA in management, or an MS in family studies. In fact, the undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate level degrees all cost the same regardless of program or whether they are taken in-person or via online learning. In terms of online master’s degrees, the MBA in management features classes like finance, management, economics, ethics for decision making, strategic leadership, and theory and application of research methods. Financial aid is available for eligible graduate students.
#3. Fort Hays State
Ed.S. in Educational Leadership
When it comes to online graduate programs, most of the online master’s degree programs offered by Fort Hays State are quite affordable. This includes the featured online Ed.S. in educational leadership degree. All online students pay the virtual college rate listed here instead of resident/non-resident rates. However, if non-residents take any classes on-campus for their program, they pay the non-resident tuition for all courses. So it’s best to make sure you only take online courses if you want to get the cheapest online masters degree available via distance learning. No GMAT scores or other graduate test scores are required for admission, and transfer credits may be considered.
#4. University of Arkansas
Master of Science in Engineering
The cheapest online master’s degree programs at the University of Arkansas are all online M.S. degrees: the MS in engineering, MS in electrical engineering, and the MS in engineering management master’s degree online. It’s not often that a school’s cheapest online master’s programs are high-return STEM programs. Additionally, the MS in engineering is an online master’s program delivered in eight-week sessions throughout the year, and students interested in this online master’s degree program can enroll at the beginning of any session.
#5. Columbia Southern
Master of Business Administration
Home to a standout online master’s program, Columbia Southern offers a full MBA program, including your choice of concentrations such as finance, human resource management, marketing, project management, and management information systems. All the online master’s degree programs at CSU are priced the same so you can choose from a master’s degree online in criminal justice administration, master’s in organizational leadership, master of public administration, master of public health, or master’s degree in occupational safety and health.
#6. Graceland University
Online Master of Arts (MA) in Religion
One of the best online graduate schools for master’s degrees, Graceland University offers an incredibly affordable online MA in religion degree. The online master’s degree program is designed to meet the needs of a variety of students whether they wish to go into ministry or pursue an academic career. The master’s degree program includes courses like Christian theology, history of Christian thought, community of Christ, and contemporary culture and theologies. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited Graceland University to offer these online master’s degree programs.
#7. Arkansas State
Master of Public Administration
It should be noted that all thirteen cheap master’s degree programs offered by Arkansas State in subjects like education and engineering cost the same. Of these affordable online master’s programs, we chose to spotlight the Master of Public Administration (MPA master’s degree) because this is the cheapest MPA degree we’ve seen and you can even choose between master’s programs with concentrations in public management or non-profit management. All credit hour requirements for this cheapest online master’s degree program can be completed in as few as 18 months.
Related: Quickest Masters Degree Online
#8. Southeast Missouri State
Master of Business Administration, Master of Science, Master of Arts
One of our most versatile online programs, the cheap online MBA offered by SEMO features distance education concentrations in general management, sport management, and health administration. The school offers eight other good online master’s programs, all at the same low tuition rate. Other online master’s degree programs for prospective students include Master of Science degrees in management, health sciences, human services, healthcare management, criminal justice, and information technology management. One of the best public schools for online master’ degrees, SEMO also offers online MA master’s degrees in multiple areas of the education field including early childhood education, secondary education, and special education, all of which embody academic excellence.
#9. Marshall University
MA in Mathematics
Home to some of the best online master’s programs, Marshall offers nine total graduate programs, all at the same low rate. Of these online programs, we chose to spotlight the MA master’s degree in mathematics because it’s a unique hybrid online master’s degree program. Hybrid master’s degrees don’t mean you have to go to campus, but it does mean that some of your classes you must attend live digitally. This is so you have a chance to interact with the class in real time, despite earning an online degree. There is an optional area of emphasis in statistics for students who are interested in studying stats more in depth in one of the cheapest master’s degree programs out there.
Related: Master’s in Statistics Jobs
#10. University of Central Missouri
Master of Science in Aviation Safety
All sixteen of UCM’s online master’s degrees cost the same cheap price (including an MBA). We chose to spotlight the MS master’s degree in aviation safety because it’s a unique degree you don’t find much via distance learning. The 32-credit online program features courses like human dynamics in the cabin, human error and fatigue, flight deck ergonomics, air traffic control error management, physiological human factors, and principles of aviation accident causation. In addition to online coursework, quality education and support services are available to online students.
Financing Your Affordable Online Master’s Degree
When financing your online master’s degree, your first order of business should always be to check FAFSA for information on financial aid such as federal student loans and grants. This is the primary government organization responsible for funding higher education, including graduate school, and all of the best widely available grants and loans are available through them. Normally after your FAFSA aid you would rely on institutional scholarships and grants, as well as private loans. But between the affordability of these online master’s degrees and the aid from FAFSA, it’s likely you will be able to pay the rest out of pocket without incurring student debt if you’re working while in the program. Another option for those who don’t want to work while they earn their online master’s degree is to take out enough financial aid to cover the cost of the degree and your cost of living while you earn the degree.
Earnings Difference Between Undergraduate And Graduate Degrees
According to Pew Research, the value of all higher education has been steadily increasing since 1984 even after adjusting for inflation. Bachelor’s degree earnings have increased in value by 13%, master’s degrees by 23%, and doctorates and professional degrees by 34%. These increases start out small in the beginning of a career because everybody is making entry-level money. But mid-career and late-career the differences in earnings grow significantly. More details about undergraduate degree and graduate degree wages can be found at Pew Research.
Why Earn An Affordable Online Master’s Degree?
Much is made of getting an online master’s degree from a “good school”. Most of the time “good school” means schools with good reputations. Schools that, just the name of the institution will open doors for you. And that’s not a bad strategy, but prestigious public and private schools aren’t accessible to all prospective students. And based on your needs, that kind of reputation might not be all that helpful to you. For instance, most public and private school teachers tend to get paid the same wages whether they earned their graduate degree from Harvard or their local state university. If you’re a small business owner or aspiring entrepreneur, maybe you just want the business administration degree for practical reasons, not to impress anybody. Maybe you didn’t have the grades in college and don’t have the money now to afford more expensive online degree programs. That’s OK. Whether you’re studying elementary education, human resources, or aerospace engineering via distance education, there are plenty of affordable online programs where you can learn what you need to succeed in the future. There are many quality online schools to choose from in our ranking, including main-campus state universities, and our top-ranked accredited institution Georgia Tech, which is one of the top STEM schools in the United States. Your online education doesn’t have to be expensive to be good or valuable.
Other Schools Offering Online Master’s Degree Programs
Check out the master’s-level distance learning programs from these schools as well:
- Liberty University
- Lamar University
- Wilmington University
- Oklahoma State University
- North Carolina State University
- National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator
- Pew Research Center