We developed this ranking for readers interested in identifying graduate schools with the cheapest online masters degree offerings.
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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 University. 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. 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 degrees. Annual tuition 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 Low Cost Grad School Offerings
#1. Georgia Institute of Technology
Computational Science and Engineering
Georgia Tech offers high-value online STEM degree programs. Among these 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 engineering and computer science programs at Georgia Tech are consistently ranked in the top ten in the United States by U.S. News and World Report.
#2. Amberton University
MBA in Management
All degrees 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 online. The MBA in management features classes like finance, management, economics, ethics for decision making, and theory and application of research methods.
#3. Fort Hays State University
Ed.S. in Educational Leadership
Most of the graduate programs offered by Fort Hays State University 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 masters degree available.
#4. University of Arkansas
Master of Science in Engineering
The cheapest masters degree programs at the University of Arkansas are the MS in engineering, MS in electrical engineering, and the MS in engineering management. It’s not often that a school’s cheapest online graduate degrees are high-return STEM programs. The MS in engineering is delivered in eight-week sessions throughout the year, and students can enroll at the beginning of any session.
#5. Columbia Southern University
Master of Business Administration
Columbia Southern University offers a full MBA program, including your choice of concentrations in finance, healthcare management, human resource management, marketing, project management, and public administration. All the graduate programs at CSU are priced the same so you can choose from MS in criminal justice administration, MS in organizational leadership, master of public administration, master of public health, or MS in occupational safety and health.
#6. Graceland University
Online MA in Religion
Graceland University offers an incredibly affordable online MA in religion degree. The 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 program includes courses like Christian theology, history of Christian thought, community of Christ, and contemporary culture and theologies.
#7. Arkansas State University
Master of Public Administration
It should be noted that all thirteen online master’s degrees offered by Arkansas State University in subjects like education and engineering cost the same. We chose to spotlight the Master of Public Administration because this is the cheapest MPA degree we’ve seen and you can even choose between concentrations in public management or non-profit management. This cheapest masters degree program can be completed in as few as 18 months.
#8. Southeast Missouri State University
Master of Business Administration
The cheap online MBA offered by SEMO features concentrations in general management, sport management, and health administration. The school offers eight other online graduate programs, all at the same low tuition rate. Other programs include MS degrees in management, healthcare management, criminal justice, and technology management. SEMO also offers online MA degrees in multiple areas of the education field.
#9. Marshall University
MA in Mathematics
Marshall offers nine total graduate programs, all at the same low rate. We chose to spotlight the MA in mathematics because it’s a unique hybrid online program. Hybrid doesn’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. 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 masters degree programs out there.
#10. University of Central Missouri
Master of Science in Aviation Safety
All sixteen of UCM’s online graduate degrees cost the same cheap price (including an MBA). We chose to spotlight the MS in aviation safety because it’s a unique degree you don’t find much online. The 32-credit 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.
Financing your affordable online graduate degree
When financing higher education. your first order of business should always be to check FAFSA for information. This is the primary government organization responsible for funding higher education, 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 graduate degrees and the aid from FAFSA, it’s likely you will be able to pay the rest out of pocket if you’re working while in the program. Another option for those who don’t want to work while they earn the 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 degrees 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 can be found at Pew Research.
Why earn a cheap graduate degree online?
Much is made of getting a 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 those schools aren’t accessible to everybody. 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 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 degrees. That’s OK. There are plenty of affordable options where you can learn what you need to succeed in the future. There are many quality schools to choose from in our ranking, including main-campus state universities, and our top-ranked Georgia Tech, which is one of the top STEM schools in the United States. Your education doesn’t have to be expensive to be good or valuable.
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