Most of the best-paying jobs in modern times are in one of two areas: either finance, or STEM.
What is a STEM degree?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. And there’s more crossover between STEM and finance than one might initially think. Basically, if you want a degree that will be useful long into the future, a STEM degree is a great choice. If you’re interested in earning a degree in a STEM field, you might want to consider attending a college or university focused particularly on STEM. This comes with numerous advantages.
First, you will be surrounded by students also with aptitude, ability, and interested in the same general areas as you. Being surrounded by peers working on the same things can be immensely beneficial, not just during college, but after graduation. Second, STEM universities tend to focus their resources on maintaining cutting-edge research laboratories, computer labs, and student facilities designed to enhance their STEM degree programs. You will be surrounded by like-minded people in a setting designed to facilitate STEM learning in optimal ways. But many (not all) of the best known STEM-focused colleges and universities are also expensive. They can seem very out of reach to the average student.
Additional information on What is a STEM degree?
So we’ve decided to rank the top 30 most affordable colleges for a STEM degree. For this article, we focused on institutions that identified their STEM major focus through their school name, as indicated by the words polytechnic, technical, or technological. Once we identified these colleges and universities, we selected and ranked the schools according to their tuition costs, starting with the most affordable.
Make sure you check out our FAQ at the end of the ranking for more information about STEM degree programs, the different kinds of STEM colleges and universities, and what you can do with your STEM degree.
STEM Degree List–Ranking the Most Affordable Programs
#1. Florida Polytechnic University
Florida Poly offers several STEM major options: undergraduate degrees in computer engineering, computer science, data science, electrical engineering, engineering mathematics, engineering physics, environmental engineering, and mechanical engineering. Graduate degrees are available in both engineering and computer science. The school is also home to the Advanced Mobility Institute, which tests and develops technology related to autonomous vehicles. AMI is one of the largest university based research organizations specializing in that research.
- Tuition: $4,940
#2. Northwestern Polytechnic University
Located in Fremont, California, Northwestern Poly is a private, non-profit university that offers few degrees and is highly focused. Students can earn an undergraduate degree in computer science, and masters degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. The school of business offers an undergraduate business administration degree with a particular focus on information sciences. The school is currently undergoing the process of applying for regional accreditation with WASC; a process that will be completed in 2022. Prospective students should keep in mind that candidacy is not a guarantee of eventual accreditation.
- Tuition: $10,395
#3. Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology is another highly specialized university and offers degrees at the associate and bachelor’s levels. Bachelor of technology are available in applied technical leadership and information technologies. The IT program offers specializations in cybersecurity and digital forensics, network infrastructure, software development, and instrumentation engineering technology.
- Tuition: $11,160
#4. SUNY College of Technology at Delhi
SUNY Delhi is a public university that offers a number of STEM-related degrees at both the bachelor’s and associate levels. Bachelor’s degrees include information systems auditing, architectural design and building, business and technology management, information technology management, sustainability, and veterinary technology.
- Tuition: $12,330
#5. SUNY College of Technology at Canton
SUNY Canton offers STEM-related degrees at the bachelor’s level in areas like cybersecurity, game design and development, industrial technology management, mechanical engineering technology, mechatronics technology, sustainable energy technology, and applied civil and environmental engineering technology. The school also offers more than 21 bachelor’s degrees online.
- Tuition: $12,580
#6. Arkansas Tech University
Arkansas Tech University offers STEM-related degrees in areas like actuarial science, game and interactive media design, graphic design, biology, environmental science, fisheries and wildlife science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, cybersecurity, mathematics, and information technology to name just a few. Enrollment is around 12,000 students and the university has an 18:1 student to faculty ratio.
- Tuition: $13,236
#7. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Schools with roots in education around the technologies used in mining are often hubs of STEM degrees and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is no exception. Here you will find degrees in areas like biomedical engineering, atmospheric and environmental sciences, chemistry, chemical engineering, mathematics, geological engineering, geology, metallurgical engineering, mining engineering, physics, and the list goes on.
- Tuition: $15,080
#8. New York City College of Technology
New York City College of Technology offers a BS in applied mathematics with a concentration in either information science or science. Students can also major in a variety of engineering technology areas including computer engineering technology, construction technology, telecoms engineering tech, mechanical engineering technology, entertainment technology, and architectural technology.
- Tuition: $15,270
#9. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred
SUNY Alfred is primarily focused on the technology element of STEM, offering degrees in architecture, digital media and animation, game and interactive design, graphic and media design, information technology (applications software development, network administration, and web development), mechatronics technology, and surveying and geomatics engineering technology.
- Tuition: $15,477
#10. Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology
The Ben Franklin Institute of Technology is a small, private, not-for-profit university, located in Boston with just over 600 students. One benefit of this is the 10:1 student to faculty ratio. Students can major in biomedical engineering technology, computer engineering technology, electrical engineering, health information technology, and technology and business management.
- Tuition: $17,550
#11. SUNY Polytechnic Institute
SUNY Polytechnic Institute offers STEM degrees like applied mathematics, biology, civil engineering, computer+information science, electrical+computer engineering, interactive media+game design, nanoscale engineering, nanoscale science, and network+computer security: cybersecurity. The school is located in Utica and offers an online degree in communication+information design.
- Tuition: $18,413
#12. SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill
SUNY Cobleskill offers a variety of STEM degrees, many of which have to do with farming and agriculture. Students can choose from 28 majors in areas like animal science, biotechnology, cybersecurity, environmental and energy technologies, graphic design technology, information technology, plant science, wildlife management, and agricultural equipment technology.
- Tuition: $18,794
#13. West Virginia University Institute of Technology
The West Virginia Institute of Technology offers STEM degrees in the areas of aerospace engineering, biology, chemistry, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, and mathematics. The school is mid-sized with 1,700 students, and an average class size of 17. 9 of its engineering programs are ABET-accredited.
- Tuition: $18,912
#14. Louisiana Tech University
Louisiana Tech has over just under 12,000 students and a 23:1 student to faculty ratio. Just a few of the many STEM degrees offered to students are biomedical engineering (eight concentrations), chemical engineering, chemistry (pre-med and pre-dentistry concentrations), computer science (four concentrations), cyber engineering, electrical engineering, environmental science, mathematics, nanosystems engineering, and physics.
- Tuition: $19,098
#15. Texas Tech University
Texas Tech offers over 90 majors, most of them in a STEM field. Many of the degrees offered also feature several concentrations. Some examples of areas students can major in are petroleum engineering, astrophysics, applied physics, mathematics, microbiology, mechanical engineering, information technology (four concentrations), animal science (ten concentrations), biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and chemical engineering. TTU offers several online degrees but just one online STEM degree, which is in biology.
- Tuition: $19,260
#16. California State Polytechnic University-Pomona
Cal Poly Pomona offers more than 50 majors to choose from, most of which are STEM degrees. The school has just over 24,000 undergraduate students and a 28:1 student to faculty ratio. Students can study aerospace engineering, agricultural science, biology, biotechnology, computer engineering, environmental biology, industrial engineering, physics, and mathematics.
- Tuition: $19,276
#17. Montana Technological University
Montana Tech is heavily focused on STEM degrees, as almost every single degree they offer contains a STEM component. Students can study civil engineering, computer science, geological engineering, geophysical engineering, biological sciences, chemistry and geochemistry, data science, mining engineering, and petroleum engineering to name just a sample of their selection. Undergraduate enrollment is just above 1,500 and the student to faculty ratio is 13:1.
- Tuition: $22,600
#18. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology offers degrees in the areas of biomedical sciences, biotechnology, chemical engineering, chemistry, civil engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering and more. The university strives to ensure that most of their undergraduate students graduate with some experience in research. Undergraduates can participate in a wide variety of research projects at the university.
- Tuition: $23,524
#19. California Polytechnic State University- San Luis Obispo
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has six academic colleges. These are the colleges of science and mathematics (11 majors), business (3 majors), engineering (13 majors), liberal arts (16 majors), architecture and environmental design (5 majors), and agriculture, food, and environmental sciences (15 majors). Most of the programs offered are STEM degrees or STEM-related in some way.
- Tuition: $23,833
#20. Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology has just under 1,000 undergraduate students out of a total student body of just over 4,800. Degrees are offered in applied mathematics, environmental science and sustainability, information systems and information technologies, biotechnology, geospatial technology, and integrative sciences. There is also an online cybersecurity operations and management degree offered.
- Tuition: $23,900
#21. Tennessee Technological University
Tennessee Tech is a public university with a student population just over 10,000 and a student to faculty ratio of 18:1. STEM degrees offered by the university include agricultural engineering technology, environmental agriscience, cellular and molecular biology, bio-molecular engineering, chemical engineering, applied chemistry, computer engineering, computer science, and mathematics.
- Tuition: $24,798
#22. Capitol Technology University
Capitol Technology University is small, with just 743 students, and has a student to faculty ratio of 12:1. The school boasts a high concentration of STEM degrees in the areas of aviation and unmanned systems, analytics and data science, computational systems, cyber and information security, management of technology, engineering and engineering technologies, and security, intelligence, and critical infrastructure.
- Tuition: $26,308
#23. Arizona State University-Polytechnic
ASU Polytechnic is home to just over 4,500 undergraduate students and has an 18:1 student to faculty ratio. The school offers applied science degrees in aviation, graphic information technology, health sciences, and internet and web development. Engineering degrees include concentrations in electrical systems, mechanical engineering systems, and robotics. There are also degrees offered in applied physics, applied quantitative science, and applied mathematics.
- Tuition: $26,548
#24. Indiana Institute of Technology
Indiana Institute of Technology is a private university with an undergraduate enrollment just over 1,500 students and a 16:1 student to faculty ratio. Indiana Tech offers degrees like biomedical engineering, computer science, computer engineering, cybersecurity, energy engineering, network engineering, web development, and a business administration concentration in management information systems.
- Tuition: $27,440
#25. Missouri University of Science and Technology
Missouri University of Science and Technology conducts research in areas like advanced manufacturing, advanced materials for sustainable infrastructure, enabling materials for extreme environments, engineering and computing, and smart living. The school offers 99 degrees across 40 areas of study, including programs like aerospace engineering, applied mathematics, geology and geophysics, nuclear engineering, ceramic engineering, and metallurgical engineering.
- Tuition: $27,484
#26. Oregon State Institute of Technology
Oregon State Institute of Technology offers a number of traditional and online STEM degrees. The undergraduate online STEM degree offered is a bachelor’s in information technology. As far as traditional degrees go, STEM degrees include cybersecurity, applied mathematics, mechanical engineering, nuclear medicine technology, environmental sciences, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and biology-health sciences.
- Tuition: $29,637
#27. New England Institute of Technology
New England Institute of Technology is a private university located in Rhode Island. The undergraduate student population is just over 2,500, and the student to faculty ratio is 13:1. STEM degrees offered include game development and simulation programming, graphics multimedia and web design, software engineering, video game design, mechanical engineering technology, and cybersecurity and network engineering.
- Tuition: $30,840
#28. New Jersey Institute of Technology
New Jersey Institute of Technology was ranked in the top 100 national universities by U.S. News for 2020, and #1 nationally in student economic upward mobility by Forbes. Among the school’s 126 degrees are STEM programs in applied mathematics, applied physics, architecture, biophysics, cybersecurity and privacy, industrial engineering, environmental science, and computer science. NJIT also offers a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, and society with a concentration in cyberpsychology, along with many of its certificates and graduate STEM degrees online.
- Tuition: $32,386
#29. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Tech is ranked in the top 100 universities nationally by U.S. News and World Report and is one of the top STEM-focused universities in the country. Virginia Tech offers undergraduate STEM programs like aerospace engineering, general engineering, architecture, mathematics, cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, computer engineering, computer science, ocean engineering, nanoscience, and systems biology.
- Tuition: $32,835
#30. Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Tech is ranked #8 in the country for engineering by U.S. News and World Report. The university offers undergraduate STEM major options like computer science, architecture, industrial design, aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, environmental engineering, industrial engineering, and nuclear and radiological engineering. Overall the school offers over 20 majors and minors in engineering alone.
- Tuition: $33,794
Frequently Asked Questions About a STEM Major
What is a STEM Major?
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics covers a broad range of subjects. So even if you’re interested in a STEM degree generally, there is still plenty of flexibility. Each of these categories are incredibly broad and are applicable in many contexts. Every single aspect of our lives is influenced in some way by people who study and work in these fields.
It should be noted that the science element of the acronym tends to encompass the natural sciences and not so much the social sciences. Natural sciences include those focused on studying the natural world such as physics, biology, chemistry, geoscience, and astronomy. The main difference on a technical level is that the natural sciences produce testable predictions. The social sciences, while important, are wrapped up in understanding human behavior, which is incredibly complex, nuanced, and difficult to predict in specific ways.
Mathematics in the acronym does not include mathematics education, as those degrees put a greater emphasis on education over application.
What advantages to STEM colleges and universities have for STEM students over schools with a broader focus?
Many fewer students major in STEM subjects than business, education, social sciences, or liberal arts. Attending a STEM-focused school means a much higher concentration of students studying STEM subjects, which means it’s much more likely you will have many peers within your specific program, and in STEM programs broadly, than if you attended a university with a more general approach. This means more chances for collaboration on projects during college. And a network of people in your field and related fields can lead to job opportunities after you graduate.
Are there STEM colleges and universities that offer degrees online?
There are. In fact, there are several STEM schools offering online STEM degrees in our ranking. However, some degrees do not lend themselves as well as others to the online format. Science and engineering degrees specifically, because of their focus on practical application and experimentation, benefit greatly from resources like laboratories. Scientific instruments and engineering equipment, technology, and software tend to be incredibly expensive and aren’t widely available to individuals, especially individual students. Access to those labs, technologies, and equipment makes it, in many cases, much more beneficial to study those subjects in a physical location. So most online STEM degrees fall into the technology or mathematics categories.
What kind of money can I expect to earn with a STEM degree?
It depends on what you study. There are differences, for instance, between the earnings of engineers, and engineering technologists. According to the BLS architects and engineers occupations have median salaries of $80,000-$120,000 per year. Meanwhile engineering technicians earn between $52,000 and $67,000 per year.
Mathematicians, statisticians, and actuaries earn a median salary of $88,190 per year.
Computer and information research scientists have median earnings of around $118,000 per year.
Systems administrators, cybersecurity specialists, and software developers tend to earn between $70,000 and $100,000 per year.
Web developers earn about $60,000 per year.
So in the end it all depends on what you decide to do with your degree. Many people with STEM training start their own businesses and become very wealthy. Others earn great money working in whatever field they studied. The interesting thing about STEM jobs is that even the lowest paying jobs are higher paying than the national average. With just a bachelor’s degree, in most of these fields, you’ll be earning a salary well above that of people with master’s or doctorates in many fields.
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