Online Schools With Low Tuition

Last Updated on December 22, 2022 by Omoyeni Adeniyi

Top Universities-OCR

Sometimes the cost of something makes a difference–especially when the something in question is a bargain. The fifty online universities outlined below range widely in their locations and in the variety of programs offered. What they share, however, is the quality of excellence at a good price. Even if you have not considered an online education for yourself, you probably already know many people who have earned or are earning their college degree with a “distance education.” The value of taking classes at one’s own convenience cannot be overstated, and the diploma gained by online courses is every bit as genuine and useful in the working world as a degree obtained at a brick-and-mortar institution.

The schools reviewed below would most likely recommend their programs not to the recent high school graduate but to students who may have a semester or two of traditional college experience under their belts, simply so that the rigors of coursework are familiar. Online colleges even offer tests you can take to ascertain your readiness and the likelihood your online skills are adequate for the task. Appropriately enough, these tests are online. As a further nod to the more experienced students, schools welcome those who transfer in.

After reading the reviews of fifty affordable universities, you may come to the conclusion that the word “affordable” refers only to the price of tuition for a college education, which you may see as priceless.

Our assessments are based on faculty to student ratio, the number of bachelor’s offerings, USNEWS ranking, presence of associates degrees, per hour tuition rate, five points for regional accreditation.

Why Get an Online Degree?

Choosing an online degree provides many professional and personal benefits, including the following.

  • Affordability: Many students find online programs more affordable than on-campus programs. The cheapest online colleges save students money on tuition, housing, transportation, and other expenses.
  • Convenience: By selecting an online program, students can balance school with professional or personal responsibilities.
  • Flexibility: An online format prioritizes flexibility, allowing students to pursue a college degree around their schedules. Programs that deliver coursework asynchronously let students complete coursework at any time.
  • Online Resources: Online colleges support students through resources like academic advising, online tutoring, writing centers, and career services.
  • Accessibility: By choosing an online format, students can attend the cheapest online college, even if it is not in their local area.

Most Affordable Online Colleges 2023




Graduation Rate: 23%
Retention Rate: 62%
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Median Earnings: $36,240

Accreditation: Regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Cheapest Accredited Online Colleges - 1 great basin college

Great Basin College is a small community college located in Elko, Nevada, with a long history of serving the community’s needs and the local economy. The school offers both associate and bachelor’s degree programs in a wide array of subjects.

The Northwest Commission accredits Great Basin College. This public, state-funded school is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, which serves around 4,000 students. GBC offers a 100% acceptance rate. Great Basin offers dozens of Bachelor’s and Associate’s Degree programs to in-person and online students.

GBC currently has about 4,000 students enrolled annually online in a variety of programs, including associate degrees in Arts, Business, English, Social Science, Graphic Communications, Early Childhood Education, and Applied Science degrees, and bachelor’s degrees in English, Social Science, and Nursing (RN to BSN), and BAS degrees in Digital Information Technology Emphasis, Human Services, Land Surveying/Geomatics Emphasis, and Management and Supervision. This school offers 19 certificate programs and fully online continuing education programs in HealthCare Training and Computing Technology. Popular majors include business, early childhood education, elementary education, nursing, liberal arts, and humanities.

With the lowest tuition on our list, Great Basin College is the cheapest online college for 2023.




Graduation Rate: 67%
Retention Rate: 72%
Acceptance Rate: 97%
Median Earnings: $49,281

Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Cheapest Online Colleges - 2 BYU-Idaho

Brigham Young University-Idaho is located in Rexburg, Idaho. Owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this non-profit college educates over 49,000 students in multiple locations throughout the world. 15,000+ students are enrolled in online classes via BYU – Pathway Worldwide. Online degree programs are offered at BYU-Idaho and Ensign college. BYU-Idaho has recently been named the 16th best university in Regional Colleges West, #23 in Top Performers on Social Mobility and #75 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs by U.S. News & World Report, and #6 in Most Conservative Colleges in America by

BYU-Idaho’s Pathway WorldWide offers nearly 52 online certificates and degrees; 7 associate degrees, 6 bachelor’s degrees, and 39 certificate programs at a very affordable price. Some popular online programs include a bachelor’s degree in Business Management (entrepreneurship, marketing, supply chain and operations management, and more), Public Health, and Marriage & Family Studies, and an associate’s in Family History Research, Web Design & Development, and a variety of other online class offerings. Popular majors at BYU-I include liberal arts and humanities, nursing, information science, business, and public health education.

PathwayConnect students can qualify for admission into BYU-Idaho’s online degree programs by earning a “B” average in PathwayConnect and completing the first course of their chosen BYU-Idaho certificate.

Visit Brigham Young University – Idaho’s Accredited Online Programs




Graduation Rate: 48%
Retention Rate: N/A
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Median Earnings: $54,816

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Affordable Online Colleges - 9 Thomas Edison State University

Thomas Edison State University is a public, state-funded higher education institution educating more than 17,200 students online and on campus. In 2011, Thomas Edison earned the National University Technology Distance Education Innovation Award. This school offers a 100% admissions acceptance rate and 64 undergraduate and graduate online degrees in multiple areas of study, including Liberal Arts and Humanities, Accounting, Medical Assisting, Nursing, and Business Administration and Management, to name a few. Some popular programs at Thomas Edison State University are the associate’s in Nuclear Engineering Technology, Bachelor’s in Homeland Security, Master’s in Hospitality Management, and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

TESU offers 13 online associate degree programs, 34 bachelor’s degree programs online, 17 online graduate degree programs, and multiple undergraduate and graduate certificate programs online. MSCHE accredits this cheap online college. TESU has an open admissions policy. The Middle States Commission regionally accredits TESU on Higher Education.




Graduation Rate: 18%
Retention Rate: 94%
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Median Earnings: $59,367

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Cheapest Online schools - 8 American Public University

American Public University is a private, for-profit online college located in Charles Town, West Virginia, with six academic schools. American Public University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and received the Sloan Consortium Effective Practice Award. Home to more than 98,400 students, 76 percent of graduates reported an improved career after earning a degree from APU, according to In contrast, 69 percent of students said they’d recommend this school to others. ranked the school #29 in Best Colleges for Information Technology in America, #55 in Best Online Colleges in America, and #1 in Best Value Colleges in West Virginia.

American Public University offers 190+ cheap online degrees and certificate programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels, including Military History, Reverse Logistics Management, Space Studies, Electric Engineering, Business, Criminal Justice, Health Sciences, Sports Management, and more. APU offers an open admissions policy and a 93% freshman retention rate.




Graduation Rate: 54%
Retention Rate: 73%
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Median Earnings: $48,210

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Cheap Online Colleges - 3 Western Governors University

Western Governors University is a private, non-profit NWCCU-accredited college that offers online degree programs for over 72,000 students. This institution is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, with six affiliated schools offering over 60 degree programs. For the 2023 year, WGU offers six bachelor’s and five master’s programs in business, four bachelor’s and eight master’s in health profession programs, seven bachelor’s and three master’s in information technology programs, and 10 bachelor’s and 19 master’s in education programs.

For many of WGU’s cheap online programs, many companies’ tuition reimbursement programs cover most or all educational costs for students. WGU offers a 100 percent admission rate and very low tuition.

Western Governors was recently awarded the Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality Online Education by Sloan Consortium and named the #2 Best Value College in Utah in 2022, #27 Best College for Nursing in America, and #1 Best College for Nursing in Utah by According to, 78 percent of students reported improving career prospects after earning an online degree from Western Governors, and 73 percent said they would recommend this school to others. Some of the more popular majors at Western Governors are nursing, business administration and management, elementary education, information technology, and computer information systems.

Visit Western Governors University’s Accredited Online Programs




Graduation Rate: 43%
Retention Rate: 70%
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Median Earnings: $43,869

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, as well as subject-oriented accrediting agencies

Chadron State College educates over 2,500 students on-campus and online. This public, co-educational college was founded in 1911 and is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, with specialized accreditation for some of its programs. This college is ranked as the #12 Best Value College in Nebraska, according to Along with the rankings, gave Chadron State College an overall grade rating of B-.

U.S. News ranks Chadron State at #75 in Top Performers on Social Mobility and #40-52 in Top Public Schools. This affordable online school offers 8 online degrees with no out-of-state tuition or add-ons. Popular degrees at Chadron State include bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration, Family and Consumer Sciences, and a Master’s in Organizational Management. Five Popular majors with the most graduates include Business, Elementary Education, Liberal Arts and Humanities, Criminal Justice Corrections, and Crop and Soil Sciences. Chadron State offers flat-rate tuition, so in-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition.

Visit Chadron State College’s Accredited Online Programs




Graduation Rate: 43%
Retention Rate: 71%
Acceptance Rate: 77%
Median Earnings: $45,458

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, as well as subject-oriented accrediting agencies

Cheapest Online schools - 7 Minot State University

Minot State University is North Dakota’s 3rd largest public, co-educational Master’s I Institution. This school offers a 12:1 student-faculty ratio in an online and on-campus setting with over 2,832 undergraduate program students. U.S. News and World Report rank Minot State at #33 in Top Public Schools, #104 in Regional Universities West, and #155 in Top Performers on Social Mobility in 2022. ranks MSU as the #147 in Top Public Universities in America, #147 Best Colleges for Education in America, #3 Top Public Universities in North Dakota, and #5 Best Value Colleges in North Dakota.

This school was ranked 1255th in-state and 1256th out-of-state on the 2021-2022 PayScale College ROI Report with a $139,000 return on investment. HLC-NCA fully accredits MSU. MSU online offers 20 inexpensive online degree programs with popular programs in Business Administration & Management, Social Work, Special Education, Nursing, and Teacher Education.

Visit Minot State University’s Accredited Online Programs




Graduation Rate: 51%
Retention Rate: 64%
Acceptance Rate: 88%
Median Earnings: $50,006

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Cheapest Accredited Online Colleges - 4 University of Texas Permian Basin

UT Permian Basin is a fast-growing, public research institution established by oil enthusiast Bill Noël in 1973. This school is home to over 5,000 students on the Odessa campus and online school. The University of Texas Permian Basin was recently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the West’s 64th-best college, 30th-best public school, and 55th in Top Performers in Social Mobility in the nation in 2022. As of 2022, this school received an overall B grade at Niche.

The University of Texas Online Consortium (UTOC), of which UTPB is a part, offers some of the cheapest online degrees and certificate programs (6 bachelor’s, 5 master’s, and 3 certificate and endorsement programs), some of which only last 8 weeks. Students can earn an online master’s degree, online bachelor’s program, and/or online certificate in programs such as Psychology, Business Administration, Communications, Sociology, Criminal Justice, Kinesiology, Special Education, and more.




Graduation Rate: 52%
Retention Rate: 75%
Acceptance Rate: 58%
Median Earnings: $45,739

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Cheapest Online Colleges - 10 West Texas A&M University

West Texas A&M University is a public, co-educational research institution with an enrollment of over 9,400 students in the Amarillo, Texas Metro area, satellite campuses, and online. WTAMU has received many prestigious rankings, including U.S. News and World Report Best Online Programs Rankings at #24 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs, #69 Best Online MBA Programs, #15 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, #80 Best Online Master’s in Education Programs for Veterans, #16 Best Online Master’s in Computer Information Technology Programs, to name a few. ranks this school as the #20 Best Hispanic-Serving Institution in America, #28 Best Value College in Texas, and #6 Top Public University in Texas.

WTAMU’s distance education division offers 14 undergraduate, 19 graduate, and 1 Doctoral program and hybrid program through the SREB Electronic Campus. A few of the most affordable online degree programs include Economics, Criminal Justice, a Healthcare MBA, and Finance from associate to bachelor degrees. WTAMU is part of the Texas A&M University System.




Graduation Rate: 32%
Retention Rate: N/A
Acceptance Rate: 100%
Median Earnings: $37,895

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Cheapest Online Colleges - 6 Amridge University

Amridge University, located in Montgomery, Alabama, is “where traditional and online education merges.” This co-educational, private liberal arts college is affiliated with the Church of Christ and enrolls around 800 students in traditional and online degree programs. Amridge University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. According to StartClass, the most popular majors at Amridge are Biblical Studies, Human Development and Family Studies, Business Administration & Management, Criminal Justice & Corrections, and Human Resource Management. This school offers affordable tuition and a great net price with a 100% admissions acceptance rate.

Amridge University offers 40 total degrees and 22 undergraduate and graduate degree programs online. Cheap online degrees are offered through the Turner School of Theology, School of Human Services, School of Continuing Ed, College of Business & Leadership, and College of General Studies. This school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Amridge University is on of the most affordable online universities in the nation.

Visit Amridge University’s Accredited Online Programs

Most Affordable Online Colleges & Universities of 2020

Online colleges offer what was once nearly impossible: the opportunity to earn a college degree while maintaining a full-time job. As universities across the country rush to bring their programs online, students have more distance education options than ever before. With so many choices, it’s important to find the right school for your educational goals and your budget. An online degree is more than a temporary expense: it’s an investment in your future.

What are the most affordable colleges of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Best Online CollegesGET RANKING SEAL

What Are The Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs?

Unsurprisingly, many students prioritize affordability when they begin their college search. And as online education gains even greater prominence, many cost-conscious students begin by looking for the cheapest online colleges in terms of tuition costs. It’s a fair place to start the search, considering how much students save by foregoing room and board, commuting costs, and textbook fees.

Critically, there is a big difference between affordable online colleges and cheap online colleges. Our list below is an attempt to separate the former from the latter. Using our new “College Affordability Score,” we have carefully calculated a list of online universities that offer robust educational opportunities and comprehensive financial aid. These colleges have a proven track record of helping online students graduate, without saddling them with punishing, long-term debt. This data can help you determine which colleges give you the best chance to earn a degree at an affordable price.SORT BYDEFAULTCOSTA-ZEXPAND ALL

1Indiana University – BloomingtonBloomington, INCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 78%
2University of FloridaGainesville, FLCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 54%
3Florida International UniversityMiami, FLCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 58%
4Appalachian State UniversityBoone, NCCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 72%
5University of Central FloridaOrlando, FLCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 73%
6Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca Raton, FLCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 52%
7University of Minnesota – Twin CitiesMinneapolis, MNCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 80%
8University of Illinois at SpringfieldSpringfield, ILCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 51%
9Oklahoma State UniversityStillwater, OKCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 61%
10Missouri State UniversitySpringfield, MOCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 54%
11Colorado State UniversityFort Collins, COCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 71%
12Arizona State UniversityTempe, AZCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 69%
13Thomas Edison State UniversityTrenton, NJCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 54%
14University of Colorado DenverDenver, COCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 48%
15University of MissouriColumbia, MOCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 69%
16Washington State UniversityPullman, WACOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 59%
17University of Houston – DowntownHouston, TXCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 20%
18University of ArizonaTucson, AZCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 64%
19Oregon State UniversityCorvallis, ORCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 67%
20University of Louisiana at MonroeMonroe, LACOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 44%
21University of Nebraska at KearneyKearney, NECOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 58%
22Texas Tech UniversityLubbock, TXCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 60%
23University of Wisconsin – WhitewaterWhitewater, WICOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 58%
24National UniversityLa Jolla, CACOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 36%
25East Carolina UniversityGreenville, NCCOST:$$$$$GRADUATION RATE: 65%

Who Should Consider an Online Bachelor’s Degree?

Online colleges provide the rigor and respectability of a brick-and-mortar campus while offering maximum flexibility and affordability for students who lead busy lives or live in rural areas. The ideal distance learner is passionate about furthering their education, willing to work hard, has self-discipline, understands basic technology, and is intrinsically motivated.

Earning a bachelor’s degree through an online college presents the same benefits as any other four-year program, but often at a lower price. In addition to higher starting salaries, those holding a four-year degree will earn more wage increases throughout their careers and advance in their careers more quickly than those without a college degree.

What to Expect from an Online Bachelor’s Degree Program?

Online bachelor’s degrees — and their curriculums — are incredibly varied. While some schools offer classes asynchronously to give students more control over their schedules, others require students to log-in at specific times. Schools are adding online degrees to their program list each year, and there is no shortage of options for students to complete a degree.

How Long Does It Take To Get An Online Bachelor’s Degree?

The length of time to complete a degree at affordable online colleges is affected by many different factors. Some schools offer accelerated formats with shorter terms, while others stick to the traditional 16-week semester schedule.

Cohort learning, a style of education where students take the same classes and finish the program together, is a popular style of teaching at some colleges. Other programs allow self-paced learning, making it possible for individual learners to complete the degree at a pace that suits their life. Another common option with online bachelor’s degrees is the completion path, which allows those with associate degrees to complete their baccalaureate learning in two years.

Students who pursue a standard bachelor’s degree full time through online learning can expect to finish in approximately four years. The majority of programs require 120 to 128 credit hours to graduate, which is equivalent to 15-16 credits per term for a full-time student.

Most Popular Bachelor’s Degree

Distance learning is often an affordable option for students who may not otherwise be able to study on campus, yet students also need to do their research before committing to an institution. Finding a school that is regionally accredited and well-regarded within both academic and professional circles can make a significant difference in terms of salary and employment outcomes. Once a student enrolls in online learning, the next step is to choose a major. Below are some of the most recent popular degree choices.


Bar chart with 6 bars.View as data table, Most Popular Bachelor’s Degree Majors for 2016-2018The chart has 1 X axis displaying categories. The chart has 1 Y axis displaying Degrees Awarded. Range: 0 to 500000.Degrees Awarded Most Popular Bachelor’s Degree Majors for 2016-2018BusinessHealth Professions Social Sciences Psychology Biological SciencesEducation0100k200k300k400k500kNCESEnd of interactive chart.

In-State Vs. Oou-Of-State

Whether to attend a college in your home state or out-of-state is often determined by three factors: availability of academic program, accessibility to services, and cost. If a public school in your home state doesn’t offer your desired degree path, you may need to look at schools elsewhere. Some students may also want to take advantage of resources and services offered to campus-based learners (e.g. career counseling, libraries, student clubs) without committing to being on campus multiple times per week. In terms of cost, many of the cheapest online colleges offer discounted rates or allow out-of-state distance learners to pay the same tuition as resident students, making it an attractive option for cost-conscious learners. Other schools, however, charge out-of-state online learning rates.

Before enrolling in any online program, students must check the school’s policies on State Authorization. This rule, enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, requires institutions to receive individual state approval to offer degrees in that state. These requirements are also tied to the school’s ability to receive Title IV Federal student aid, and students who attend schools that aren’t approved won’t be able to take advantage of any federal funding assistance.

Accreditation For Online Bachelor’s Degrees

Accreditation is an important factor to consider when pursuing an online education. Enrolling in even the cheapest online college, if not properly accredited, can make for a costly mistake. Colleges that aren’t properly accredited can pose significant issues for students attempting to transfer credits, gain licensure and/or certification, or even land a job. Before committing to any institution, it’s crucial for distance learners to do their research and understand the type of accreditation their prospective school has earned.

The two main types of school-wide accreditation are regional and national. Regionally accredited schools are typically considered to be more prestigious and trustworthy because they undergo a long and rigorous evaluation by educational authorities. These accrediting bodies research a school’s learning opportunities, student services, faculty qualifications, and more before providing regional accreditation. All regional accrediting bodies also must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The DOE is a federal government agency tasked with setting and enforcing standards for all public institutions and any private institutions that receive federal funding. CHEA is an organization of more than 3,000 colleges and universities and is recognized by the DOE as an authoritative body.

National accreditation is provided by agencies approved by the CHEA and involves a less comprehensive evaluation. They typically focus on a specific type of educational service, such as career and vocational training or distance learning. Because standards are less rigid, students who attend nationally accredited schools may have trouble transferring credits to a regionally accredited institution.

The other type of accreditation is program-specific, and includes agencies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the American Occupational Therapy Association, Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, or the American Psychological Association, Commission on Accreditation.

Students who want to learn more about accrediting bodies can find a full list of all accredited schools through the Department of Education’s website or the Council for Higher Education’s website.

Employment Outlook for Bachelor’s Degree Graduates

Deciding on a major is an important step for students, and should account for their personal interests and the likelihood of employment upon graduation. The table below highlights unemployment rates for college graduates.


Bar chart with 5 data series.View as data table, Most Popular Bachelor’s Degree Majors for 2016-2018The chart has 1 X axis displaying categories.The chart has 1 Y axis displaying Degrees Awarded. Range: 0 to 100.Degrees AwardedMost Popular Bachelor’s Degree Majors for 2016-2018Total both sexesMaleFemale020406080100NCESEnd of interactive chart.

Source: CEW Georgetown


Deciding on the best degree path includes weighing interests, talents, salary potential, and the likelihood of happiness and success in a chosen career. While students should not select a degree that they don’t enjoy, earning potential is also something students might take into consideration.

Petroleum Engineer$96,000$116,000
Industrial Engineer$65,000$75,000
Chemical Engineer$71,000$85,000
Certified Public Accountant$58,000$70,000
Marketing Manager$57,000$68,000

Source: Payscale

Financing Your Online Bachelor’s Program

Students who need help financing their degree have many places to turn for assistance. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines a student’s eligibility for federal scholarships, grants, loans, and work study opportunities. Other options include looking for field-specific scholarships or those based on need and/or merit.

How Much Does An Online Degree Cost?

Tuition rates are one of the most obvious factors to consider as you weigh the total cost of a bachelor’s program, but the sticker price is not the only financial burden students bear. In addition to tuition and fees, students must also account for other common costs, such as living expenses, textbooks, transportation, housing, and interest rates accrued on any student loans. College Board breaks down the average cost for different types of four-year schools below.


Bar chart with 3 bars.View as data table, Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees, On Campus 2019-2020The chart has 1 X axis displaying categories.The chart has 1 Y axis displaying Tuition. Range: 0 to 40000.TuitionAverage Undergraduate Tuition and Fees, On Campus 2019-20200Public four-year out of state:Private Nonprofit four year:010k20k30k40kCollegeBoardEnd of interactive chart.

How To Cut Costs

College may be expensive, but there are ways to make it more affordable, save money, and even graduate debt free. The strategies highlighted below can save students tens of thousands of dollars over the course of their college career.COLLAPSE ALLCommunity College/Associate Degree

College Board found that tuition and fees for in-district community colleges was $3,730 during the 2019-2020 school year, compared to $10,440 for in-state tuition at a public four-year university. This means that taking your first two years of college at a community college could save you money. Credits in High School – AP/IB testsTaking the Maximum Number of CreditsLiving FrugallyRelocatingFAFSA – Scholarships and Grants

Types Of Financial Aid

Today, the average American student and his/her family typically don’t have extra funds on hand to pay for college out-of-pocket — especially considering the ever-rising cost of college. In many cases, financial aid is a great way for students and their families to afford a bachelor’s degree. By starting early and understanding the options, students can attain a reputable bachelor’s degree without breaking the bank.

Federal Financial Aid For Undergraduates

COLLAPSE ALLFederal Grants

Grants and scholarships are the preferred form of financial aid for many students, as they do not have to be paid back to the government agency or private foundation distributing them. Federal Loans Education Tax Credits/Deductions Federal Work-Study

Top 10 Most Affordable Online Colleges in 2020

View More +

1Southwestern Community CollegeSylvia, NC
2Richmond Community CollegeHamlet, NC
3Niagara County Community CollegeSanborn, NY
4Copiah-Lincoln Community CollegeWesson, MS
5Laramie County Community CollegeCheyenne, WY

Affordable Online Colleges Overview

Students looking for the most affordable online college degrees can earn a degree in business, liberal arts, nursing, or another in-demand field through a fully online format. An online college degree provides the possibility of lower tuition fees, the ability to attend classes from home, and a flexible schedule.

During an online college degree, students access coursework through a learning management system such as Canvas or Blackboard. Depending on the program, learners may watch recorded or streamed lectures, engage with other students on discussion boards, or complete group projects virtually. Schools may offer coursework synchronously or asynchronously, with many designing their curricula around the needs of working students.

Many online colleges offer transfer-ready degrees for students planning to earn a bachelor’s degree. In these programs, online learners complete courses that meet general education requirements for many bachelor’s programs. This route helps students pursuing a bachelor’s degree save on tuition costs, since two-year colleges charge much lower rates than four-year institutions.

Some online programs also incorporate internship or practicum requirements, which students can complete in their local area. For example, an online nursing program combines coursework in a distance-learning format with onsite clinical hours at an approved location near the student. More technical programs may also include practicum or apprenticeship requirements to build career-ready skills.

Affordable online colleges support students by offering online resources. Many schools help students complete the admissions process with admission advisors. Admitted students can work with an academic advisor to select courses. Writing centers and online tutoring help students master core skills. Students may also use career centers to transition into the workforce.

Cost and Quality: A Closer Look at the Price of Higher Education

The price of higher education continues to rise. Students benefit from many cost-saving options, including schools that offer affordable tuition and online programs. Choosing an online program means students do not pay room-and-board fees or commuting costs.What to Expect from Tuition and Fees

The cost of an online college degree varies depending on the school and degree level. According to the College Board, a public two-year college charged $3,730 in tuition and fees for 2019-2020, while public four-year schools charged $10,440 for in-state students and $26,820 for out-of-state students. Private four-year schools charged the highest tuition rates, at $36,880 per year.

Tuition and fees at online colleges follow a similar pattern. At public colleges, an online bachelor’s degree cost $316 per credit in 2019-2020, while private online bachelor’s programs charged $488 per credit, according to data from U.S. News and World Report.

In addition to tuition, online learners must also factor in distance-learning fees, technology costs, and graduation fees. However, online students save on housing and transportation costs.

Common Online College Degrees

Collapse AllBusiness

A degree in business administration, management, or organizational leadership prepares graduates for careers in business or for a bachelor’s program. During the degree, learners gain foundational knowledge in areas like marketing, finance, accounting, and management.NursingLiberal ArtsGeneral StudiesCriminal Justice

Accreditation for an Online College

Prospective students researching cheap online colleges should always check a school’s accreditation status before applying. Accredited schools must meet high standards for academic excellence, which benefits students in several ways. An accredited degree meets the requirements for more professional licenses and certifications, and credits earned at an accredited school are more likely to transfer.

Colleges and universities earn accreditation by undergoing a rigorous review process. Independent accrediting agencies measure the school’s student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and graduation requirements to determine whether the school should hold accreditation.

At the institutional level, regional accrediting agencies focus on liberal arts and research institutions, while national accrediting agencies review vocational, technical, and religious schools.

In addition to institutional accreditation, students in certain fields should also look for programmatic accreditation. In nursing, for example, students must attend an accredited program to earn their registered nursing license. The Department of Education provides a database of accredited schools and programs.

Scholarships for Online Degrees

In addition to researching affordable online colleges, prospective students can also apply for scholarships to lower the cost of a degree. Many private foundations and professional organizations support online students through scholarship opportunities. Students may also qualify for program-specific scholarships.EDUCATION MATTERS SCHOLARSHIP

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports students attending accredited colleges, including community colleges. Applicants must submit an essay explaining why education matters.

Who Can Apply: Full-time and part-time students qualify for this scholarship if they attend an accredited online college, including community colleges. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA and current enrollment in an online program.

Who Can Apply: Requirements include attendance at an accredited school. Applicants must submit transcripts, an essay, and a copy of their FAFSA to demonstrate financial need.

Who Can Apply: The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) supports nursing students through multiple scholarship opportunities. In addition to AACN scholarships, this website links to external scholarships for nursing students.
Amount: $2,500-$5,000Apply for ScholarshipHORATIO ALGER SCHOLARSHIPS

Who Can Apply: The Horatio Alger Association offers state scholarships, career and technical scholarships, national scholarships, and targeted scholarships for undergraduate students. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the scholarship.
Amount: $2,500-$25,000Apply for Scholarship


Is it cheaper to do college online?Cheap online colleges can save students thousands on their degree. The most affordable online colleges save students on tuition, transportation, and housing costs.
What kind of degree can I get online?Students can earn online degrees in business, education, nursing, and other in-demand fields. Online learners can also transfer into a bachelor’s program to continue their education.
How much is the average cost of online college?While the cost of online college varies depending on the school, the cheapest online college tuition costs under $100 per credit.
Is there a free online college?Many of the cheapest online colleges offer low tuition costs and discounts for online learners. In addition, scholarships and grants can cover the cost of an online degree.

Cost and Quality: A Closer Look at the Price of Higher Education

Finding affordable online colleges requires careful research. Tuition prices only comprise part of the overall cost of earning a degree. Each school charges different tuition rates and fees, so learners should compare program costs to decide which option provides the best value.Explore Online Degree ProgramsSEARCH PROGRAMS 

What to Expect from Tuition and Fees

Tuition rates vary by institution. Most schools charge a per-credit rate. However, some schools charge flat per-semester tuition rates, either for all students or for those taking a certain number of credits.

Along with tuition, online students need to pay for expenses such as computers and software. Learners may also need high-speed internet to access the online learning platform and stream lectures.

Like on-campus students, online learners must consider housing, food, and transportation costs. Many online students live with their family or choose more affordable housing in an area with a lower cost of living. Additionally, the cost of groceries is generally much lower than campus meal plans. Online students also tend to save money on transportation costs, since most distance programs require few if any campus visits.

Even learners pursuing the most affordable online college degrees must generally pay fees in addition to tuition costs. Schools may assess fees one time, annually, or once per term. The following section details common fees for students attending affordable online colleges.

Fees Online College Students Will Pay

  • Technology FeesMost institutions charge online learners a per-course or per-term technology fee. This fee generally covers costs associated with offering online technical support services, which are typically available at all hours. The fee also goes toward the cost of maintaining an online learning management system.
  • Graduation FeesMost schools charge a one-time graduation fee, typically ranging from $50 to $100. Additionally, students must generally rent a cap and gown to participate in the graduation ceremony, which can cost up to $50.
  • Assessment FeesMany schools test incoming students in certain academic areas, such as English and mathematics, in order to place learners at the suitable course level. Some schools charge a fee for these placement tests. Colleges may waive the testing requirement for recent high school graduates with above-average GPAs.
  • Travel FeesAlthough many cheap online colleges offer programs entirely remotely, some require campus visits or residencies. Programs that include in-person components, such as an internship or practicum, typically require learners to pay associated transportation and housing costs.

Explore Online Degree ProgramsSEARCH PROGRAMS 

Making Cheap Online Colleges Even More Affordable

Even students attending the cheapest online colleges typically rely on financial aid to defray the cost of attending school. Online learners can qualify for several forms of funding, including scholarships and grants, which do not require repayment. Learners can also take out student loans. Below are the most common types of funding for college students.Explore Online Degree ProgramsSEARCH PROGRAMS 

  • ScholarshipsUnlike loans, which require students to repay what they borrow with interest and fees, scholarships do not require repayment. Recipients can typically apply scholarship funds toward tuition and other college expenses.Students can apply for state, college, and private scholarships. Applications are available on government and community foundation websites and through individual schools’ financial aid offices. Most scholarships are awarded based on merit, need, or a combination of the two. Each scholarship program includes unique eligibility requirements, and applicants may need to submit a personal essay, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
  • GrantsGrants, like scholarships, do not require recipients to repay funds. The federal government provides funding through awards such as need-based Pell Grants and service-based TEACH Grants. Some grant programs require recipients to fulfill work or program commitments; those who do not fulfill obligations must typically repay awarded funds.
  • AssistantshipsOnline graduate students can supplement their income through assistantships, or through paid academic positions at their university. Learners can pursue roles as teaching assistants, research assistants, and graduate assistants. In addition to financial compensation, students in assistantships may receive tuition credits, a spending allowance, and institutional health insurance coverage.
  • FellowshipsUnlike assistantships, which carry teaching and research requirements, fellowships are merit-based awards that support full-time graduate studies. These awards involve no additional responsibilities. Learners can apply for internal and external fellowships. Fellows typically receive full tuition, a spending allowance, and institutional health insurance.
  • Reimbursement ProgramsEmployers can offer students up to $5,250 per year in tuition assistance. The IRS section 127 tax code allows employers to deduct from their taxes any money they reimburse undergraduate or graduate students for tuition, books, or supplies. Educational reimbursement is often available to current, laid-off, and retired employees.
  • LoansThe most commonly used loans come from the federal government. Undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need can receive subsidized loans that do not begin accruing interest until six months after graduation.Graduate students, and undergraduate students who are ineligible for subsidized loans, can apply for unsubsidized loans. These loans accrue interest while students are in school. For additional funds, graduate students, professional students, and parents of undergraduate students can apply for Direct PLUS Loans.Students should begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Colleges and the federal government use each student’s FAFSA form to determine the types and amount of aid for which learners qualify. Students can learn about the various types of loans through the Department of Education’s (ED) website.

The Importance of a High-Quality Education

When evaluating prospective schools, learners should consider several factors in addition to tuition rates. Students should research the school’s degree offerings to ensure their desired major, minor, and specialization options are available. Learners should also verify that each prospective school holds proper accreditation, since only students at accredited institutions qualify for certain types of financial aid. Other important factors to consider include the format of online programs and student outcomes, such as graduation and retention rates.

  • AccreditationTwo types of accreditation apply to U.S. institutions: regional and national. Regional accreditation is the most prestigious of the two and typically applies to degree-granting institutions. Vocational and technical colleges often receive national accreditation.Additionally, individual programs and departments can earn field-specific accreditation. Learners in some industries need a degree from an accredited program to qualify for licensure.The accreditation status of a student’s school impacts their ability to qualify for federal aid and transfer credits to other institutions. Accredited schools typically display credentials prominently on their website. Additionally, the ED website and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintain databases of all accredited schools in the United States.
  • Graduation RatesDegree completion time depends on factors including program requirements, enrollment status, and previous education. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 40.6% of students who entered a four-year college from 1996 to 2010 graduated within four years. Of those entering a two-year school between 2000 and 2013, 30.3% graduated within two years. Students should research their prospective school’s graduation rates to better understand their anticipated degree completion time.
  • ReputationReviewing data can help students evaluate a school’s reputation and find the most affordable online colleges that offer the highest academic quality. Organizations such as U.S. News & World Report rank colleges based on criteria such as affordability, learning communities, first-year experiences, and research. Students should consider their personal preferences and goals when determining which factors to prioritize.Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics provides details about specific institutions. Learners can access data related to financial aid, enrollment, and tuition rates.
  • Employment OutlookHigh-quality schools prepare learners to excel in the workforce. Prospective students can access information on career outcomes for learners in specific majors and at certain institutions.Through the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), users can search for salary and employment projections by occupation. This data helps students understand their salary potential and the stability of their chosen industry. Learners can also use PayScale to browse career profiles, data and research, and career advice.
  • Student Loan Default RateA school’s cohort default rate (CDR) illustrates the success of its graduates and their ability to repay student debt. The CDR represents the average percentage of students who default on federal or state student loans within a three-year period.The national cohort default rate was 10.1% in 2016, a 6.5% decrease from 2015. Students can locate an individual school’s CDR using the ED database.
  • Salary of GraduatesLearners can use various tools to understand their projected salary potential. For example, students can review the 2019-2020 College Salary Report from PayPal, which uses data from 3.5 million respondents to determine the schools with the highest salary potential for graduates of bachelor’s and associate programs.Students can find more information about salary expectations by reviewing the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics, which feature data on more than 800 occupations. The BLS also provides maps detailing salary and employment statistics by geographic location.


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