Finding the most affordable online college can be daunting. When you look at a college or university’s cost, you may only look at the tuition and think it’s not affordable–which could be further from the truth.
You might be surprised to know that a school’s net price will most likely be the amount you’ll actually expect to pay–which is generally much cheaper than a school’s stated tuition/sticker price. The net price takes into account what a student can expect to pay with financial aid included.
Education Reference Desk’s list of the cheapest, most affordable online colleges has taken into account several factors to determine the best online schools for your money.
Each factor can give you insight into how likely you are to 1. continue at a given school, 2. graduate, 3. receive financial aid and 4. what you can expect to earn post-graduation. These factors, combined with affordability, will give you a more complete picture of the overall quality of education you will receive at each institution on our list of Most Affordable Online Colleges.
The schools considered for this ranking were chosen from a pool of currently ranked “Best Online Colleges” that offer online degrees.
In order to provide students with the best Affordable Online Colleges ranking, each college or university in our list:
- Must have a net price of less than $20,000 per year
- Must provide 60 percent financial aid or higher to full-time beginning undergraduate students
- Must retain 70 percent or more of their first-time students who are seeking bachelor’s degrees
- Must graduate at least 49 percent of their students
- Must provide a 20-year return on investment of $150,000 or more
Schools in the Most Affordable Online Colleges ranking are ranked by affordability.
All data was gathered from NCES.ed.gov and Payscale.com is accurate at the time of this writing (July 2019). All other information was gathered from school websites and other ranking sites such as EDsmart.org, US News & World Report and Niche.com.
Top 10 Most Affordable Online Colleges
1. University of North Florida
Average Net Price: $10,809
Financial Aid: 82%
Retention Rate: 91%
Graduation Rate: 59%
The University of North Florida is a public university that was founded in 1965. Its campus is located in Jacksonville, Florida. In 2019, this university ranked sixth in top public universities in Florida, 29 for best colleges for veterans, and 42 for regional universities South. The University of North Florida also has a distance learning program for its students. There are fully online degree programs that provide flexibility for students to complete their degrees. This school focuses on high-quality learning, which results in student success and satisfaction.
The college provides several fully online degree programs and certificate programs for those that are unable to attend on-campus courses. The online undergraduate programs currently being offered are RN-BSN Bridge Track and American Sign Language Endorsement.
The graduate degree programs currently being offered online are Doctor of Nursing Practice in Psych-Mental Health, Doctor of Clinical Nutrition, Post-MSN Doctor of Nursing Practice, Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics, Master of Science in Criminal Justice, Master in Science in American Sign Language/English Interpreting, Master of Education in Educational Leadership: Educational Technology and Development, and Master of Education in Educational Leadership: Early Childhood Educational Leadership.
2. University of Wisconsin Whitewater
Average Net Price: $12,094
Financial Aid: 80%
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 58%
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater is a public university that was founded in 1868. Its campus is located in Whitewater, Wisconsin. In 2019, this university ranked fourth for top public universities in Wisconsin, 39 for best colleges for veterans, 65 for regional universities Midwest, and 73 for best college athletics in America. University of Wisconsin – Whitewater also provides online degrees to its students to earn from home. You can choose to take a few courses online towards your degree or you can choose to pursue a degree fully online.
The online undergraduate degrees currently offered are Economics, General Business, Finance, Marketing, Management, Liberal Studies, Political Science, Law Enforcement, and Early Childhood Education. The online graduate degrees being offered as well are Master’s of Science in Special Education: Emphasis in Professional Development, Master of Business Administration, Master’s in Environment Safety and Health, Master’s in Finance, and Master’s in School Business Management.
3. Sam Houston State University
Average Net Price: $12,516
Financial Aid:89 %
Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 52%
Sam Houston State University is a public university that was founded in 1879. Its campus is located in Huntsville, Texas. In 2019, this university ranked ninth for top public universities in Texas and 18 for best colleges for criminal justice in America. Sam Houston State University also provides a variety of fully online undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates.
The online undergraduate majors offered at this school are Criminal Justice, General Business Administration, Health Care Administration, History, Homeland Security Studies, Liberal Studies, Nursing, Psychology, Sociology, and Victim Studies.
Sam Houston State University offers many online graduate degree program options as well. Some of the online master’s degrees currently being offered are Administration, Banking and Financial Institutions, Business Administration, Communication Studies, Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Leadership and Management, Digital Forensics, Family and Consumer Sciences, Geographic Information Systems, Healthcare Quality and Safety, Higher Education Administration, History, Homeland Security Studies, and many more. In addition, the two online doctoral degree programs being offered at this university are Developmental Education Administration and Instructional Systems Design and Technology.
4. Ball State University
Average Net Price: $13,642
Financial Aid: 90%
Retention Rate: 78%
Graduation Rate: 63%
Ball State University is a public university that was founded in 1918. Its campus is located in Muncie, Indiana. In 2019, this university ranked third for top public universities in Indiana, 91 for best colleges for performing arts in America, 91 for top public schools, and 92 for best big colleges in America. Ball State University also has over 70 programs offered fully online. Additionally, this college is a very affordable online college; you will get a great value degree or certificate here. There are a variety of online programs to choose from. The three online associate degrees currently offered are Criminal Justice and Criminology, General Arts, and Radiography.
The online bachelor’s degrees offered at Ball State University include Applied Behavioral Analysis, Business Administration, Criminal Justice and Criminology, Early Childhood Education, General Studies, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, and Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science. The three doctoral degrees offered online are Doctor of Education in Adult and Community Education, Doctor of Education in Educational Administration and Supervision, and Doctor of Education with an emphasis on Special Education. There are many online master’s degrees offered at this school. Some of the online master’s degrees featured are Applied Behavior Analysis, Athletic Coaching Education, Business Administration, Curriculum and Educational Technology, Career and Technical Education, Educational Administration and Supervision, Educational Psychology, Elementary Education, Information and Communication Science, Interior Design, Journalism, Mathematics Education, Nutrition and Dietetics, and more.
5. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Average Net Price: $13,773
Financial Aid:93 %
Retention Rate: 73%
Graduation Rate: 49%
Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville is a public university that was founded in 1957. Its campus is located in Edwardsville, Illinois. In 2019, this university ranked seventh for top public universities in Illinois, 45 for best colleges for veterans, 72 for best value schools, and 72 for regional universities Midwest. This school is known as one of the cheapest online colleges offering a variety of fully online programs.
The online graduate degrees currently being offered at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville are Business Administration, Business Analytics, Management, Management Information Systems, Project Management, Criminal Justice Policy, Healthcare and Nursing Administration, Healthcare Informatics, Instructional Technology, Physical Education and Coaching Pedagogy, and Nurse Educator. The two online undergraduate degrees offered at this college are Leadership in Organizations and RN to BS in Nursing. The online doctoral degree offered as well is the Doctor of Nursing Practice.
6. University of Wisconsin Platteville
Average Net Price: $14,158
Financial Aid: 84%
Retention Rate: 79%
Graduation Rate: 54%
University of Wisconsin – Platteville is a public university that was founded in 1866. Its campus is located in Platteville, Wisconsin. In 2019, this university ranked seventh for best value colleges in Wisconsin, 32 for top public schools, and 35 for engineering programs. University of Wisconsin – Platteville also provides online learning to its students. This school is known for its high-quality education and has a reputation for being one of the most affordable online colleges.
The following degrees and certificates online from the University of Wisconsin Platteville: Applied Computing, Associate of Arts and Sciences, Associate of Science in Business Administration, Bachelors of Applied Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Child Advocacy, Criminal Justice, Engineering, Healthcare Administration, Integrated Supply Chain Management, Organizational Change Leadership, and Project Management. The online programs offered are a wonderful, flexible step to your professional success.
7. University of North Dakota
Average Net Price: $15,374
Financial Aid: 90%
Retention Rate: 81%
Graduation Rate: 55%
The University of North Dakota is a public university that was founded in 1883. Its campus is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota. In 2019, this university ranked second for the best colleges in North Dakota. This school began distance education in 1911 with mail courses. Now, it offers distance education through 120 online degree programs, online certificates, and professional development courses. This college is also ranked first for online colleges in North Dakota, which is impressive. \
Some of the online degree programs offered are Master’s in Accountancy, Master’s in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Ph.D. in Aerospace Sciences, Master’s in Applied Economics, Master’s in Aviation, Master’s in Biomedical Engineering, Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, MBA in Business, Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering, Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering, Bachelor’s in Communication, Bachelor’s of Computer Science, and many more.
8. Old Dominion University
Average Net Price: $15,917
Financial Aid: 93%
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 52%
The California College of the Arts (CCA) is an art, design, architecture, and writing university that was founded in 1907. It has an enrollment of approximately 2,000 students split across two separate campuses in California, one located in San Francisco and the other in Oakland. The CCA is a very well-known private nonprofit college that presently offers 22 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs. Ranked #38 in Best Colleges for Design in America by Niche.com, the California College of the Arts provides students with an immersive and diverse educational experience that helps them gain confidence and creativity. The school emphasizes the importance of gaining entrepreneurship skills and allows for many students to complete their learning programs online. Because of this, the CCA has become an amazing option for busy students who work full time and for students who are much older and are beginning or returning to complete their degrees. Notable companies that have sought out alumni of the CCA include but are not limited to Pixar/Disney, Apple, Intel, Facebook, and Google.
9. University of Michigan
Average Net Price: $16,856
Financial Aid: 63%
Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 92%
The University of Michigan is a public university that was founded in 1817. Its campus is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2019, this university ranked first for top public universities in America, first for colleges with the best student life in America, and second for best colleges for Kinesiology and Physical Therapy in America. It also ranked ninth for best colleges for veterans. University of Michigan also has an online school referred to as Michigan Online. This online school was created by University of Michigan to provide students with online learning opportunities.
The online programs currently offered for students to take courses in are Arts and Culture, Business, Data Science, Education, Health, Science, Social Sciences, and Technology. You can become a University of Michigan graduate directly from your home. The three fully online degrees offered at this college are Master of Public Health in Population and Health Sciences, Master of Applied Data Science, and Master of Business Administration.
10. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Average Net Price: $19,646
Financial Aid: 92%
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 56%
The Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a public university that was founded in 1875. Its campus is located in Indiana, Pennsylvania. In 2019, this university ranked 230 for national universities. This school is also known for being one of the best cheap online colleges around. If you are a very busy individual seeking to earn an education, Indiana University of Pennsylvania offers online learning as an affordable option to succeed in your goals.
This college offers over 100 affordable online courses in more than 50 different subjects. You can take general education courses, prerequisite courses, and courses toward your specific major online. The two fully online undergraduate degrees currently offered at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania are an Associate in General Studies and Bachelors in General studies. The fully online master’s degrees currently offered are Adult and Community Education, Art, Criminology, Food and Nutrition, and Mathematics. This school also provides several hybrid options as well if you are interested in taking blended on-campus courses and online courses. The three hybrid undergraduate degrees offered are Bachelor’s in Communications Media, Bachelor’s in Criminology, and Bachelors in General Studies. The hybrid graduate degrees offered are Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction, Master’s in Employment and Labor Relations, Master’s in Nursing, Master’s in Safety Sciences, Doctorate in Safety Sciences, and an MBA.
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