Most Affordable Online Colleges for 2016

The Best Value Schools and Online Degree Programs

Finding the most affordable online colleges comes down to looking for the best value, not just the lowest cost. You want to get what you pay for and then some, especially given that any degree is a two or four-year investment.

That means that to find the best online schools for your money, you have to dig deeper, considering factors like faculty credentials and available student services in addition to tuition costs. This information will give you a more complete picture of the overall quality of the education you’ll receive.

Key Online College Statistics

  • 5.5 million US students taking online courses
  • 2.6 million US students taking online classes exclusively

*Source: Most recent U.S. Department of Education online enrollment survey

Take a look at this list of almost 300 of the best online colleges that offer a quality educational experience. It is currently sorted by the most recent ranking, but you can view up to 100 online colleges in the directory at one time or search for your school of interest.

USN 2015 rank
USN 2014 rank
2014-15 tuition (in state)
2014-15 tuition (out of state)
Pennsylvania State University-World Campus13$535$535
Western Kentucky University287$463$463
University of Illinois-Chicago29$575$575
Daytona State College27$92$560
Oregon State University546$191$191
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University55$335$335
Colorado State University-Global Campus716$350$350
Arizona State University89$480$480
Ohio State University-Columbus8127$382$1070
Pace University103$570$570
Savannah College of Art and Design1125$751$751
Regent University1121$395$395
Utah State University1348$290$290
Central Michigan University131$387$387
University of Florida135$112$500
Fort Hays State University1616$187$187
Creighton University16201$412$412
SUNY College of Technology-Delhi181$257$257
University of La Verne1813$565$565
University of Illinois-Springfield2031$359$359
George Washington University2056$552$552
Washington State University2021$569$569
University of Wisconsin-Superior239$305$305
California Baptist University2337$511$511
Palm Beach Atlantic University2521$445$445
Siena Heights University25131$455$455
University of Denver2713$539$539
CUNY School of Professional Studies2799999$260$260
City University of Seattle2746$388$388
American Public University System2734$250$250
Temple University3199999$726$726
Brandman University3141$500$500
Old Dominion University3169$299$314
University of Missouri-Kansas City34174$270$705
Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne349$355$355
Ball State University3429$284$499
St. John's University3413$1262$1262
Charleston Southern University3456$490$490
University of Minnesota-Crookston3469$385$385
Colorado State University4099999$397$397
Concordia University-St. Paul4056$420$420
University of Maine-Augusta4061$217$271
Florida Institute of Technology4048$510$510
Malone University4081$485$485
University of Nebraska-Lincoln4074$257$501
Eastern Kentucky University4077$398$398
Loyola University Chicago4728$630$630
Lamar University4765$208$208
Marist College4718$600$600
University of the Incarnate Word50179$495$495
University of Missouri-St. Louis5034$452$452
University of Wisconsin-Platteville5025$370$370
St. Leo University5099999$470$470
University of Central Florida5099999$230$749
Wayne State University5521$397$397
University of North Florida5599999$285$285
University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth5569$304$304
Regis University5865$460$460
University of Nebraska-Omaha5820$250$464
Westfield State University5832$260$260
SUNY College of Technology-Canton58179$257$659
Drexel University6237$502$502
Western Illinois University6361$288$288
University of Alabama-Huntsville637$440$440
Granite State College6348$285$315
Linfield College6397$450$450
Bellevue University6318$385$385
Sam Houston State University6841$204$204
University of Oklahoma6899999$138$563
Southeast Missouri State University6865$201$381
University of Bridgeport6829$500$500
Indiana University7299999$207$298
Peirce College7281$550$550
Boise State University7299999$317$317
California State University-Chico7241$247$619
Franklin University7299999$464$464
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay72148$262$578
University of Alabama-Birmingham7287$573$573
Kaplan University7956$371$371
Liberty University79141$360$360
University of West Georgia7969$260$260
North Carolina State University-Raleigh8281$204$408
University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign8299999$397$397
California University of Pennsylvania8299999$332$347
Lynn University82120$355$355
Univeristy of Phoenix8279$469$469
Upper Iowa University8761$405$405
Berkeley College87138$525$525
Sacred Heart University87127$530$530
Oklahoma Panhandle State University9099999$233$233
Western Carolina University9034$124$475
University of Georgia9099999$286$893
University of Texas of the Permian Basin90138$168$530
Charter Oak State College9048$263$346
Duquense University9093$687$687
Northwestern State University of Louisiana90108$206$206
Herzing University90102$525$525
University of Missouri9848$274$350
Cornerstone University98201$385$385
Lindenwood University98124$484$484
Florida International University98124$162$279
Norwich University9837$375$375
Everglades University9899999$600$600
University of Tennessee-Martin98124$280$308
McKendree University9837$350$350
Columbia College9869$260$260
Concordia University10799999$425$425
Georgia Southern University107160$199$199
John Brown University10777$410$410
University of St. Francis10781$599$599
University of Houston-Victoria111131$173$535
DeVry University11193$609$609
Lawrence Technological University11181$986$986
Northwood University111169$420$420
Ferris State University111131$381$381
Toccoa Falls College111117$295$295
Robert Morris University11199999$695$695
Valley City State University111138$168$168
Chatham University119112$782$782
Davenport University119141$613$613
University of South Carolina-Aiken11941$388$777
Post University119108$570$570
North Carolina A&T State University119157$110$544
West Texas A&M University119153$246$277
Fitchburg State University125120$40$294
Limestone College12593$390$390
Georgia College & State University12577$232$232
Dominican College12599999$753$753
Wheeling Jesuit University12577$365$365
Colorado Technical University12599999$325$325
United States Sports Academy131194$360$360
Lee University13197$182$182
New England College131148$395$395
Northern Arizona University13197$362$771
Gallaudet University131169$725$725
Concordia University-Chicago13697$475$475
Southwestern College136112$427$427
University at Buffalo-SUNY13699999$257$816
Madonna University136112--
New England Institute of Technology14099999$350$350
California State University-Dominguez Hills14087$300-
University of Wisconsin-Stout14299999$334$334
Minot State University142102$206$206
Monroe College142112$535$535
Oral Roberts University14299999$349$349
Southern Arkansas University14299999$210$325
University of Toledo142108$385$385
Plymouth State University14899999$435$763
St. Joseph's University14861$541$541
Graceland University14865$395$395
University of Arkansas14856$256$256
Bay State College148117$393$393
Tiffin University153179$430$430
Brescia University15399999$395$395
Cleveland State University15399999$401$537
California State University-East Bay15399999$297$297
Newman University153153$377$377
Missouri Southern State University15899999$173$346
MCPHS University15899999$380$380
Northcentral University158148$417$417
Wilmington University16148$338$338
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee16125$337$337
Florida State University161102$270$776
Baker University16199999$525$525
Maranahta Baptist University16199999$364$364
New Mexico State University161120$248$796
Dakota Wesleyan University16799999$325$325
Faulkner University16799999$295$295
Pittsburg State University167179$165$502
New England College of Business and Finance16799999$433$433
Stevenson University167153$495$495
Montreat College172131$395$395
University of Mary17299999$500$500
Benedictine University172102$560$560
Patten University17299999$110$110
Eastern University172127$510$510
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale177174$281$281
Hope International University177148$480$480
Mid-Atlantic Christian University17799999$430$430
Webber International University18099999$316$316
University of Southern Indiana180112$221$533
William Woods University180141$200$200
University of Cincinnati18087$389$404
DePaul University18448$570$570
Roberts Wesleyan College18499999$650$650
DeSales University184169$446$446
Stephens College184186$346$346
Bay Path University184160$400$400
Rochester Institute of Technology18499999$807$807
Northern State University184189$312$312
University of Northern Colorado18448$390$390
Columbia College19269$385$385
Central Washington University19499999$265$677
University of North Dakota194131$266$266
Bluefield College19499999$355$355
King University19499999$300$300
University of North Carolina-Pembroke19899999$120$457
St. Mary-of-the-Woods College199169$496$496
Belhaven University19974$375$375
Baptist College of Florida199194$310$310
Dallas Baptist University199153$795$795
Moody Bible Institute199205$300$300
University of Louisiana-Lafayette19999999$290$764
Rogers State University199117$117$352
University of Central Oklahoma19999999$175$450
East Carolina University207141$134$648
Baker College of Flint207164$230$230
Mercy College207148$722$722
College of Coastal Georgia20799999$100$368
University of Massachusetts-Lowell21199999$365$365
Appalachian State University211157$128$573
Mayville State University21199999$200$200
University of South Alabama214174$392$392
Asbury University21499999$458$458
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey21499999$312$563
Amridge University21499999$250$250
South Dakota State University21499999$313$313
University of Wisconsin-River Falls21499999$390-
Academy of Art University99999179$810$810
Bemidji State University99999194$250$250
University of Houston-Downtown99999186$183$545
University of Michigan-Flint99999179$384$766
Arkansas Tech University99999127$209$418
Nicholls State University99999141$275$275
Jones International University99999205$530$530
University of Houston-Clear Lake99999189$196$628
Mount Aloysius College9999999999$720$720
AIB College of Business99999169$283$283
University of West Florida99999102$219$648
Northwest Missouri State University9999999999$179$387
Stephen F. Austin State University99999164$221$341
Columbus State University99999189$270$270
University of Findlay99999164$400$400
College of Mount St. Joseph9999999999$500$500
University of Louisiana-Monroe99999160$314$314
Huntington University9999987$408$408
Jacksonville State University99999194$345$345
D'Youville College9999999999$720$720
Cedar Crest College9999999999$486$486
University of Memphis9999999999$294$488
Union Institute and University9999999999$490$490
Texas Tech University9999999999$213$213
Wilson College9999999999$425$425
Eastern Oregon University9999999999$145$145
Kennesaw State University9999999999$270-
Indian River State College9999999999$117$536
Inter American University of Puerto Rico - Aguadilla9999999999$178$178
Stony Brook University-SUNY9999999999$257$816
University of North Carolina-Charlotte9999999999$119$564
North Greenville University9999999999$395$395
Northwestern College9999999999$425$425
Medaille College9999999999$597$597
Western International University9999999999$250$250
Missouri State University9999999999$275$275
University of Southern Maine9999999999$253$665
Louisiana State University-Shreveport9999999999$206$668
Keiser University9999999999$706$706
Berklee College of Music9999999999$483$483
Holy Apostles College and Seminary9999981$445$445
Anna Maria College9999999999$375$375
Maryville University of St. Louis9999999999$755$755
West Virginia University9999999999$388$927
St. Joseph's College New York9999999999$720$720
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater9999999999$389$389
Andrews University99999205$375$375
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey-Camden9999999999$550$550
Tabor College9999999999$397$397
Oakland University9999999999$356$796
Adelphi University9999999999$805$805
Shenandoah University9999999999$843$843
Northwest Christian University9999999999$452$452
Williams Baptist College9999999999$350$350
Bethel University9999999999$475$475
Nova Southeastern University9999999999$865$865
Emporia State University9999999999$150$225
McNeese State University9999999999$390$1312
Marshall University9999999999$237$237
Valdosta State University9999999999$250$250
Clarion University of Pennsylvania9999999999$284$301
Johnson and Wales University9999999999$338$338
Fisher College9999999999$342$342
Bethel College9999999999$367$367
Southeastern Louisiana University9999999999$273$796
Gardner-Webb University9999999999$382$382
Bowling Green State University99999205$379$389
Eastern Michigan University99999201$275$275
Northern Kentucky University9999999999$388$388
Cameron University9999999999$124$392
Utica College9999999999$400$400
Northwestern Oklahoma State University9999999999$221$428
Trine University9999999999$470$470
University of the Cumberlands9999999999$199$199
Eastern Illinois University99999194$283$283
Blue Moutain College9999999999$370$370
Nebraska Methodist College9999999999$590$590
Ohio University9999999999$240$243

* ‘99999’ denote unranked schools.

Depending on what type of degree you’re pursuing, you may have to narrow your list of schools even further by the specializations they offer and what is most in line with your long-term career goals. Clearly, the sheer number of online universities can make choosing just one a daunting task.

To help with this, full series on the most affordable online colleges was created, including separate articles on affordable online bachelor’s degrees, affordable online master’s or graduate degrees, and affordable online MBAs. We’ll also walk you through some tips on the best ways to apply and provide a brief background on financial aid.

Before getting into the schools themselves, let’s address one of the big concerns about online education: the myth that employers look at online graduates differently than those who attended a traditional on-campus university.

Cheap Online Colleges: Low Tuition, High Reputation

It’s true that online colleges have a certain stigma attached to them. However, it’s important to note that all online colleges are not created equal.

Obtaining an online degree from a respected college means employers will perceive you no differently than they will someone who majored in the same subject from the same college but completed it on campus.

The bad rap comes from for-profit online colleges, which aren’t affordable at all. Some may have a high profile, but the educational quality is subpar, and many students struggle to complete their degree program — which can leave them saddled with a large debt and nothing to show for it.

default rates at universities and for-profit colleges

Almost half of all student loan defaults are from for-profit collegesAs reflected in the graphic above, students at for-profit schools who entered loan repayment in fiscal year 2011, the most recent data available, defaulted at a rate of 19.13%, according to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s substantially higher than the 8.9% and 7% rates for students at four-year public and private schools, respectively. Two-year public school students defaulted at a 12.9% rate. Minority students are at particularly high risk of poor outcomes, the Center for Responsible Lending reports.

An article on the The Economist blog explains exactly why many people don’t trust for-profit universities. It details how for-profit online colleges charge far higher tuition but spend less on instruction for each student.

It also mentions that the U.S. government spent $32 billion on for-profit online education in the 2009-2010 academic year. After an investigation by a U.S. Senate committee, it turns out that government had failed to “safeguard the federal investment and ensure student success.” You can read the shortened version or executive summary here. In early 2015, students, consumer groups, and some lawmakers even called for the Department of Education to forgive federal student loans after the high-profile collapse of Corinthian Colleges Inc., formerly a major player in the U.S. for-profit education market.

The bottom line: For-profit education has cost a lot of people a lot of money. It has given online education in general a poor reputation.

But now, online educational quality is on the rise thanks to the presence of online degree programs from well-established, traditional universities.

Some of the highest-ranked schools in the country offer a variety of bachelor’s and master’s degrees online. For example, a good friend of mine recently got his MBA from Duke University online while living and working full-time in California. As you might know, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business is one of the top-ranked business schools in the country.

I’m telling you this because it’s a testament to how far online education has come from the days when the University of Phoenix was your only option.

The fact that a degree is completed online is irrelevant. The only reason the negative perception of online degrees exists is because for-profit colleges are focused on high-volume enrollment, not providing a top-notch education.

It’s time to give credit to the schools that are delivering quality education at an affordable price. It’s also time to completely separate these online schools from the for-profit schools that are owned by publicly traded companies.

A Look at the Best

When choosing the top 10 online colleges, price was the focal point, but we took other important factors into full consideration.

Here’s the process we used to find cheap online colleges that offer great educational value:

  • Compiled a list of over 300 online colleges with tuition data from U.S. News & World Report
  • Sorted the list by cheapest undergraduate and graduate tuition rates
  • Reviewed U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 and 2015 overall rankings of online schools
  • Stack-ranked the schools that had the lowest tuition rates and the best rankings from the past two years

When we looked at tuition costs and school rankings, it was obvious that you don’t have to sacrifice educational quality if you’re on a budget.

Many of the cheapest online schools in the country also rank among the best-performing online schools in measures of faculty quality, technological capability, and student satisfaction.

Ultimately, you want to go to an affordable online school that offers the bachelor’s or master’s degree program you’re looking for. In addition to the factors we already mentioned, all of the online schools that made our top 10 most affordable colleges list offer a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs to choose from.

The 10 Best Affordable Online Colleges

  1. Sam Houston State University
  2. Fort Hays State University
  3. Lamar University
  4. University of Arkansas
  5. University of North Dakota
  6. Utah State University
  7. West Texas A&M University
  8. Columbia College
  9. University of West Georgia
  10. Oregon State University

Let’s take a deeper look at the bachelor’s programs, graduate programs, and tuition costs of some of the highly ranked, most affordable online schools.

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University heads up the list of the cheapest online schools with an excellent selection of nationally recognized online bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The online bachelor’s programs cost $204 per credit, while online graduate courses are only $245 to $254 per credit.

In addition to low tuition rates, Sam Houston State also delivers on quality. In U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 survey of online degree programs, the school achieves a top-10 ranking for two of its graduate programs and a solid top-70 ranking for its bachelor’s program.

School Details

Location Texas
Application Fee $45
Bachelor's In-State Tuition $204/credit
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition $204/credit
Master's In-State Tuition $245 - $254/credit
Master's Out-of-State Tuition $245 - $254/credit

Online Degrees Available at Sam Houston State University

Bachelor’s Programs
Graduate Programs
Criminal justiceMultiple education specialties
Business administrationMultiple criminal justice and security specialties
General studiesBusiness administration (MBA)
NursingCommunication studies
Information assurance and security
Library science
Public administration


Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University-1
Fort Hays State University delivers a superb selection of inexpensive, quality online degrees, and it happens to be among the country’s cheapest online colleges. The school’s bachelor’s programs cost $187 per credit and are ranked among the top 20 online programs in the nation. The graduate education program also makes it into the top 30. Most Fort Hays State graduate programs are priced at a very affordable $251 per credit. MBA courses are a little more expensive at $400 per credit.

School Details

Application Fee$30 - $40
Bachelor's In-State Tuition$187/credit
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition$187/credit
Master's In-State Tuition$251 - $400/credit
Master's Out-of-State Tuition$251 - $400/credit

Online Degrees Available at Fort Hays State University

Bachelor’s Programs
Graduate Programs
Multiple business specialtiesSeveral education specialties
Multiple education specialties Several nursing specialties
Information technology Business administration (MBA)
Justice studies Counseling
Marketing Health and human performance
Medical diagnostic imaging Instructional technology
NursingLiberal studies
PhilosophyProfessional studies
Political ScienceSchool psychology
Tourism and hospitality


Lamar University

Lamar University
Lamar University offers highly regarded options in criminal justice, nursing, and education — all of which rank among the top 75 online programs — among many other options. Most of the school’s online bachelor’s degree programs, among the nation’s top 50, cost $208 per credit. The bachelor’s program in nursing is more expensive at $283 per credit. The school’s graduate programs cost $235 per credit, including the nationally ranked graduate nursing program.

School Details

Application Fee
Bachelor's In-State Tuition
$208 - $283/credit
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition
$208 - $283/credit
Master's In-State Tuition
Master's Out-of-State Tuition

Online Degrees Available at Lamar University

Online Bachelor’s Programs
Online Graduate Programs
Several business specialtiesMany business administration (MBA) options
Applied arts and sciencesMany education specialties
General studiesEngineering management
CommunicationHealth promotion
Computer scienceNursing administration
Criminal justiceNursing education
Industrial technologyCriminal justice
Industrial engineering


University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas offers top-40 graduate programs in engineering and education. Tuition at the University of Arkansas is $256 per credit for bachelor’s programs and $388 per credit for most master’s programs. Master’s programs in engineering are even more affordable at $250 per credit.

School Details

Application Fee
$40 - $50
Bachelor's In-State Tuition
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition
Master's In-State Tuition
$250 - $388/credit
Master's In-State Tuition
$250 - $388/credit

Online Degrees Available at the University of Arkansas

Online Bachelor’s Programs
Online Graduate Programs
General businessSeveral education specialties
Human resource and workforce development educationAgricultural and food law
NursingBusiness administration (MBA)
Engineering and electrical engineering
Food safety
Human environmental sciences
Information systems
Operations management


University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota offers certain rare online bachelor’s subjects, including degrees in chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and petroleum engineering. The school also delivers quality degree programs in more common online subjects such as education, nursing, and business. Both the general business and MBA graduate programs rank in the top 40 online programs.

Bachelor’s degree courses are $266 per credit and graduate degree courses are $286 per credit, positioning the University of North Dakota as one of the more affordable online colleges.

School Details

North Dakota
Application Fee
Bachelor's In-State Tuition
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition
Master's In-State Tuition
Master's In-State Tuition

Online Degrees Available at the University of North Dakota

Online Bachelor’s Programs
Online Graduate Programs
Multiple engineering specialtiesSeveral education specialties
CommunicationApplied economics
General studiesAviation
NursingBusiness administration (MBA)
PsychologyForensic psychology
Social scienceInstructional design and technology
Public administration (MPA)
Social work (MSW)
Space studies


Utah State University

Utah State University

Utah State University boasts online bachelor’s programs that are ranked 13th in the nation as well as a highly regarded online graduate education program, also ranked 13th by U.S. News & World Report. The bachelor’s degree courses are a reasonable $290 per credit for both in- and out-of-state students, while most master’s courses range from $370 to $392 per credit. (The graduate human resources program is pricier at $685 per credit.)

School Details

Location Utah
Application Fee $40
Bachelor's In-State Tuition $290/credit
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition $290/credit
Master's In-State Tuition $370 - $685/credit
Master's Out-of-State Tuition $370 - $685/credit

Online Degrees Available at Utah State University

Bachelor’s Programs
Graduate Programs
AgribusinessCareer and technical education
Communicative disordersHuman resources
Instructional technology and learning sciences
Family life studiesNatural resources
Interdisciplinary studiesTechnical communication
Liberal arts


West Texas A&M University

West Texas A&M University

West Texas A&M University’s standout degrees include an online graduate business program (excluding MBAs) that ranks 11th and an online MBA program that ranks 32nd in the country, respectively. While most of the school’s online programs are delivered entirely remotely, a few require some limited travel to campus.

Bachelor’s degree courses cost $246 per credit for in-state students and $277 out of state. Most online graduate courses cost from $298 to $334 per credit, while the nursing program is less expensive at $193 for both in- and out-of-state students.

School Details

Application Fee
Bachelor's In-State Tuition
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition
Master's In-State Tuition
$193 - $334/credit
Master's In-State Tuition
$193 - $334/credit

Online Degrees Available at West Texas A&M University

Bachelor’s Programs
Graduate Programs
Applied arts and sciencesSeveral education specialties
Business administrationBusiness administration (MBA)
Criminal justiceInstructional design and technology
Emergency management administrationNursing
General studies


Columbia College

Columbia College

Offering a diverse selection of online bachelor’s and master’s degrees — including a criminal justice program in the nation’s top 10 — Columbia College in Missouri is a very strong choice in this list of affordable online schools.

While most online degree programs operate on a traditional semester or quarter schedule, Columbia College delivers courses on a compressed eight-week schedule with five individual sessions each year. This means you can get started at any time throughout the year rather than waiting to enroll in either the fall or spring.

Bachelor’s courses are priced at $260 per credit, while graduate courses cost around $350 per credit.

School Details

Application Fee
$35 - $55
Bachelor's In-State Tuition
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition
Master's In-State Tuition
Master's In-State Tuition

Online Degrees Available at Columbia College

Bachelor’s Programs
Graduate Programs
American studiesMany criminal justice specialties
BusinessMany education specialties
Computer information systemsBusiness administration (MBA)
Criminal justice administrationMilitary studies
General studies
Human services
Political science
Public administration


University of West Georgia

University of West Georgia

While not the cheapest online college on this list, the University of West Georgia is a solid performer in the rankings of online degree programs. For example, U.S. News & World Report ranks the school’s online graduate IT program 16th in the nation, while the graduate MBA and nursing programs are both in the top 50.

The university offers only one online bachelor’s program, in criminology, which costs $260 per credit. The school’s graduate programs vary in cost, from $294 per credit for a graduate education degree to $728 per credit for an MBA.

School Details

Application Fee
Bachelor's In-State Tuition
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition
Master's In-State Tuition
$294 - $728/credit
Master's In-State Tuition
$294 - $728/credit

Online Degrees Available at the University of West Georgia

Bachelor’s Programs
Graduate Programs
CriminologyApplied computer science
Business administration (MBA)
Early childhood education
Instructional technology
Music education
Reading instruction
School library media


Oregon State University

Oregon State University

Oregon State University has offered online bachelor’s programs since 2000. These online bachelor’s degree programs are currently ranked 5th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Oregon State University’s Ecampus is best known for its student services and technology, which allow for additional convenience. All online classes are recorded and archived, so material can be accessed at any time.

Most online bachelor’s programs cost between $271 and $322 per credit for both in-state and out-of-state students. Graduate programs are pricier than the other schools listed here, starting around $512 per credit. However, the online graduate programs are also more specialized, which may justify the cost.

School Details

Application Fee
Bachelor's In-State Tuition
$271 - $322/credit
Bachelor's Out-of-State Tuition
$271 - $322/credit
Master's In-State Tuition
$512 - $761/credit
Master's In-State Tuition
$512 - $761/credit

Online Degrees Available at Oregon State University

Bachelor’s Programs
Graduate Programs
Agricultural sciencesMBA in executive leadership
AnthropologyAdult education (not fully online)
Business administrationCounseling
Computer scienceEducation (K-12)
EconomicsFisheries and wildlife administration
Environmental economics and policyIndustrial engineering
Environmental sciencesNatural resources
Fisheries and wildlife sciencesRadiation health physics
GermanScience or mathematics education
Human development and family sciences
Liberal studies
Natural resources
Political science
Women, gender, and sexuality studies

Comparing the Most Affordable Online Colleges to the Best Online Colleges

You may be wondering how the affordable online schools on the list above match up against the best online colleges in the country. It might surprise you to know there aren’t that many differences between the two.

Depending on the type of degree you’re interested in, you may get just as good of an education from one of the most affordable schools as you could from some of the highest-ranked online colleges.

Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees

If you’re looking at online bachelor’s degree programs, you’ll notice a much bigger difference in quality between the best online schools and the most affordable online schools. Of course, there’s also a big difference in cost as well. Of all the degree levels, you get what you pay for at the undergraduate level.

Before you make any decisions, look closely at the type of majors offered by these schools. Just because one university’s online bachelor’s programs are considered better than another doesn’t mean they have the degree you’re looking for. If you are settled on the idea of taking classes online, but not certain of your major, you’ll want to look into a school that offers more majors.

Even with online master’s degree programs, not every university is going to offer the exact type of degree you’re interested in. Do your research and weigh these considerations against paying more tuition at another school that has a specialty more suited to your career goals.

In general, there are fewer differences in quality between the online master’s programs at the most highly-rated schools and the programs that are considered to be the most affordable. A lot of the highest-rated universities in the country offer graduate programs online.

A Graduate Degree Comparison

Let’s say, for example, you’re looking to pursue a graduate degree in information technology from an online school. There are a number of universities you might consider, including Pennsylvania State University—World Campus. Their graduate IT program is ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, with above-average scores in the areas of faculty credentials, student services, and student engagement. Tuition for this program costs $784 per credit.

Now compare that to the IT program offered by Sam Houston State University. Their program falls slightly behind Pennsylvania State University—World Campus in rankings of the best online colleges, coming in at number seven.

However, when you look a little deeper, their programs aren’t all that different. In fact, you can see clearly where Sam Houston State is a very competitive option at a third of the cost.

  • Sam Houston State actually ranks higher than Penn State when it comes to faculty credentials and the same for student services.
  • Sam Houston State offers several more concentration options for students to choose from.
  • The program costs just $245 per credit for both in-state and out-of-state students.

If price is your main concern, there’s no question which school you should choose. The amount you’ll save in tuition costs far outweighs any minor advantages you might gain from going with Penn State’s slightly higher-ranked program.

Now, this isn’t to say that the best online schools haven’t earned their reputation for academic excellence. As a nationally recognized school in the Big Ten, Penn State does have a more potent reputation than Sam Houston State. The above example simply illustrates that you have options regardless of your budget.

Affordable Online Bachelor’s Programs

If an online bachelor’s degree is what you’re after, we recommend going to our full page on affordable online bachelor’s degree programs. This article goes into depth about finding a program that won’t drain your bank account. For a sample, we’ve included the top five most affordable online bachelor’s programs in 2016 below.

  1. Fort Hays State University
  2. Oregon State University
  3. Lamar University
  4. SUNY College of Technology—Delhi
  5. Colorado State University—Global Campus

Affordable Online Master’s Degrees

For those of you who are looking for an online graduate degree in a specific field, we also researched the most affordable online master’s programs for some popular areas of study. Take a look at the list of schools for each degree program below. For a more detailed look at these online degree programs, go to our full page on affordable online master’s degree programs.

Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Nursing
Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Education
Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in IT
Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Engineering
1Georgia College & State UniversityLamar UniversitySam Houston State UniversityUniversity of Arkansas
2University of Southern IndianaFort Hays State UniversitySouthern Polytechnic State UniversityMississippi State University
3University of Missouri—Kansas CitySam Houston State UniversityMississippi State UniversitySouth Dakota School of Mines and Technology
4University of KansasUniversity of Texas—ArlingtonUniversity of West GeorgiaUniversity of Tennessee—Chattanooga
5University of Texas—TylerEmporia State UniversityGeorgia Southern UniversityUniversity of Cincinnati

Affordable Online MBA Programs

Getting an online MBA from an excellent university with a solid reputation is no longer the difficult task it once was. It’s becoming very common for people in the business world to jump back into their education online. It’s also feasible to find an online college that offers an MBA program at an affordable price in 2016. We’ve included a list of those top schools below, but if you’re interested in getting more details, you should check out our article on affordable online MBA programs.

  1. University of North Dakota
  2. West Texas A&M University
  3. Mississippi State University
  4. University of South Dakota
  5. Arkansas State University—Jonesboro

How to Save the Most When Choosing an Online College

  1. Decide on your major.
  2. If you can’t decide on a major, look for schools with many degree options.
  3. Get an idea of cost for your degree.
  4. Set your budget.
  5. Look for schools within your budget that offer your degree (or multiple degrees).
  6. Eliminate the schools that are too expensive.
  7. Weigh the quality measures of the remaining schools.
  8. Apply to a select number of schools where you have a good chance of being accepted.

Money-Saving Tips

Step 1: Decide on Your Major

The first thing you need to do to find an affordable online college is to decide which degree you want to pursue, then narrow down your search to only schools that offer the program you want. If you can’t decide on a major, look for a school that has many online bachelor’s degree programs so you have the flexibility to change your major. Remember, online education is best for students who have a specific educational focus because the full range of undergraduate degrees is not always available online.

Step 2: Set Your Budget

Once you’ve determined the major you want to pursue, set a realistic budget to help you find cheap online colleges that are also a good academic fit. Start by looking at the online colleges that offer the degree you want. You should be able to gauge the tuition cost per credit for the programs you’re interested in. Once you have a general idea of your total program cost, you can then decide which schools are aligned with your budget or which ones offer the most value for the money. If you plan to work while taking classes, you can factor that income into your choice as well.

Step 3: Narrow Down Your List

Depending on the program you’re seeking, this can be easy or difficult. You need to get the list of schools you’re interested in down to a manageable number. Identify your top five schools by performing some more in-depth research on the options that fit within your budget and criteria.

You’ll also want to make sure your GPA and test scores are good enough to get into the schools you want to apply to. Talk to admissions advisers from each of the online colleges or look for students who are currently enrolled in the program and ask them questions. You can also talk to alumni who completed the online program, although the sample size may be small. LinkedIn is a good place to find alumni.

Step 4: Apply to Your Top Five Schools

Once you decide on your top five online schools, it’s time to apply. Make sure you get everything you need for your application, like recommendation letters, prepared ahead of time. By having a smaller number of schools on your list (and applying early), you’ll save money on application fees and have a more targeted approach.

Start with Price: The Cheapest Online Degree Paths

The online college you choose is going to be a big factor in how much you pay for your schooling, but there are other things to consider if you’re really looking to minimize your educational costs. Since online tuition is generally priced according to degree level rather than degree subject, there is an opportunity to save even more money by opting for the cheapest degree path available, based on your career goals.

If you haven’t decided on a career yet and you’re looking for the most affordable path to a dependable career with good pay, you can consider careers that require only a two-year associate’s degree. Choosing a high-paying career that only requires an associate’s degree immediately saves you two years of tuition costs compared to a career that requires a bachelor’s degree.

An online associate’s degree is not the best option for everyone, but it’s the cheapest and quickest path to a career if you’re willing to work in certain fields.

How to save the most money while getting your desired degree:

  1. Get an internship or entry-level job in your desired field.
  2. Start with your associate’s degree.
  3. Move to a bachelor’s completion program.
  4. Advance in your career.
  5. Continue your education with an online graduate program while working.

If you’ve already identified your ideal career, but it requires a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, you can still save some money by considering an associate’s degree first. Once your associate’s degree is complete, simply transfer into an affordable two-year bachelor’s completion program. With a bachelor’s degree complete, you’re ready to enter a master’s degree program or the workforce.

Online Associate’s Degree Programs

Online associate’s degrees are the cheapest online degrees available on a cost-per-credit basis. These affordable online degree programs require two years of full-time study to complete, making the full cost of the degree very inexpensive compared to a four-year bachelor’s degree program. With a shorter two-year curriculum, you can start working and earning a full-time salary years earlier than you can in careers that require a higher-level degree.

Associate’s degrees are designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in fields of all kinds, from information technology to business. Both community colleges and four-year universities across the country offer cheap online degrees at the associate’s level, many with a dozen or more subjects to choose from. While the full spectrum of associate’s degree subjects are not offered in an online format, plenty of good options are available.

Best Online Associate’s Degrees to Consider


Computer and information technology subjects are some of the best associate’s degrees to pursue online and rank among the cheapest online degree programs available on a value-for-money basis. Most associate’s degrees in technology subjects provide all the basic skills you need to get started in careers with very high salary potential.

An online associate’s degree in web development makes for excellent and relatively affordable career training. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a web developer in the U.S. is more than $62,000 per year and the job pool is expected to grow more than 20% this decade. Fields such as media production, computer support services, and systems and network maintenance are also open to associate’s degree graduates and offer median salaries of around $50,000 or more.

Web developers earn more than $62,000 a year and the field is growing at a rate of higher than 20%. It only takes an associate’s degree to get your foot in the door.

Among many affordable online degrees, Baker College in Michigan offers several quality online associate’s degrees in many information technology subjects.

Baker College offers degrees that include the following:

  • Web Development
  • IT Support
  • Computer Programming

Pennsylvania State University—World Campus, one of the very top online schools in the country, offers an associate’s program in information sciences and technology.

You can individualize the program to focus on any of the following:

  • Web Development
  • Database or Network Administration
  • Technical Support

Although associate’s degrees in business subjects are not as lucrative after graduation as some degrees in technology fields, they do let you secure the skills you need to get a foothold in all kinds of business positions.

Getting an entry-level position in business lets you start working your way up the ladder to greater responsibility and higher pay. Hundreds of online schools offer associate’s degrees in business.

Health, Education, Legal, and Family

Other affordable online degrees worth looking into include health administrative services, health information technology, childhood and elementary education, criminal justice, paralegal studies, and family development.

Note that some of these fields require both an associate’s degree and a license or certification in many states. Make sure you identify your local requirements before committing to a program.

Online Bachelor’s Completion Programs

After you complete a low-cost online associate’s degree from an accredited university or college, you can transfer your credits into an online bachelor’s degree program and start studying as a third-year student. Many online bachelor’s programs exist to primarily support students for this situation.

Virtually all online bachelor’s programs accept transfer credits from online associate’s programs. You have the ability to choose from a full selection of degree options at any price.

Many bachelor’s completion programs only deliver the third and fourth year of courses online. However, you don’t have to limit your search to formal bachelor’s-completion programs. You can transfer into virtually any standard four-year online bachelor’s program as a degree-completion student with junior-year standing.

Standout schools that offer inexpensive online bachelor’s degree completion programs include:

  1. Fort Hays State University
  2. Oregon State University
  3. Sam Houston State University
  4. Lamar University
  5. University of Arkansas
  6. West Texas A&M University

Some of the country’s highest-ranked and most affordable online degrees are available to associate’s degree graduates. For example, Fort Hays State University offers some of the cheapest online degrees anywhere. Choose from more than 25 different subjects, including multiple specialties in the business, education, and information technology.

Oregon State University is another inexpensive option for bachelor’s-completion students. Oregon State’s affordable online degree programs include common subjects like business, psychology, and political science. The school also offers some rare online subjects, including horticulture, fisheries and wildlife, German, and environmental economics, among many other interesting options.

Other schools offering very affordable online degree programs open to associate’s degree graduates include Sam Houston State University, Lamar University, University of Arkansas, and West Texas A&M University. Each of these institutions ranks among the top 50 online schools for cheap out-of-state tuition.

Making Your Online Education More Affordable

If you’re thinking about pursuing an online degree, you might be thinking about financial aid to help pay for college. Even the most affordable colleges represent a substantial expense when you add up tuition, school fees, and the cost of books and supplies. Then you have to factor in your regular living expenses. In order to help estimate these costs, we’ve created a calculator that takes into account your finances outside of school in addition to your education related finances to calculate your projected monthly expenditures.

Student Budget Calculator


Before looking at the different types of online schools that accept financial aid, it’s important to understand the basics of the federal financial aid system. Both traditional and online colleges operate under the very same system, which uses the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.

Any student interested in federal financial aid must complete a FAFSA to be eligible for funds. A FAFSA can be completed and submitted online at any time.

The FAFSA is designed to collect information about your personal finances to determine your ability to pay for school on your own. Your ability to pay is calculated as a dollar figure known as your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC.

How It Works

Once you get accepted into any traditional or online colleges that accept FAFSA, your EFC is subtracted from the school’s cost of attendance in order to determine your financial need. All traditional and online schools that accept FAFSA are required to calculate official cost of attendance figures, which include educational and living expenses for a typical enrolled student.

The difference between your EFC and a school’s official cost of attendance is the amount of need-based federal financial aid for which you are eligible, up to certain maximum annual limits. Need-based aid includes grants, which you don’t have to pay back, and interest-subsidized federal loans, which you do have to pay back.

On top of need-based aid, most students are also eligible for non-need-based aid. Non-need-based aid is made up of unsubsidized federal loans, which you must pay back. Your overall financial-aid eligibility cannot exceed your total cost of attendance.

After you accept admission to an online school that offers financial aid, the school puts together a financial aid package including loans and any grants for which you are eligible. While the funds come from the federal government, the school administers those funds, first paying your tuition and fees, and then disbursing the remainder to you for payment of your personal expenses.

Financial Aid Specifically for Online Education

There are hundreds of online colleges that accept financial aid, including large public universities, small private colleges, and for-profit educational institutions. Like traditional schools, online schools must be accredited by a federally recognized education accreditation agency in order to be a part of the federal financial aid system.

Online schools that offer financial aid can only grant it to students enrolled in formal degree or certificate programs recognized under federal financial aid standards. Virtually all online degree programs offered by properly accredited colleges accept federal financial aid.

There are some exceptions, however. For example, many independent-study programs are ineligible for federal student aid because they aren’t carried out on a regular quarter- or semester-based academic calendar, which is a general requirement for federal financial aid. Even when a program is fully eligible under federal standards, a school may choose not to offer aid.

Ultimately, to be certain that an online college offers federal financial aid for a particular online degree program, contact the school’s admissions department or financial aid office directly.

About this resource:

Created on: March 25, 2015

Updated on: May 12, 2016

Edited by: Sarah Ban, Kailey Fralick

Research by: Mike Jelinek, Kailey Fralick, Allen Leng

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