Best Affordable Online College Masters

This is part of a four-part series that focuses on affordable online education, specifically online colleges and various degree programs. Other articles in this series cover the most affordable online colleges in general, affordable online bachelor’s degree programs, and affordable online MBA programs. We hope this series can help guide people who are looking for a quality education online without breaking the bank.

How to Choose an Online Graduate Program

Online graduate programs are ideal for working professionals looking to further develop their skills in a particular area or to advance in their chosen career. Tuition is more expensive for these programs than for online bachelor’s degrees, but there are still plenty of cheap online master’s programs out there if you’re looking to get a quality education from home.

Nursing, education, information technology, engineering, and business degrees are some of the most common graduate degrees offered online. In fact, technology and engineering degrees were among the most desirable degrees to employers in 2016, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Not every school is going to offer all of these degrees, but if you’re looking to advance in any one of these fields, you shouldn’t have a problem finding an online program that has what you’re looking for.

In order to get more specific with our rankings, we broke down the most affordable online master’s degree programs by the most common graduate degrees. We also chose one school as the best overall online college to get an affordable master’s degree.

Best Affordable Online College Master’s

Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University is home to the single best selection of cheap online master’s programs anywhere. Graduate tuition at the school is only $244 to $267 per credit for online students, ranking among the most affordable rates available for graduate programs of any kind.

On top of the low tuition, Sam Houston State University also delivers some of the best quality online programs in the country. The school performs very well in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of online graduate programs, which includes hundreds of schools across the country. In 2015, Sam Houston State placed 7th, 28th, and 69th in rankings of graduate IT programs, education programs, and business programs, respectively.

Sam Houston State University offers about 25 online master’s degrees altogether, including subjects such as criminal justice, public administration, history, digital forensics, and library science. While there are certainly many other quality online colleges worth considering, Sam Houston State should top your list of potential schools if you’re looking to pursue a graduate education online without breaking the bank.

Online Master’s Programs Details

Location
Texas
Application Fee
$45
Master's In-State
$244-267/credit
Master's Out-of-State
$653/credit
Acceptance Rate
74%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.25
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience5 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017)77%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2013)48
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2014)66

Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Nursing

Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs are perfect for working registered nurses who want to advance into specialist nursing positions. Most MSN programs offer several concentration options to choose from, including subjects such as nursing administration, nursing education, nursing informatics, and family nursing, among other options. While few online colleges offer a full selection of concentration options, you should be able to find a quality school that offers an affordable online master’s degree program in nursing to match your career goals.

Here are the five best online colleges for affordable graduate degrees in nursing:

  1. Georgia College & State University
  2. University of Southern Indiana
  3. University of Missouri—Kansas City
  4. University of Kansas
  5. University of Texas—Tyler

 

Georgia College & State University

Georgia College and State University

Charging just $373 per credit for in-state and out-of-state students, Georgia College & State University has one of the nation’s least expensive online nursing programs. It’s also one of the best: The program is ranked 18th best by U.S. News & World Report, faring particularly well in ratings of faculty credentials and student engagement. Students are able to choose from online degrees in family nursing (FNP) or nursing education (MSN). The school also offers an online doctorate in nursing practice (DNP).

Online Nursing Program Details
Location
Georgia
Application Fee
$35
In-State Tuition
$373/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$373/credit
Acceptance Rate
78%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.5
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience3 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):85%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):85%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):85%

University of Southern Indiana

University of Southern Indiana

The University of Southern Indiana offers a broad range of graduate nursing degrees for just $297 per credit for in-state and out-of-state students alike. This top-40 online program is rated particularly competitively for selectivity and faculty credentials.

Students can choose from master’s programs specializing in acute care, clinical nursing, family nursing, family psychiatric mental health nursing, nursing education, and nursing management and leadership. There are also two doctoral options and several post-graduate programs.

Online Nursing Program Details
Location
Indiana
Application Fee
$40
In-State Tuition
$297/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$297/credit
Acceptance Rate
94%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.39
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience8 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):87%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):88%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):88%

University of Missouri—Kansas City

University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri—​Kansas City delivers one of the best value-for-money online master’s programs in nursing at $395 per credit. The school boasts a top-20 national ranking among online colleges from U.S. News & World Report, with especially strong performance in measures of faculty credentials, student engagement, and selectivity.

Choose from three online nursing programs, including nursing education, family psychiatric mental health nursing, and neonatal nursing. There are also doctoral and post-graduate programs.

Online Nursing Program Details
Location
Missouri
Application Fee
$45
In-State Tuition
$395/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$395/credit
Acceptance Rate
64%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.38
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience12 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):76%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):73%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):75%

University of Kansas

University of Kansas

The University of Kansas also offers a great value in nursing master’s programs. Tuition is only $346 per credit for both in- and out-of-state students. The top-25 program ranks particularly well for a strong, well-credentialed faculty and admissions selectivity.

Students can choose from master’s specialties in four areas: clinical research management, nursing informatics, organizational leadership, and public health nursing. A doctorate in nursing is also available.

Online Nursing Program Details
Location
Kansas
Application Fee
$40
In-State Tuition
$346/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$346/credit
Acceptance Rate
93%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.5
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience15 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):86%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):84%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):83%

University of Texas—Tyler

University of Texas at Tyler

Though slightly pricier at $401 per credit for out-of-state students, the University of Texas—Tyler’s online nursing program notches a top-10 ranking nationally. Faculty credentials and student engagement are particular strengths, according to U.S. News & World Report. You can specialize in nursing education or administration, or opt for a unique dual degree in nursing and business administration (MSN-MBA).

Online Nursing Program Details
Location
Texas
Application Fee
$40
In-State Tuition
$50/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$472/credit
Acceptance Rate
65%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.38
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience10 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2019):94%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):81%

Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Education

Master’s degrees in education are one of the most popular graduate degrees to earn online. These degrees offer working teachers a great opportunity to develop new practical skills and pursue career advancement.

Most online colleges offering graduate education programs have several degrees to choose from. Common options include educational administration, adult education, special education, instructional technology, and curriculum and instruction.

Here are the five best online colleges for affordable online master’s degrees in education:

  1. Lamar University
  2. Fort Hays State University
  3. Sam Houston State University
  4. University of Texas — Arlington
  5. Emporia State University

Lamar University

Lamar University

Lamar University offers one of the country’s best selections of affordable online master’s degree programs in education at just $273 per credit, for both in- and out-of-state students. Choose from several different degree subjects, including educational administration, school counseling, special education, and several teacher leadership specialties. The top-40 program gets solid rankings for faculty credentials, student services, and student engagement.

Online Education Program Details
Location
Texas
Application Fee
$0
In-State Tuition
$273/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$273/credit
Acceptance Rate
82%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.28
Average GRE Score149 verbal, 143 quantitative
Faculty Average Online Teaching ExperienceN/A
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2015):59%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2014):60%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2013):53%

Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University-1

Fort Hays State University is another top school to consider if you’re looking for high-quality yet affordable online master’s degree programs. Fort Hays State’s education programs rank among the top 30 online programs in the nation and cost only $176 per credit for in- and out-of-state students.

Master’s degree subjects include educational administration, instructional technology, general education, and special education. Students in general education can specialize in English for speakers of other languages, library media, reading, transition to teaching, JROTC instruction, or higher education student affairs.

Online Education Program Details
Location
Kansas
Application Fee
$30
In-State Tuition
$176/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$511/credit
Acceptance Rate
89%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.37
Average GRE ScoreN/A
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience6 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2019):76%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):74%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):71%

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University also rates as one of the best value-for-money graduate education options in the country, with a top-30 national ranking among online programs and a low tuition rate of $244 per credit for in-state and out-of-state students. Faculty credentials and student engagement are two particular strengths here.

The school offers degrees in curriculum and instruction, educational administration, higher education administration, instructional leadership, instructional technology, international literacy, and reading and language arts.

Online Education Program Details
Location
Texas
Application Fee
$45
In-State Tuition
$244-267/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$653/credit
Acceptance Rate
74%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.25
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience5 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):77%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2013):48%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2014):66%

University of Texas — Arlington

University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas—Arlington charges just $257 to $350 per credit for all students, and its online education master’s program ranks 30th in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. The program notches its highest rating for superior student services and technology, and offers education master’s degrees in four areas: curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on literacy; curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on mathematics; curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on science; and educational leadership and policy studies.

Online Education Program Details
Location
Texas
Application Fee
$75
In-State Tuition
$257-350/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$257-350/credit
Acceptance Rate
71%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.47
Average GRE Score149 verbal, 144 quantitative
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience4 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2012):84%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2013):85%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2014):84%

Emporia State University

Emporia State University

Though the most expensive pick on our list at $258 per credit out of state, Emporia State is still a bargain compared to most other online master’s programs in education. It’s also the highest ranked on this list, coming in at 11th in the nation for 2015, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Emporia State also offers an impressive variety of education master’s degrees: curriculum and instruction; early childhood; educational administration; specialties in elementary education; reading; and elementary STEM; school counseling and psychology; adaptive and gifted and talented special education; and school leadership and middle and secondary teaching.

Online Education Program Details
Location
Kansas
Application Fee
$30
In-State Tuition
$172/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$258/credit
Acceptance Rate
82.8%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.4
Average GRE Score152 verbal, 147 quantitative
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience10 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):76.7%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):74.8%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):73.2%

Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Information Technology

Online master’s programs in information technology, or IT, make up one of the fastest growing areas of online education. Today, more than 15 different IT subjects are available in a quality online format. The major categories include information systems and networking, information security, software development, and information technology management. Most graduate IT programs are practical degrees designed to help you develop the specialized skills you need to advance in your career.

Here are the five best online colleges for affordable graduate degrees in IT:

  1. Sam Houston State University
  2. Southern Polytechnic State University
  3. Mississippi State University
  4. University of West Georgia
  5. Georgia Southern University

 

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University is home to some of the most affordable online graduate programs in information technology, charging just $244 to $267 per credit. It’s also the 7th-best online program in the nation in 2015, according to U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re looking to work in information security, one of the fastest-growing fields within information technology, Sam Houston State University is hard to beat: The digital forensics program prepares students for careers in law enforcement, while the information assurance and security program prepares students for work in commercial and government settings. There are also degree paths in computing and information science as well as geographic information systems.

Online IT Program Details
Location
Texas
Application Fee
$45
In-State Tuition
$244-267/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$653/credit
Acceptance Rate
74%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.25
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience5 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):76%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):77%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):76%

Southern Polytechnic State University

Southern Polytechnic State University

Southern Polytechnic State University delivers one of the best selections of online information technology degrees in the country. Ranked among the nation’s top 25 online programs, they’re priced at $390 per credit. Choose from degrees in software engineering, systems engineering, information technology, and information design and communication.

Online IT Program Details
Location
Georgia
Application Fee
$40
In-State Tuition
$390/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$390/credit
Acceptance Rate
60.6%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.38
Average GRE ScoreN/A
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience4 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):78.3%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2015):80.1%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2014):78.2%

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State UniversityMississippi State University offers a popular online master’s degree in information systems through the College of Business. It also notches a very respectable ranking among the top 15 online programs nationwide. The degree is designed to prepare students for leadership positions in IT departments in large businesses and organizations. The curriculum includes courses in IT and business topics. Courses are priced at $300 per credit.

Online IT Program Details
Location
Mississippi
Application Fee
$60
In-State Tuition
$300/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$300/credit
Acceptance Rate
62.4%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.43
Average GRE ScoreN/A
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience6 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):89.6%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):79%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):80%

University of West Georgia

University of West Georgia

The University of West Georgia’s online information technology master’s program is a steal at just $182 per credit, and the online program ranks in the top 20 nationwide, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The applied computer science degree focuses on practical skills that can give graduates a leg up in information technology careers, including work in web technologies; program construction; software development; database systems; and system and network administration.

Online IT Program Details
Location
Georgia
Application Fee
$40
In-State Tuition
$182/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$182/credit
Acceptance Rate
58.6%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.16
Average GRE Score159 verbal, 155 quantitative
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience2 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):69%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):69%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):72%

Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University

With graduate tuition of $250 to $789 per credit, Georgia Southern University is the most expensive program on our list, but still one of the cheapest online master’s degree programs in computer science in the country.

This program focuses primarily on data and knowledge systems, data mining, and data warehousing, preparing students to work in systems analysis, software development, and other related IT fields.

Online IT Program Details
Location
Georgia
Application Fee
$30
In-State Tuition
$250-789/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$250-789/credit
Acceptance Rate
68.3%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.36
Average GRE Score155 verbal, 153 quantitative
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience4 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):79.5%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2015):80.8%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2014):81.5%

Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Engineering

Online master’s degrees in engineering are not as common as online degrees in some other fields, but there are a variety of good options for interested students. Master’s degree programs in electrical engineering, civil engineering, and software engineering are well-represented online. Many other graduate engineering degree subjects are available in a hybrid format that requires students to complete some degree requirements on campus. The engineering master’s degree programs described in this post don’t require any visits to campus.

Here are the five best online colleges for affordable graduate degrees in engineering:

  1. University of Arkansas
  2. Mississippi State University
  3. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
  4. University of Tennessee — Chattanooga
  5. University of Cincinnati

University of Arkansas

University of Arkansas

Charging only $252 per credit, more than $100 less than any other school, the University of Arkansas easily ranks first among the most affordable online graduate programs in engineering in the country. It’s also a quality program, ranked in the top 30 online programs by U.S. News & World Report.

Choose from two degree programs: The general engineering program offers students the chance to design a curriculum that matches their career goals. Courses are available in many engineering subfields, from mechanical engineering to biological engineering.

The online electrical engineering program focuses specifically on the design of electrical energy systems and their component parts, including motors and generators. The curriculum includes courses on large-scale power systems such as local and regional electrical distribution grids, as well as small-scale systems such as those found in hybrid and electric cars.

Online Engineering Program Details
Location
Arkansas
Application Fee
$45
In-State Tuition
$252/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$252/credit
Acceptance Rate
66%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.72
Average GRE Score157 verbal, 162 quantitative
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience5 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):84.2%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):83..8%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):82.2%

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University delivers an excellent variety of online engineering degrees priced at only $361 per credit. The online program is also ranked 20th in the nation, making it an excellent value.

Choose from degrees in aerospace engineering, civil engineering, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical and computer engineering. There is also a general engineering degree that enables you to design a unique curriculum to match your career goals.

Online Engineering Program Details
Location
Mississippi
Application Fee
$40
In-State Tuition
$361/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$361/credit
Acceptance Rate
62.4%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.43
Average GRE Score154 verbal, 152 quantitative
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience6 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):79.8%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):79.3%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2015):80.2%

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

SDSMT-Logo-BLUE 2

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is home to a top-40 online master’s engineering program as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Choose from three degree options: engineering management, mining engineering and management, or construction engineering and management. With tuition of $465 per credit, all three programs make very good value-for-money options.

Online Engineering Program Details
Location
South Dakota
Application Fee
$20
In-State Tuition
$465/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$465/credit
Acceptance Rate
83.4%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.57
Average GRE ScoreN/A
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience11 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2012):78.4%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2013):75%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2014):76.5%

University of Tennessee — Chattanooga

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The University of Tennessee — Chattanooga’s online master’s engineering program is ranked 7th best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, faring particularly well in ratings of student engagement as well as student services and technology.

The online master’s of science in engineering management stresses topics including quality control, project management, decision-making, leadership, product development, and strategic management. Students can also concentrate their studies in construction management or power systems management. Tuition is a manageable $458 per credit for out-of-state students.

Online Engineering Program Details
Location
Tennessee
Application Fee
$30
In-State Tuition
$458/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$458/credit
Acceptance Rate
82.8%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.51
Average GRE Score306.43 average
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience15 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):71%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):72%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):73%

University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati, a top-50 online program, rounds out this list of cheap online graduate programs in engineering with two solid options in mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Both programs are designed for working professionals and include courses in engineering management and leadership. Courses cost $1,125 per credit for out-of-state students.

Online Engineering Program Details
Location
Ohio
Application Fee
$75
In-State Tuition
$486/credit
Out-of-State Tuition
$1,125/credit
Acceptance Rate
76.5%
Average Undergraduate GPA3.7
Average GRE Score316
Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience11 Years
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2018):58.8%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2017):55.5%
One-Year New Student Retention Rates (2016):62.3%

Too long, didn’t read?

Find the best, most affordable online college master’s degree program for you with this comprehensive list. You can choose a school and a program from this list while comparing the tuition and application fees, student retention rates, acceptance rate, and average GPA.

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Reviewed by

  • Andrea Perez
    Andrea Perez
    Personal Finance Editor

    Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar specializing in personal finance. Prior to that she specialized in digital marketing content for online learning websites. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from the University of South Florida.