Best Affordable Online College Bachelors

This is part of a four-part series on affordable online colleges and degree programs. The other articles cover affordable online colleges, affordable online master’s degree programs, and affordable online MBA programs. Our goal with this series is to help anyone interested in online education find the best programs for the money and walk away with a quality degree.

Who Should Consider an Online Bachelor’s Degree

Before getting into the list of the top five schools for an affordable online bachelor’s degree, let’s explore who an online degree is best for. That way, you can determine whether you want to move forward with research on individual schools and programs.

One of the main advantages to choosing an online bachelor’s program over a traditional on-campus one is the flexibility it offers. Video recordings and online lecture notes mean you don’t have to plan your day around school — you can plan school around your life. For working adults trying to balance the demands of a job and family life on top of getting an education, the ability to work through the material at your own pace is invaluable.

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The rise of online education also opens up more opportunities to those who live far away from a traditional university campus. You’re no longer limited to the few programs available through your local community college, so you’re free to choose something that’s more in line with your career goals and aspirations.

The lower average cost of online universities is another reason to consider distance learning over an on-campus education, particularly if you are on a budget. Education is a big investment no matter which way you go, but by selecting an online program, you can expect significant savings in tuition costs and less debt you’ll need to pay back afterward.

In this article

    Best Affordable Online College Bachelor’s

    What are the best online colleges for bachelor’s?

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

    Fort Hays State University

    Fort Hays State University-1

    With undergraduate tuition of $187 per credit, a top-20 ranking among online programs, and more than 25 different bachelor’s programs to choose from, Fort Hays State University rates as one of the very best options in the country for affordable, high-quality online study.

    The school’s online student body is composed of more than 6,000 students in 20 countries. About 600 online courses are available every semester, ensuring you have the chance to take varied and interesting elective courses while still completing all your basic degree requirements on time.

    Online Bachelor’s Details

    Application Fee$30 – $40
    In-State Tuition$187/credit
    Out-of-State Tuition$187/credit
    Acceptance Rate94%
    Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience7 Years
    One-Year Retention Rates (2012)73%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2013)88%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2014)86%

    Most Popular Online Bachelor’s Degrees at Fort Hays State

    • Business management
    • Organizational leadership
    • Justice studies
    • General studies
    • Information networking and technology
    • Elementary education
    • Nursing
    • Sociology
    • Political science
    • Management information systems
    • Marketing
    • Social work
    • Technology leadership
    • Human resources
    • Secondary education

    Oregon State University

    Oregon State University

    Oregon State University offers one of the nation’s top 10 most affordable online bachelor’s degrees for out-of-state students, with tuition of just $191 per credit regardless of where you live (an $80 distance learning fee boosts that number to $271 for most programs). It also offers the 5th best online bachelor’s programs in the country, scoring particularly well for faculty credentials and training, according to U.S. News & World Report. This combination of price and quality makes Oregon State a value that’s hard to beat.

    Just under 20 programs and more than 900 classes are available at Oregon State. Your options include business administration, computer science, and liberal studies. If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, the school offers some less common online degrees, too: German, fisheries and wildlife sciences, sustainability, and women’s studies are among your choices. Students who have trouble deciding on a major can also enroll in an exploratory studies program.

    Online Bachelor’s Details

    Application Fee$60
    In-State Tuition$271 – $322/credit
    Out-of-State Tuition$271 – $322/credit
    Acceptance Rate59%
    Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience3 Years
    One-Year Retention Rates (2012)73%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2013)72%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2014)73%

    Online Bachelor’s Degrees Offered at Oregon State University

    • Agricultural sciences
    • Anthropology
    • Business administration
    • Computer science
    • Economics
    • Environmental economics and policy
    • Environmental sciences
    • Fisheries and wildlife sciences
    • German
    • Horticulture
    • Human development and family sciences
    • Liberal studies
    • Natural resources
    • Political science
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Spanish
    • Sustainability
    • Women, gender and sexuality studies

    Lamar University

    Lamar University

    Lamar University makes our list as an all-around solid performer for value, variety, and quality. The online bachelor’s degree program notches a top-50 ranking from U.S. News & World Report, and at just $208 per credit, Lamar is one of the 15 least expensive options for out-of-state students.

    There are about a dozen bachelor’s degree paths to choose from at Lamar, many of which include practical career-skills training. Options include computer science, industrial technology, criminal justice, nursing, and several business concentrations. If you’re not quite sure where to focus, Lamar also has a customizable general studies program.

    Online Bachelor’s Details

    Application Fee$25
    In-State Tuition$208 – $283/credit
    Out-of-State Tuition$208 – $283/credit
    Acceptance Rate78%
    Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience3 Years
    One-Year Retention Rates (2012)69%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2013)75%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2014)72%

    Online Bachelor’s Degrees Offered at Lamar University

    • Applied arts and sciences
    • Communication
    • Computer studies
    • Criminal justice
    • Entrepreneurship
    • General business
    • General studies
    • Industrial engineering
    • Industrial technology
    • Management
    • Nursing
    • Sociology

    SUNY College of Technology—Delhi

    SUNY College of Technology-Delhi

    SUNY College of Technology—Delhi, ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s top 20 online bachelor’s programs for the past two years, offers two world-class online bachelor’s degrees in nursing and criminal justice. Both programs are designed as degree-completion programs, meaning you must hold an appropriate two-year associate’s degree from an accredited college or university before enrolling. The nursing program is an RN-to-BSN program open to students who already hold both an associate’s degree in nursing and a registered nurse’s license.

    Online courses at SUNY College of Technology—Delhi are pretty inexpensive at $257 per credit, placing the school among the nation’s top 30 cheapest online bachelor’s degree programs for out-of-state students. High U.S. News scores for student engagement as well as online faculty qualifications and training mean that if you’re looking for a quality online nursing or criminal justice degree, this school is pretty hard to beat on a value-for-money basis.

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    Online Bachelor’s Details

    LocationNew York
    Application Fee$50
    In-State Tuition$257/credit
    Out-of-State Tuition$257/credit
    Acceptance Rate76%
    Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience8 Years
    One-Year Retention Rates (2012)67%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2013)68%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2014)57%

    Online Bachelor’s Degrees Offered at SUNY College of Technology—Delhi

    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice

    Colorado State University—Global Campus


    Colorado State University—Global Campus delivers a diverse selection of bachelor’s subjects and a highly qualified faculty well-trained in online teaching methods, all for $350 per credit hour. If that’s not enough, the online program is ranked as the 7th best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school specializes in degree-completion programs, which require students to have at least one to two years of completed credits, depending on the degree subject.

    Colorado State University—Global Campus also delivers a pretty unique set of degree specializations, which are essentially minor subjects you can add on to your degree major. These specializations are a solid way to develop a well-rounded skill set to give you an advantage in the job market. Nearly 25 undergraduate specializations are available, including a variety of subjects in the business and criminal justice fields.

    Online Bachelor’s Details

    Application Fee$25
    In-State Tuition$350/credit
    Out-of-State Tuition$350/credit
    Acceptance Rate61%
    Faculty Average Online Teaching Experience6 Years
    One-Year Retention Rates (2012)76%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2013)84%
    One-Year Retention Rates (2014)12%

    Online Bachelor’s Degrees Offered at Colorado State—Global Campus

    • Accounting
    • Applied social sciences
    • Business management
    • Communication
    • Criminal justice
    • Healthcare administration
    • Human resource management
    • Human services
    • Information technology
    • Management information and systems and business analytics
    • Marketing
    • Organizational leadership
    • Project management
    • Public management

    Most Popular Online Bachelor’s Degrees

    The number of affordable online bachelor’s degree programs continues to grow as more universities around the country make their courses and faculty accessible to distance learners. The amount and type of programs offered varies from school to school, but there are a number of options available in the business, healthcare, information technology, and education fields, among many others. Business and technology are especially popular choices among prospective employers, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.


    Business degrees are among the most sought-after online bachelor’s programs. Many schools offer a variety of programs related to business, including business administration, accounting, and marketing. A bachelor’s in any one of these is going to give you practical skills you can apply to a wide variety of careers, making a business degree one of the most versatile degrees you can earn.


    Nursing degrees are among the most commonly offered online bachelor’s degrees, but there are several other health care programs available to distance learners as well. A bachelor’s in healthcare administration gives you a solid grounding in the technology used in the medical field and the critical thinking and management skills you need to find work as a hospital or nursing home administrator.

    Like the business programs mentioned above, degrees in healthcare are very versatile and the healthcare industry is so large that you should be able to find plenty of job opportunities.

    Information Technology

    The information technology field is rapidly growing and one of the most popular areas of study for online and on-campus students alike. Earning potential is high in this field and there are plenty of opportunities to specialize in areas like web development, network administration, software development, and more. In these programs, you learn about the newest developments in computing technology and get hands-on practice with the types of projects you’ll be working on as an IT professional.


    There are many different online bachelor’s degrees available in the field of education, including K-12, early childhood, and special education. These programs teach you the best ways to communicate and instruct children and prepare you for a career as a teacher in a public or private school or daycare. They can also set you up to pursue a master’s degree in education.

    Reviewed by

    • Andrea Perez
      Andrea Perez
      Personal Finance Editor

      Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar who leads our news and opinion coverage. She specializes in financial policy, banking, and investing.