Most Affordable Online Colleges & Universities
The cost of college can be sobering. According to the College Board, students at in-state, 4-year public universities paid an average of $9,410 over the 2015-16 academic year while out-of-state students doled out nearly $24,000. Private college tuition was still higher. However, many colleges are heeding the call for affordable higher education, in particular those with online offerings. This guide highlights schools that are managing to make college affordable again through online programs. It features an in-depth search function and tips to ensure students get the most bang for their college buck. It also explores why online education is more popular and respected than ever. Read on to learn about the most affordable online colleges and universities.
Most Affordable Online Colleges and Universities
A simple internet search for online colleges returns thousands of results with no meaningful way to sort through them. That’s why rankings are so important – they do the hard work of comparing factors that matter to potential students, such as tuition, student-to-teacher ratio and much more. Our ranking of the most affordable online colleges can help aspiring students see which schools offer the best overall value.
- Institutionally accredited
- Public or private not-for-profit
- At least 5 online bachelor's or master's degree programs (4-year schools)
- At least 5 online associate degree or certificate programs (2-year schools)
- Median annual alumni earnings 10 years after entering the college
- In-state tuition and fees for undergraduates
- Student/teacher ratio
- Graduation rate (4-year schools only)
- % of students receiving institutional financial aid (first-time, full-time undergrads)
- Average amount of institutional aid awarded per student (first-time, full-time undergrads)
- Availability of placement services upon completion
- Availability of academic/career counseling services
- Availability of employment services
- 3-year student cohort loan default rate
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics
Latest "Final Release" data available as of Fall 2016 College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education
At East Mississippi Community College, students have the option of taking online classes full-time. For greater flexibility, students can also take online classes on a mini-semester basis. All classes, including courses taught during the summer semester, are taught through the Mississippi Virtual Community College. Online degrees are awarded in three academic divisions, including humanities and fine arts, math and science and social sciences and business. Canvas is the main portal that the school uses to deliver its e-learning classes. After logging into canvas, students access their course schedules, class assignments and campus email. In addition to degree programs, East Mississippi offers career and vocational training programs through its distance education system.
Frank Phillips College's virtual education offerings extend across academic programs, online advising, tutoring and counseling. New students are encouraged to complete a self-assessment tool before they register for classes. The self-assessment helps students to determine if they have the right computer resources and the right time and dedication to succeed while taking online classes. Email orientation and virtual orientation introduce students to the school's discussion forum, how to access textbooks, contact faculty and download course materials. Biology, nutrition, composition, history and psychology are some of the subjects that online courses are taught in.
Western Wyoming Community College serves adults living in Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain areas. The college's online courses stick to a set schedule. Although students have the flexibility to work on classes during the day or evening, classes are not self-paced. For every three credit hour classes, students should set aside about nine hours of study time. Certificates and associate degrees in fields like social work, information systems, sociology, marketing and emergency management are awarded at the college. Western Wyoming Community College has a partnership with eight four-year schools that allows online students to complete bachelor's and master's degrees without leaving the Green River or Rock Springs areas.
The North Central Association Higher Learning Commission accredits online degrees at Laramie County Community College. Types of programs that online degrees are available in are business management, computer information systems, cyber-security, education and homeland security. Students can also complete online certificates and degrees in topics like web design, medical office essentials and medical claims coding. There's an option to enroll in campus programs that allow students to complete up to 25 percent of their course material online. Weekly deadlines apply to many online classes.
Five of Western Oklahoma State College's degrees are fully online. The degree programs are open to students residing in and outside of Oklahoma. Blended and hybrid distance education classes are also taught at the college. Students should expect to spend as much time interacting with their classmates and instructors as they would if they attended classes on campus. Moodle and discussion forums are used to deliver course material. Campus Connect is used to review class schedules, grades, upcoming courses and watch training videos. To support online students, the school offers resources like tutoring, the IT helpdesk, mobile alert and counseling.
Tulsa Community College teaches online classes that lead to associate degrees in subjects like liberal arts, marketing, accounting, business and information technology. Certificates are also awarded. The college is located in Oklahoma and enrolls about 27,000 on campus and distance education students. First time online students must log into their MyTCC account and complete the school's online orientation before they start taking classes. The school operates an Online Learning Office at its Metro campus. There's an option to enroll in blended or fully online classes. Blackboard is the primary tool used to enroll students in online classes. Instructors also roll class materials out to students via Blackboard.
At Trinity Valley Community College, online courses are delivered through TVCC, an informational student portal, and Blackboard, the portal that stores class assignments. Both portals require a unique login and password. To access Blackboard, students use their Cardinal ID. Virtual trainings are available through TVCC to illustrate how to navigate Blackboard and TVCC. Academic options are in certified courses and online degree programs. Students are required to live in Texas to enroll in the school's online programs. Support like academic advising, library materials and career counseling is available to online students.
The Higher Learning Commission accredits degree programs at Allen County Community College. Among fully online associate's degree and certificate programs at the school are biology, art, sociology, theater and counseling. To enroll in online classes at Allen County Community College, students must complete an admissions application and register for classes. Depending on their major, they may also be required to pass a placement exam. Course schedules are posted in the Online Learning section of the college's main website. Blackboard and myAllen house class assignments. Opportunities to attend online student orientation are offered five times a year. Each session is held one month before classes start.
Several majors that lead to an associate degree can be completed entirely online at Central Wyoming College. Areas that these majors focus on include technical studies, criminal justice and business management. It's possible to earn a nursing degree by taking online classes and attending school at the college's Jackson outreach location. Courses are challenging and generally require a time commitment of up to 12 hours a week for each online class. Success of the programs relies heavily on discussion forums, email, video and telephone.
Students enrolled in online programs at Barton County Community College will become familiar with the BARTonline and eduKan platforms. BARTonline stores online course schedules, assignments, transcripts and textbooks. To answer student questions, BARTonline offers an instant messaging service that opens up as soon as students log into the platform. Campus news, including upcoming student events, are also accessed through BARTonline. eduKan is comprised of six Western Kansas Community colleges. General education courses are taught through eduKan. Students who want to complete a bachelor's or master's degree from Kansas State University after they finish courses at Barton County Community College can do so through the Barton County Community College's K-State at Barton program.
Casper College is located in Casper, Wyoming, a city of about 60,000 residents. Included in Casper College's two year degrees are several hybrid, web-based and completely online degree programs. Students receive login credentials to access systems like Moodle after they register for classes. Distance education support is delivered through the Help Desk and the Digital Learning Center. A digital student orientation introduces new students to Moodle and academic resources like digital textbooks and the virtual library. To find their list of required courses and textbooks, students log into WebAdvisor.
Strong time management, computer, reading comprehension and critical thinking skills are required when taking Kansas City Kansas Community College online degree programs. At a minimum, students must log into the school's distance learning portal at least three times a week. Online programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Kansas residents can enroll in blended, hybrid or fully online classes at the community college. The college is also authorized to provide online training to adults who live in member states of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement.
Fully accredited online associate degree programs at Yavapai College cover spectrums like business, general studies, management, paralegal studies and video game development. It takes less than a year to earn a certificate in fields like advanced bookkeeping, screenwriting and accounting assistant. Most online classes take about 16 weeks to finish. Transfer options are open for certain programs. Students are encouraged to contact their academic advisor to transfer credits from other school's into an online degree program. To deliver distance education classes, the college uses ITV, videos and web-based training programs.
Dakota College at Bottineau started teaching students in 1906. When it first opened, it was called the North Dakota School of Forestry. The college is part of the North Dakota University System, a system that is made up of 11 campuses. To download class assignments and connect with their instructors, students log into Starfish and Moodle. It's also through Moodle that adult learners contact the business office, learning center, bookstore and student services. Degree planning worksheets are available to help students decide which online associate degree to pursue.
There are three ways to earn an associate degree from home at Panola College. Adults can enroll in internet classes, register for hybrid courses or sign up for interactive television (ITV) classes. Hybrid classes are completed 50 percent online and 50 percent in an in-person classroom setting. Although ITV courses are not completed in a traditional classroom, students are required to watch the televised trainings at one of the college's designated ITV classrooms in areas like Carthage and Marshall. Several Panola College online classes can be completed using the Canvass mobile application. Before graduating from online classes, students must pass at least two proctored exams.
At New Mexico Junior College online learning is built upon Nelnet, the T-BirdWeb portal, myNMJC and Canvas. Each tool is accessed via a single point on the eLearning platform. In place of an in-person campus tour, the school offers online learners a virtual tour. During the virtual tour, students learn about the school's admissions process, class registration and student life. Online course catalogs are stored in Canvas. Live video broadcasts air on T-Bird TV. Dozens of online courses are taught at New Mexico Junior College, including music, statistics, human relations, race and ethnic relations and world religion.
Ozarka College has been educating adults living in the Melbourne, Arkansas area since 1975. Distance education courses are generally delivered over the Internet at Ozarka College. Before registering for an online class, students can take the school's online self-assessment survey. The self-assessment measures how comfortable adults are using computers and the Internet. Prospective students also find out if they have enough time and focus to pass online classes. Additional support comes through the Distance Education Unit which is available on weekdays. myOzarka is where students log in to access their online class materials.
Flexibility and the opportunity to focus on courses at any location with WiFi are offered through Western Nebraska Community College online degrees. Because there is no face-to-face instructor contact, commitment is required. The classes are challenging and must be completed by due dates. To register for classes, students log into myWNCC. Academic advisors must review and approve of classes that students register for before students can start taking new classes. Blackboard Learn is the content management system that students use to review upcoming assignments and submit completed projects. Peer tutoring is available for students who need academic support.
Mesa Community College is a part of the Maricopa County Community College District. Certificate and degree online programs are offered at Mesa Community College. Justice studies, web technology, general education, business management and real estate are among the Associate in Applied Science degrees that are taught online at the school. Credits earned in many of the online classes are transferable to other accredited schools. Tutoring, library resources, video training and a Help Center are support services available to adults enrolled in online classes. Through Canvas, the school's online data management system, students email their instructors, access support services and upload completed school work.
At Western Texas College, thousands of adults enroll in one or more distance education classes. Both academic and vocational classes are part of the online learning offerings. Depending on their major, students may be required to complete prerequisites before they start taking core courses. MyWTC is the main portal that the college uses to store student data, admissions forms, course schedules, the bookstore, campus email and requests for online academic advising. Students also log into MyWTC to check course availability. Online advisors are generally available during weekdays, weekends and on holidays.
Odessa College offers its online degree programs through a partnership with ed2go. As an online course provider, ed2go delivers virtual postsecondary content to students attending more than 2,100 colleges and universities. Enrollment into Odessa College's virtual courses is open. Programs are available in more than ten disciplines. Among these disciplines are language, information technology, business and arts and design. It's possible to complete some online programs within 12 months. Externships exist to help connect online learners with potential employers. There is also a virtual career center that online students can log into 24/7. The center houses industry market data and job opportunities.
Holmes Community College is located in Goodman, Mississippi. The college awards online associate's degrees and certificates. Its degree and certificate accreditation is through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school's online programs operate on the same semester basis as its traditional classroom programs. Registration for classes is handled through MyHolmes. To get class assignments and academic projects, students log into Canvas, a web based system. Canvas help guides are located on the Canvas portal. Canvas is also used to connect students and instructors. Online learners also connect with classmates while logged into Canvas.
Degree programs at Cochise College that can be completed in a hybrid, blended or fully online setting are in areas like economics, social work, business administration and general studies. About 2,500 students take online classes at Cochise College. There are a combination of about 200 degree, certificate general education and noncredit online courses at the college. Moodle is the virtual system used to manage online classes. Through its National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, Cochise College works with online students to transfer credits to accredited four-year schools. A help desk, academic advising and counseling are support resources for students.
Online education at Hutchinson Community College can lead to associate's degrees and certificates. Certain courses require students to pass one or more proctored exams. Participation in discussion board conversations is required. Students are encouraged to log into online classroom discussions at least once a week. Canvas is the main tool that Hutchinson Community College uses to deliver streamed videos and web based academic materials. Within Canvas, there is a separate email system that students use to send questions and responses to instructors. Canvas if also where students check their exam scores and grades.
There are more than 100 degree options at Arizona Western College. Several of the degrees are online and delivered using streamed videos, online discussions boards and campus email. The college also relies on web conferencing to teach students. Accounting, medical terminology, microeconomics and math are among the fully online courses. For students enrolled in blended or hybrid degree programs, classes are offered on campus and at designated area high schools. ToroWeb is the main interface that web based programs like ToroMail, WebAdvisor and Blackboard are administered through.
About 8,000 students attend Sheridan College annually. The journey to an online associate degree at Sheridan College starts with an online student orientation. Materials in the courses are developed by subject matter experts. Among the degrees that can be earned completely online are the computer information systems, business, general science, social science, cyber security and history associate's degrees. MyNWCCD is the college's portal that instructors, students and administrators use to send each other emails, distribute course and campus announcements and publish course schedules. To use MyNWCCD, students activate their account through Account Services then create a unique password.
Tyler Junior College's customized Apache Access online portal is the gateway into the school's blended, hybrid and fully online degree options. A variety of associate degrees are conferred at the college in areas such as English, education, sociology and public administration.. Students log into Apache Access to register for classes, sign into their existing classes and review their course schedule. The school accepts transfer credits into its online degree program. Proctored exams can be taken on campus, at another school approved location or by logging into the college's online proctoring system.
Grayson College is located in Denison, Texas. Approximately 5,000 students attend the college each year. Four of Grayson College's associate degrees can be earned fully online. These degrees are in criminal justice, child development, education and general studies. Online admission requires prospective students to submit an online admissions application, transcripts, college entrance exam scores and meningitis vaccination results. New students must also attend an online student orientation and meet with an academic advisor to select their courses. MyViking is the system that is used to register for classes. Canvas houses the college's online course reading materials, exams and required student assignments.
Mount Wachusett Community College has been educating adults, particularly people living in the St. Gardner, Massachusetts area, since 1963. Online courses at the college adhere to the same academic schedule as the school's traditional classroom, semester-based courses. Adults who are new to online learning are encouraged to take one course a semester until they become familiar with virtual learning. Online classes at Mount Wachusett are accessed through iConnect which directs students to Blackboard. Training resources include a syllabus, online discussions, exams and real time interaction with instructors and classmates.
The Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) offers online education through technology called Virtual Classroom. The small online classes meet during specific times throughout the week and are all taught by a teacher in real-time, making it possible for students to interact with both their teachers and classmates. Online students may access their classroom through the programs WebEx and Desire2Learn, and online courses are taught by teachers throughout the Colorado Community College System. CNCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to award graduates with Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees in a variety of subjects.
Southwestern Oregon Community College (SOCC) offers online courses for students interested in completing their education online. Each online course is accessible 24 hours a day, making it possible for students to complete their coursework at the most convenient time. All eLearning resources are available through myLakerLink, SOCC's student portal for registering for classes, keeping up with courses, financial aid management and everything else related to the community college. All online courses are separated into three different categories at SOCC: distance, hybrid and web enhanced. Distance courses are fully online, while hybrid and web enhanced include in-person instruction.
Distance learning at Maysville Community and Technical College (MCTC) is possible for students interested in alternative and off-campus education. MCTC offers over 20 completely online certificates in both business and information technology. Online courses are managed through MCTC's Blackboard eLearning platform, and technical support is available 24/7. Students interested in enrolling in online courses may choose to do so online, in the same way students may enroll in any other classes at MCTC. All online courses taken at MCTC are identical to the in-person counterpart, making it easy to transfer credits and fulfill degree requirements.
A variety of information technology programs are offered completely online at Nebraska's Metropolitan Community College (MCC). Online programs include health technology, computer transfer programs, information technology and office technology. Other MCC programs offer courses online as well. Professional faculty provide the coursework and instruction for the online courses. MCC uses Blackboard as its online classroom, making collaboration possible between students and teachers. All tests and assignments are completed within Blackboard. Students may sign into Blackboard using the MCC login created for all other classes. Blackboard support and information technology tutoring is available at four of MCC's locations with no appointment necessary.
GateWay Community College offers online alternatives to the traditional in-person courses. At GateWay, students may choose to enroll in hybrid classes that are part in-person and part online, or completely online courses with no in-person instruction. Students in need of tutoring may choose to schedule an appointment for in-person tutoring, or for tutoring over Skype. GateWay also offers an online writing center. Scholarships and FAFSA financial aid are available for online students at GateWay Community College. GateWay is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to give a variety of degrees to students who complete a program.
Students wishing to earn an associate degree completely online may do so through Seward Community College (SCC). SCC is a member of a group of six Kansas community colleges who offer online education through a program called EDUKAN. All courses are arranged by the instructors and follow the traditional structured sessions ranging between 4-16 weeks long. EDUKAN utilizes Canvas as their online classroom, students may submit assignments, take tests or contact their professor through Canvas. Financial aid is available for EDUKAN programs and SCC online students through FAFSA. Potential students may enroll in EDUKAN through SCC.
Sinclair Community College offers associate degree programs, one-year technical certificates and short-term certificates through over 150 online classes. Over 30 programs may be completed online through Sinclair. Sinclair manages online learning through eLearn, a website platform in which students may check their grades, submit assignments or collaborate with instructors and classmates. Sinclair follows an Honor Code, which necessitates certain tests for online classes to be proctored. However, students living over 60 miles away from Sinclair's Dayton campus have different options for completing testing. Scholarships and FAFSA financial aid are offered to online students at Sinclair.
Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) offers accredited online courses to students interested in completing the two-year college online. As a WC-SARA approved system of higher education, EWC offers online distance learning to almost over 30 U.S. states. EWC offers five completely online programs that may result in an associate degree in business administration, elementary education and criminal justice. The CampusCruiser LMS is utilized for all online class needs, including submitting assignments and chatting with professors and classmates. Students in need of tutoring services may call the EWC Center for Tutoring during business hours, or use EWC's SmarThinking service that is accessible 24/7.
Students wishing to complete a program in higher education in an alternative manner may choose to complete a degree at PittCC through the distance learning program. Online degrees, certificates and diplomas are available in over 50 programs at PittCC. Students may register for online courses in the same manner as other PCC classes are registered for through MyPittCC, the same student website used for managing financial aid at PittCC. PittCC uses Moodle as the online course management system. Students may check grades, submit assignments and communicate with instructors through Moodle. Financial aid is offered at PittCC through FAFSA.
North Carolina's Southwestern Community College (SCC) offers online education for students interested in completing coursework outside of the traditional classroom setting. SCC offers over 30 associate degree programs online, including online diploma and certificate programs. Students and instructors communicate using the course management program Blackboard, which is also where tests may be taken, and assignments may be submitted. SCC's E-Learning program is also available for students out-of-state for students in 14 U.S. states. Scholarships and grants are available for students at SCC through an application and selection process, and financial aid is available through FAFSA.
Students wishing to complete their college education through online courses may do so at State Fair Community College. SFCC a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) to allow students in over 30 U.S. states to take online classes. Various programs at SFCC offer classes online, and certain degrees are available completely online. SFCC offers a few different types of online courses, from completely online courses, to hybrid classes that are part in-person instruction and part online. The course management program Blackboard is used at SFCC and technical support desk is available 24/7 for students enrolled in online courses.
Students seeking to complete a college degree in a non-traditional manner may choose to enroll in the online education program at Crowder College. A variety of courses are offered through the online education program. Crowder uses Blackboard as the online classroom and course management system, students may submit assignments and communicate with classmates and the professor through Blackboard. Free tutoring is available for students at Crowder, including students enrolled in online courses. Students in need of financial assistance may choose to apply to the scholarships available through an application and selection process and financial aid is available through FAFSA at Crowder.
An online program is offered at North Arkansas College (NAC). Several associate degree programs are available completely online, including the associate of science in business, and the associate of applied science in business administration. All online courses follow NAC's traditional semester sequence, and most classes include deadline assignments and exams. NAC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The majority of classes do not require an in-person proctored exam. Grants and scholarships are available at NAC, as well as financial aid through FAFSA. The student resource center is available for all NAC students to receive in-person tutoring.
Students interested in completing higher education online may choose to do so at Cowley College. Cowley is accessible to students in all 50 U.S. states through distance learning accreditation. Over 30 courses are available to be completed fully online. While online courses at Cowley are not self-paced, students may complete each week's coursework at the most convenient time. Cowley utilizes Blackboard as its course management platform and virtual classroom. Students may submit assignments and communicate with professors through Blackboard, and Blackboard technical assistance is available 24/7. Scholarships are available to qualifying students, and financial aid is available through FAFSA.
Williston State College (WSC) offers various online programs and degrees for students interested in pursuing an alternative route to the college experience. Students may earn an associate degrees in several fields through WSC's online program, and academic advising is available for all online programs at WSC. WSC utilizes both Moodle and Blackboard as course management systems to provide a platform for uploading assignments and a communication tool for students and professors. Hippocampus is accessible for online WSC students to complete research and class readings. Qualifying students may receive scholarships at WSC, and financial aid is available through FAFSA.
Online education is available at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell (ENMU) for students interested in completing college education off-campus, and at the most convenient time possible. ENMU offers over 150 online courses every semester. All online coursework is convenient and accessible for students at ENMU. As a community college accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, EMNU offers several associate degree programs completely online. ENMU's online education program uses Blackboard as a course management system, students may submit assignments through Blackboard and communicate with professors. Scholarships are available to qualifying students at ENMU and financial aid is available through FAFSA.
Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) offers several degree programs completely online. A variety of associate degrees are available for students to complete through web-based classes at TMCC. All online courses are completely digital, however certain web-based classes might require in-person proctored exams. All online coursework may be submitted through Canvas, TMCC's course management program in which students may also communicate with professors and students, and check grades. An IT support center is available for students in need of technological help. All online students may choose to visit the tutoring and learning center to receive help with online classes. Financial aid is available to qualifying students.
At Northwest Mississippi Community College (NMCC), over 10 academic programs may be completed fully online. Students interested in pursuing a higher education without the time constraints of attending class in-person may enroll in online education programs at NMCC. Registration for online classes may be done in the same manner a student might register for on-campus courses. All online classes are accessible through Canvas, NMCC's course-management system of choice. Online students may submit assignments and participate in online discussion through Canvas. Online databases and library catalogues are available at NMCC for students researching and studying for class.
Nebraska's Northeast Community College (NCC) offers a variety courses and degrees online. Associate degree programs, and different diplomas and certificates are available for students completely online. Students seeking flexibility and convenience may choose to enroll in the online education program at NCC, as it is accessible 24/7. An online advisor is available for students to work out what the best academic route is to take, and a technological help desk is also accessible to students at NCC. Qualifying NCC students may receive scholarships, and financial aid through FAFSA. Career services, counseling services and test-taking services are all available at NCC.
Students may earn a degree online at Madisonville Community College (MCC). Over 1,000 classes are offered online at MCC through their partnership with Kentucky Virtual Campus. MCC uses Blackboard as the course management program, students may post on discussion boards, chat with classmates and email professors through Blackboard. Technical support is available 24/7 at MCC, making it possible for students to complete coursework at any time of day or night. Hybrid classes at MCC are a mix between online and in-person instruction, and while all other online courses require no in-person instruction, certain classes may require proctored exams.
Buena Vista University offers online degrees as well as providing bachelor's completion programs. Their undergraduate degree options focus mainly on business and financial fields, while their online master's of education program has several different tracks for students interested in teaching various school ages, teaching English-language classes, or teaching children with special needs. There is also an interdisciplinary major at the bachelor's level for students whose interests do not easily fit within one of the other program categories. Applicants interested in degree completion may use previous life experience towards program credit hours, which makes it even faster to finish a degree through Buena Vista's online courses.
With online degree programs that include criminal justice studies, business, music, history, and religious studies, Judson College allows distance-learning students to pursue higher education in their own time. After applying, Judson presents a course of study for a student to complete in order to earn a chosen degree through the online learning program. Judson accepts previous credits from certified institutions, and offers competency exams for applicants who may have gained knowledge in their chosen field in a setting outside of the classroom. Students will use many different resources and textbooks and complete various learning activities throughout their course of study.
Students can earn an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree through Florida Institute of Technology's online degree programs. With three different campuses to explore, students can choose to take online courses over eight-week or 15-week periods. FIT's College of Aeronautics, which is part of their Melbourne online campus, also offers specialized online masters programs in aviation safety, human factors in aeronautics, and aviation management. There are continuing education courses for students interested in career advancement, and blended programs for students who wish to take classes in an on-campus setting as well as online.
Online classes at Concordia University are available for any student's schedule, and this college welcomes students looking to complete their degree or continue their educational advancement in fields such as healthcare, information technology, business, or criminal justice. Faculty members all hold graduate degrees and work within the field of study that they teach, bringing real-world experience to the classroom. Concordia's educational programs range from certificates to master's degrees, and the college provides information on how to pursue and achieve in different careers. Distance learners can also access many kinds of online continuing educational materials, from MOOCs to webinars, and may take individual classes.
Southwestern College's online professional studies programs direct students down career paths in business, education, healthcare, ministry, security, and information technology. Students can earn undergraduate or graduate degrees in their field, or narrow their current specializations with specific certificate programs. The online programs are flexible and run for six weeks at an advanced, intensive level of study. Anyone interested in applying can test out an online course to familiarize themselves with Southwestern's distance learning environment. Southwestern also provides technical support and advice for the different technology programs they use, and every student is assigned to an academic support coach to help them during their time studying online at Southwestern.
Canisius College focuses on providing current professionals and graduates with online continuing education certificate programs. Their programs vary from fully online to hybrid programs that are mostly online but have some residency requirements, and students may enroll part- or full-time. Certificate programs delve into specializations within education, sports, and health for current educators or nurses. Canisius allows students to enroll in individual courses as well as full certificate programs, and some courses have internships that students can complete in their own communities. Students in online programs are supported by Canisius' online learning training website, help desk, online writing tutors, and a personal academic advisor.
A personal admissions counselor will assist all prospective continuing education students applying to the online degree completion programs at University of St. Francis. Students must transfer a minimum of 64 credit hours from another accredited institution, as the online programs through this college are exclusively designed around completing a bachelor's degree in either business leadership or health care leadership. Within the business leadership degree, there are several concentrations for students to choose from that range from human resource management studies to marketing. St. Francis' online courses last between seven and eight weeks and are designed to accommodate students who are working professionals, not full-time students.
Bay Path University's online undergraduate degree program comes through the American Women's College and is designed specifically for women seeking a bachelor's degree. Students can transfer hours from previous college programs, work through six-week sessions to earn a degree in their own time, and choose from a range of majors from business and healthcare to liberal studies and social service occupations. Bay Path also has online graduate degree programs for both women and men that include master's degrees in the arts, sciences, and business. Students may combine degrees and pursue graduate certificates as well, which can take between 18 months and two years to complete.
Siena Heights University's online undergraduate degree programs follow eight-week formats designed for adults looking to complete a bachelor's degree in business, nursing, applied science, professional communication, or a multidisciplinary studies major. Siena Heights University also offers several possible minors in management, healthcare management, information technology management, and marketing. Applicants to these degree completion programs must meet certain credit requirements through an accredited higher learning institution. Some of Siena Heights University's online programs accept work experience as credit towards completing a degree. All accepted students will have access to personal academic counselors to help them make and stick to a plan for finishing their degrees.
Pursuing an online certificate, bachelor's, or master's degree through the University of Southern Mississippi gives students access to a range of majors and learning opportunities. The University of Southern Mississippi specializes in degrees in education and childcare, engineering, business, healthcare, and technology fields. Their online certificates range from various management studies to library support opportunities. There are resources for online learning students that include a distance learning tutoring and writing center that can also assist with public speaking, an online library, tutorials for some of the basic technologies that online programs utilize, and a learning enhancement center.
Founded in 1883 in Jackson, MI, Belhaven University is a Christian liberal arts college offering its student body traditional majors, general studies programs, certificate, and pre-professional programs. Along with its extensive online degrees, the university has campuses today in Atlanta, Orlando, Chattanooga and Houston. Online majors lead to three associate degrees, nine baccalaureate degrees, six certificates, 16 master's programs, and the Mississippi teacher certification. Nearly 250 faculty members lead online courses at Belhaven. The online degree and certificate programs are administered with the Canvas education management software. Military students receive tuition discounts and credit for previous training.
Webster University, founded in 1915 as the first Catholic women's college west of the Mississippi, provides a globalized curriculum designed to provide graduates with a view of how their studies apply to a larger world. Webster's Arts & Sciences; Business & Technology; Communications; Education; and Fine Arts colleges offer small class sizes and "personalized learning". More than 6.5 million students have taken online courses at the university. Today Webster University's online WorldClassRoom offers certificate programs, five undergraduate programs, and more than 25 graduate degrees. Campus-based students can take individual classes via WebNet+.
LeTourneau University was established in 1946 to serve returning military returning from WWII. It has since evolved into a nondenominational Christian university specializing in engineering and engineering technology degrees. More than 1,200 online students can select from four-year and master's degree programs in aeronautical science, business, the liberal arts, technology, psychology, and education through the global campus. LeTourneau University's online aviation management bachelor degree program combines technical aeronautical studies with an intensive business-management curriculum. Online education offerings include an Elementary Education Texas Certification as well as a master of education with four specialty areas.
One of America's 16 Sisters of Mercy institutions, Gwynedd Mercy University was originally founded in 1827 as a college for women. Today, GMU students are committed to Christian action, with spring-break service options available across the United States. The university's online and accelerated degree programs enable students to complete associate and baccalaureate programs through the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. There are more than 15 degree options for online students pursuing a master's or doctorate. The Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions provides three online master's specialties in nursing and a post-master's nurse practitioner certificate.
Founded in 1967 as the Alabama Christian School of Religion, Amridge University has designed its curriculum to provide online courses as the primary means of instruction. Today it offers associate, bachelor, master's and doctoral degree programs through the College of General Studies; College of Business and Leadership; School of Human Services; and Turner School of Theology. There are eight baccalaureate programs offered entirely online, along with 12 master's degrees and seven doctorates. The College of General Studies offers online four-year baccalaureates with majors in biblical studies, criminal justice, human development and bible/ministry.
Prescott College was founded in 1965 and has flourished as an institution that offers distance students a unique limited residency program at the bachelor and the master's degree levels. The college's research focus is on environmental studies as a member of the Eco League consortium. The limited residency undergraduate and master's degree programs require students to complete one on-campus colloquia per academic year. Through a mentored independent study, online students customize their curriculum to match their educational goals. Online hybrid students can select one of four BA degree majors, an MS in counseling, or an MA in arts.
Established in 1895 as Graceland College by the RLDS Church, the school first offered four-year degrees in 1960. It became Graceland University-Lamoni in 2000 when it created its online class delivery system. Undergraduates can choose from five online baccalaureate degrees, including the popular RN to BSN nursing degree and bachelor of art in healthcare management. The university also has an online master of education program offering students five degree options, a master of arts in religion, and an RN to MSN bridge program. Graceland launched its online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) in 2011.
Saint Leo University was established near Tampa in 1889 by the Order of Saint Benedict of Florida. A private liberal arts university, Saint Leo University currently serves 16,000 students at its campus, its 17 continuing education centers, and online. Distance students can choose among four online associate degree programs. At the bachelor degree level, the School of Business offers 10 online degrees; the School of Arts & Sciences, seven online degrees; and the School of Education & Social Services, three online degrees. More than 30 master's degrees can be earned entirely online, as well as an online business doctorate and 10 graduate certificates.
Drexel University was founded in Philadelphia in 1891 and has grown to become one of the nation's 15-largest private education and research institutions. Drexel's 15 colleges and schools serve more than 26,000 students in the range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs at six campus locations and through an extensive online class delivery system. Students can pursue 140 online degree and certificate programs in arts and sciences, business, professional studies, computing and informatics, education, public health, engineering, hospitality and sport management, law, media arts and design, medicine, and nursing and health professions.
Founded in 1883 by Marianists, St. Louis School became St. Louis Junior College in 1955 and evolved into the Chaminade University of Honolulu with a present full-time faculty of nearly 100. Distance students can pursue four associate degrees entirely online. There are also 11 wholly online bachelor degrees, and six master's degree programs. Because of the clinical requirements, the Chaminade master of science in counseling psychology (MSCP) and master of pastoral theology (MPT) are hybrid programs, combining online and local classroom experiences. Key major degree fields include criminal justice, early childhood education, psychology and religious studies.
One of the forerunners in providing accredited distance learning, the Illinois Institute of Technology first offered Chicago residents college courses on television during the 1970s. Today students from more than 45 states take IIT courses using the online Blackboard course management system with access to the online library. Examinations are conducted online via ProctorU software. Six of IIT's academic divisions direct the 36 undergraduate majors offered online. For online graduate students, all eight of IIT's academic divisions offer a choice of traditional (thesis required) master's and doctoral programs or professional master's programs without a thesis requirement.
In 1900, Brenau University was founded as the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary. Today it is a private, coeducational, nonsectarian institution serving 3,500 students. Brenau offers undergraduate and graduate courses entirely online or on campuses at Gainesville, Augusta, Atlanta and Jacksonville, Florida. The university's first online graduate degree program -- leading to a master's in business administration (MBA) -- went live in 2000. Distance students can choose from an associate in arts in liberal studies, four online bachelor degree programs, and 10 graduate programs. One of the more popular programs is the online registered nurse: bachelor of science in nursing (RN â€“ BSN).
North Carolina Central University began its history as the first public liberal arts institution for African Americans, founded in 1899 as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua. Today it offers 78 certificates and degrees across an extensive range in academic disciplines, ranging from jazz studies to homeland security and biotechnology. Top undergraduate programs at the university are in criminal justice, business administration, and family and consumer science. Online students have a selection of six certificates, three bachelor-completion programs, and four master's degrees. There is also an online teacher licensure (lateral entry) program.
First opened as Murray State Normal School in 1923, Murray State University has historically been a teacher's college and liberal arts school. It attained university status in 1966 and today offers online programs leading to certificates and teaching endorsements, seven undergraduate (associate and baccalaureate) degrees, 12 online master's degrees, and two online doctorates (doctor of arts in English pedagogy and technology, and the doctor of nursing practice). Online courses and degree programs are conducted through the Canvas learning management system. Students can also take advantage of the university's online GRE test-preparation program (seven weeks in length).
The first classes at Dickinson State Normal School were held in 1916. In 1968, Dickinson State University first offered four year degrees and, in 2003, began offering wholly online courses. Today's DSU students can choose among four associate degree programs, 40 bachelor degrees, and five certificate programs. For online students, the accounting bachelor degree program offers the choice of a corporate or professional track. Other online bachelor of science in business degrees concentrate on human resource management, finance, and business administration. Online students can complete associate degrees in agriculture sales/service equine management or pursue a certificate in human resource management.
As one of America's 72 land-grant research universities, the University of Idaho serves more than 11,000 students from its campus is Moscow, at its four educational centers, and online through its department of Distance and Extended Education. Six undergraduate degree programs are offered entirely online through the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences. For professionals or academicians, there are 20 online master's degrees in the fields of education, engineering, earth/environmental studies, science and social science. Distance students can bolster their professional credentials through 12â€“15 credit certification programs.
From its humble beginnings in 1914 as a one-room school, Colorado Christian University has evolved into the sole evangelical higher-learning institution in the Colorado region, serving 7,379 students. Evangelical and interdenominational, CCU offers its certificate and degree programs from its campus, learning centers and online through the College of Adult and Graduate Studies. Undergraduates may pursue nine associate degree programs online, including majors in business, biblical studies, and criminal justice. CCU also offers 14 baccalaureate degrees, 11 master's degrees, and 18 certificate programs entirely online. Credits from undergraduate certificate work may be transferrable to an online CCU bachelor degree program.
Established in 1813 as the American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, Norwich University was the nation's first private college to offer engineering. Its founder, Captain Alden Partridge, designed the curriculum that combined civilian and military studies in what was to become a model of its kind in America. Women were admitted in 1974. Online students today can choose a bachelor degree completion program, or enroll in one of 12 online master's degree programs that can be completed in 18 months. The accelerated online MS in Criminal Justice degree may be completed in 15 months.
Valley City State University was founded as a normal school in Valley City in 1890 and still adheres to its commit to preparing K-12 educators. It is one of 11 institutions comprising the North Dakota University System (NDUS). Today's full-time students receive a laptop and high-speed networking on campus, along with small class sizes. Distance students can complete one of eight undergraduate and graduate degree programs online, as well as online career certificates. Online degree programs offer specializations in teaching English, history, music, business management, library and information technologies. Online courses feature the use of web-based software and an interactive video network (IVN).
DeSales University was established in 1962 as the Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales. The private four-year, coeducational Catholic university today serves 1,681 undergraduate day students. Through DeSales' ACCESS system, distance students can pursue one of 12 accelerated online bachelor degrees (40 courses, 120 credits). Graduate students have a choice among online master's degrees in business administration, education technology, and criminal justice. Nursing professionals can earn an online Doctor of Nursing: Practice in Clinical Leadership. Distance students take courses and communicate via the Blackboard Learn interface and Blackboard Learn mobile app.
The first students at what was to evolve into Saint Joseph's University met classes in Saint Joseph's Church in 1851. The first women enrolled in the fall term of 1970. Since then, the university's rigorous Jesuit education has gone digital to serve the needs of graduate students who cannot travel to campus. Advanced degree students can enroll in one of 15 online master's degrees in fields including business administration, criminal justice, special education, and healthcare administration. Professionals seeking advanced credentials online can complete certificates or endorsements in education at Saint Joseph's.
Named after the nation's 14th President, Franklin Pierce College was founded in 1962 and was granted university status in 2007. Today nearly 2,000 students are served by The College at Rindge and The College of Graduate & Professional Studies. Off-campus students can pursue online certificates and associate, bachelor, and master's degrees from the location of their choice. There are four online associate degree programs at Franklin Pierce, along with eight baccalaureate degrees and two certificates. At the graduate level, online students can complete one of eight master's degrees or six professional certificates.
The university founded in Alamo Heights by The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in 1881 stays true to its Catholic educational mission today. But the University of the Incarnate Word has expanded the curriculum to serve the needs of students in the arts and sciences. The university serves its students from its San Antonio campus and satellite campuses in Germany, China, and Mexico. For distance learners, the University of the Incarnate Word offers three online associate degrees, six bachelor degrees, three master's degrees, and an online Doctor of Business Administration degree. Online students can also complete one of four undergraduate certificates and two professional certificates of completion.
Located in Boiling Springs, NC, Gardner-Webb University (founded 1905) serves a higher education community of 4,000 students in its undergraduate day program, degree-completion program, and in graduate studies. It is a private Christian, Baptist-related university. Nine fully online degree-completion programs lead to bachelor degrees in popular fields such as business administration, criminal justice, information systems, religious studies, and nursing. Graduate students can choose among wholly online master's degree programs in business, education, English, nursing and sport pedagogy. Students aspiring to teach college courses in their MBA discipline can complete Gardner-Webb University's MBA Plus certificate program.
Viterbo University was established in La Crosse, WI by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in 1890. In 2013, the university introduced its first doctoral program, culminating in the Doctor of Nursing Practice. To serve distance students, Viterbo University offers a range of academic programs including two associate degrees, an RN to BSN nursing degree-completion program, a bachelor degree in accounting, accelerated bachelor in business administration, an online MBA in health leadership, and an online bachelor of business administration in management information systems. The online bachelor of science degree in professional studies prepares graduates for careers in retail, business, government, healthcare and service industries.
Founded as Lebanon Seminary by pioneer Methodists in 1828, McKendree attained university status in 1970. It remains the oldest college in Illinois. Undergraduate students can pursue online baccalaureate degrees in psychology, business administration, and nursing (RN to BSN). The RN to BSN may be completed in five online semesters. Wholly online master's degree programs are available in criminal justice, education (MAED), nursing (MSN), and a business administration (MBA) degree in one of five specializations. Nursing students seeking the highest academic achievement can complete a 100% online doctor of nursing practice. McKendree University online classes begin every eight weeks.
Briar Cliff University originated as a Catholic college for women in 1929 on a hilltop near Sioux City, Iowa. Men were first admitted as students in 1965. The Doctorate of Nurse Practitioner, the first doctoral degree at Briar Cliff University, was created in 2013. Today, online students can enroll in one of six self-paced undergraduate degree-completion programs. Entering online students may transfer up to 90 credit hours toward completion of their degree. Prior to enrollment, students are requested to complete a readiness assessment to determine if self-paced, online learning is appropriate for them.
In 1881, Mary Peake began teaching freed slaves under an oak tree in Hampton, VA. The Butler School for Negro children was officially founded in 1863. Today, Hampton University (Hampton U Online) allows remote students to complete the same undergraduate, certificate, graduate, and professional development programs offered at its historical campus. Beginning college students can enroll in one of six online associate degree programs or choose one of eight online bachelor degree programs with popular majors including paralegal studies, criminal justice, business management, and religious studies. There are also eight online master's degree programs, four wholly online doctoral programs and three undergraduate certificate programs.
The first students attended classes at the Oklahoma State University-Main Campus in 1891. Originally named Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College, OSU today offers its 35,000 students a choice of more than 200 undergraduate and graduate degrees through its six colleges. The O Campus, as OSU's online division is called, offers nine certificates, two bachelor degree programs, and 16 master's degree programs. High-demand online programs are offered in agriculture, engineering, human and environmental sciences, business, and information systems management. Online certificate majors embrace the fields of sustainability, financial planning, entrepreneurship, business data mining and marketing analytics.
The first classes were held in a rented home in Cleveland in 1892 when Malone University was founded as Cleveland Bible College. Relocated to Canton, OH, in 1957, the institution became a Christian liberal arts college. Malone University today serves more than 1,700 students with 52 undergraduate majors and 12 graduate degree programs. The university's online degree programs include a bachelor degree in business management, a master's degree in business administration (MBA), and a master's in arts in organizational leadership. New distance students complete Moodle Student Orientation tutorials to learn the mechanics and tools of online study.
Saint Joseph's College of Maine is a coeducational Roman Catholic liberal arts college founded by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in 1912. In addition to offering degrees and certificates its 1,000 campus-based students, Saint Joseph's College serves 2,500 students from America and abroad through its online programs. The extensive online areas of study include 28 undergraduate degrees, 24 master's degrees, and 21 undergraduate and graduate certificates. Eligible students enrolled in selected undergraduate majors may also enroll in up to three graduate-level courses in "fast-track programs" to master's degrees.
Founded as a business college at Grand Rapids in 1866, Davenport University has just celebrated its Sesquicentennial year. The three colleges that make up today's university, Davenport College, Detroit College of Business, and Great Lakes College, were unified in 2009. Its Global Campus was created 17 years ago to serve the educational needs of distance students who could not attend campus programs. More than 40 percent of today's Davenport's students take all their classes online. The college offers more than 50 online undergraduate degree programs, four online master's degrees, and five graduate and post-baccalaureate certificate programs.
The University of the Cumberlands, founded by Baptist Ministers in 1888, achieved full university status in 2005. Today, the university serves 6,031 students, including the 400 students pursuing degrees online and 718 dual-enrolled high school students. One third of entering University of the Cumberlands students were in the top 25% of their graduating high school class. Online students can select undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of business, counseling, criminal justice, health science, human services, information technology, education, psychology, and religion. Online doctoral programs are available in business, education and psychology.
Quincy University, founded by Franciscan friars in 1860, first began offering bachelor and master's degrees in arts in 1873. Today, the 1,300 students at Quincy hail from around the world and 100 percent of them are engaged in service. Four online degree programs serve distance students with a flexible learning format. The online bachelor degree in business administration integrates theoretical learning with real-world business challenges. Quincy University's online bachelor degree in human services prepares adult students for careers across the social service professions. At the graduate level, online students can complete a master's degree in business administration (MBA) or a master's in communications degree.
Concordia University-Nebraska was established in 1894 by The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as a Christ-centered educational community in Seward. Today, graduate school and degree completion programs are conducted at the campus in Lincoln, the state capitol. Online students at Concordia University can pursue more than 40 master's degrees and education endorsement programs from any location and in a self-paced format. Master's degree options include online programs leading to an MBA, MEd, MPH, MHA and MHS degree. Teachers can enroll in endorsement programs with specializations in literacy, reading, TESOL, and special education.
Newman University was founded in Wichita in 1933 as a Catholic institution affiliated with the Adorers of the Blood of Christ [ASC]. Embracing all faiths and traditions, Newman has outreach educational centers in Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. Its 3,000 students can choose from more than 40 undergraduate degrees and a small number of graduate programs. Four degree programs are offered entirely online. At the undergraduate level, online students can enroll in the nursing RN to BSN or BS in Business program. Online master's degrees are available in theology or theological studies. Students access their online programs via the Blackboard class management system.
Founded in Pittsburgh by the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Duquesne University has offered students academic and service opportunities since 1878. It is home to a law school, education leadership institute, and centers for African studies, healthcare ethics, nursing, and biotechnology. Duquesne University's online campus offers distance students a wide selection of fully online degree and certificate programs in fields including nursing, liberal arts, business and education. Nursing students and professionals can complete an online RN-BSN, MSN and PhD in nursing. Undergraduate liberal arts offerings include online baccalaureate degrees in behavioral science, information technology, and organizational leadership.
Baker University was the first university in Kansas, founded in Baldwin City in 1858 by bishops of the United Methodist Church. Today the university has an enrollment of 3,210 students, with the largest number of students taking degrees at the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, and the School of Professional and Graduate Studies. Students can also pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees entirely online, as well as complete online re-certification courses for educators. Popular online undergraduate majors include business administration and criminal justice. Graduate students have 24/7 access to online master's degree programs in education, organizational leadership, business and nursing.
Founded in in 1873, Michigan's Spring Arbor University today offers more than 70 majors through its traditional undergraduate degrees and four graduate programs. SAU Online gives distance learners round-the-clock access to two bachelor degrees and eight wholly online master's degree options. The nursing school offers online students an RN-BSN degree, an RN-MSN degree, and MSN/NP (Family Nurse Practitioner & Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care) program. Business students can earn their MBA entirely online. Online courses are combined with domestic and international residencies to make up the university's Master's of Arts in Spiritual Formation & Leadership degree program.
Based in Cambridge and Boston, MA, Harvard University was founded in 1636 and is America's oldest institution of higher education. It currently offers its 20,000 students a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. Harvard Online Learning and the Harvard Extension School has more than 800 open-enrollment courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the arts and humanities, business and management, computer science and engineering, communications, languages, social science, and science and environmental studies. Two online degree programs lead to the Bachelor of Liberal Arts and the Master's of Liberal Arts.
A simple internet search for online colleges returns thousands of results with no meaningful way to sort through them. That’s why rankings are so important – they do the hard work of comparing factors that matter to potential students, such as tuition, student-to-teacher ratio and much more. Our ranking of the most affordable online colleges can help aspiring students see which schools offer the best overall value.
Featured Online Schools
Why Affordably-Priced Online Colleges Matter
Every year, college costs rise while students struggle to manage them. The impact: higher student loan debt, stronger competition for scholarships and grants, and students struggling to make ends meet or, in some cases, forgoing college altogether.
The good news is that some colleges are bucking the trend of high costs by offering many incentives that make college affordable. These online colleges offer a top-notch education while cutting out many of the expenses that face students at traditional colleges, such as room and board, transportation and the like.
Just how ugly is the financial picture for aspiring students? Below are just a few statistics that show why affordable online colleges are becoming so popular, and important, in today’s costly higher education landscape.
Between the academic years of 2010-11 and 2015-16, the cost of room and board has risen over 16% at public four-year colleges and nearly 14% at private, non-profit four-year colleges.
College tuition and fees rose by a whopping 1,120% between 1978 and 2014. To put that in perspective, health care and foods costs rose by 601% and 244%, respectively, during the same period.
The 2014 average student loan debt was $28,950, indicating college costs grew more than twice as fast as inflation over the previous decade.
The average price of a new textbook was $79 in 2013, up nearly 28% from 2007. Used book prices jumped from $49 to $59 during this six-year period.
Sources: The Institute for College Access and Success The Sun U.S. News & World Report The College Board: 1, 2
Breaking Stereotypes About Affordable Online Colleges
There was a time when online education was seen as the ‘lesser than’ option among educational institutions. Today, all those old stereotypes about cheap online colleges have been shattered, and many happy students have their hard-won degrees to prove it. Here are five of the most common stereotypes and the reality behind each:
|Affordable online colleges aren’t properly accredited and lack quality degree programs.||Many of the cheapest online schools in the country rank among the best performing in measures of faculty quality, technological capability and student satisfaction. Note that these schools are held to the same rigorous accreditation standards as brick-and-mortar schools. Visit the U.S Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs online to verify program accreditation.|
|They don’t provide extensive support services to their students.||Affordable online schools can offer student services, on par with those provided on campus. Students can access library materials; academic support; career services, mentors and advisors; and almost anything else one could imagine online, by phone or through email.|
|Employers won’t respect a degree from an affordable online college.||Many employers recognized the value of online colleges the moment they discovered top employees could advance their educations while maintaining normal work hours. Today, not only are online programs quite common, the degrees they award are rarely tagged with an online label. Many traditional colleges now have online-only programs that carry the same weight as traditional programs – online degrees from the University of Florida, for instance, are exactly the same as those earned on campus.|
|Online classes are easy.||Online courses are most certainly not an ‘easy way out.’ In fact, the opposite is true. Online courses require students to be highly motivated and disciplined self-starters. Their coursework is just as rigorous as that delivered in the classroom; it demands the same effort and long hours.|
|Online education means learning in a vacuum.||Nothing could be further from the truth. Online students might not be in regular face-to-face contact with classmates and professors, but they can access video chats, message boards, lively discussions and plenty of teacher support online. It’s even possible to form strong friendships with fellow students through the time spent in an online class.|
Key Factors of Online College Affordability
Affordability is one of online education’s biggest benefits. Online universities can offer a fantastic educational experience while sparing students thousands of dollars in debt. Nonetheless, there are many points to keep in mind when choosing among these schools. Here are the factors that contribute to a program’s overall affordability.Financial Aid and Scholarships
Financial aid can make degrees considerably more affordable. Accreditation matters a great deal, however: only accredited schools are eligible for the best financial aid options. Learn more about financial aid and scholarship opportunities for online students.School Type
Private schools are usually much more expensive than public colleges or universities, and that expense extends to online learning. Two-year colleges, meanwhile, usually cost much less than four-year colleges What’s more, community college credits can transfer to bachelor’s programs. making one’s entire education cheaper in the long run. While students attending in-state colleges usually pay lower tuition rates than out-of-state students, some universities extend that benefit to online students regardless of residency.Program Length / Time to Graduation
The longer the program, the more expensive it will be. That’s a good rule of thumb to remember when considering an online program that lets students move at their own pace. By taking several classes at once, the overall cost might actually be cheaper than it would otherwise.
Beyond the Sticker Price: The Real Cost of Online College
Online college sounds great, but what does it really cost? Just as with traditional brick-and-mortar schools, there might be ‘hidden’ fees, questions regarding the net cost of a degree, and uncertainty about how to make it all work on a tight budget. Here’s what students need to know about the real cost of even the cheapest online colleges and universities, so they can make a fully informed decision before admission.Why Net Price Trumps Tuition Rate
At first blush, colleges’ posted tuition rates can make anyone feel a little uneasy. Even the most affordable online colleges might seem out of financial reach. However, it’s important to remember financial aid whatsoever – no grants, scholarships, or even loans. This aid can reduce qualifying students’ costs dramatically.
Students should look at the net price of their education rather than published rates. The net price is tuition, room and board, and other fees minus all the things that reduce them: Pell grants, other federal or state grants, scholarships; adjustments for various reasons, such as military discounts and any other financial aid awarded for merit or need. That final net price of affordable online schools can look much more attractive.
Overlooked and Hidden Costs of Online Colleges
Even after considering the net price of a college, there might be some surprises lurking in the education-cost wings. This is true of any school, online or otherwise. Here are some important things to watch out for when figuring out the bottom line of what an online college will cost.
Money-Saving Tips for Online College Students
Little things add up, and that’s certainly true when attending college. Even those who cut their costs by attending cheap online schools might still spend more money than they have to. Here are some great ideas for staying frugal in college – keeping a lot more money in your pocket, where it belongs.
Some online schools offer free or deeply discounted laptops for students. If affording a new computer might be tough, looking into schools that offer help with this very important point might be worthwhile.
Other Helpful Resources for Keeping Online College Affordable
For most students, prohibitive college costs are the new reality. Fortunately, there are several online resources designed to make the journey easier, at least financially. The following are among some of the most helpful.The Easy Guide to Budgeting
This informative guide from Money Geek helps novices and pros create and navigate a budget that actually works.Federal Student Aid
This government website is the place to begin when searching for financial aid, scholarships, grants and more.FinAid.org
This site is a clearinghouse of all things financial aid, from scholarships to loans to military aid.Financial Aid Guide for Online College Students
LHTB's online financial aid guide covers online learners’ aid options and considerations and demystifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.SnagAJob
Looking to make a little extra money? This site offers job searches and connections with local employers seeking full-time, part-time or contract work.Surviving Financially as a College Student
This report from the American Indian College Fund offers tips to help students stay afloat financially.USDA Food and Nutrition Service
Many students struggle to make ends meet, and that means they might also struggle with food. These government services might be helpful to those who simply can’t afford the necessities.