Whether you'd like to go to college for the first time, continue your education after some time off, or get a degree to advance in your career, you can find what you're looking for through the variety of cheap online degrees available across the country.
Through these programs, you gain the flexibility needed achieve success in your higher education journey. In most cases, these programs offer asynchronous courses, allowing you to view lectures, complete assignments, and take part in class discussions mostly on your own schedule.
Best Cheap Online Degree Ranking
|Ranking||Institution||Cost Per Credit (avg.)|
|2||Granite State College||$309|
|4||Mary Baldwin University||$450|
|6||University of Maryland-University College||$389|
|7||Western Governors University||$276|
|8||Pennsylvania State University-World Campus||$535|
|9||Thomas Edison State University||$215|
|11||Central Methodist University||$210|
|12||Colorado State University-Global Campus||$350|
|13||Southern New Hampshire University||$1250|
|17||Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College||$496|
|19||University of the Southwest||$522|
|20||Saint Leo University||$535|
You'll also find many different options when it comes to tuition and fees, the programs available, and the quality of the faculty and curriculum at each school. Thus, you'll want to do your research and make sure the institution and program you choose provides the right fit for your needs, goals, and life circumstances.
The list below features the top 20 cheap online degree programs in the United States.
The 20 Best Cheap Online Degrees Ranking Methodology
For the purposes of this ranking, qualifying schools are defined as public or private non-profit/not-for-profit colleges and universities with well-developed undergraduate programs that have a significant online presence. This means schools that offer at least 15 bachelor's degrees (in total), at least 10 of which are available online.
To identify the best affordable online colleges, we considered three ranking factors. First, we calculated eligible schools' average tuition cost per credit using in-state and out-of-state tuition data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This measure of affordability accounted for 30% of each school's final score.
We also evaluated each college's focus on undergraduate education, both overall and specifically regarding online learning. To do this, we considered both the total number of online bachelor's degrees that each school offers and the percentage of all undergraduate degrees that it offers online. High scores in both categories indicate a significant commitment – regarding both time and resources – to online undergraduate education. These measures accounted for 60% of each school's final score (30% x 2).
Lastly, we paid attention to "extra" features that enhance the online learning experience for students. Specifically, we looked at whether or not each school offers course credit for past experience and/or evening and weekend classes. These measures accounted for 10% of each school's final score (5% x 2).
Note that after we had tallied all the results, we rated the final scores on a curve so that the best cheap online college (ranked #1) earned the maximum 100 points.
20. Saint Leo University
Focused on preparing adult learners for the jobs of the future, Saint Leo WorldWide offers dozens of cheap online degrees students can complete efficiently, allowing them to pursue greater career opportunities. Its average student age is 36 years old.
The university's distance programs include five associate, 20 bachelor's, and 41 graduate degrees. Online learners can access career services and academic advising, along with virtual membership in a variety of student clubs and organizations.
Based in Florida, Saint Leo has more than 40 satellite campuses across seven states. The university is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Average Cost per Credit: $535
For more information: Saint Leo University
19. University of the Southwest
USW offers 28 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs, some of which students can complete through distance learning alone. All programs include at least some online classes.
The university features an easy process for transfer students, typically accepting those in good academic standing with a GPA of 2.0 or above. Thanks to its status as a Yellow Ribbon school, military veterans can get all tuition and fees covered through their post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. Additional student services for online students include counseling, technology support, and career and academic services.
Founded in 1962 and located in Hobbs, New Mexico, USW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Average Cost per Credit: $522
For more information: University of the Southwest
18. Davenport University
Davenport University's series of cheap online degrees includes 12 master's programs, 15 graduate certificates, and 17 bachelor's programs. It also offers online associate degrees in accounting, business administration, computer information systems, finance, and health information technology.
The school, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its asynchronous online course format means students do not need to attend lectures at set times. Instead, they can review materials, complete assignments, engage in class discussions, and take exams largely on their own time.
Starting in fall 2016, Davenport began offering a 33% tuition discount for non-Michigan residents pursuing an undergraduate degree.
Average Cost per Credit: $633
For more information: Davenport University
17. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
SMWC, located in western Indiana, offers three associate, 16 bachelor's, and four master's degrees completely online. The nonprofit college delivers all courses from a Catholic perspective, although it welcomes those of all faiths.
The school features a low student-to-faculty ratio of about 13:1, and 95 percent of its students receive some form of financial aid. It also provides numerous resources for military members and veterans, even awarding credit for life experience and providing online tutoring for those who need a little extra assistance.
SMWC, founded in 1840, is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It has an alumni network of nearly 8,500 across the globe.
Average Cost per Credit: $496
For more information: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
16. Columbia College
Established in 1851, Columbia College offers 55 cheap online degrees covering subjects like business administration, crime scene investigation, environmental studies, instructional leadership, and sports management. These programs include associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees, along with several certificates.
Through the college's ""Truition"" initiative, online students pay no academic fees beyond tuition and do not need to purchase textbooks for their classes. The average student finishes a bachelor's degree in 3.5 years and a master's degree in one year.
The college is located in Columbia, Missouri, and is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its status as a Yellow Ribbon school means it delivers numerous services for military members and veterans, including scholarships, tuition discounts, and VA benefits assistance.
Average Cost per Credit: $261
For more information: Columbia College
15. Prescott College
Arizona's Prescott College, which has been delivering distance learning opportunities since the late 1970s, now offers 32 cheap online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It even features an online Ph.D. in sustainability education, focused on K-12 and postsecondary learning across traditional and nontraditional settings.
The school emphasizes the needs of military members and their families, assisting with eBenefits, post-9/11, GI Bill, VA benefits, academic advising, and career services. All students have access to the Learning Commons, which provides tutors in language, math, science, and writing. And, the college's digital library features more than 150,000 e-books.
Prescott College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,087
For more information: Prescott College
14. Ottawa University
Located in eastern Kansas, Ottawa University offers 70 bachelor's degrees and 23 master's degrees completely online. These programs cover the arts and sciences, business, and education. Students can access all course materials, assignments, and discussion at any time of the day or night, providing a convenient format for working adults. Classes begin at six different start dates in the summer, fall, and spring.
Ottawa University, founded in 1865, is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It has satellite campuses in Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, and Wisconsin. The university also allows prospective students to take a sample online class for free via its Blackboard course delivery platform.
Average Cost per Credit: $490
For more information: Ottawa University
13. Southern New Hampshire University
A pioneer in distance education since 1932, SNHU offers more than 200 cheap online degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. Students benefit from a variety of services, including an online library, technical support, tutoring, financial aid help, and veterans services. Undergraduate programs start at six points in the year, preventing students from having to wait to begin their pursuit of a degree.
All students receive personalized guidance from an academic advisor and career advisors who help them progress in their programs, graduate, and find job and internship opportunities.
SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,250
For more information: Southern New Hampshire University
12. Colorado State University-Global Campus
CSU's Global Campus offers 12 bachelor's and 13 master's degree programs covering diverse subjects like accounting, criminal justice, data analytics, human services, information technology, and organizational leadership. It features accelerated eight-week course formats, with new classes starting each month.
Students get the peace of mind of a Tuition Guarantee that keeps their tuition rate at the same level from the start of the program until they graduate. They pay no student fees beyond tuition.
CSU Global Campus, regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, was established by the CSU Board of Governors as the first independent and completely online university in 2007.
Average Cost per Credit: $350
For more information: Colorado State University- Global
11. Central Methodist University
CMU's online offerings include 22 online undergraduate programs, along with an MS in mathematics, an MSN clinical nurse leader, and an MSN nurse educator. The university features both eight- and 16-week class formats, providing a high level of flexibility for working adults.
Distance learners have access to a variety of student services, including academic advising, a career development center, counseling, technology assistance, and a writing center. Its veterans services office provides help with VA benefits, degree planning, and other needs for military members and their families.
CMU, founded in 1853 and located in Fayette, Missouri, is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Average Cost per Credit: $210
For more information: Central Methodist University
10. National University
NU, based in San Diego, offers more than 90 cheap online degree programs. With most classes delivered asynchronously, students can access lectures, materials, assignments, and discussions on their own schedule—an ideal format for working adults. NU's distance programs include associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees, along with certificate and credential programs.
New classes start every month and the school accepts incoming students throughout the year. Because students do not need to wait to get started, they can often complete their degrees more quickly than in a traditional format.
As a Yellow Ribbon school, NU emphasizes the needs of military members and veterans, most of whom can graduate with little or no out-of-pocket expenses thanks to post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
Average Cost per Credit: $354
For more information: National University
9. Thomas Edison State University
Located in Trenton, New Jersey, TESU offers 13 associate, 33 bachelor's, and 14 graduate programs completely online. The school also features numerous online undergraduate and graduate certificate programs.
TESU allows students to earn credit for knowledge obtained outside the classroom in the form of portfolio assessments, certifications achieved, military training, and professional experience. It also offers TECEP exams across dozens of subjects, enabling students to demonstrate their existing knowledge to potentially earn college credit.
Students may access courses in several formats, including online and in e-Packs, 12-week independent study classes through which learners do not need to interact with their fellow students. TESU has been a leader in distance education since its founding in 1972.
Average Cost per Credit: $215
For more information: Thomas Edison State College
8. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus
Since launching in 1998, Penn State World Campus has set itself apart offering cheap online degrees across more than 150 undergraduate and graduate programs. It focuses on providing career-focused curricula with instructors at the top of their respective fields.
World Campus students have access to services like academic advising, technical support, online tutorials, career counseling, and a full digital library. The school also accepts transfer credits at the associate, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. And, it features a military support team that assists military members and veterans with financial aid, scholarship opportunities, and transferring credits.
Penn State is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Average Cost per Credit: $535
For more information: Penn State World Campus
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WGU offers 30 cheap online degrees at the bachelor's level and 32 online master's degrees through its colleges of business, teaching, information technology, and health professions. Its competency-based format means students graduate as soon as they demonstrate they've mastered the content instead of simply spending a predetermined amount of time in class.
Regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the university features a transfer-friendly policy, accepting credits from most accredited postsecondary institutions. Those who already hold an associate degree can clear most of their programs' general education requirements, moving directly into major-focused coursework.
WGU also provides assistance with applying for financial aid, managing veterans' benefits, and seeking scholarships.
Average Cost per Credit: $276
6. University of Maryland-University College
UMUC offers cheap online programs covering 32 different majors at the bachelor's level, along with 18 master's degrees and two doctorate degrees. The school also features several online undergraduate and graduate certificate programs.
Thanks to its friendly transfer policy, UMUC accepts credits from community colleges and four-year schools nationwide, and also awards credit for international study. Once enrolled, distance learners can access services like academic advising, military and veteran support, technical assistance, tutoring, writing help, and career planning.
Additionally, no online courses require students to buy textbooks. Instead, they access materials via electronic textbooks, software, websites, and interactive exercises.
UMUC, based in Adelphi, Maryland, is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Average Cost per Credit: $389
For more information: University of Maryland University College
5. Franklin University
An early adopter of distance learning, Franklin University offers dozens of cheap online degree programs covering the areas of business, the social sciences, technology, healthcare, management, marketing, and communications.
The university delivers all online courses asynchronously, enabling students to access lectures, assignments, and materials at times convenient for them. Its instructors come from all over the country and make themselves available to answer questions and interact with their students regularly. Online learners also benefit from a technology help desk, disability services, financial aid assistance, career development, and veterans' resources.
Located in Columbus, Ohio, Franklin University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Average Cost per Credit: $484
For more information: Franklin University
4. Mary Baldwin University
MBU, founded in 1842, offers 13 completely online bachelor's degrees in majors like business, criminal justice, healthcare administration, nursing, and social work. The school also features 13 master's degree and 13 certificate programs. In 1977, it was one of the first postsecondary institutions in the nation to deliver programs specifically to enable adults to finish their bachelor's degrees.
MBU, based in Staunton, Virginia, is regionally accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Through MBU's Academic Resource Center, students may access a writing center, tutoring, accessibility services, and support for military veterans. MBU Online serves more than 25% of the university's students.
Average Cost per Credit: $450
For more information: Mary Baldwin University
3. Excelsior College
The nonprofit Excelsior College features all-online associate, bachelor's, and master's degree programs spanning a variety of subjects. These include bachelor's degrees in relevant majors like cybersecurity, military leadership, healthcare management, and national security.
Excelsior offers online courses every eight weeks to meet the needs of adult learners. It features a friendly transfer policy and even awards credits for experience gained outside the classroom, including in fields like criminal justice, healthcare, nursing, and FEMA training.
Excelsior is regionally accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The college delivers a full suite of student services to distance learners, including a career center, online bookstore, financial aid support, digital library, and veterans' services.
Average Cost per Credit: $490
For more information: Excelsior College
2. Granite State College
Granite State's cheap online degrees balance the flexibility of distance learning with comprehensive student support to help adult learners earn their degrees quickly. The school offers 100% online associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate programs. It also features several bachelor's degree completion programs designed specifically for those who already have an associate degree.
Based in Concord, New Hampshire, GSC is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. Through MyGranite, distance learners can access academic advising, career counseling, IT support, military and veterans' services, tutoring, counseling, and disability services. The college also allows incoming students to transfer up to 90 credits.
Average Cost per Credit: $309
For more information: Granite State College
1. Bellevue University
Located in Nebraska, Bellevue University offers cheap online degrees that cover 50 undergraduate majors, 27 master's programs, and a Ph.D. in human capital management. All distance learners have access to student services like a 24/7 service desk, academic advising, and easy tracking of grades, class schedules, and payment information through the BRUIN digital platform.
The university offers numerous services for military veterans, including assistance with veterans' benefits, advising, work-study programs, and enrollment certificates. And, students who wish to take a mix of online and in-person courses can do so when enrolled in most of Bellevue's distance programs.
The university, located just south of Omaha, Nebraska, is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Average Cost per Credit: $275
For more information: Bellevue University
Thanks for reading our ranking of the 20 best cheap online degrees!
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