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The 20 Cheapest Bachelor’s Degrees in the United States for 2021

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While an undergraduate degree represents a major financial investment that can lead to fulfilling careers and high salaries, paying for school can be a challenge. The main issue is that the average cost of college in the United States is about $35,720 per student per year. And, it’s not getting any cheaper, either. The cost of higher education has actually tripled in 20 years and has an annual growth rate of about 6.8%. As college costs continue to rise, many budget-conscious students consider affordability a major factor in choosing a school. 

Fortunately, many colleges and universities understand that today’s students are looking for a quality educational experience without having to worry about the price tag. A diploma from a top-notch school should not saddle you with long-term debt, and the cheapest bachelor’s degrees do not have to result in an inferior academic experience. 

Many of the cheapest colleges for bachelor degrees are also some of the best schools, offering a full range of programs that fit your needs, as well as reasonable tuition and financial aid opportunities. By pursuing one of these cheap college degrees, you not only access one of the cheapest ways to get a bachelor’s degree, but can achieve your educational goals without breaking the bank or taking on debt that follows you for many years after graduation.

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Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Have Questions About Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees? We Have Answers.

  • Are online colleges more affordable?

    Yes, they can be. If you attend an online college, you will still pay for your tuition, but you won’t be stuck paying for other on-campus costs, like your dorm, commuting costs, or transportation. Plus, some online colleges offer cheaper tuition, which can make it more affordable all around for students to attend their programs.

  • What types of degrees can I earn through an online college?

    Most, if not all, types of degree programs are available online. You can earn a degree in business, humanities, education, natural science, technology, the social sciences, or a wide number of other degrees. Most online schools offer graduate programs and other types of certificate and continuing education programs as well, which can make it easy and less expensive to pursue a degree that fits your interests and strengths.

  • Are online bachelor’s programs accredited?

    Yes, most online bachelor’s programs are accredited, which means that your degree meets the high standard set for higher education and will be useful to your career. That said, not all online degrees are accredited, so be sure you look into whether the programs you’re pursuing are accredited before you enroll and pay for any costs associated with the program.


The 10 Cheapest Bachelor’s Degrees in the United States of 2021

Rank School Location
1 CUNY City College New York, NY
2 Missouri Western State University Saint Joseph , MO
3 Weber State University Ogden, UT
4 University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD
5 Southern Arkansas University Magnolia, AR
6 Northeastern State University Tahlequah, OK
7 Northwest Missouri State University Marryville, MO
8 South Dakota State University Brookings, SD
9 Southeast Missouri State University Girardeau, MO
10 Black Hills State University Spearfish, SD

  • Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools


    At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs.
    We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.































    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%

    You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.

Degree Requirements

Admissions requirements vary from school to school and program to program. Some departments, like engineering or English literature, may have specific admissions requirements you have to meet on top of the general admissions requirements for the college. That said, you will typically need to provide your high school transcripts, any official college transcripts, an essay, SAT or ACT scores, and an application to be considered for admission to most programs.

As with admissions, each degree has its own unique requirements to graduate. In general, though, you’ll need to complete about 120 credit hours to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Most programs will require you to keep at least a 2.0 to 2.5 GPA to graduate, though that requirement will vary from program to program. Some programs or schools are more competitive than others, which may translate to higher GPA requirements.

Some programs will also require you to complete an internship or capstone project to graduate. For example, those pursuing teaching degrees will need to complete student teaching requirements in nearly any state. Those pursuing social work degrees will also have requirements for supervised hours. Whether or not you are required to meet similar requirements will depend on what you’re studying and the school you attend.

Job Outlook & Salary

The salary you earn after graduation depends almost entirely on what you study. Some fields, like human services, tend to offer lower salary ranges than other fields, like business or marketing. You should do your research prior to deciding on a major to understand what the general salary ranges are for your field of study and your chosen career path.

There are some interesting statistics related to salary to note, however. For example, employees with just a high school diploma typically earn about 62% of what the typical college graduate earns. As of 2019, the median income for recent graduates was about $44,000 a year for bachelor’s degree holders in their early- to mid-20s. For high school graduates of the same age, the median earnings were about $30,000 per year. 

Scholarships & Financial Aid

If you’re looking for ways to finance your education, you may want to consider the scholarship options available to you. These include:

Student Loan Hero from LendingTree

Student Loan Hero by LendingTree gives away $1,000 each month to eligible applicants so you can worry less about college expenses and focus on your future. All eligible high school students, college students, student parents, and others can apply for this monthly giveaway.

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: Monthly

Education Matters Scholarship

The Education Matters Scholarship is open to applicants ages 13 or older who are legal residents of the U.S. and enrolled or enrolling no later than fall 2022 in an accredited post-secondary college.

Amount: $5,000

Deadline: November 30

Get Educated Online College Scholarship Program

Twice a year, the Get Educated online college grant fund awards $1,000 distance learning scholarships to students attending accredited online university degree programs. Applicants must be U.S. citizens enrolled in an accredited online degree program located in the USA with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Amount: $1,000

Deadline: Varies

Unigo $10k Scholarship

This award is for U.S. students. Applicants must be legal U.S. residents, must reside in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia, and must be 14 years of age or older to apply.

Amount: $10,000

Deadline: December 31

The 20 Cheapest Bachelor’s Degrees in the United States for 2021

  1. CUNY City College
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    City College of New York, the founding institution of the New York City College system, has been offering degrees for over 170 years. Part of the largest urban university system in the country, it offers undergraduate programs in architecture, engineering and STEM, liberal arts and sciences, and education. It also sponsors 50 master's programs, and doctoral programs in engineering, laboratory sciences, and journalism. CCNY has established a sustainability initiative, working to lower its carbon footprint. Tuition rates at CCNY rank significantly lower than 4-year public in-state institution rates. More than 70% of students receive some form of financial assistance, and 16% have been awarded scholarships.

    • Graduation rate: 56.18%
    • School status (public/private): Public
    • Number of programs offered: 1,750+
    • City location: New York, NY 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: https://www.ccny.cuny.edu/about/contact
    • Website
  2. Missouri Western State University
    Location

    Saint Joseph , MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Missouri Western State University, located in Saint Joseph, Missouri, has an enrollment of 5,100 undergraduates and 243 graduate students. It offers certificates, associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. Its special learning programs include ROTC training, distance learning options, and study abroad opportunities. MWSU has the second lowest tuition rate in the state. High school students may earn college credits through its dual credit or dual enrollment courses. The university distributes grants or scholarship assistance to 92% of its first time students. A military friendly school, it provides up to 30 credits for military training that can be applies to the bachelor's of science in technology degree.

    • Graduation rate: 29%
    • School status (public/private): Public 
    • Number of programs offered: A variety of professional master’s degrees, four-year baccalaureate programs, two-year associate degrees, pre-professional transfer programs and one-year certificates
    • City location: Saint Joseph, MO 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: https://www.missouriwestern.edu/contactus/
    • Website
  3. Weber State University
    Location

    Ogden, UT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1889 in Ogden, Utah, Weber State University now offers 225 certificate and degree programs and 14 graduate degrees to over 26,000 students. This public, coeducational institution administers degree programs in performing arts, humanities, science and technology, business and economics, social and behavioral sciences, and the health professions. One of the most affordable universities in the western U.S., WSU sponsors an Early College Program that allows students to save costs through advanced college entrance. Students may take between 11 and 18 credits for the same tuition rage. The University awards more than $90 million annually in all forms of financial aid.

    • Graduation rate: 39%
    • School status (public/private): Public 
    • Number of programs offered: 225 certificate and degree programs, 13 graduate programs
    • City location: Ogden, UT 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: https://www.weber.edu/contactus/
    • Website
  4. University of South Dakota
    Location

    Vermillion, SD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Vermillion in southeastern South Dakota, with regional campuses in Sioux City, Rapid City and Pierre, the University of South Dakota offers over 200 undergraduate and 75 graduate programs for a student body of more than 10,000. USD is home to the state's only law school and medical school. The university has established pricing policies that keep educational costs affordable. It charges in-state tuition rates for residents from Iowa and Nebraska, and for children of alumni regardless of their state of residence. It participates in a reciprocity agreement with Minnesota to reduce tuition rates for students from that state. USD's distance learning programs assess online students residing out-of-state the same tuition as students from South Dakota.

    • Graduation rate: 53%
    • School status (public/private): Public
    • Number of programs offered:
    • City location: Vermillion, SD 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: https://www.usd.edu/about-usd/contact-us
    • Website
  5. Southern Arkansas University
    Location

    Magnolia, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Magnolia, Arkansas, less than 2- miles north of the Louisiana state border, Southern Arkansas University has an enrollment of over 4,600. Established in 1909, it has grown into a public university that offers associate, bachelor's and master's degrees. SAU administers over 80 programs in each of its four colleges and its school of graduate studies. Its distance learning programs deliver over 350 courses to more than 1,200 students. SAU offers a relatively low rate of tuition in comparison to other Arkansas schools. It provides eligible new students with academic and performance arts scholarships and awards college credit for military service.

    • Graduation rate: 35%
    • School status (public/private): Public
    • Number of programs offered: Over 70
    • City location: Magnolia, AR 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: https://web.saumag.edu/admissions/contact-us/
    • Website
  6. Northeastern State University
    Location

    Tahlequah, OK

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    From its main campus in Tahlequah and regional sites in Muskogee and Broken Arrow, Northeastern State University serves over 8,200 students. NSU ranks as one of the most affordable regional universities in Oklahoma. It awards scholarships and grants to 65% of its undergraduates and participates in the statewide Oklahoma Promise tuition scholarship program for academic qualified high school students. NSU offers 54 undergraduate and 24 graduate programs, delivered in campus-based, online and blended formats. The most popular fields of study include education, biology, accounting, business, psychology and criminal justice. The University supports a Center for Tribal Studies designed to improve educational success for American Indian students.

    • Graduation rate: 25%
    • School status (public/private): Public
    • Number of programs offered: 69 undergraduate degrees, 18 graduate degrees and 13 pre-professional programs
    • City location: Tahlequah, OK 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: https://www.nsuok.edu/ContactUs.aspx
    • Website
  7. Northwest Missouri State University
    Location

    Marryville, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northwest Missouri State University, located in Marryville, offers 127 undergraduate degrees, and 40 graduate programs to over 7,000 students. The business, geography, education and agricultural departments graduate the largest number of students each year. Northwest provides several programs to help students manage the cost of their education. Every full-time student receives a laptop to use throughout the school year. Northwest sponsors a rental program for textbooks, charging students a flat rate per credit hour for all books used during each term. The university has established the Bearcat Advantage program charging qualifying out-of-state students the same tuition rate as Missouri residents. It also awards more than $19 million in grants and scholarships annually.

    • Graduation rate: 49%
    • School status (public/private): Public
    • Number of programs offered:  127 undergraduate degrees, and 40 graduate programs
    • City location: Marryville, MO 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: https://www.nwmissouri.edu/admissions/contact.htm
    • Website:
  8. South Dakota State University
    Location

    Brookings, SD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1881, South Dakota State University is the largest and the oldest continually operating university in the state. It offers its student body of over 12,000 more than 200 academic programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral level. SDSU delivers courses on campus and online through its five colleges: arts and media; business and computing; education, health, and human studies; and humanities and social sciences. The university has a commitment to affordable education, offering in-state tuition rates to new students from Iowa, Nebraska, and children of alumni residing out-of-state. Students enrolled at SDSU regional sites in Sisketon and Kennett pay lower tuition rates than students at the main campus in Brookings.

    • Graduation rate: 47%
    • School status (public/private): Public
    • Number of programs offered: More than 145 undergraduate majors, 100 minors, and more than 75 graduate programs
    • City location: Cape Girardeau, MO 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: https://semo.edu/english/Contact_Us.html
    • Website
  9. Southeast Missouri State University
    Location

    Girardeau, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Southeast Missouri State, located in Cape Girardeau, has a student body of over 12,000. Its five academic colleges offer more than 145 undergraduate majors, 100 minors, and more than 75 graduate programs. SEMU offers 80 study abroad programs and opportunities for internships and experiential learning in all of its undergraduate majors. The university provides several options to reduce tuition costs. Students enrolled in any of SEMU's 260 online courses pay the in-state tuition rate regardless of their state of residence. The Southeast Salutes Military Package provides in-state tuition to military personnel, veterans, and dependents. SEMU awards more than $20 million annually in institutional scholarships.

  10. Black Hills State University
    Location

    Spearfish, SD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1883, Black Hills State University has grown into the third largest university in South Dakota boasting an enrollment of 4,000. Located in the Black Hills community of Spearfish, South Dakota, BHU delivers over 75 degree programs, including five at the associate level, 63 bachelor's programs, and seven master's degree. It has also expanded its distance learning programs offering several bachelor's and master's degrees completely online. Students applying to BHU may be eligible for tuition waivers or discounts. BSU allows out-of-state residents of Wyoming, Colorado and Montana to pay in-state tuition rates, and it has entered into a reciprocity agreement for reduced tuition with Minnesota.

    • Graduation rate: 38%
    • School status (public/private): Public
    • Number of programs offered: Over 75 degree programs, including five at the associate level, 63 bachelor's programs, and seven master's degrees
    • City location: Spearfish, SD 
    • Admission requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, SAT/ACT scores, application, other required documents
    • Contact: BHSU-RCInfo@BHSU.edu
    • Website
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Amanda Push

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Amanda Push is a freelance writer who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Grad School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, and others. Her writing has also been featured at TheSimpleDollar.com, Interest.com, MyMove.com, and Safety.com.

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Angelica Leicht

SCHOOLS EDITOR

Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.

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