Hero Image The 20 Best Cheap Online Colleges of 2021

The 20 Best Cheap Online Colleges of 2021

Are you ready to find your fit?

Getting a college degree can be a significant investment, but time and time again, the statistics show us that higher education is worth the costs. Take, for example, the average salary difference between those with a high school diploma and those with a college degree. 

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly salary for workers with just high school diplomas is about $730 per week. On the other hand, the average salary for workers with bachelor’s degrees is about $1,198 per week. As a result, you can expect to make significantly more over your lifetime with a college degree.

Luckily, while college is an investment, there are ways to get an affordable college degree. By attending an online school, you can save money and be on the way to earning your degree in no time.

Featured Online Programs

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.

Top 20 Best Cheap Online Colleges of 2021

  1. Saint Leo University
    Location

    Saint Leo, FL

    Based in Florida, Saint Leo University focuses on preparing adult learnings for the jobs of the future. The school offers dozens of cheap online degrees, including five associate, 20 bachelor’s, and 41 graduate degrees.

    • Graduation rate: 45%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $11,995 per semester
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: Not disclosed
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts, standardized testing scores, professional training documentation
    • Contact: 800-334-5532
    • Program/college website: https://www.saintleo.edu/
  2. University of the Southwest
    Location

    Hobbs, NM

    Founded in 1962, the University of the Southwest is located in Hobbs, New Mexico. USW offers 28 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs, some of which students can do completely through distance learning. All programs include at least some online classes.

    • Graduation rate: 32%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $8,000 per semester
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: Not disclosed
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts
    • Contact: 800-530-4400
    • Program/college website: https://www.usw.edu/ 

  3. Davenport University
    Location

    Grand Rapids, MI

    Davenport University is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a regionally accredited school. It offers a series of cheap online degrees, including 12 master’s degree programs, 15, graduate certificates, and 17 bachelor’s programs.

    • Graduation rate: 49%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $565 per credit hour (out-of-state student rate)
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: 120
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts
    • Contact: 800-686-1600
    • Program/college website: https://www.davenport.edu/ 
  4. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
    Location

    Saint Mary of the Woods, IN

    SMWC, located in western Indiana, was founded in 1840. It delivers all courses from a Catholic perspective, although it welcomes those of all faiths. This college offers three associates, 16 bachelor's, and four master's degrees — all of which are completely online.

    • Graduation rate: 56%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $496 per credit hour
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: 120
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts
    • Contact: 812-535-5151
    • Program/college website: https://www.smwc.edu/ 
  5. Columbia College
    Location

    Columbia, MO

    Established in 1851, Columbia College is located in Columbia, Missouri. It 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.

    • Graduation rate: 28%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $375 per credit hour
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: Not disclosed
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts
    • Contact: 800-231-2391
    • Program/college website: https://www.ccis.edu/ 
  6. Prescott College
    Location

    Prescott, AZ

    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.

    • Graduation rate: 33%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $5,976 per semester
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: 120
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts, academic focus essay, reference
    • Contact: 877-350-2100
    • Program/college website: https://www.prescott.edu/ 
  7. Ottawa University
    Location

    Ottawa, KS

    Ottawa University, founded in 1865, is 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.

    • Graduation rate: 51%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $499 per course
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: 124
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts
    • Contact: 855-774-7714
    • Program/college website: https://www.ottawa.edu/ 
  8. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    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.

    • Graduation rate: 44%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $320 per credit hour
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: 120
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts
    • Contact: 800-668-1249
    • Program/college website: https://www.snhu.edu/ 
  9. Colorado State University-Global Campus
    Location

    Aurora , CO

    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.

    • Graduation rate: 61%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: $8,400 per year
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: 120
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts, GPA of 2.80 or higher, ACT score of 18 or higher or SAT score of 980 or higher
    • Contact: 800-462-7845
    • Program/college website: https://csuglobal.edu/ 
  10. Central Methodist University
    Location

    Fayette, MO

    CMU was founded in 1853 and is located in Fayette, Missouri. 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 8- and 16-week class formats, providing a high level of flexibility for working adults.

    • Graduation rate: 47%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $260 per credit hour
    • Estimated years of completion: Four
    • Credit requirements: Not disclosed
    • Admission requirements: Online application, high school transcripts, GPA of 2.50 or higher, ACT score of 21 or higher or SAT score of 1050 or higher
    • Contact: 877-268-1854
    • Program/college website: https://centralmethodist.edu/ 

  • 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.


Have Questions About Online Degrees? We Have Answers.


  • How much does an online college degree cost?

    The average cost of college in the United States is $35,720 per student, per year, according to research from EducationData.org. The cost of your online college degree, however, will depend highly on what school and program you choose to attend. Colleges and universities charge a wide range of tuition rates, and you can pay anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000 or more for your online education.


  • Is online schooling a cheaper option?

    Online education is often more affordable than attending a traditional in-person program. That isn’t always the case, though, so it’s important to research school options and the costs associated with your specific program to ensure you’re getting a good deal.


  • Is there financial aid for online programs?

    Yes, there is. Financial aid can be used to cover the costs of traditional degree programs, and you can also use financial aid to pay for your online degree program. Federal financial aid may be available, depending on your financial need, and some schools also offer their own financial aid opportunities.


  • What does it mean when a school is accredited?

    When a school is accredited, it means that an accrediting agency has evaluated the school’s programs and curriculum and found it to meet the standards set for accreditation. By attending an accredited institution, you will know you’re receiving a quality education from a school respected by others. You will also be eligible to receive federal financial aid, which may not be the case with non-accredited schools.


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Degree Requirements

Enrollment requirements will vary from one school to the next, but there are a few standard requirements you can expect no matter which school you apply to:

  • High school transcripts with a minimum GPA
  • ACT or SAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • An essay or personal statement

These are simply the typical admission requirements, though. The standards for admission will vary from one school to the next. Highly competitive schools may require a GPA above 3.0 and will often give preference to applicants with GPAs above 3.5. 

On the other hand, less competitive schools or programs may accept students with GPAs of 2.0 or higher. Before applying to any college or university, be sure to visit the website to learn about the specific admission requirements.

Online Bachelor’s Degree Options

If you choose to get your bachelor’s degree online, you have a wide range of options to choose from. Most degree programs that are available at universities will also be available through online colleges. And, in most cases, once you’ve chosen a school, the major you choose won’t affect your tuition.

Some of the most popular online degree programs include:

Business

Business and business administration have become increasingly popular degree programs for both in-person and online students. These degrees prepare students for a wide range of jobs, making it easy to begin a career after graduation.

Psychology

Psychology is the study of human behavior. It’s a broad field that gives students a wide range of career options after graduation. It’s also one of the most popular degree programs for both in-person and online colleges.

Nursing

Healthcare is a popular field of study across the board, but nursing is especially popular. There are many levels of nursing degrees available, from associate’s to doctoral degrees, making it a great option for online learning.

Education

Education is a popular degree program for both online and in-person students. Most people study education with the intention of becoming teachers, but there are many careers available to someone with an education degree.

Related Degrees

When it comes to attending college online, just about any type of degree is available to you. Whether you’re starting from scratch and looking to get an associate’s degree, or you already have a bachelor’s degree and want to pursue higher education, there’s a program available.

Degree programs available through online education include:

  • Associate’s degree: A two-year degree with a median weekly salary of $862
  • Bachelor’s degree: A four-year degree with a median weekly salary of $1,198
  • Master’s degree: An advanced degree with a median weekly salary of $1,434
  • Doctoral degree: The highest degree level available, with a median annual salary of $1,825
Erin Gobler picture

Erin Gobler

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Erin Gobler is a freelance writer who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Graduate School Hub, and Criminal Justice Degree Schools, among others. Her work has been published on sites like Fox Business, Rocket Mortgage, and The Balance.

Fact-checked by

Angelica Leicht picture

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.

Additional Resources

Use articles and resources to uncover answers to common questions, get guidance on your goals, and learn about applying to schools.


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