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Most Affordable Online Bachelor's Degrees in Liberal Arts

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By BVS Staff

Welcome to our list of some of the most affordable online liberal arts studies degree programs in the United States.

Unfortunately, many people assume that a degree in the Liberal Arts is all but worthless; on par with degrees in English and History, some critics insist that these degrees don't adequately prepare students for the most in-demand careers. However, there are a lot of benefits to these degrees as well. People who study the Liberal Arts are at a distinct advantage in some ways, mainly due to the opportunity they have to study a multitude of subjects and to build essential skills in critical thinking, communication, and research. Liberal arts graduates frequently find jobs in education, management, public relations, journalism, marketing, and many other fields.

Because of the broad scope of the degree and the ease of teaching many of the required courses in an online format, many colleges now offer Liberal Arts degrees entirely through distance education. Students can log in to the online classroom at their own schedule and can complete courses at their leisure. This format is particularly attractive to nontraditional students, such as working adults or parents, who need a high degree of flexibility in school.

The 20 Best Online Liberal Studies Degrees Ranking Methodology

Selection Criteria

For this ranking, we focused on public and private (non-profit) colleges and universities that offer liberal arts degrees online. Because the focus of this list is on affordability, we only considered programs with average* tuition rates of $20,000/year or less.

*For public schools, we calculated the average value of their in-state and out-of-state rates.

Ranking Factors

After compiling a list of all the colleges that offer online liberal arts studies degrees and meet the above criteria, we then collected data in three categories:

  • Program Popularity: How many undergraduates choose to earn their degree in liberal arts over a more traditional major? To find out, we looked at both the number of students who earned their bachelor's degree in liberal arts in the most recent school year as well as the percentage of all bachelor's degree graduates that that number represents.
  • Overall Online Program Strength: How many online bachelor's degrees does the school offer? Having more programs available online means more course options (as well as resources and experienced faculty) for liberal arts students who want to earn their degree at a distance.
  • Affordability: What is the average annual cost of attendance?

After collecting and sorting all the information, we ranked the candidates according to their performance in each area. Finally, we summed up the results and gave each school a final score using a curve so that the top-scoring program earned an even 100 points.

Read more about the best cheap online liberal studies degree programs below!

Cheap Online Liberal Arts Studies Degree Programs Ranked

20. University of Oklahoma-Norman

Online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

Preparing for a career isn't all about acquiring professional knowledge. It's also about developing useful skills - a point that the University of Oklahoma at Norman drives home in its online liberal studies degree program. This program teaches you to think critically, analyze situations, and solve problems - no matter the professional setting. To achieve this goal, the curriculum covers a range of topics in the humanities and social sciences as well as ecology, evolution, and the universe. As part of the degree requirements, you'll also have to pick two areas of concentration. Your primary area will fall under one of three categories (humanities, natural sciences, or social sciences), while your secondary area should be in a related field of study.
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,754/yr
Score: 50

19. University of Toledo

Online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

With a broad curriculum designed for nontraditional learners, the University of Toledo's liberal studies degree is ideal for working adults who want to acquire widely applicable skills. The program is also highly self-directed, and all participants take an introductory class to help them map out the "direction and content of their learning." Although the curriculum has requirements for general humanities and social and natural science courses, you'll get to pick exactly how to fulfill these credits. Plus, this accredited online BA in Liberal Studies includes an "elective concentration" that you can fill with just about any classes you want - including transfer courses.
Average Tuition & Fees: $14,216/yr
Score: 50

18. Azusa Pacific University

Online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

Azusa Pacific University offers one of the more unique programs on our online liberal studies degrees ranking. Instead of focusing on broad skill development, APU's program aims to help prospective teachers gain "valuable subject-matter preparation" across different disciplines. As a religious university, Azusa Pacific also incorporates "principles of Christian faith" into its general curriculum, making this program an especially good fit for teachers who plan to work at parochial schools. To accommodate adult learners, the program also offers an accelerated format in which students can take classes in eight-week sessions and earn their degree in just over 18 months.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,200/yr
Score: 50.3

17. University of Northern Iowa

Online Bachelor of Liberal Studies

Although most liberal arts programs are designed to be flexible, the University of Northern Iowa takes flexibility to a whole new level. This is perhaps most evident in its course options. You can get credit for transfer courses; sign up for traditional, semester-based classes (available both online and on-campus); or take self-paced, "guided independent study" courses. Plus, UNI's affordable online liberal arts studies degree comes with academic flexibility, too. To meet the requirements, you can pick any classes (12 credits each) from three of the program's five "distribution areas": Humanities, Social Sciences, Communications and Arts, Professional Fields, and Natural Sciences and Math.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,970/yr
Score: 51

16. Iowa State University

Online Bachelor of Liberal Studies

Given that they are both public colleges located in the same state, it's no surprise that Iowa State's BLS program has many similarities with the one at UNI. Most applicants to this program have an associate's degree or at least 60 transferable credits, although students who don't meet these criteria may still qualify for admission. The online liberal arts studies degree also utilizes "areas of distribution" to help BLS majors meet the coursework requirements. Unsurprisingly, these areas fall under the same categories as those at the University of Northern Iowa: Humanities, Social Sciences, Communications and Arts, Professional Fields, and Natural Sciences and Math.
Average Tuition & Fees: $15,554/yr
Score: 51.2

15. University of Southern Maine

Online BA in Liberal Studies

The University of Southern Maine's primary goal in offering a liberal studies program is to provide "an efficient path to degree completion." Designed with maximum flexibility so you can make maximum use of your transfer credits, the curriculum makes it easy to earn your degree while preparing for a wide range of potential careers. Students who sign up for this online BA in Liberal Studies can transfer coursework from any liberal arts discipline, which they'll supplement with USM's largely humanities-based curriculum. For example, the required coursework includes classes in "Introducing the Humanities" and "Topics in the Humanities" as well as upper-level electives in philosophy, English, and history.
Average Tuition & Fees: $14,616/yr
Score: 54

14. University of Missouri-St Louis

Online Bachelor of Liberal Studies

You shouldn't have any trouble completing your degree online if you attend the University of Missouri in St. Louis. That's because the school offers a whopping 150 courses through distance education. These include both general education and upper-level classes, which gives majors in UMSL's accredited online liberal studies degree program lots of choices in how to complete their studies. Plus, you'll get to pick from nearly a dozen different "areas of concentration," which cover everything from Advertising and Criminology to Media Studies and Sociology. And if you happen to live locally, you can also take advantage of in-person classes offered at a variety of area community colleges.
Average Tuition & Fees: $18,801/yr
Score: 54.7

13. Framingham State University

Online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

The goal of Framingham State's liberal studies program is less about making use of transfer credits and more about giving students the freedom to design their own unique curriculum. After enrolling in this affordable online BA in Liberal Studies program, you'll get to pick how to earn your degree: by pursuing one or more areas in-depth or by picking a broad spectrum of courses across several disciplines. And just because the program doesn't prioritize transfer credits doesn't mean it's not friendly to nontraditional learners. In fact, FSU will award "prior learning assessment" credit for a number of reasons, including past employment, military or community service, independent learning, or even educational travel.
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,960/yr
Score: 55

12. Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts

At some point, faculty at the Northwestern State University of Louisiana realized that the school offered a "superior undergraduate education" in liberal arts areas like social science, language, and communication. So, it only made sense to create an opportunity for undergrads to major directly in the liberal studies. The result was the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts, a broad-based program that brings together coursework from five different departments. And while most schools on this liberal arts degrees online ranking provide similarly broad curricula, NSU goes even further by also providing optional concentrations. These interdisciplinary concentrations cover unique areas of study like Entertainment Technology, Social Issues, and Ethnoarchaeology.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,316/yr
Score: 58

11. Oklahoma State University

Online BA/BS in Liberal Studies

Oklahoma State University has designed a multidisciplinary studies program that helps "expand students' perceptions of themselves and the world." Aiming to imbue majors with a global perspective and diverse skills, the curriculum combines classes in history and foreign language with others in natural science and even "inclusion leadership." What's more, OSU provides a unique opportunity for you to earn a cheap online BA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Pre-Law. This degree combines general liberal arts coursework (which is known to help develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills - crucial for getting through law school) with targeted classes in legal studies.
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,257/yr
Score: 64

10. Jacksonville State University

Online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

As a student in Jacksonville State's accredited online liberal arts studies degree program, you'll enjoy "considerable freedom" to design your own course of study. In fact, once you've met your general studies requirements, you'll have very few restrictions in the courses that you can take. The only stipulations are that you complete at least 36 hours of upper-level classes; your remaining 24 credits you can take from any electives that suit your "interests, aptitudes, and career goals." This also makes it easy for you to get credit for any transfer courses that you may bring with you from other universities.
Average Tuition & Fees: $14,655/yr
Score: 69.1

9. William Paterson University of New Jersey

Online BA in Liberal Studies

William Patterson University's multifunctional liberal studies program should appeal to a wide variety of learners. In addition to adult students, transfers, and military veterans, the program is also suitable for traditional college students seeking an interdisciplinary education. As a major in this online BA in Liberal Studies program, you'll have a chance to gain expertise in two academic disciplines and to understand "the practical and intellectual connections between them." In addition, WPU requires BLS students to complete both an internship and senior capstone experience as a way to contextualize their learning. Lastly, the curriculum includes optional tracks in Psychology and Sociology, making this degree a particularly strong choice for undergrads who aspire to careers in either of these fields.
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,823/yr
Score: 70.5

8. Utah State University

Online Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts

While many liberal arts programs combine coursework from across the entire academic spectrum, Utah State's degree focuses "primarily on subjects in social science, humanities, and the arts." The goal is to help students develop strong analytical and critical thinking skills through an understanding of cultural evolution, from the development of civilization to the history of political institutions. As such, this online liberal arts studies degree includes specific course requirements in areas like foreign language, ethical inquiry, and communications. However, you'll also have the flexibility to pursue topics outside these areas. Indeed, many seek supplemental majors, minors, and certificates along with their liberal arts degree.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,951/yr
Score: 71.9

7. Northern Arizona University

Online BA/BS in Liberal Arts

Most online schools aim to provide convenience and accessibility, but Northern Arizona University goes above and beyond in its efforts to accommodate nontraditional learners. For starters, its affordable online BA in Liberal Studies features a flat-rate fee that allows you to take as many courses as you want over a six-month period for one low tuition rate. Plus, the program uses a "competency-based curriculum" that lets you progress in accordance with your understanding - not by some preset timetable. And like most liberal studies programs, the curriculum covers a wide range of courses - with an emphasis on "history, literature, politics, philosophy, and art" - giving you a versatile knowledge base that you can apply to any number of careers.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,644/yr
Score: 72.6

6. University of Illinois at Springfield

Online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies

It may be a large state school, but UIS' liberal studies program will give you the experience of being enrolled at a small, private liberal arts college. In the true spirit of progressive thinking, this accredited online BA in Liberal Studies requires students to pick classes across seven unique categories: art, heritage, identity, institutions, language, nature, and work. Not only that, but you'll have to pick a minor from a select list of options - including typical liberal arts choices like Philosophy and Women and Gender Studies. For the remainder of your coursework, you'll get to work with an advisor to pick classes that meet your needs - you can even earn credit for service learning and independent studies.
Average Tuition & Fees: $14,824/yr
Score: 72.9

5. California University of Pennsylvania

Online Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies

You'll be hard-pressed to find a more open-ended online liberal studies degree than the program at the California University of Pennsylvania. With few limitations on major-specific courses, this program allows you to take classes not just in the humanities and social sciences, but also in the natural sciences. In fact, you're free to choose your major classes from an impressive 30 different disciplines, whether you're interested in studying Arabic, math, economics, or environmental science. And although you'll take a total of more than 80 credits in major and elective classes, you're only allowed to take at most 24 with the same course prefix - a rule that ensures your education is as broad as it is deep.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,083/yr
Score: 76

4. Portland State University

Online Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies

Some liberal arts programs attempt to guide students' learning by requiring them to pick concentration(s) or select classes in a certain combination of disciplines. But undergraduates pursuing a cheap liberal arts degree online at Portland State have a different directive. That is, all you have to do is take at least 81 credits in coursework in Arts and Letters, Science, and/or Social Science. Whether you want to take classes from one or all three, you'll get to work with an academic advisor to devise a uniquely personal course of study.
Average Tuition & Fees: $17,457/yr
Score: 81

3. Antioch University

Online BA in Liberal Studies

Antioch University challenges applicants to its liberal studies program to "find a degree that aligns with [their] future." Fortunately, this is an easy task, since Antioch has designed its accredited online liberal arts studies degree "to be compatible with almost any adult student." Incoming majors begin their studies by picking one of three concentrations: Literature and Creative Writing, Leadership for Service and Change, or Individualized Studies. The latter is the most flexible option and comes with an even longer list of focus areas. Some of these are professionally focused (e.g. Healthcare Administration and Human Services Administration) while others offer much more latitude in both coursework and career opportunities (e.g. Human Development and Humanities).
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,825/yr
Score: 91

2. Troy University

Online BS in Liberal Studies

A solidly skills-based program, Troy University's affordable online liberal studies degree helps students "develop the critical thinking, communication, and high-level analytical skills needed for today's job market." As such, the curriculum starts by grounding majors in important social science concepts, from world politics to general psychology. You'll also take specific classes designed to boost your critical thinking skills (such as "Methods in Critical Inquiry" and "Critical Theory") before launching into your electives. But you won't just pick any electives; to best prepare you for a career, Troy requires you to pick classes from each of four categories: Global, Cognitive and Language, Societal, and Behavioral Studies.
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,484/yr
Score: 96

1. University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Online BA in Liberal Studies

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has a well-rounded liberal studies program that balances broad-based learning with career development. Designed specifically for adults with prior college credit, the curriculum seeks to leverage your past experiences while also "increas[ing] your professional skills and opportunities." To start, you'll pick from one of three tracks - Humanities, Social Sciences, or Professional Studies - based on your background and career goals. From there, you'll have no problem completing this online BA in Liberal Studies thanks to conveniences like accelerated, seven-week courses, year-round learning opportunities, and asynchronous course delivery.
Average Tuition & Fees: $14,830/yr
Score: 100

Thanks for reading our ranking of the 20 top cheap liberal arts degrees online!

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See also: Liberal Arts Scholarships.

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