Top 10 Cheap Master’s in English Language Learning Online Degree Programs

Because of the continued influx of immigrants and non-English speakers into the United States, online master’s degrees in English language learning are becoming more and more useful to teaching professionals. Whether schools label this degree as an ESL, ELL, or TESOL program, most feature targeted training that can help teachers provide instruction in English to children and adults from other countries.

That being said, all schools differ somewhat in their instruction, including whether or not they provide licensure or certification options. The good news is that if you choose distance education, you are practically guaranteed one major benefit: cheap tuition. Online colleges often provide students with fairly inexpensive prices, and in fact public institutions sometimes offer in-state rates to all online learners. Combine this with convenient scheduling, flexible admission requirements, and asynchronous learning, and it’s no wonder so many are choosing online education.


online masters in english language learning degree programsAll ten schools below have most if not all of the above characteristics. First and foremost, they represent the ten least expensive online master’s degrees in ELL available, selected from a list of dozens of universities. Tuition figures represent data gathered from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator database, current at time of publishing. However, they are all also accredited, reputable, and live up to the standards you expect from top value schools.

Regent University offers an affordable english language learning online masters degree for students on a tight schedule.

10. Regent University

Master’s in TESOL Program (M.Ed.) – Online English Teaching Degree

Regent University’s online graduate degree in English language learning gives students the training they need to help both children and adults from other countries learn English. Classes cover not just TESOL methodology, but also important concepts in cross-cultural and intercultural communication, linguistics, and literacy instruction. Participants also learn how to assess student achievement and set pertinent milestones for the classroom. Those who hope to work with TESOL learners from PK-12 will need to obtain a teaching certificate prior to applying to the program. However, students who only want to work with adult populations do not need to meet those licensure requirements. Regent subscribes to the “Quality Matters” program, which helps set guidelines for the quality of online education, and U.S. News currently ranks Regent as the 21st best online graduate program in the nation.

Tuition: $15,838/yr


Work towards an english language learning online masters program at the University of Memphis.

9. University of Memphis

Online M.A. in ESL [English as a Second/Foreign Language]

University of Memphis students in the accredited online master’s degree in English language learning program benefit from a cross-disciplinary curriculum that places equal emphasis on instructional methodology, second language acquisition, language structure, and cross-cultural communication. There are multiple forms of the program, including an online M.A. in ESL, an M.A. with a concentration in ESL, or an M.A. with a TESOL certificate. UM students are so well trained that many of them spend part of their degree abroad, teaching English to learners in Japan, China, Korea, and even the Czech Republic. UM boasts a top graduate education school ranking from U.S. News, landing at #172 on the 2015 list.

Tuition: $8,312/yr (In-state) $23,024/yr (Out-of-state)


The University of Nebraska offers a cheap english language learning online masters degree program for students on a budget.

8. University of Nebraska Online

Online M.A.E. in Curriculum and Instruction: English as a Second Language Concentration

The University of Nebraska’s Online campus has created a unique degree in TESOL instruction. The degree is actually an M.A.E. in curriculum and instruction, and students in this program can then choose a concentration in English as a Second Language. The curriculum mirrors typical master’s degrees in English language learning online, but also incorporates classes in “Curriculum Development and Research” and “Content Methods and Strategies for Teaching.” In total, students must complete 21 core concentration courses as well as a single (3 credits) elective class. In addition, students take 12 credits in general curriculum and instruction to fill the requirements for the M.A.E. Forbes lists UN as #280 on its extensive list of all American colleges, also ranking it #65 in all of the Midwest.

Tuition: $8,060/yr (In-state) $21,388/yr (Out-of-state)


Ranked as the 55th best college for veterans, the University of North Dakota offers a an english language learning online masters program.

7. University of North Dakota

Online Master of Education in English Language Learner Education

The University of North Dakota is a popular destination for online learners, offering an extensive selection of high quality degrees a public institution prices. The affordable online master’s degree in English language learning offers in-state tuition regardless of residency, saving students money from California to Maine. The 35-credit program takes approximately two years to complete and provides a virtual classroom in which students can interact. Interestingly, UND also offers an optional concentration in rural ELL/ESL education – a perfect choice for students who plan to utilize their degree in sparsely populated communities. U.S. News lists the university as the 93rd top public school in the country, plus the 55th best college for veterans.

Tuition: $7,508/yr (In-state) $17,794/yr (Out-of-state)


Earn a 46 credit english language learning online MS degree at the accredited Capella University.

6. Capella University

Online Master of Science in Education: English Language Learning and Teaching

Capella University’s online master’s degree in English language learning disseminates information in instructional strategies, current trends in ESL education, and best practices in teaching to aspiring TESOL professionals. The 46-credit program covers a wide range of relevant topics, including applied linguistics, assessment and evaluation, classroom management, educational technology, cultural communications, and team collaboration. The program does NOT provide certification for P-12 teachers, but does not limit students from finding other forms of work. Of course, students who already possess certification can use this graduate program for supplementary education. Capella consistently churns out satisfied alumni, and in fact 93% of students report having a positive experience at the university.

Tuition: $12,348/yr


Work towards an english language learning online masters program in as little as 18-24 months at affordable rates at Kennesaw State University.

5. Kennesaw State University

Online Master of Education in Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages

Kennesaw State University’s TESOL degree serves as a great preparation tool for future ESL teachers in the state of Georgia. The program has garnered full approval from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and also meets the Georgia Professional Standards Commission guidelines. Participants in this top online master’s degree in English language learning study not just teaching practices for ESL students, but also how to create a supportive, inclusive classroom environment for diverse learners. Most candidates move through the entire program in just 18-24 months, taking classes in curriculum development, reading and writing, content-area strategies, and collaborative practices along the way.

Tuition: $5,818/yr (In-state) $15,898/yr (Out-of-state)


Northcentral University offers an affordable english language learning online MS degree for students with a packed schedule.

4. Northcentral University

English Second Language Master of Education Online

The master’s degree in education at Northcentral University offers a specialization in ESL that is responsive to the growing number of immigrants in the United States. The program reminds professionals to ask themselves how they are meeting these challenges, and encourages students to integrate contemporary practices into their curricula. Northcentral intentionally limits this online master’s degree in English language learning from incorporating certification or licensure options, so as to keep the program open to the maximum number of participants from around the country and abroad. Currently, College Prowler recognizes Northcentral for its happy students, low-stress course load, and small student-to-faculty ratio.

Tuition: $10,000/yr


Arkansas Tech University, ranked #47 on the 2015 list of top pubic schools (U.S. News), offers a cheap online english language learning masters degree.

3. Arkansas Tech University

Online Master of Arts Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Arkansas Tech University is a popular, affordable option for students seeking distance education programs at a public institution. U.S. News includes ATU on its 2015 lists of top public schools (#47) and best regional universities – South (#92). The university offers a cheap online master’s degree in English language learning, setting an out-of-state tuition rate that’s less expensive than some schools’ in-state prices! Students must first complete the four main courses that the Arkansas Department of Education for ESL Endorsement requires, but after this point enjoy an attractively flexible curriculum. This includes choosing 18 credit hours from a long list of elective classes, such as “Linguistics for ESL Teachers,” “TESOL Assessment Strategies,” and “Literature and Society.”

Tuition: $5,598/yr (In-state) $10,374/yr (Out-of-state)


Work towards an english language learning online degree (masters) at the accredited Western Governors University.

2. Western Governors University

Online MA in English Language Learning

Many regard Western Governors University as one of the best value online education schools in the country. The program has a top ranking from the National Council on Teacher Quality, and was the first online college to receive accreditation from NCATE. As one of the best online master’s degrees in English language learning, the WGU program covers topics in culture, language production acquisition, ELL pedagogy, assessment, and literature reviews. Students also complete a capstone project and participate in important field experiences. In order to achieve ESL or ELL endorsement, program members need to complete practicum experiences in their local area that conform to state requirements. Students must also work in a K-12 environment in order for the university to recommend them for licensure.

Tuition: $6,070/yr


American College of Education Online Master's Degree in English Language Learning
Ranked as one of the “best value” institutions on several lists, the American College of Education offers an online english language learning masters program at affordable rates.

1. American College of Education

Online Master of Education in English as a Second Language

The American College of Education makes it onto the number one spot on many “best value” education lists, primarily due to its incredibly low tuition rate. However, budget-conscious students who choose ACE won’t have to sacrifice a quality education. currently awards the university high rankings on its Best Online Masters Education, Best Online Masters Education Leadership and Administration, and Best Online Masters Curriculum and Instruction lists. Students in the online master’s degree in English language learning program spend their time studying the theories of language acquisition, acquiring specific ESL teaching practices, and gaining a useful understanding of culture and diversity.

Tuition: $5,576/yr

See also:


College Navigator
U.S. News & World Report
College Prowler

About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career when she started working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates’ careers. Her interests actually span far beyond writing, and she is currently studying to be a physicist! Check out her Google+ Profile.