Many teaching professionals today are choosing to pursue an online master’s degree in higher education as a way to advance their careers. Although some people are more than satisfied remaining in the classroom, some others seek to move into administrative positions in order to increase their salary potential. Specifically, supervisors, administrators, directors, and managers at colleges and universities have the ability to make more money than educators in nearly any other position.
If you’re interested in earning an online degree in higher education or another similar area, you’re probably looking for the school you choose to fill a few main criteria. Most people just want an affordable education at an institution with a decent reputation and the ability to aptly prepare them for a successful career. This is certainly not too much to ask, but unfortunately there are low-quality, for-profit institutions out there that charge a fortune without offering much in return.
That’s why we did your research for you to weed out the “bad seeds.” The 19 schools listed below represent the very best values in higher education graduate programs. Although we placed a premium on low cost in our search, we also made sure these schools offer accredited curricula and excellent academics. Those here represent the most affordable accredited institutions of their kind, according to data provided by the institutions to the U.S. Department of Education, as reflected in the College Navigator database. We listed them in order from most to least expensive, and you’ll see a school to fit every budget.
Note: This article may contain sponsored links. These are designed to help you connect with programs easily.
19. Dallas Baptist University
Online M.E.d. in Higher Education
Students who pursue the online master’s degree in higher education from Dallas Baptist University complete 36-credit hours in a non-thesis program, choosing a concentration in either Administration or Instruction. The program is no joke, and requires applicants to have either a 3.2 overall GPA average in undergrad, or a 3.5 or better GPA during their last 60 credit hours of an undergraduate program. DBU offers maximum flexibility, giving students their choice between fully-online, hybrid, and on-campus evening/weekend classes. U.S. News highlights the university as the 35th best school in the West, plus the 13th best college for veterans.
18. Post University
Online Master of Education with a Concentration in Higher Education Administration
Post University’s accredited online master’s degree in higher education focuses on administration, offering professionals the opportunity to take on supervisory roles at colleges and universities. U.S. News ranks Post as the 174th best online graduate program in the nation, which of course includes its degree in higher education. The university expertly blends the best features of traditional and distance education, offering courses through virtual classrooms that still enable students to interact with professors regularly and receive useful feedback. Students participate in research and study trending topics such as student service models, college recruitment and retention, and student demographics.
17. University of Wisconsin
Online Administrative Leadership MS – Higher Education Administration Concentration
Students who are interested in administrative leadership but want to focus specifically on higher education can turn to the University of Wisconsin, a public institution with highly reputable online programs. Graduates of this program can work in a long list of fields, including organizational development, evaluation and coordination, institutional advancement, program planning, and teaching. This UW degree offers all the benefits of a master’s degree in higher education online, but supplements it with leadership-specific classes in Organization and Governance, Strategic Planning and Budgeting, and College Student Personnel Administration. UW proudly holds top rankings from Forbes, Washington Monthly, U.S. News, and the QS World Rankings.
Tuition: $10,403/yr (In-state) $26,653/yr (Out-of-state)
16. University of Louisville
M.A. in Higher Education Administration (w/ Online Option)
The University of Louisville offers a top online master’s degree in higher education that is currently ranked 3rd in the nation on TheBestSchools.org’s selection of the 25 best programs. The 36-credit hour program covers the historical and philosophical roots of education in America, applications for human resources and finance, the responsibilities of college faculty, and the importance of cultural diversity in higher education. Although students have the freedom to attend classes full-time, many also choose to attend part-time while maintaining professional status in educational and administrative positions.
Tuition: $9,946/yr (In-state) $23,834/yr (Out-of-state)
15. Northern Arizona University
Online Educational Leadership – Community College/Higher Education, Master of Education
Northern Arizona University’s Department of Educational Leadership offers an online master’s degree in higher education that prepares students to become both faculty in higher education and administrators at community colleges and universities. NAU also claims that this degree is perfect for students with “an unusual combination of interests” who want to keep the door open to both teaching and leadership roles at their place of work. Students complete 30 hours of coursework, and have the option to conduct research and complete field experiences as well. U.S. News ranks NAU’s online education programs as the 100th best in the nation, and ranks its overall education school nearly as high.
Tuition: $9,738/yr (In-state) $22,093/yr (Out-of-state)
14. University of Missouri Kansas City
Online Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration
Another option for students who are interested in both higher education and administration is the online M.A. at the University of Missouri Kansas City. Students who want to be successful, upper-level administrators at colleges and universities will find this degree program helpful and informative. The curriculum covers all the current issues and needs facing school systems, and the accredited online master’s degree in higher education program also offers specialization options in Sports Administration and Exercise Science, Student Affairs Administration, Disability Services, and Foundations of Higher Education. For three years running, Princeton Review has named UMKC one of the “best value” schools in the nation.
Tuition: $9,456/yr (In-state) $22,203/yr (Out-of-state)
13. Central Washington University
Online Master of Education Higher Education
Central Washington University’s online master’s degree in higher education is not only for students who want to earn positions of leadership at universities. With this degree in hand, graduates can also find work at civic organizations, nonprofits, and NGO’s. The leadership foundations that students gain through this program at CWU prepares them to effectively lead a wide range of groups. Required classes include “History of Higher Education,” “College Student Development,” “Diversity Leadership,” and “Higher Education Law.” U.S. News considers CWU one of the top 20 public universities in the nation, and also ranks its online graduate program in education at #168.
Tuition: $8,976/yr (In-state) $20,886/yr (Out-of-state)
12. University of Nebraska Lincoln
Online Educational Administration: Area of Study in Higher Education Administration M.A.
The University of Nebraska Lincoln offers a number of online programs, including this degree in educational administration. With an area of study in higher education, the major allows students to study the most pertinent aspects of administration, leadership, higher education, and student affairs. UNL offers this degree to current educational practitioners and teachers at schools around the world, and easily translates skills that are useful in any country. The 36 credit hour program does not require students to complete a thesis, and allow students to transfer a substantial number of class credits from previous academic work. This option is easily one of the best online master’s degrees in higher education available, and U.S. News awards the school a Top 5 ranking for its online graduate education programs.
Tuition: $8,060/yr (In-state) $21,388/yr (Out-of-state)
11. Stony Brook University
Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration Online
The online master’s degree in higher education from Stony Brook University comes with two options: a traditional M.A. degree and an advanced graduate certificate. SBU makes its higher education classes available to as many learners as possible, offering classes on campus, online, and in an extremely flexible hybrid format. The university has earned membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, and lands in the top 100 on Kiplinger’s list of best value public institutions. Classes include “Foundations of Higher Education Administration,” “Survey of College Student Development Theory,” “Leadership in Higher Education,” and “Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education.”
Tuition: $7,995/yr (In-state) $19,935/yr (Out-of-state)
10. Kaplan University
Online Master of Science in Higher Education
Kaplan University is a popular choice for distance education college learners who want access to an affordable degree. The school’s cheap online master’s degree in higher education offers students the opportunity to build valuable critical thinking, writing, and research skills. The program offers a “standard” track, but also lets participants concentrate in Student Affairs, College Teaching and Learning, College Administration and Leadership, or Online College Teaching. Core courses cover everything from laws and regulations to research methods and instructional technology. College Prowler student reviews praise Kaplan for its knowledgeable professors, low-stress courses, and flexible scheduling.
9. Penn State World Campus
Online Master of Education in Higher Education
Penn State World Campus is a top online college that is nationally recognized for its education department. In fact, for 2015 U.S. News places PSU as the 4th top online graduate school in education in the entire country. The education department offers a number of degrees, including one of the best online master’s degrees in higher education available. The program comes with three areas of emphasis, including Administration, Institutional Research, and Student Engagement. Students can complete the program in one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study, with all classes available entirely through distance education.
8. Indiana State University
Online Student Affairs and Higher Education M.S.
Indiana State University’s “Extended Learning” department gives students yet another choice for students who want to earn an online master’s degree in higher education. The 39-credit hour program covers aspects of both administration and student affairs, exploring focus areas in student activities, health promotion, non-traditional student populations, residence halls, management, student development, financial aid, admissions, and more. Students only need an internet connection to participate, and can access the program from Indiana and many other states. Forbes lists ISU as the 162nd best university in the Midwest and the 254th best research school nationally.
Tuition: $8,256/yr (In-state) $17,992/yr (Out-of-state)
7. West Virginia University
Online Higher Education Administration Master of Arts
Students who want to work with college populations can open the door to a successful career at West Virginia University. The school’s affordable online master’s degree in higher education is an entirely virtual program, available in both full-time and part-time formats. Students can enroll from nearly any location and take anywhere from two to eight years to earn their degree. Full-time, experienced faculty utilize advanced learning technology to communicate pertinent skills in college student development, program evaluation, research, administration, instructional design, and educational psychology. In 2013, the College Board ranked WVU as having the 6th most affordable in-state tuition, and the 11th most affordable tuition for out-of-state students.
Tuition: $6,456/yr (In-state) $19,632/yr (Out-of-state)
6. Capella University
Online Master of Science in Higher Education: Higher Education Leadership and Administration Specialization
Capella University is a relatively young institution of higher learning, but is quickly becoming a leader in distance education. The online master’s degree in higher education comes with two specialization options: Community College Leadership and Higher Education Administration. The 48-credit hour program costs a mere $398 per credit, with classes organized into convenient 10-week segments. Students can also transfer up to 12 credits from a previous institution, significantly shortening their time to graduation. Student satisfaction ratings at Capella indicate that 93% of students are satisfied with the university, and that 86% would recommend the school to a friend. Common career destinations for graduates of this program include continuing education, community colleges, adult education organizations, and for-profit institutions.
5. University of Mississippi
Online Master of Arts in Higher Education/Student Personnel
The University of Mississippi, colloquially called “Ole Miss,” has created an entirely online wing to its college specifically tailored to the needs of adult professionals. The affordable online master’s degree in higher education costs just $443 per credit, or $1,329 for an entire 3-credit class. Online course delivery features a number of alternative teaching methods, including audio and video conferencing, streaming media content, and popular internet learning platforms. Classes include “Student Services in Higher Education,” “Finance of Higher Education,” “College Teaching,” and “Practicum in Student Services.” U.S. News ranks UM the 106th best education school in the country, but also the 35th best school for online education degrees.
Tuition: $6,760/yr (In-state) $17,728/yr (Out-of-state)
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Many students choose Walden University for their distance education needs. Walden is affordable, reputable, and offers flexible degree programs to suit a variety of interests. The school’s top online master’s degree in higher education offers numerous specializations in College Teaching and Learning, Online and Distance Learning, Enrollment Management and Institutional Marketing, Leadership for Student Success, and Global Higher Education – proving there really is something for everyone at Walden. Graduates find work in everything from admissions to student affairs, and often acquire coveted leadership positions. For 2015, BestCollegeReviews.org names Walden the #1 best online university in the nation.
3. University of Southern Maine
Online MS in Adult and Higher Education
The University of Southern Maine distinguishes itself from other higher education programs by taking a particular interest in adult education. The curriculum offers students all the knowledge and skills they need to become administrators at adult education public schools, as well as at K-12 schools and traditional universities. The core courses in this master’s degree in higher education online only consist of nine credits, but students must also complete additional classes in the “Middle Core,” “Senior Course,” “Electives,” and even a Field-Based Practice Course. There are no specific concentrations, but students may choose electives in thematic areas and create a specialty for themselves. U.S. News also includes USM on its list of top graduate education programs, placing it at #157.
Tuition: $6,744/yr (In-state) $15,024/yr (Out-of-state)
2. Northcentral University
Online Master of Education: Leadership in Higher Education
Students who are looking for a truly affordable online master’s degree in higher education shouldn’t overlook the potential of Northcentral University. The program incorporates an emphasis in leadership, allowing participants to gain all the knowledge they need to land administrative positions at the nation’s top universities. Northcentral intentionally limits students from achieving certification through the curriculum in an attempt to make the degree accessible to the widest possible range of learners – including those living overseas. Course scheduling is lenient and convenient, giving adult professionals up to five years to complete the degree at their own pace. Northcentral also stands out from the crowd in its commitment to quality instruction, requiring 100% of faculty to hold doctoral degrees.
1. Colorado State University
Online Master of Science (M.S.) in Student Affairs in Higher Education
Colorado State University offers an online master’s degree in higher education that focuses on the importance of student affairs at colleges and universities. The program (typically three years in length) includes classes in “Financial Management in Student Affairs,” “The Inclusive University,” “Ethical and Practical Issues in Student Affairs,” and much more. Colorado State has a reputation for providing great resources to military members and veterans, and it has landed on “Top Military Friendly” lists from G.I. Jobs for five consecutive years. And of course, it’s worth mentioning that CSU offers the epitome of a cheap online master’s degree in higher education, with a tuition rate less than $9,000 a year – regardless of student residency.
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.