Most Affordable Accredited Online Colleges

There are numerous affordable online schools and programs available to students of all backgrounds. Explore 50 of the top accredited schools with 100% online programs, applicable program costs and types of financial aid available to online students.

Top Affordable Accredited Online Schools and Programs

When reviewing online schools and programs, students should consider costs, flexibility, program length, and accreditation. 50 of the best schools offering numerous online programs are listed below.

Top Affordable Accredited Online Schools and Programs

When reviewing online schools and programs, students should consider costs, flexibility, program length, and accreditation. 50 of the best schools offering numerous online programs are listed below.

1. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
University Park, PA $13,988 72%

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus has over 150 programs that are offered entirely online. Students can earn various certificates, as well as degrees at the associate's level to the doctoral level. Program costs are wrapped into a cost-per-credit flat tuition rate (or per semester for full-time students), which varies based on the program level. Undergraduate students pay no more than $617 per credit and graduate students may have a cost of up to $1,000 per credit. Penn State World Campus is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and has additional accreditation for many of its programs.

2. Liberty University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Lynchburg, VA $22,584 97%

Liberty University offers more than 400 online programs at associate's, bachelor's, doctoral and master's degree levels. Standard students have a tuition cost of $330 to $650 per credit, while military students have tuition costs of $250 to $275 per credit hour. Courses are offered in 8-week sessions with fully-asynchronous components, meaning students can complete course assignments at their convenience. Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

3. Nova Southeastern University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Fort Lauderdale, FL $30,900 100%

Nova Southeastern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and School Commission on Colleges as well as other program-specific accrediting bodies. The school offers at least 62 programs completely online that include synchronous and asynchronous components. Program costs vary by department and degree program; for example, the graduate cost-per-credit for psychology students is $790 while the cost of tuition per credit for graduate computer science students is $849.

4. Arizona State University-Skysong

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Scottsdale, AZ $10,317 82%

Arizona State University offers more than 200 online programs at undergraduate and graduate levels and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Students can start at 6 different points each year, and can work closely with success coaches during their program to stay on their program track. Undergraduate students pay a flat rate for all tuition and program fees ($530 to $728), while graduate students pay between $532 and $1,397 per credit hour.

5. Southern New Hampshire University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Manchester, NH $31,136 75%

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education and program-specific accrediting bodies. SNHU is a nonprofit, private university that has had the same tuition rates since 2012 and offers more than 200 online programs. Online graduate students have a tuition fee of $627 per credit hour while online undergraduate students have a $320 per credit hour tuition fee. Online courses at SNHU are offered asynchronously, allowing students to work at their convenience as long as assignments are submitted by their weekly deadline.

6. National University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
La Jolla, CA $13,320 70%

National University gets on our list because of its affordable tuition and fees around $13,000 per year and the breadth of online degrees it offers. Based in La Jolla, California, this school was founded by retired U.S. Navy Captain, David Chigos, in 1971. This foundation explains why this exemplary school lowers it's already affordable tuition even further for active and retired members of the military. Given that members of the military will still have access to government tuition assistance programs, this lowers this cost of a high-quality education even further. For persons outside of the military, National University has a dedicated financial aid team to guide them on options such as scholarships as well as federal work study programs. With their finances covered, students can choose from over 90 online degrees from undergraduate and graduate programs in areas related to the arts, management, technology and education, among many others.

7. Santa Fe College

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Gainesville, FL $2,563 68%

Santa Fe College is located in Gainesville, Florida, and individuals can take a number of bachelor degrees here in an online or hybrid format. This school boasts affordable education that starts at only $126.33 per credit hour. Even then, the school provides many ways in which students can save on their tuition. For example, their financial aid department can assist students with accessing work study programs, grants and scholarships. There are even ways students can get exemptions from their fees or waive certain tuition payments. In cases where students need to fund their tuition payments themselves, Santa Fe College offers an excellent payment plan so they can continue their education on a budget.

8. Bellevue University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Bellevue, NE $7,827 89%

Located in Bellevue, Nebraska, this school puts an emphasis on making sure its students have an affordable education. This can be seen in not just the financial aid services that are offered but on the ease with which students can transfer their credits. Of special note is that members of the military and their spouses can enjoy an almost 50% discount on the cost of tuition at the undergraduate level. For other students, they can take advantage of the schools intensive financial aid department so they can access scholarships and work study programs. Bellevue University even offers its own scholarship that has multiple factors for eligibility, which is helpful for students of varying talents. When choosing from the impressive list of over 75 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs from this school, prospective students should also look out for scholarships specifically dedicated to those programs.

9. University of Maryland - University College

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Adelphi, MD $7,416 53%

While this school offers mostly online programs, it's located in Adelphi, Maryland. With its premier online program offerings in business, technology and education, the University of Maryland provides flexibility in its learning format as well as its tuition payment options. While there are differences between the school's in-state and out of state tuition rates, there are a number of ways for students to meet in-state student tuition exemption. On top of that, the school offers a scholarship to graduates of Maryland community colleges who would like to earn their undergraduate degree. In a further step towards making its education program manageable, students can enroll in the school's interest-free monthly payment plan.

10. Western Governor's University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Salt Lake City, UT $6,670 53%

Nestled in Salt Lake City, Utah, this online school is determined to make sure its students succeed regardless of which of its over 60 programs they pursue. These programs include bachelor's and master's degrees in areas related to education, information technology, health care services and business. Where affordability is concerned, Western Governor's University boasts helping students graduate with little to no debt using their financial aid as well as following strategies from the Responsible Borrowing Initiative. The school manages to keep its tuition low by streamlining its operating costs but that doesn't stop them from making sure students have access to multiple scholarship opportunities. Some of these scholarships are generally available while others are attached to specific programs. For example, someone pursuing a degree in information technology can apply for scholarships up to $5,000 towards the school's already affordable tuition.

Rank Institution Name Location Tuition & Fees % Financial Aid
6 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ $12,467 92%
7 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS $10,383 89%
8 Eastern Washington University Cheney, WA $7,323 94%
9 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND $8,695 90%
10 Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield, MO $7,376 91%
11 East Carolina University Greenville, NC $7,188 81%
12 Florida International University Miami, FL $6,556 89%
13 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO $11,707 80%
14 University of Florida Gainesville, FL $6,381 93%
15 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ $11,564 94%
16 Ball State University Muncie, IN $9,896 90%
17 Granite State College Concord, NH $7,761 84%
18 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS $8,624 94%
19 SUNY Empire State College Hattiesburg, MS $8,624 94%
20 Wilmington University New Castle, DE $11,210 89%
21 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN $9,090 93%
22 Seminole State College of Florida Sanford, FL $3,131 74%
23 Great Basin College Pahrump, NV $3,128 75%
24 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX $11,870 76%
25 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, LA $7,922 97%
26 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX $8,296 89%
27 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, OH $11,000 83%
28 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY $9,666 99%
29 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX $9,080 78%
30 St Petersburg College St Petersburg, FL $2,682 74%
31 Franklin University Columbus, OH $12,649 86%
32 South Dakota State University Brookings, SD $8,764 92%
33 Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA $6,347 91%
34 University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MO $9,972 85%
35 Bismarck State College Bismarck, ND $3,992 83%
36 Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla, MO $9,440 97%
37 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA $10,560 93%
38 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR $11,166 86%
39 Oklahoma State University-Main Campus Stillwater, OK $9,019 91%
40 Washington State University Pullman, WA $11,584 90%
41 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY $10,512 96%
42 University of Memphis Memphis, TN $9,317 98%
43 Troy University Troy, AL $8,908 94%
44 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI $12,960 95%
45 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL $6,368 90%
46 Park University Parkville, MO $11,572 95%
47 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA $9,267 92%
48 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK $6,657 84%
49 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS $11,148 86%
50 Western New Mexico University Silver City, NM $6,066 96%

All table statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

How to Choose an Online Program/School

There are several things that you should consider when choosing an online program, many of which are discussed below.

Transfer Credits

If you have prior postsecondary experience and/or degrees, you may be able to have a portion of your required program credit hours waived, saving both time and money in your program.

Program Length

Schools offer online courses in different lengths; for example, your program may feature 8-week courses or 16-week courses. You may be able to finish your program sooner through a school that has shorter terms. Other factors that affect program length are transfer credits (where applicable) and whether you study full-time or part-time.

Flexibility

Some programs may let you complete coursework at your leisure while others ask you to 'attend' classes and lectures by logging in at specific times. You should review your time commitments to decide how many courses you can handle and how you'd like them delivered; you can discuss this with your academic advisor.

Cost

The costs of an online degree program can vary by school, student and course load. Programs may feature a flat-rate fee per credit, a flat rate fee per semester (regardless of credit hours), or they may itemize tuition and technology fees (more on this below). When choosing your school and program, ask for a full list of applicable costs for your degree.

Accreditation

Schools that offer online programs can be accredited by various agencies, such as:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

These bodies accredit postsecondary institutions that meet certain national criteria such as curriculum standards. Accrediting bodies review schools periodically to assess if they are continuing to meet the standards that have been set and meet certain academic and performance goals.

In addition to institution accreditation, some programs will have supplemental accreditation that is specific to the program. For example, nursing programs are accredited by several different agencies to show that students in those programs are being provided with quality education.

Accreditation is extremely important because it tells you the school or program has met and maintained a level of quality. Additionally, accredited programs qualify for financial aid; non-accredited programs do not. Some careers require or prefer candidates to have graduated from an accredited program, and some career certifications may only be available to accredited-program graduates.

What to Expect from an Online Degree Program

Online degree programs are available for undergraduate and graduate students. Although many programs are available entirely online, some programs may require some on-site components due to the nature of the field (such as nursing and teaching, which both require practicums or residencies). The length of a program will vary based on the student and program. For example, a first-time student pursuing a bachelor's degree will take 3 or 4 years, while a student with a bachelor's degree can earn a master's degree in 1 or 2 years and a doctoral degree in 3 or 4 years.

Degree Type Prior Degree Program Length
Associate's Degree None 1-2 years
Diploma 1 year
Bachelor's Degree None 3-4 years
Associate's Degree 2 years
Master's Degree None (dual-degree earned) 5 years
Associate's Degree 3-4 years
Bachelor's Degree 1-2 years
Doctoral Degree Bachelor's Degree 3-5 years
Master's Degree 2-3 years

The Online Learning Environment

At the beginning of their program, students will typically need to complete some type of introductory class that shows them how to navigate and use the online learning portal. The portal may include various course resources such as communication tools, assignments, and lectures. Students may also need to work on another online platform for virtual labs and assignments, depending on the course. Assigned readings are often available through electronic textbooks, but students may also be able to use physical textbooks.

Most online courses offer asynchronous learning, meaning students can access the course and their assignments at their convenience. This format is extremely flexible, allowing students to log in and work on their studies at any time of the day. Students may still be required to submit their assignments during certain periods. For example, homework assignments may be available for one week and tests available for a week or a few days.

Some courses do involve a percentage of synchronous components, requiring students to complete items at specific times. These might include scheduled live web lectures, class presentations and scheduled exams. Students who are enrolled in programs with practical requirements (on-site items) might need to attend events and exercises in-person.

Average Costs for Online Degrees

Online program costs vary by student, school, degree and residency. Some schools offer flat-rate costs to students, but many schools separate tuition and other fees.

Tuition

The cost of tuition can range from $300 or less per credit hour to more than $1,500 per credit for in-state residents. While some schools offer the same tuition rate to students across the U.S., other schools have an in-state and out-of-state tuition rate. For example, a school may charge $450 per credit hour for in-state residents and $700 for out-of-state residents in the same program.

Fees

In addition to tuition, most schools have fees associated with their degree programs. These fees can add up to several thousand dollars, and often include some of the following items.

  • Technology fee - Technology fees are for online learning access and enhancement; they may be around $200 per semester.
  • Application fee - The initial fee for application submission; typically around $50.
  • Registration fee - Refers to the fees for course registration each semester; usually around $30 or $50.
  • Late payment fee - This is a penalty fee for late payments on student accounts; these could be around $100.
  • Graduation fee - This fee is applied to graduation ceremony when students finish their program; many schools charge around $100.
  • Course fees - Course or program fees are in addition to standard tuition for specific programs; these can be around $100 per course.
  • Course materials - Courses may require students to purchase additional items such as textbooks, access to specific programs, and various other required materials.

Types of Financial Aid for Online Degree Programs

There are a variety of financial aid options available to students who wish to pursue a degree online. Students should first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is free to use and shows students what types of aid they might qualify for. Students can also apply for other types of aid directly through various organizations and schools. The key types of financial aid are discussed below.

Work-Study

Work-study programs enable students to pay for part or all of their degree programs by working during their years of study. This may involve part-time or full-time employment, depending on the program. Students might be able to complete work-study at their place of employment (through their employer) or through a work assignment at their school. Students who attend a school that participates in federal work-study may be able to work in a position related to their field of study, and can usually choose to keep all or part of their earnings, applying the rest to their program costs.

Student Loans

Students can use government or private loans to cover their program costs, although private loans should be used only as a last resort. Government loans can be obtained through federal, state, and local levels of government. Federal and state loans are based on income, and subsidized loans pay loan interest for students while they're still in school. Some of the most common federal loans are:

  • Direct PLUS: For graduate and professional students, or parents of undergraduate students
  • Direct Subsidized: For undergraduate students with financial need
  • Direct Unsubsidized: For undergraduate, graduate and professional students

Loan Forgiveness Programs

Students may be able to have part or all of their loans forgiven through their employer or the loan issuer. Students with federal student loans can have their loans forgiven a few different ways, such as:

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Loan balances are forgiven with qualifying employment and 120 on-time payments (10 years)
  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness: Up to $17,500 in student loans forgiven for graduates who teach full-time for 5 or more years in a qualifying low-income school.
  • Perkins Loan Cancellation and Discharge: Students may be able to have part or all of their Perkins Loan forgiven with qualifying employment or volunteer work.
  • Income-Driven Plans: Graduates who have an income-driven loan repayment plan will have their principal loan balances forgiven after 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments.

Scholarships for Online Students

Online students are eligible for a multitude of scholarships through various organizations. Many schools offer scholarships to students based on performance, program, and other criteria. Students can find other scholarships through various sources. Some scholarships available specifically for online students are:

  • OnlineColleges.org Support a Student Scholarship: This scholarship awards up to $10,000 towards program fees (excludes tuition) for students who are parents and working professionals.
  • Geteducated.com: This scholarship awards $1,000 to U.S. students enrolled in an online program.
  • Thebestschools.org Online Learning Scholarships: A total of 6 awards of $1,000 each are given, half of which are for online students.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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