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Cheapest Online Bachelor’s Degrees

Don’t Let the Cost of College Stop You: 10 Affordable Online Options

A bachelor’s degree is becoming increasingly important for career advancement and higher earning potential.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the median yearly earnings for full-time workers with a bachelor’s degree is $61,600, compared to just $39,700 for those with only a high school diploma. However, the rising costs of a four-year college education can be prohibitive for many.

Online programs offer a flexible and affordable path to earning a bachelor’s degree.

It’s important to note that these costs can vary based on the institution, location, and individual circumstances of the student. Additionally, some costs may not apply to all students (e.g., students living with family, not needing a car, etc.). The distinction between online and in-person instruction highlights the differences in various expenses that students may incur while pursuing their education.

This article ranks the most affordable accredited online bachelor’s degree programs in 2023 based on annual tuition rates. We considered public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions nationwide.

Top 10 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees

Ranking Methodology

The schools are ranked by their in-state average undergraduate tuition. We use in-state tuition because 77% of online students live within 100 miles of their chosen school’s campus. This means that most online students are eligible for in-state tuition rates.

The tuition rates are for the 2023-2024 academic year. The list is sorted in ascending order, with the university with the lowest in-state tuition rate listed first.

  1. Florida Atlantic University
    • Location: Boca Raton, FL
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $2,522
  2. Eastern New Mexico University
    • Location: Portales, NM
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $3,996
  3. The University of West Florida
    • Location: Pensacola, FL
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $3,735
  4. Western New Mexico University
    • Location: Silver City, NM
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $4,167
  5. University of North Carolina at Greensboro
    • Location: Greensboro, NC
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $4,422
  6. University of Texas of the Permian Basin
    • Location: Odessa, TX
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $4,867
  7. Texas A&M University-Commerce
    • Location: Commerce, TX
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $4,790
  8. Florida International University
    • Location: Miami, FL
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $4,721
  9. The University of Houston-Downtown
    • Location: Houston, TX
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $5,460
  10. Central Methodist University-College of Graduate and Extended Studies
    • Location: Fayette, MO
    • Average Undergrad Tuition (In-state): $6,070

Online Bachelor’s Degrees Overview

These schools offer accredited online bachelor’s degrees across a wide range of subject areas, providing affordable access to higher education. Many of the programs utilize asynchronous online learning, allowing flexibility to balance work and family responsibilities. Students can typically complete coursework on their own schedule within each term.

Online programs open up opportunities to earn a bachelor’s degree for working adults or those unable to attend traditional on-campus classes. The median annual cost of online tuition from public 4-year institutions is $9,400 compared to $10,230 for in-state on-campus tuition. At private non-profit 4-year colleges, online tuition averages $22,770 annually versus $36,880 for on-campus.

When researching online bachelor’s programs, prospective students should look for regional or national accreditation from an approved accrediting body. This validates the quality of the education. It’s also important to consider your career goals and choose an appropriate major, such as business, healthcare, information technology, or education. An academic advisor can help you select the right classes to meet your objectives.

Financial aid and scholarships can help make an online degree affordable. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for federal grants and loans. Many schools also offer institutional aid, scholarships, work-study programs, and tuition discounts for online learners. With the right financial assistance, an online bachelor’s degree can be a cost-effective way to advance your career and earning potential without the constraints of attending campus classes.

A bachelor’s degree is becoming increasingly valuable in today’s job market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a bachelor’s degree earn a median salary of $1,334 per week, substantially higher than the $809 median weekly earnings for those with just a high school diploma. Unemployment rates are also lower for bachelor’s degree holders. While paying for a 4-year degree can be challenging, accredited online programs offer an affordable and flexible path to earning a bachelor’s. This article provides a ranking of the most budget-friendly online bachelor’s degrees based on annual tuition rates at both public and private colleges across the country.

Online bachelor’s degree programs primarily utilize asynchronous learning, allowing students to complete coursework on their own schedule. Online degrees are offered through public state colleges, private non-profit institutions, and private for-profit schools. Each type of college has its own mission, campus culture, and cost considerations.

Online College vs. Traditional college: Cost Comparison

The cost of obtaining a college education through online programs compared to traditional in-person learning exhibits significant differences.

For public 4-year colleges, an online degree is notably cheaper by $31,165 when considering both tuition and attendance expenses.

Private institutions, on average, charge $60,593 for online degrees, whereas in-person degrees cost $185,252. Moreover, students who attend classes in person are subject to expenses such as transportation costs ($1,360/year) and a higher campus meal plan fee ($600 more annually) when contrasted with their online counterparts.

The cost disparity extends to tuition as well, with an online degree from a public university costing around $54,183 versus $85,348 for the same degree taken in-person.

These figures underscore the financial advantages that online education can offer over traditional brick-and-mortar schooling.

During the 2019-20 academic year, the average per-credit-hour in-state tuition rates for various modes of instruction in the US displayed significant variations.

Public schools charged an average of $711.00 per credit hour for in-person instruction. In contrast, the same public schools offered online instruction at a considerably lower average rate of $333.00 per credit hour.

Private schools, on the other hand, exhibited higher tuition costs. For in-person instruction, the average per-credit-hour tuition rate at private schools was $1,240.00.

In the realm of online instruction, private schools had an average per-credit-hour rate of $488.050. These disparities emphasize the cost differences between in-person and online education, particularly when comparing public and private institutions.

Online vs In-Person Costs

In comparing the cost of attendance between online instruction and in-person instruction, there are several factors that contribute to the overall expenses for students pursuing these different modes of education. The following breakdown outlines the average costs frequently associated with each type of instruction:

Online Instruction:

  • Rental: Not applicable (Assumed to be living in an established home environment)
  • Food/Groceries: $345 per month
  • Internet: $50 per month
  • Electricity and Heat: $175 per month
  • Online Learning Fee: $25-$100 per semester
  • Books: $1,295 per year
  • Transportation Costs: Not applicable (Assumed to be eliminated due to online learning)
  • Room Furniture: $970 (Assumed for students moving into a new room or apartment)
  • Used car: $7,000-$11,000 (Assumed for students who may need a car)

In-Person Instruction:

  • Housing: $1,513 per month
  • Campus Meal Plan: $562 per month
  • Campus Computer Lab: Free access
  • Parking Permit: $269 per semester
  • Health Services Plan: $2,000 per year
  • Transportation Costs: $1,425 per year
  • Books and supplies: $1,295 per year
  • Room Furniture: $970 (Assumed for students moving into a new room or apartment)
  • Used car: $7,000-$11,000 (Assumed for students who may need a car)

Choosing an Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degree

The most popular online bachelor’s degree majors include business, health disciplines, social sciences, psychology, and biological sciences. It’s important to differentiate between a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) when selecting a program. Academic advisors can provide guidance on choosing classes that align with your career goals.

Can You Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Two Years Online?

It may be possible to complete an online bachelor’s degree in as little as two years through accelerated programs with eight-week terms or by transferring an associate degree. However, most students take 3-4 years to finish a bachelor’s degree online while working or balancing family responsibilities.

Finding an Accredited Undergraduate Program

When researching online bachelor’s programs, it’s crucial to verify accreditation. Nationally or regionally accredited schools have met strict educational standards. Accreditation validates the quality and transferability of credits earned.

Cost of an Online Bachelor’s Degree

Online tuition is often lower than on-campus programs. The median annual cost of online tuition at public 4-year colleges is $9,400 compared to $10,230 for in-state on-campus tuition. At private non-profit 4-year institutions, online tuition averages $22,770 per year versus $36,880 for on-campus.

Funding an Online Bachelor’s Degree

Paying for an online degree involves exploring financial aid options like grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and student loans. Each school provides information on institutional aid opportunities. Submitting the FAFSA form is essential for qualifying for federal assistance.

Careers for Online Graduates With a Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree qualifies graduates for higher-paying managerial, professional, and technical occupations. The advanced critical thinking and communication skills gained make candidates more competitive and marketable to employers.

Are Online Bachelor’s Degrees Worth It?

Earning an accredited online bachelor’s degree can increase earning potential and job prospects. However, it’s important to assess your personal learning preferences and the reputation of the program to make sure online education is a good fit. With discipline and dedication, an online degree can deliver immense value career-wise and financially.