Top 20 Colleges for a Cheap Online Degree

Many benefits lie in earning a degree online, from the ability to work from home on your schedule to the time and money you’ll save on commuting and transportation.

For students looking for cheap online degrees, the colleges listed below bring cheap online degrees to your fingertips so you can get a high-quality education at a low cost.

Another benefit of attending college online is that students can often continue to work full-time and tend to family obligations while earning their degree.

Working on a degree from home is a better way to learn for many students. An online degree is just as valid as a degree from a brick-and-mortar institution.

In fact, online degrees represent some of the best values available in higher education today.

The table of content will help you navigate this article easily.

Do Employers like Online Degrees?

One often overlooked fact is that online degree program graduates earn the same degree as on-campus students. However, most prospective employers would rarely know the difference.

Employers most often look for the institution’s reputation when evaluating your qualifications. Employers may be wary of a title from one of these big for-profit title mills, but most are not at odds with online titles.

To ensure potential employers take your degree seriously, explore your school’s relationship with the local business community.

Are there any Free Online Colleges?

There are several accredited colleges and universities that will allow you to take college courses and even some that will allow you to earn a degree for little or no money.

Some of these schools require you to have a natural talent in a specific field, such as music.

However, there are universities open to religious studies, engineering, and many other fields that may interest you.

Free online education is available thanks to many people who donate to education and the founders of these schools who believe in higher education for all.

Free online degrees exist in established traditional schools, like MIT, Utah State University, and the University of Massachusetts.

The 20 Top Cheap Online Degrees Ranking Methodology

Selection Criteria

For this ranking, qualifying schools are defined as public or private non-profit/not-for-profit colleges and universities with well-developed graduate programs with a significant online presence.

This means schools that offer at least 15 master’s degrees (in total), at least 10 of which are available online.

Ranking Factors

To identify the colleges with the best cheap online master’s degrees, we primarily considered three factors.

First, we calculated eligible schools’ average tuition cost per credit using in-state and out-of-state tuition data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This measure of affordability accounted for 30% of each school’s final score.

We also evaluated each college’s focus on undergraduate education, both overall and specifically regarding online learning.

To do this, we considered the total number of online bachelor’s degrees each school offers and the percentage of all undergraduate degrees it offers online.

High scores in both categories indicate a significant commitment – regarding both time and resources – to online undergraduate education. These measures accounted for 60% of each school’s final score (30% x 2).

Lastly, we paid attention to “extra” features that enhance the online learning experience for students.

Specifically, we looked at whether or not each school offers course credit for experience or evening and weekend classes. These measures accounted for 10% of each school’s final score (5% x 2).

Note that after we had tallied all the results, we rated the final scores on a curve so that the college with the best cheap online master’s degrees (ranked #1) earned the maximum 100 points

List of 20 Top Cheap Online Degrees Ranking Methodology

#20. Saint Leo University

As one of U.S. News and World Report’s best values for regionally accredited Online college degrees, it’s no surprise that Saint Leo University also earns a spot on our list.

Because the school seeks to replicate the on-campus experience for online learners, you’ll have access to real-time financial information, schedules, grades, and more.

You’ll also interact with classmates in discussion-based courses to foster lively debate. And if you’re a veteran or active-duty serviceperson, Saint Leo has plenty to offer, from special military scholarships to a military-friendly admissions process.

In fact, the school is proud to be the sixth-largest U.S. provider of higher education to military personnel. It is one of the colleges for a cheap degree online.

Although anyone can enrol at Saint Leo, servicemen and women especially will appreciate its top online programs for military members (and their families!).

Average Cost per Credit: $535
Score: 63.8

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#19. University of the Southwest

The University of the Southwest offers mostly asynchronous courses, allowing you to pursue an undergraduate degree independently. It is one of the colleges for a cheap degree online.

And although you can always reach out to instructors for assistance, this top online college also provides learners with crucial web-based tutoring and e-learning resources in case they need extra help to succeed.

However, USW doesn’t offer all its undergrad degrees online. Instead, its online selection is primarily geared towards business, psychology, and criminal justice degrees, particularly emphasising business administration programs.

With several undergraduate business administration degrees available, USW represents a top choice for earning an affordable bachelor’s degree online.

Average Cost per Credit: $522
Score: 64.58

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#18. Davenport University

At Davenport, providing a high-quality online learning experience is anything but an afterthought. Instead, the school prioritises providing some of the best online programs for students who appreciate an immersive, community-based experience.

Although most courses are self-paced, you can also opt for a few real-time classes, which allow you to interact with classmates and instructors in a more traditional (but still virtual) setting.

Davenport offers degrees in numerous fields, ranging from the familiar (such as computer science and marketing) to the more specialized programs, such as sports management and cyber defence.

Davenport provides cheap online degrees in various fields so that every student can find a program that meets his or her career goals.

Average Cost per Credit: $633
Score: 66.82

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#17. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Look to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods if you’d like to earn an accredited, affordable college degree in a Catholic environment. A strong Catholic tradition and identity are at the heart of SMWC, and all undergraduate students must take at least one theology course as part of the core curriculum.

Of course, if you’re truly passionate about the subject, you should consider pursuing SMWC’s online BA in Theology. This interdisciplinary program gives students a broad look at religion throughout history and includes a unique focus on the intersection of Christianity and feminism.

Other fully online undergraduate programs are plentiful, ranging from criminology to paralegal studies to professional writing.

For students seeking an accredited online college rooted in the Catholic tradition, SMWC could be a great fit.

Average Cost per Credit: $496
Score: 69.72

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#16. Columbia College

Columbia College has a long history of embracing nontraditional learners and those traditionally underserved in education. More specifically, it cites women and adult students as two groups it welcomed before most colleges did.

It stands to reason that CC would support such a robust distance education program with some of the best and most affordable bachelor’s degrees online.

Undergraduates can enrol in up to six eight-week sessions per year, allowing them to choose a schedule that meets their needs.

And suppose you happen to be located near Chico, California. In that case, you can opt for the “online plus” option, giving you in-person access to an advisor who can help with academic, financial, and technical questions.

You can augment your top online college degree from Columbia College with in-person academic help from an advisor.

Average Cost per Credit: $261
Score: 73.85
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#15. Prescott College

Arizona-based Prescott College offers some unique accredited online programs on this list. For example, the BA in Environmental Studies and Sustainability allows online learners to pursue a career in a critically important field.

However, the curriculum (which includes tracks in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Community Development) does require a short on-campus residency.

In addition, environmental studies majors must perform hands-on work in their community to acquire invaluable real-world experience.

Other popular programs include the BA in Education and Teacher Preparation, which helps enrollees earn a teaching certification in their home state.

Prescott’s top online college degrees include an environmental studies program incorporating real-world experience.

Average Cost per Credit: $1,087
Score: 74.19

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#14. Ottawa University

Ottawa University’s affordable online college degrees are available 100% online, with no face time required. This makes the school a great fit for students with fixed schedules or no ability to commute.

And rest assured, you won’t sacrifice quality for this luxury of convenience. In fact, Ottawa goes above and beyond to make sure each student gets plenty of individual attention.

The school maintains a 4:1 student-faculty ratio for online courses and provides dedicated academic advisors who can answer any questions you might have.

And your first question might even be about which major to choose, as Ottawa maintains a diverse selection of programs across nearly every academic department.

You can complete all of the cheap online degrees from Ottawa University completely online.

Average Cost per Credit: $490
Score: 74.41

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#13. Southern New Hampshire University

With more than 40 undergraduate programs available online, it’s no surprise that Southern New Hampshire University is among the best online colleges.

But size isn’t the school’s only hallmark – it’s also a favourite among transfer students, who can apply up to 90 undergraduate credits towards their bachelor’s degree.

The range of available programs means there’s something for every student, even those with highly specific interests in fields like Technical Management or Fashion Merchandising.

Many of those 40-some programs have various sub-tracks and emphasis options to maximize customizability for students with extremely focused career goals.

SNHU has an accredited online program to meet nearly any student’s needs. It is one of the colleges for a cheap degree online.

Average Cost per Credit: $1,250
Score: 76.54

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#12. Colorado State University-Global Campus

CSU – Global has some pretty inspiring reasons for offering affordable bachelor’s degrees online. Not only does the university want to improve the economy (both locally and worldwide) and reduce student debt, but it also aims to elevate the importance of critical thinking skills in our society.

The school works towards those goals by providing flexible, convenient, asynchronous online programs designed to meet each student’s individual needs. CSU – Global also stands alone in its commitment to taking the stress and challenge out of planning for college.

For example, you can request a free one-on-one tuition planning session with a professional advisor, during which they’ll evaluate your finances and suggest various financial aid options.

A one-on-one tuition planning session for all students helps CSU – Global earns a spot as one of the top online colleges in the country.

Average Cost per Credit: $350
Score: 76.76

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#11. Central Methodist University

With an average cost of just over $200 per credit, Central Methodist University shines as one of the best schools for earning a cheap online degree.

Another appealing attribute is the school’s modest – but diverse – range of online academic programs, which includes specialized degrees (Child Development and Applied Behavior Analysis, for example) that are hard to find elsewhere.

But no matter your degree, you’ll have access to robust student resources, including a Veteran Services office, a Writing Center, and a Career Development Center to guide graduation approaches.

Central Methodist University offers one of the best online options for earning a cheap bachelor’s degree.

Average Cost per Credit: $210
Score: 80.11

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#10. National University

National University might be your best bet if you’re looking for a specific accredited online college degree. In any “Can I major in…?” game, this school readily outperforms even the fiercest competition.

For example, you won’t find a BA in Digital Journalism or a BS in Construction Management at most online colleges, but you will at National! And because the university has agreements with most community colleges in Colorado, transfer students will find it relatively simple to get credit for previously taken classes.

But no matter what your background is or what degree you want to pursue, you’ll enjoy a strong sense of community and support from the school’s dedicated instructors.

This Colorado-based top online college offers some of the unique degree programs on this list.

Average Cost per Credit: $354
Score: 81.56

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#9. Thomas Edison State University

For more than 40 years, Thomas Edison State University has been fulfilling its mission of providing quality education to busy adults. And by offering extremely affordable online programs, the school extends its reach to as many students as possible.

Of course, like all the best online colleges, TESU provides a diverse list of degree options in all the most popular subjects. But of all its programs, perhaps the most notable is the Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology (BSAST).

Most suitable for mid-career adults, the BSAST is available in seven unique tracks, including Nuclear Energy Engineering Technology, Electrical Technology, and more general Technical Studies.

Anyone of TESU’s seven cheap online degrees in applied science would be a great choice for technology-minded students.

Average Cost per Credit: $215
Score: 82.12

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#8. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

In the name of convenience, all of Penn State’s accredited online college degrees utilize an asynchronous course format. However, online instructors also want to ensure their students have plenty of opportunities to interact with classmates.

Many professors incorporate video conferences, online chats, and graded discussions into their coursework to accomplish this goal. But if that’s not enough interaction for you, don’t worry; Penn State has plenty of academic societies and student clubs you can participate in – even as an online learner.

And as a bonus, the university provides a carefully curated set of FAQs to help alleviate any doubts about distance education.

While enrolled in Penn State’s top online college, students can join a number of different academic clubs and societies.

Average Cost per Credit: $535
Score: 82.12

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#7. Western Governors University

Over the years, WGU has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the country’s top online colleges – especially for experienced adults and hard workers. These students will appreciate WGU’s unique approach to education, which provides the biggest rewards to those who take learning seriously.

For one, the school bases its degrees on real-world competencies instead of credit hours, awarding progress for actual knowledge gained rather than time spent in a classroom.

And instead of charging tuition per credit, it charges a flat rate every six months – no matter how many courses you complete – which could save you a lot of money if you work quickly and competently.

For ambitious students who work quickly, WGU offers the chance to earn an affordable bachelor’s degree online in relatively little time.

Average Cost per Credit: $276
Score: 86.37

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#6. University of Maryland-University College

Because the University of Maryland–University College recognizes that not all students test well, it doesn’t rely on traditional exams to measure learning.

Instead, you’ll likely complete a paper or a project in most classes as you earn your accredited cheap online degree. Also, it is one of the colleges for a cheap degree online.

The school also offers rolling admission, frequent session start dates, and a unique hybrid option to meet individual needs.

This hybrid option (in which you take some classes online and some in-person) could be a particularly good fit for the active military, as many of UMUC’s satellite locations are on military bases nationwide.

With UMUC’s hybrid option, you can earn a top online college degree and take a few in-person classes.
Average Cost per Credit: $389
Score: 88.6

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#5. Franklin University

Understandably, many students cite convenience as a major factor in earning an affordable bachelor’s degree online. Franklin University contends that there are plenty of other benefits to attending its online college. It is one of the colleges for a cheap degree online.

For example, the school sees the flexibility of online learning as an opportunity to adapt instruction to various learning styles. Plus, asynchronous courses are ideal for motivated students who want to move quickly.

But regardless of your reason for pursuing an online degree, Franklin likely has a program that will meet your needs. This online college offers undergraduate degrees in nearly every field, from nursing to management to public relations.

Franklin’s affordable online programs range from the traditional (accounting, business) to the more forward-thinking (health management, web development).

Average Cost per Credit: $484
Score: 88.94

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#4. Mary Baldwin University

For students with previous college courses under their belt, Mary Baldwin University could be a great option. At this top online college, you can transfer in up to 90 semester hours and get credit for professional experience by filling out a Prior Learning Portfolio or taking a CLEP test.

And if you’re concerned about costs, you’ll appreciate the dedicated scholarships available to adult and online learners.

These include merit-based awards (which should be particularly helpful to students who excel in their online courses) and program-specific scholarships. You could even get funding to study abroad in another country!

Mary Baldwin offers many scholarships to help lower the cost of its top online college degrees. It is also one of the colleges for a cheap degree online.

Average Cost per Credit: $450
Score: 89.83

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#3. Excelsior College

With more than 30 affordable online degrees, Excelsior College has something to offer every student, including those with unique interests. For example, the school offers an impressive range of public service degrees, from a BS in National Security to one in Military Leadership.

These programs, in particular, might appeal to active military and veterans, and Excelsior is proud to serve those populations. In fact, a dedicated Center for Military and Veteran Education hosts a wealth of resources designed to help members of the armed forces and their families afford higher education and find military-friendly programs.

For military members and their families, Excelsior is a great option for earning a top bachelor’s degree online.
Average Cost per Credit: $490
Score: 91.17

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#2. Granite State College

Granite college is an affordable college for an online degree. As a primarily online school, Granite State College employs instructors who know how to deliver top-notch content from a distance. But that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate face-to-face learning while pursuing your accredited bachelor’s degree online.

With hybrid and blended class options available, you can balance your online courses with visits to the school’s Concord, New Hampshire campus (if you’d like). Some classes even incorporate field-based learning, blending virtual sessions with hands-on lessons and face-to-face activities.

But those details aside, all of GSU’s bachelor’s degrees culminate in either a capstone or teaching experience, where you’ll have the opportunity to apply your learning and prepare for the next step in your career.

You can adapt Granite State’s top online programs to suit your schedule and learning preferences with hybrid, blended, and field-based options.

Average Cost per Credit: $309
Score: 92.29

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#1. Bellevue University

This university is one of the Colleges for a Cheap Online Degree. Flexibility is the game’s name at Bellevue University, where students can tweak any of the top online programs to meet their individual needs and learning styles.

For example, you can choose between a cohort-based model (in which you take most of your classes with the same students) and a more traditional format, where participants differ from class to class.

Moreover, Bellevue provides supplementary videos and tutorials to augment your learning and online tutoring for those needing extra help.

And these options come on top of an extremely diverse list of available programs: Bellevue’s comprehensive selection of nearly 40 online bachelor’s degrees is one of the largest on this list.

As you earn a top cheap online degree from Bellevue, you can customize it to meet your needs.

Average Cost per Credit: $275
Score: 100

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  • – Take your career to the next level with an online degree
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