Most Affordable Online Colleges 2021

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Online learning has played a major role in higher education in the 21st century, radically reshaping how and where colleges educate students. Eliminating many of the conventional boundaries of time and space, today’s affordable online college programs enable students to learn anywhere at any time. Now they can balance school with work and family obligations in ways previously impossible.

Pursuing a program at an affordable online university increases flexibility, often enabling students to complete a degree at a school hundreds of miles away without ever visiting campus. However, the open-ended nature of distance education can create additional concerns: program formatting, campus obligations, and the location of in-person obligations like clinical experiences or internships. This page offers an overview of the most affordable online colleges, including typical benefits, professional outcomes, and college accreditation.

Top 5 Most Affordable Online Colleges

Rank School Location
1 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
2 Louisiana Tech University Ruston, LA
3 New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM
4 Louisiana State University and A&M College Baton Rouge, LA
5 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL

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Recommended Online Programs

FAQ


  • Is online college more affordable?

    While exact costs vary among colleges, online programs frequently offer reduced tuition rates. Online learning can also reduce associated expenses, such as transportation and childcare.


  • Are online colleges accredited?

    Online programs offered through traditional colleges typically hold the same accreditation as their campus counterparts. However, students should always research a school to ensure it holds proper regional accreditation.


  • What kinds of degrees can I earn online?

    Online colleges offer programs at all academic levels, including bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. You can find online programs for nearly all traditional academic subjects.


  • How long does it take to earn an online degree?

    Online degrees often occur at the same pace as campus programs. Bachelor’s degrees online typically take four years to complete, while master’s degrees online usually take 1-3 years.


Online Master's Degree and Program Guide

Why Study Online?

Online education offers flexible scheduling. Many programs occur primarily or totally asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at any time of day. With fewer scheduled class sessions, online learners can more easily attend to responsibilities outside of school. Online students often maintain full-time employment while pursuing a degree. Many online programs also offer more flexible pacing through both full-time and part-time enrollment options.

The online format also creates geographic flexibility, enabling students to attend a program regardless of where they live. Eliminating the need to visit campus can also reduce many of the non-academic expenses of higher education, such as transportation, parking, childcare, and relocation. Students also benefit financially through the ability to maintain their current career.

Career and Salary Outlook



Whether online or on campus, earning a college degree dramatically increases lifetime earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports increases in weekly earnings and decreases in unemployment rates directly proportional to educational achievement. The most-educated workers find employment at the highest rates and earn the highest annual salaries. For instance, bachelor’s degree-holders earn a median weekly salary of $1,248, while high school graduates earn a median weekly salary of $746.

While salary generally increases with educational attainment, many high-paying careers require only a bachelor’s or associate degree. Some of the top careers for associate degree-holders enjoy higher annual median wages: air traffic controller ($124,540), radiation therapist ($80,570), and nuclear technician ($80,370). At the bachelor’s level, careers with higher annual median wages include petroleum engineer ($132,280) and financial manager ($124,080).

Accreditation



When researching online programs, students should always determine that a school holds proper regional accreditation. Accreditation is the process colleges and universities use to regulate and evaluate themselves, ensuring that schools meet academic and administrative standards. Without proper accreditation, students may not receive adequate academic and professional preparation. Regional accreditation serves traditional four-year colleges, with six different agencies overseeing different regions of the country.

Learn more about accreditation and why it matters in our accreditation guide.

Most Affordable Online Colleges 2021



  1. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Gainesville, UF Online offers a rich mix of bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, professional certifications, and a handful of doctorate options. Students take courses from a premier public university online with few to no residency requirements depending on their chosen degree.

    Bachelor's degree students choose from 25 degree tracks, many of which offer a graduate track. Undergraduate degrees include options in technology, education, business, and the arts. Online undergraduate students pay around $129 per credit for in-state students and $552 per credit for out-of-state students. Students can take courses full time or part time and in flexible formats.

    Students can choose from three start dates per year — spring, summer, and fall. UF Online accepts applications on a rolling basis and divides students based on the number of earned credits.

    UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. Louisiana Tech University
    Location

    Ruston, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Ruston, Louisiana Tech's online extension offers students a bachelor's degree in health informatics and information management, six master's degrees, and six graduate certificates.

    Students can take certification series courses in business areas such as technical writing and communication or six sigma. Master's degree options cover areas like business administration, history, engineering, and English. Online courses happen asynchronously and offer flexible scheduling for working students or those who cannot relocate. In-state students pay around $300 per credit for undergraduate tuition and graduate tuition. Out-of-state students pay around $606 per credit.

    The school requires SAT or ACT scores for first-year applicants, and graduate students must supply GMAT or GRE scores. Current students may contact the dean to enroll in certificate programs, but non-enrolled students may apply as transfer students.

    Louisiana Tech is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. New Mexico State University
    Location

    Las Cruces, NM

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Las Cruces, NMSU Online offers a variety of undergraduate degrees and graduate certificates. A handful of degrees require periodic in-person sessions, but students have several choices with no residency requirements.

    Online bachelor's degree programs cover subjects such as science, technology, hospitality, and business. Graduate certificates include public health, nursing, teaching, and technology. Students may also complete an associate degree in subjects that do not require further education, such as paralegal studies, allowing students to launch careers quickly and flexibly. All students pay just $380 per credit regardless of residency status, including certificate credits.

    Undergraduate students need a cumulative 2.75 GPA or ACT/SAT scores of 21 or 1080, respectively. Students who do not meet these requirements may apply for conditional admission. Transfer students need a cumulative GPA of 2.0.

    New Mexico State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  4. Louisiana State University and A&M College
    Location

    Baton Rouge, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Baton Rouge, LSU Online offers various associate, bachelor, and graduate degree and certificate programs covering topics such as education, engineering, communications, and technology.

    Students take online courses with flexible schedules and no need for residency requirements in most cases. Students mostly study asynchronously, creating their own schedules. LSU also offers cybercrime and coding bootcamps and microcredential programs online — 2-6-course programs designed to impart job-specific professional skills quickly.

    Notable degree tracks include a bachelor of general studies in emergency management and disaster preparedness, a master of science in analytics, and a master of arts in higher education administration. The school offers opportunities to receive credit for prior learning and military experience. Students pay $303 per credit with no in-state or out-of-state requirements.

    LSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Tallahassee, DISTANCE@FSU offers five bachelor's degrees, 18 master's degrees, and three doctoral degrees online, plus certificate and specialized education options.

    Notable degrees include doctor of nursing practice, master of science in art education, master of science in systems engineering, and a bachelor of science in computer science. Students can also choose an interdisciplinary study bachelor's degree for flexibility.

    FSU does not require residency in most cases, and students take a flexible approach to education with asynchronous learning. In-state students pay $180 per credit for undergraduate and $444 per credit for graduate, with out-of-state students paying $688 and $1,077, respectively.

    FSU requires ACT or SAT scores for first-year applicants. Graduate programs list individual requirements, but many of them require advanced standardized exams like the GRE.

    FSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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