10 Most Affordable Accredited Online Colleges
Finding the cheapest online colleges can be tricky. Therefore, EDsmart has once again dug through the data trenches to find the cheapest online schools in the nation for our readers. Not only do these schools charge the cheapest tuition, but they have also been vetted for quality factors such as student-faculty ratio, freshman retention, published rankings, graduation rate, reputation with employers, financial aid, and online technology.
Studies show that most online students prioritize affordability over other factors when searching for a college to attend. The fact that you’re here on this page shows that you are a smart investor looking for an inexpensive degree in order to get the best value for your dollar. Looking at tuition is a great place to start your search. Another often overlooked factor is school accreditation.
The schools on our list of most affordable online colleges are all regionally accredited–which, in our opinion, offers the best outcomes with the greatest opportunities. They also offer affordable in-state-tuitions of less than $8,000 and in-state-tuitions of less than $9,500. While this may seem out of reach for some, the benefits outweigh the costs when taking into account that on average, bachelor’s degree holders earn $26,000 more per year than professionals with only a high school diploma. Beyond that, bachelor’s degree holders see lower unemployment rates than those with high school diplomas and no degree.
Top 10 Cheapest Online Colleges
|1||Great Basin College||$3,128|
|3||Western Governors University||$6,070|
|4||The University of Texas of the Permian Basin||$6,260|
|5||American Public University System||$6,880|
|7||Minot State University||$7,064|
|8||Chadron State College||$7,384|
|9||Thomas Edison State University||$7,519|
|10||West Texas A & M University||$7,935|
We gathered the most recent data from the NCES College Navigator database  to narrow down four-year colleges offering extremely inexpensive online degree programs, with tuitions under $10,000 per year.
- Any schools charging substantially higher out-of-state tuitions were removed from our list.
- For-profit colleges that didn’t hold one of the six regional accreditations were also removed from our list.
- Only schools that offer 10+ online degree programs were added to the list.
This ranking is created and updated yearly to help students find colleges that will give them the best chance to earn a college degree at a price they can afford.
10 Most Affordable Accredited Online Colleges
#1 GREAT BASIN COLLEGE
Great Basin College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. This public, state-funded school is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education, which serves over 3,400 students. GBC offers a 100% acceptance rate. In 2021, Great Basin College ranked #135 Safest College Campus in America, #303 Most Liberal College in America, and #533 Best College Campus in America by Niche.com, and the number-one most affordable online college by the SR Education Group in 2017. Great Basin offers 21 associate degrees, 10 bachelor’s degrees, and 19 certificate programs to online students.
Fully online programs include associate degrees in Associates of Arts, Business, English, Social Science, Graphic Communications and Early Childhood Education, Associate of Applied Science degrees, and bachelor’s degrees including a BA in English, BA in Social Science, BSN in Nursing (RN to BSN), and BAS degrees in Digital Information Technology Emphasis, Human Services, Land Surveying/Geomatics Emphasis, and Management and Supervision. This school offers 19 certificate programs and fully online continuing education programs in HealthCare Training and Computing Technology. Popular majors include business, early childhood education, elementary education, nursing, and liberal arts and humanities. With the lowest tuition on our list, Great Basin College is the cheapest online college for 2021.
Brigham Young University-Idaho is located in Rexburg Idaho. Owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this non-profit college educates over 49,000 students in multiple locations throughout the world. 15,000+ of those students are enrolled in online classes via BYU – Pathway Worldwide. Online degree programs are offered from BYU-Idaho and Ensign college. BYU-Idaho was recently named the 16th best university in Regional Colleges West, #1 Most Innovative School, #25 in Top Performers on Social Mobility and #46 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs by U.S. News & World Report, #17 in Best Colleges in American, and #1 in Most Conservative Colleges in America by Niche.com.
BYU-Idaho’s Pathway WorldWide offers nearly 52 online certificates and degrees; 7 associate degrees, 6 bachelor’s degrees, and 39 certificate programs at a very affordable price. Some popular online programs include a bachelor’s degree in Business Management (entrepreneurship, marketing, supply chain and operations management, and more), Public Health, and Marriage & Family Studies, and an associate’s in Family History Research, Web Design & Development, and a variety of other online offerings. Popular majors include liberal arts and humanities, nursing, information science, business, and public health education BYU-Idaho provides a 20-year Net ROI of $534,000, according to Payscale.com in 2021.
#3 WESTERN GOVERNORS UNIVERSITY
WGU is a private, non-profit NWCCU-accredited college that offers online degree programs for over 72,000 students. This institution is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah with six affiliated schools offering over 60 degree programs. For many of WGU’s cheap online programs, many companies’ tuition reimbursement programs cover most or all educational costs for students. WGU offers a 100 percent admission rate and very low tuition.
Western Governors was recently awarded the Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality Online Education by Sloan Consortium and named the #4 Best Value College in Utah in 2021, #773 of 1,572 Best Value College in America, #69 Best College for Nursing in America, and #3 Best College for Nursing in Utah by Niche.com. According to GradReports.com, 78 percent of students reported an improvement in career prospects after earning an online degree from Western Governors and 73 percent said they would recommend this school to others. Some of the more popular majors at Western Governors are nursing, business administration and management, elementary education, information technology, and computer information systems.
#4 UT PERMIAN BASIN
UT Permian Basin is a fast-growing, public research institution established by oil enthusiast Bill Noël in 1973. This school is home to over 5,000 students on the Odessa campus and online school. The University of Texas Permian Basin was recently ranked by US News as the West’s 68nd best college, 32nd best public school, 60th in Top Performers in Social Mobility, and was 173rd best online bachelor degre in the nation in 2019. The University of Texas Online Consortium (UTOC), of which UTPB is a part, offers some of the cheapest online degrees and certificate programs (6 bachelor’s, 5 master’s, and 3 certificate and endorsement programs), some of which only last 8 weeks. Students can earn an online master’s degree, online bachelor’s program, and/or online certificate in programs such as Psychology, Business Administration, Communications, Sociology, Criminal Justice, Kinesiology, Special Education, and more.
As of November 2020, this school received an overall grade of B- at Niche, a 3.7/5 rating at Unigo, and a 3.5/5 on GradReports. CollegeFactual places UTPB at #43 in its 2021 ranking of Best Colleges for the Money in Texas. UT Permian Basin was ranked #1 in our 2018 Most Affordable Online Colleges ranking.
#5 AMERICAN PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
APU is a private, for-profit online college located in Charles Town, West Virginia, with six academic schools. American Public University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and received the Sloan Consortium Effective Practice Award. Home to more than 98,400 students, APU was recently rated #2 of the 25 Most Popular Online Colleges by TheBestSchools.org and #92 on U.S. News’ Best Online Bachelor Programs ranking in 2019. CollegeFactual places APU as the #10 Best Colleges in West Virginia, #1,262 Best College in the Nation with the highest-ranked major being Homeland Security, Law Enforcement & Firefighting. 76 percent of graduates reported an improved career after earning a degree from APU, according to GradReports.org, while 70 percent of students said they’d recommend this school to others.
American Public University offers 190+ cheap online degrees and certificate programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels including Military history, Reverse Logistics Management, Space Studies, Electric Engineering, Business, Criminal Justice, Health Sciences, Sports Management, and more. APU offers an open admissions policy and a 93% freshman retention rate.
#6 AMRIDGE UNIVERSITY
Amridge University, located in Montgomery, Alabama, is “where traditional and online education merge.” This co-educational, private liberal arts college is affiliated with the Church of Christ and enrolls around 800 students in traditional and online degree programs. AU is Amridge University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. According to StartClass, the most popular majors at Amridge are Biblical Studies, Human Development and Family Studies, Business Administration & Management, Criminal Justice & Corrections, and Human Resource Management. This school offers both very affordable tuition and a great net price with a 100% admissions acceptance rate.
Amridge University offers 40 total degrees and 22 undergraduate and graduate degree programs online. Affordable online degrees are offered through the Turner School of Theology, School of Human Services, School of Continuing Ed, College of Business & Leadership as well as College of General Studies. This school is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
#7 MINOT STATE UNIVERSITY
MSU is North Dakota’s 3rd largest public, co-educational Master’s I Institution. This school offers a 12:1 student-faculty ratio in an online and on-campus setting with over 2,832 undergraduate students. U.S. News ranks Minot State at #79 for its Best Online Graduate Business Programs, #256-#337 for its Best Online Bachelor’s in Business Programs, and #125-#164 in Best Online Master’s in Business Programs (Excluding MBA) in 2021. Niche.com ranks MSU as the #176 Top Public University in America, #208 Best Small College in America, #3 Best College in North Dakota, and #8 Best Value Colleges in North Dakota.
This school was ranked 1321st in-state and 1322nd out-of-state on the 2020-2021 PayScale College ROI Report with a $139,000 return on investment. MSU is fully accredited by HLC-NCA. MSU online offers 20 inexpensive online degree programs with popular programs in Business Administration & Management, Social Work, Special Education, Nursing, and Teacher Education.
#8 CHADRON STATE COLLEGE
Chadron State educates over 2,500 students on-campus and online. This public, co-educational college was founded in 1911 and rated one of Sports Afield magazine’s “Top 50 Outdoor Sports Towns.” Chadron State College is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of North Central Association of Colleges and Schools with specialized accreditation for some of its programs. This college is ranked as the #11 Best Value College in Nebraska and #891 Best Value College in America by Niche.com. CSC was recently awarded the #9 spot on BestColleges.org’s Best Online Colleges and Universities in Nebraska report.
U.S. News ranks Chadron State at #65 in Top Performers on Social Mobility and #39-51 in Top Public Schools. This affordable online school offers 8 online degrees with no out-of-state tuition or add-ons. Popular degrees at Chadron State include bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration, Family and Consumer Sciences, and a Master of Organizational Management. Five Popular majors with the most graduates include Business, Elementary Education, Liberal Arts and Humanities, Criminal Justice Corrections, and Crop and Soil Sciences. Chadron State offers flat-rate tuition so in-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition.
#9 THOMAS EDISON STATE UNIVERSITY
TESU is a public, state-funded higher education institution educating more than 17,200 students online and on-campus. In 2011, Thomas Edison earned the National University Technology Distance Education Innovation Award. This school offers a 100% admissions acceptance rate and 64 undergraduate and graduate online degrees in multiple areas of study, including Liberal Arts and Humanities, Accounting, Medical Assisting, Nursing, and Business Administration and Management, to name a few. Some popular programs at Thomas Edison State University are the associate’s in Nuclear Engineering Technology, Bachelor’s in Homeland Security, Master’s in Hospitality Management, and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
TESU offers 13 online associate degree programs, 34 bachelor’s degree programs online, 17 online graduate degree programs, and multiple undergraduate and graduate certificate programs online. This cheap online college is accredited by MSCHE. TESU has an open admissions policy. TESU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
#10 WEST TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
West Texas A&M University is a public, co-educational research institution with an enrollment of over 9,400 students in the Amarillo, Texas Metro area, satellite campuses, and online. WTAMU has received many prestigious rankings including U.S. News Best Online Programs Rankings at #21 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs, #67 Best Online MBA Programs, #13 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, #17 Best Online Master’s in Education Programs for Veterans, #15 Best Online Master’s in Computer Information Technology Programs, to name a few. Niche.com ranks this school as the #52 Best Hispanic-Serving Institutions in America, #24 Best College in Texas, and #10 Top Public University in Texas.
WTAMU’s distance education division offers 14 undergraduate, 19 graduate, and 1 Doctoral program and hybrid programs through the SREB Electronic Campus. A few of the most affordable online degree programs include Economics, Criminal Justice, a Healthcare MBA, and Finance from associate to bachelor degrees. WTAMU is part of the Texas A&M University System.
How to Pay for Your Online Degree
For any prospective student, finding the right degree program can be difficult. This is especially true of those whose top priority is maintaining a budget. If you’re looking for ways to minimize college costs, simplify your postsecondary educational experience, and make the most of your time and money, you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This determines your eligibility for scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study. Federal scholarships and field-specific or merit-based scholarships are also available on an individual basis.
Cheapest Online Colleges FAQ
How much does an online college degree cost?
Tuition is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding whether or not an online bachelor’s degree program is right for you. Depending on a student’s residency status, living expenses, and other various costs, community colleges and in-state public institutions are your best bet.
Is online schooling a cheaper option?
If you decide to opt for online schooling, any typical traditional college costs such as housing, transportation, and fees won’t be a concern. For out-of-state individuals, online schooling is not only cheap but convenient as well. The wide variety of online degrees also incentivizes many individuals.
Can you use Pell Grants to pay for online schooling?
The Pell Grant Program is a federally-funded scholarship awarded to individuals in financial need that meet additional academic and annual income requirements. Any accredited college that awards federally recognized degrees will accept Pell Grant money to pay for any online course.
Where can I purchase cheap college textbooks online?
It’s no surprise that pinching pennies and pursuing an undergraduate degree go hand-in-hand for the majority of young, aspiring individuals. A smart student is one who knows how to allocate their resources and find the best deals on school supplies like textbooks. Buying secondhand, renting, reselling, and even getting a library card are all great ways to save yourself a couple of bucks.
Which affordable online college is the best?
In many cases, the best way to obtain affordable education is to start locally. Community colleges are highly likely to offer a variety of different options when it comes to foundational coursework in your field of interest, and at such a low cost, they are no doubt worth looking into. According to EDsmart’s 2021 cheapest online colleges ranking, Great Basin College is the best, affordable online college to offer a cheap online degree.
How do I minimize my overall costs?
A lot of college costs are the result of lifestyle choices, so really, it’s up to you. Depending on your housing situation, everyday expenses, and level of budget maintenance, you can minimize your college expenses by a significant amount.
What are the specific types of federal financial aid available to undergraduates?
Specifically, you can apply for federal grants, federal loans, work-study programs, and education tax credits or deductions. Grants and scholarships are the preferred mode of financial aid for the majority of college students because they don’t require a long-term repayment plan as federal loans do. Work-study programs enable students to actively pay for their college education through work with an organization, government agency, or on-campus position. The majority of students also qualify for education-related tax returns.
How do I complete a FAFSA?
To complete the FAFSA, you’ll need specific financial documents, create a federal student ID, follow all instructions on the FAFSA website, and submit your application for the designated year. More info can be found at studentaid.gov.
What does it mean when a school is “accredited”?
An accredited school provides its students with career-building opportunities and high-quality programs. Depending on whether a school’s accreditation is regional or national, the opportunities a school provides and the quality of its programs vary. Accredited degree programs are often more valuable to employers than non-accredited degrees.