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The Most Affordable Online Colleges of 2022

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The Most Affordable Online Colleges of 2022

Are you looking for the cheapest colleges? Use this ranking of the cheapest online colleges to learn more about program requirements, eligibility, and tuition.

The number of students pursuing higher education online continues to grow. Advances in technology offer more opportunities for collaboration and busy schedules require more flexibility. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), as of fall 2019, 36 percent of all undergraduate students were taking at least one course online. 15 percent had enrolled exclusively in online courses.

In addition to greater flexibility, online colleges offer savings potential. For instance, some schools do not charge additional tuition for out-of-state residents. Students can also save on campus fees such as room and board. Online students may also find it easier to continue working full-time or part-time than their on-campus counterparts.

Despite these savings, the cost of a college education, whether online or on campus, represents a significant investment, and students must weigh the cost against their financial resources and the likely rate of return. Online students can benefit from many federal grants, scholarships, and work-study programs that can help ease the financial burden of higher education.

How Much Does an Online College Cost?

Online Versus On-Campus Colleges

Schools vary widely in the cost of online programs. Many online and on-campus programs charge similar tuition rates. However, some schools charge more for online programs while others charge less.

No Out-of-State Resident Fees for Online Students

For example, Mayville State University in Mayville, North Dakota, charges all online undergraduate students $326 per credit. Out-of-state and in-state learners pay the same price. Since most undergraduate programs require 120 credits, that adds up to about $39,000 in tuition over four years. On-campus undergraduate programs typically cost between $30,000 and $50,000, depending on where the student lives.

Out-of-State Resident Fees for Online Students

For example, the University of Central Florida in Orlando charges $212 per credit for tuition and fees for in-state online students, while out-of-state distance students pay $749.

For a 120-credit undergraduate program, this equates to approximately $25,440 or $89,880. This equates to a $64,440 difference in total four-year tuition between in-state and out-of-state online residents at the University of Central Florida.

Reduced Tuition Fees for Online Students

University of Florida Gainesville online students pay $129 or $553 per credit for in-state and out-of-state tuition. By comparison, their campus counterparts pay $213 and $955, respectively.

Keep in mind that in addition to room and board, online students often save on other expenses, such as travel and relocation expenses, digital textbooks versus physical textbooks, and on-campus fees.

Hidden Fees for Online Students

While online students save some fees on campus, most schools charge for distance learning. These fees can add up. Some schools charge per credit or per course. These fees may include:

Technology Fees – Technology fees cover costs related to technology required for online learning, such as technical support and learning platforms.

Access Fees – These fees cover the cost of maintaining an interactive learning environment. This may also include access to library databases and tutoring.

Assessment Fee – This fee covers tests used to determine a student’s online eligibility and placement.

Some colleges offer optional packages for local online students who want to use campus services, including recreational facilities, student sports, and the health center.

Alternatively, some schools may require all students to pay all standard fees. This may include student activity fees: for services an online student may not use. In this case, you can try and contact the school to find out if they offer exemptions or alternatives.

Other Costs to Consider

Students should also consider several additional factors when calculating the cost of affordable online colleges, including state residency, cost of living, and school supplies.

Scholarship and Financial Support

Online students are entitled to many of the same funding and financial aid opportunities as their on-campus peers. This aid can significantly reduce tuition fees. According to NCES, in 2018-2019, 90% of undergraduate students received financial aid at private, nonprofit schools, while 84% received aid at public institutions.

State Residency

Online tuition fees for domestic and international students vary widely at many colleges. Some charge all online students the same price, while others charge non-residents four times as much. Some online programs also require on-campus residencies or orientations. Students should consider travel costs related to these requirements.

Living Expenses

Be sure to include living expenses when budgeting for college. Although online students do not have to pay for room and board on campus, they still have to pay for food and board unless they live with their parents, guardians, or someone else who provides this kind of support. Additional living expenses to consider include entertainment, utilities, and transportation.

Books and Course Materials

Just like on-campus students, online students need textbooks and other course materials, which can cost hundreds of dollars each semester. Distance learners can reduce these costs by purchasing e-books.

Importance of Accreditation for Online College

Proper online college accreditation can affect financial aid eligibility, transfer credit, and even job prospects. Without proper accreditation, there is no way to ensure the quality of a school’s teaching or student support services. Only schools accredited by an organization recognized by the US Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation can offer federal grants.

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Previously, there were two different types of institutional accreditation, regional and national. Traditionally, regional accreditation was the strongest form of accreditation and was considered the standard in higher education. However, since the ED abolished national and regional accreditation, institutional and programmatic accreditation has become the two main forms.

Therefore, fake agencies accredit some online universities. However, students can use the ED database to check each university’s accreditation status. If you can’t find the accreditor on the website, the organization is probably not legitimate.

What is the Job and Salary Outlook for Online College Graduates?

Bachelor’s degree graduates typically earn more than their counterparts with an associate’s or high school diploma. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, graduates earned a median salary of $1,305 per week, $367 more than graduate students and $524 more than high school students with no post-secondary education. A bachelor’s degree can provide increased job opportunities in many industries and positions.

How Do I Pay for Online College?

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

All students seeking financial aid must complete the FAFSA. This application determines federal eligibility for federal grants, scholarships, and loans. Colleges, universities, and private organizations also use the FAFSA form to make their scholarship and grant award decisions.

Eligible applicants for government aid include US citizens and eligible non-citizens applying for financial aid for higher education. Online students are generally eligible for the same types of financial aid as their on-campus peers.

Loans

Students often consider college loans after exhausting all other financial aid options, such as scholarships and grants. Borrowers must pay back their loans, usually with interest. Federal loans generally offer lower interest rates and forbearance plans, while banks and private lenders generally charge higher interest rates. Parents can also apply for the Direct PLUS loan from ED.

Grants

Unlike loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid. Scholarships are often based on need and can benefit specific population groups, e.g. veterans, students from underrepresented groups, or students with disabilities. State governments and private organizations can award grants, and the federal government offers many grants through the federal Pell Grant program.

Work-Study Programs

Federally funded dual degree programs help students pay tuition by offering part-time jobs on or near campus. To apply, simply complete the FAFSA. The financial aid letter students receive from their college outlines eligibility for work-study programs, as well as grants, scholarships, and student loans.

Scholarships

College scholarships come in many forms. As with grants, no repayment is required for this type of funding. This type of financial support can be provided by schools, community groups, private businesses, and non-profit organizations. Scholarships may be awarded based on need or performance. They may be aimed at students following a specific course or at students from a specific environment. Some organizations may also offer scholarships for adult students and non-traditional students.

Scholarships for Online Students

There are many scholarships specifically for distance education students. The list below outlines some of the many scholarships that online students can apply for.

Google Generation Scholarship

Deadline: December

Who is eligible? Full-time students who are enrolled in or admitted to an accredited institution and plan to study computer engineering, computer science, or a closely related technical field are eligible.

Price: $10,000

Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Scholarship

Deadline: October

Who is eligible? High school seniors who wish to pursue an education at an accredited post-secondary institution may apply.

Price: $20,000

Get College Scholarship Program Online

Deadline: October or March

Who is eligible? US citizens enrolled in an accredited online degree program with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 are eligible to apply.

Price: $1,000

How to Reduce the Cost of Online College?

Although the cost of relatively affordable online colleges may seem daunting, students can save money for college by employing a few key strategies.

Create a Budget

Learning to budget successfully can benefit students for the rest of their lives. Start keeping track of all the money you spend and earn, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Next, consider where to cut back and save money on college. Then create a budget. Useful online apps to save money while studying are Left to Spend and Mint. Students can also find clever ways to earn more in college.

Find Discounts and Rental Programs

The cost of the technology required for online learning can add up quickly. Look for colleges that loan laptops or offer scholarships such as the Dell Scholars Program, which provides laptops and textbook loans to low-income students. Students can also save money on textbooks by purchasing digital textbooks or used textbooks from companies like Amazon or CheapTextbooks. Some campus bookstores and e-commerce sites also lend college textbooks.

Graduate Early With an Accelerated Program

Accelerated programs can allow students to complete a 4-year degree faster. However, accelerated programs require commitment and full-time study to complete courses.

These intensive, accelerated programs cover the same material in 4 to 10 weeks as traditional university courses cover in 15 to 16 weeks. Additionally, industry-specific accelerated online degree programs in areas such as teaching and nursing often require students to have experience and licenses to qualify for admission.

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Find Out About Employer Reimbursement of Tuition Fees

Students looking to advance in their current careers may find that their company pays some or all of the tuition fees. The reimbursement of tuition fees is usually linked to certain conditions, e.g. continued employment in the company for at least two years after graduation. Students can even earn college credit for their experience through prior learning assessments.

What Are the Cheapest Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs?

We believe that a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We aim to help you navigate the college selection process by providing you with a transparent, inclusive and relevant school ranking.

Our rankings are based on a few guiding principles and use the latest available statistical data from trusted sources. We hope our approach helps you find the best school for you.

#1 Online College in Florida

Florida Atlantic University

School Information

Location: Boca Raton, Florida

Admission Rate: 63%

Graduation Rate: 50%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 49%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $105

Out of State | $105

Credits to Graduate: 120

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | Yes

Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

FAU Online offers 12 bachelor’s, 27 master’s and two doctoral courses. Applicants for an undergraduate program must submit their high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Some majors require additional equipment for admission.

Learn more about this program

#2 Online College in Louisiana

University of Louisiana at Monroe

School Information

Location: Monroe, Louisiana

Admission Rate: 80%

Graduation Rate: 47%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 43%

100% Online | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $400

Out of State | $400

Credits to Graduate: 120-125

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | Yes

Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

The ULM welcomes more than 8,400 students in classroom and online courses. Distance students can choose from over 35 online degrees. Accelerated undergraduate programs last 8 weeks, allowing students to graduate in 2 years.

Learn more about this program

#3 Online College in Illinois

University of Illinois at Springfield

School Information

Location: Springfield, Illinois

Admission Rate: 77%

Graduation Rate: 54%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 70%

Online and Hybrid | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $179

Out of State | $179

Credits to Graduate: Varies by program

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | Yes

Program Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

As one of the cheapest online universities, ISU operates over 50 undergraduate, graduate and degree programs for distance learning students. Prospective first-year students must submit official transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Some courses have additional application requirements.

Learn more about this program

#4 Online College in Florida

Florida International University

School Information

Location: Miami, Florida

Admission Rate: 58%

Graduation Rate: 63%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 68%

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $147

Out of State | $264

Credits to Graduate: 120

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

With over 20 years of distance learning experience, FIU has grown to become one of the largest online education providers in the United States. Students can choose from 130 bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificates in engineering, education, physical and speech therapy, law and healthcare, among others.

Learn more about this program

#5 Online College in Florida

University of Florida-Online

School Information

Location: Gainesville, Florida

Admission Rate: 32%

Accreditation: Yes

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $112

Out of State | $500

Credits to Graduate: 120

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

UF Online offers 25 bachelor’s degrees, 79 master’s degrees, and 8 doctoral degrees. Undergraduate program applicants must submit high school transcripts or GED and SAT or ACT scores. Each endorsement sets a minimum GPA for admission.

Learn more about this program

#6 Online College in Florida

The University of West Florida

School Information

Location: Pensacola, Florida

Admission Rate: 31%

Graduation Rate: 46%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 66%

Online and Hybrid | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $219

Out of State | $648

Credits to Graduate: Depends on program

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | Yes

Program Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Headquartered in Pensacola, Florida, UWF has launched a variety of online degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, certificate, and doctoral levels. Online programs have various start dates that vary depending on the type of degree. Distance learning students have full access to library services, tutoring, writing labs, and technical support.

Learn more about this program

#7 Online College in California

Golden Gate University-San Francisco

School Information

Location: San Francisco, California

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 67%

100% Online | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $462

Out of State | $462

Credits to Graduate: 120

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | Yes

Program Accreditation | Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Founded in San Francisco in 1901, GGU focuses on professional undergraduate and graduate programs in management, business, accounting, tax, and law. In addition to evening and weekend course options, most degrees are offered entirely online.

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Learn more about this program

#8 Online College in Massachusetts

Northeastern University Lifelong Learning Network

School Information

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 52%

Online and Hybrid | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $541

Out of State | $541

Credits to Graduate: Depends on program

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | Yes

Program Accreditation | New England Commission on Higher Education

Northeast distance education students can choose from more than 80 programs at the certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and professional doctorate levels. Offered entirely online or primarily online with on-campus components, these online degrees represent some of the most popular and in-demand disciplines in professional and emerging fields such as healthcare administration, IT, project management, and accounting.

Learn more about this program

#9 Online College in Indiana

Purdue University-Main Campus

School Information

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Admission Rate: 60%

Graduation Rate: 82%

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 22%

Online and Hybrid | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $280

Out of State | $371

Credits to Graduate: Depends on program

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Purdue University Online provides access to more than 175 online and hybrid programs throughout the Purdue University system, from Purdue Northwest Purdue Fort Wayne, and Purdue West Lafayette campuses to Purdue Global. Popular fields of study include healthcare, engineering, education, and business.

Learn more about this program

#10 Online College in North Dakota

University of Mary

School Information

Location: Bismarck, North Dakota

Admission Rate: 74%

Graduation Rate: 60%

Institution Type: Private

Accreditation: Yes

Percent Online Enrollment: 45%

Online and Hybrid | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Average Cost per Credit

In State | $460

Out of State | $460

Credits to Graduate: 120

Program Information

Degree Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Sponsored by the Benedictine Congregation, this private Catholic institution welcomes students of all faiths and backgrounds. Students can enroll in more than 50 evening and online programs, including popular options in health sciences, education, addiction counseling, and business.

Learn more about this program

FAQ About Cheap Online Colleges

Is Online College More Affordable?

Online programs are not always more affordable than on-campus programs. In fact, most schools charge roughly the same tuition for online and on-campus programs, according to a 2020 report by Quality Matters and Eduventures Research. Additionally, 16% of schools’ online programs typically cost more.

If you are hesitating between an online and on-campus program, check to see if the cost is different for out-of-state residents. Find out if the school charges annually or by tuition, program, or credit hour. Financial aid, scholarships, and tuition reimbursements may also affect your expenses.

What is the Cheapest Online University?

The cheapest online university on our list is Florida Atlantic University. College students across the state pay an average of $105 per credit in tuition. However, the cost per credit can vary significantly depending on your country of residence. Florida Atlantic University non-resident students must pay an additional nonresident fee of $494 per credit.

What is the Average Cost of an Online College?

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of an online bachelor’s degree in August 2021 was $51,091. In-state tuition averaged $38,496 and out-of-state tuition was $54,183. Costs were higher for private online universities, which charged an average of $60,593 in tuition.

Tuition prices can vary widely depending on the institution, degree, program, and student’s educational background. In addition, most universities have specific program fees. However, students enrolled in properly accredited face-to-face and online programs are eligible for federal financial aid.

Is an Online College Worth it?

Online studies at an accredited university are worthwhile for many students. Online programs offer flexibility and make the college more accessible to a wider population than traditional on-campus programs. Students can earn a college degree or higher online while working, raising a family, and fulfilling other commitments.

Online colleges eliminate the need for students to travel, saving them money on gas and parking. However, remember that online learning may not be for everyone, especially if you find it difficult to stay motivated on your own. Whether you complete your degree online or on campus, student support services can help you succeed.

How Can Online Students Avoid Out-of-State Tuition?

The easiest way to avoid out-of-state tuition as an online student is to attend a university in your state. Students attending an out-of-state public university generally pay more than domestic students.

Some colleges, like Mayville State University, charge the same tuition for online students regardless of residency. Also, some colleges reduce tuition with exceptions for children of alumni or military personnel. Some students may qualify for state tuition based on strong college credentials.

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