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For future law enforcement professionals and aspiring law school students, an affordable, high-quality education in criminal justice is what you’ll need to be successful in your professional pursuits. Our comprehensive guide on the most affordable online bachelor’s in criminal justice is designed to save you time and effort when researching potential programs for your degree, with the best budget-friendly programs available at your fingertips.

In addition to highlighting affordable bachelor’s programs, we’ll also delve into the specifics surrounding the cost of an undergraduate degree in this field, offer financial aid guidance, and provide tips on choosing the right program to kickstart your career.

Cost Breakdown for an Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Program

While attending an online degree program can help you save money on expenses like lodging and commuting costs, there are other costs to consider. These typically include the following:

  • Tuition: Online degree programs often charge tuition per credit hour or term. You may prefer per-credit pricing if you plan to take a lighter course load, while per-term pricing may be more cost-effective for anyone planning to learn full-time.
  • Fees: Various fees can add to the total cost, including technology support fees for online learning platforms, academic resource fees for access to research databases and libraries, and graduate fees. It’s essential to consider these when budgeting for your education.
  • Personal technology: You’ll need a reliable computer or laptop, along with hardware such as a webcam and microphone, for virtual classes. A stable Wi-Fi connection is essential for online coursework and can be an ongoing expense.
  • Books and other learning materials: Costs for textbooks, e-books, and other learning resources can vary widely. Some programs offer online access to course materials, reducing this expense, while others may require purchasing physical textbooks.

Factors Influencing the Cost of an Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Program

  • Public vs. private institution: Tuition rates vary significantly between public and private online colleges and universities. Public institutions are often more affordable for in-state residences due to state subsidies, making them generally cheaper than private schools. Private schools rely heavily on tuition revenue, leading to higher costs.
  • Nonprofit vs. for-profit: Nonprofit online schools tend to have more reasonable tuition rates than for-profit institutions. Nonprofits prioritize education, while for-profit schools may have a profit-driven model that can result in higher costs.
  • Student residency status: Public institutions usually offer lower tuition rates for in-state residents, making it cost-effective for those who live within the state. Out-of-state students may pay higher rates. Private schools often charge the same tuition for all students regardless of residency.
  • Student military status: Many online colleges and universities offer reduced tuition rates and benefits for active-duty military, veterans, and their families. These discounts and scholarships can significantly impact the cost of education for military-affiliated students, making education more accessible and affordable.

50 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Programs

Most Affordable Online Criminal Justice Programs Badge 2024

Ball State University

Liberty University

University of West Alabama

Saint Leo University

UT Tyler

McNeese State University

Eastern Kentucky University

Bellevue University

UMSL College of Education

National Louis University

Arizona State University

UNC Extended Campus

Lynn University

National University

University of Southern California

Mercy College

Divine Mercy University

Pepperdine University

Southern New Hampshire University

California Baptist University

LeTourneau University

Medaille College

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the most affordable online bachelor’s in criminal justice programs in the U.S. All are offered at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

How to Pay for an Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degree


You can pay for your degree out-of-pocket by utilizing university-offered payment plans. These plans typically break down the total tuition cost into manageable installments, often spread over several months or the duration of the term. By budgeting for these smaller, regular payments, you can avoid the need for student loans, making it feasible to cover your educational expenses directly. Payment plans provide a structured way to finance education, allowing financial stability by avoiding unnecessary debt.

Federal student loans

Federal student loans are reliable financial aid for most undergraduate learners. These loans offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms than private loans, making them a preferable option. However, it’s essential to use federal loans sparingly to minimize debt.

Instead, you should seek scholarships, grants, and part-time employment, which will help reduce your reliance on interest-accruing loans. By combining multiple sources of financial aid, you can manage your educational expenses effectively and graduate with less debt, ensuring a more financially secure start to your career.

Private education loans

You can also turn to private loans for financing your education, although it should generally be used as a last resort. While they can bridge financial gaps, it’s essential to be cautious and mindful of the long-term financial implications of private loans. These loans often come with higher interest rates and less flexible repayment terms than federal loans.


Scholarships offer a valuable source of funding that doesn’t require repayment, making them an ideal choice for financing your education. They can be awarded based on academic merit, financial need, or specific criteria related to computer science.

By actively seeking and applying for scholarships, you can significantly reduce the overall cost of your education and minimize your need for loans. Prioritizing scholarships not only eases your financial burden but also recognizes and rewards academic and personal achievements, allowing you to focus on your studies and career development without the weight of debt.


Federal grants, like the Pell Grant, are available through the FAFSA for eligible undergraduate students based on financial need. Similar to scholarships, these grants provide financial aid that doesn’t require repayment. Additionally, some institutions offer their own grants, which can be awarded based on academic merit, field of study, or other criteria.


If you’re seeking part-time employment, consider applying for work-study opportunities through your university’s financial aid office. Work-study programs allow students to work part-time jobs, often related to their field of study, to earn income that helps finance their education. These opportunities are typically funded by federal or state governments and offered by institutions.

To apply, complete the FAFSA and express your interest in work-study. Positions are awarded based on financial need and availability, providing valuable work experience and income that can contribute to your educational expenses while building practical skills for your future career.

Employer tuition assistance

If you’re currently employed, you can use employer tuition assistance to fund your education. Many employers provide financial support for further instruction, which can cover a portion or all of your tuition costs. Some may require students to maintain a certain GPA or commit to continuing employment with the company after graduation.

To determine if your employer offers this benefit, contact your HR department, review the employee handbook, or visit the company’s intranet or HR portal.

Applying for Financial Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the starting point for most undergraduate students in the United States seeking financial aid. It determines eligibility for federal grants like the Pell Grant, federal loans, and work-study programs, which are all advantageous for making higher education more affordable. To apply, you must complete the FAFSA form online, providing information about your family’s finances, assets, and income.

Learn more about the FAFSA

To learn more about the FAFSA, visit our Ultimate FAFSA Guide, your resource for receiving free money for college. With a step-by-step breakdown, insightful tips for household size and immigration status questions, and a comprehensive overview of the funding opportunities available, this guide can help you feel confident in making informed decisions about financing your education.

Student loan forgiveness and repayment

While loan forgiveness remains uncertain in the United States, it’s beneficial to take a proactive approach to loan repayment. According to college counselor Dana Marvin, this may include starting the repayment process early. “You can pay off student loans while you’re still in college. I wish I had known this in college. Most people think you have to wait until you’ve graduated, or even six months after, but that isn’t true,” she says. “Let’s say you make an extra few hundred dollars during a summer job, or your parents get a big bonus from work. You can use that money to start paying off your loans while still in school!” Preemptively tackling a few hundred or thousand dollars in payments can lead to substantially lower loan amounts after graduation.

How to Choose the Online College or University that’s Right for You

Step 1: Clarify what you want

The first step in selecting the right online institution is defining your educational goals, which involves specifying your study area and considering which specializations align with your interests and career goals. For example, students passionate about data analysis and statistics may enjoy a concentration in Data Science. At the same time, those who want to develop and maintain software applications may opt for Software Engineering.

Next, evaluate your preferred delivery format — whether asynchronous or synchronous classes suit your learning style and schedule. This evaluation may also involve deciding between part-time and full-time enrollment based on work or personal commitments.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

When researching online programs for your educational goals, verify the institution’s accreditation to ensure program quality and eligibility for federal funding. To narrow down your options further, ask questions like:

  • Is the program offered entirely online, or is there an in-person component?
  • What is the curriculum’s structure, and does it align with my specialization of interest?
  • What are the faculty’s qualifications and experience in the field?
  • Are there opportunities for virtual collaboration, networking, and hands-on experience?
  • What financial aid and scholarships are available specifically for online students?

You can access this information by visiting university websites, contacting admissions or academic advisors, and reading student reviews or forums for insights into program quality and student experiences.

Step 3: Prepare for applications and tests

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s essential to prepare for applications and tests. The application process is typically straightforward and involves:

  1. Reviewing each school’s specific requirements and deadlines.
  2. Gathering transcripts and letters of recommendation and writing a well-articulated personal statement.
  3. Completing online applications, paying fees, and submitting required documents.

While some schools have adopted test-optional policies, others still require standardized test scores. To maximize your chances, consider test prep programs for the SAT and ACT, as they can help improve scores and lend a competitive edge.

Step 4: Select your program

If you submit multiple applications, you may receive numerous acceptance letters. In this situation, you’ll have a big decision to make.

Start by considering factors like the availability of your intended specialty, the faculty on staff, and available resources for online students. Pay attention to the program’s flexibility, curriculum, and financial aid offers. Ultimately, choose the program that aligns best with your career goals, personal preferences, and long-term aspirations.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Paying for your degree can feel intimidating, but it’s important to remember that there are many financial aid resources available to help fund your education. For example, scholarships and grants should be prioritized, as they don’t require repayment and can significantly offset tuition costs. Federal loans can supplement funding but should be used sparingly to minimize debt.

If you’re seeking part-time employment, consider exploring work-study programs, as these opportunities can provide financial support during school. Alternatively, if you’re currently employed, see if your employer offers a tuition reimbursement program — where they will cover a portion of your tuition, usually in exchange for working at the company for a certain period.

To learn more about the funding opportunities available, don’t hesitate to contact a financial aid counselor at your school.

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