Why This Matters


    Across public and private universities, the average cost of a bachelor’s degree was $106,372, based on 2016-17 tuition rates. This figure includes tuition, fees, and room and board.


    The total figure tops $1.5 trillion, with some 44 million Americans paying back loans borrowed for undergraduate or graduate degrees.


    Over one third of occupations in the U.S. require at least some postsecondary education as of 2016, and that number is expected to keep growing through 2024.

Our Research

We reviewed over 250 institutions to determine which schools were the most affordable based on the cost-per-credit tuition rates. Tuition rates vary based on degree level, and not all schools offer all types of degrees. Our list includes community colleges, which only offer associate degrees, as well as four-year institutions that grant bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees.

All schools on our list have regional accreditation, which assures a high standard of quality.
Programmatic accreditations also exist in many areas and may be required for obtaining professional licenses or certifications post-graduation.

We only evaluated the cost of online programs, although many schools offer on-campus programs as well.

In addition to cost, we evaluated these colleges on the basis of reputation, faculty, flexibility, and course strength. We then calculated the Intelligent Score for each school on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 80+ hours to write this article
  • 251 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 567 education programs we compared

The Top 60 Most Affordable Online Colleges & Universities

Most Affordable Online Colleges
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What You Should Know About This Degree

The cost of tuition is a major consideration when selecting an online college, but it should not be the only factor in your decision. Review the program’s curriculum to ensure it will teach you the skills you need for your intended career path and that it meets the educational requirements for any professional licenses or certifications you may need. Read up on faculty to make sure there are qualified instructors teaching your courses. Find out what support services and networking opportunities there are for online students.

Attending college online can save money because you do not have to pay room, board, or travel expenses. It also allows flexibility so you can keep a full or part-time job, but be aware that you need to prioritize your studies even if you are balancing them with work or other commitments. If you fall behind and have to repeat classes, you can end up spending more money than you intended.

If you are looking at a program offered by a school in another state, confirm that the school is authorized to grant degrees to students living in your home state before enrolling. You also want to make sure that the school is regionally accredited so that if you have to transfer to another institution, your credits are more likely to be accepted.

What’s Next?

When researching the most affordable online colleges, you should ask the following questions:

  • Are there any additional fees? Make sure you understand the full cost of the program before enrolling. The published tuition rate may not include additional fees for technology, support services, or programmatic fees. Talk to a financial aid counselor or a program representative to get a clear picture of what your bill will include.
  • What financial resources are available to online students? There are a number of ways to subsidize your tuition, including scholarships, assistantships, and student loans. Talk to a financial aid rep or admissions counselor to find out what types of aid you are eligible for as an online student.

Researching the application requirements and deadlines for online programs is important as well. Some online programs enroll students throughout the year, while others only enroll new students during specific terms. Knowing deadlines and having application materials ready to send can help your admissions process go smoothly.