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Educators with a passion for leadership and a desire to advance their careers are often drawn to affordable, flexible online graduate programs in educational leadership. With the median salary for school principals at $101,320 as of May 2022 and expected steady demand over the next decade, these degrees present an opportunity to propel students to the next level in their careers. Choosing the right program is pivotal, but how can you be sure it’s budget-friendly and offers a top-quality education?Fortunately, has researched and compiled this list of the most affordable online master’s in educational leadership programs to help you navigate the world of cost-effective online education. Here, we’ve identified the programs that offer the lowest cost per credit, with the average price at $300 to $500 per credit.

In addition, we’ll provide essential financial aid guidance and tips for selecting the perfect online master’s program as an educational leader while delving into the cost breakdown for these degrees, factors that can influence the overall expense of higher education, and the many forms of financial aid that can be used to finance your degree.

Cost Breakdown for an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Program

Earning your master’s in educational leadership online is an excellent way to pursue higher education while balancing other responsibilities — like a full-time job or raising a family — but it comes with associated costs. Here’s a breakdown of these expenses to help you set your expectations.

  • Tuition: Typically assessed per credit or term, online programs usually cost the same as their on-campus counterparts. Tuition rates will vary depending on the institution and program you attend.
  • Fees: Additional fees cover tech support, academic resources, library access, and other services. These fees can add up over time and impact the total cost of earning your degree.
  • Personal Technology: Online learners must invest in their own technology, including a computer, hardware upgrades, and a reliable Wi-Fi connection. These are essential for accessing course materials and participating in virtual classes.
  • Books and Learning Materials: While e-books and online resources may be available, some courses may require physical textbooks or supplementary materials, incurring extra expenses.

Despite these additional expenses, many online students enjoy cost-saving advantages compared to traditional on-campus learners. For example, learners can save money on transportation, as they don’t need to commute to campus. Similarly, they bypass on-campus housing costs since they can study from home.

It’s essential to consider these costs when budgeting for your online degree. Remember that financial aid, scholarships, and grants can help offset some of these expenses, making your pursuit of higher education more accessible.

Factors Influencing the Cost of an Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Program

While it’s always possible to find an online Master’s in Educational Leadership program that’s affordable, it’s just as likely to stumble upon an expensive option. So, what causes these cost fluctuations? Generally, it comes down to the following factors:

  • Public vs. Private Institutions: Private universities often charge higher tuition rates than public ones. Private institutions rely more on tuition revenue and endowments, whereas public schools may receive government subsidies, making them more affordable.
  • Nonprofit vs. For-Profit: Nonprofit institutions are generally more cost-effective than their for-profit counterparts, as their primary focus is on education rather than generating profit.
  • Student Residency Status: Tuition rates can differ based on whether students are in-state or out-of-state. In-state residents often benefit from reduced tuition rates at public institutions due to taxpayer subsidies.
  • Student Military Status: Active-duty military personnel and veterans may receive tuition discounts or access to special programs to make education more affordable. These benefits can significantly reduce the cost of education.

These factors play a crucial role in determining the overall cost of your education, so it’s essential to carefully review each of these elements before deciding on schools you’d like to apply to.

Most Affordable 50 Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Programs

Most Affordable Online Master's in Educational Leadership Program Badge

UF College of Education

Indiana University Bloomington

FSU College of Education

University of Central Florida

University of Wisconsin at La Crosse

University of Wyoming

Southern Wesleyan University

SDSU Global Campus

Florida Atlantic University

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Education

Saint Leo University

University of Iowa College of Education

California State University at Sacramento

Western New Mexico University

University of Louisiana Monroe

Oakland University

Wilkes University

Louisiana State University

Concordia University Ann Arbor

George Mason University

Towson University

Western Governors University

Kennesaw State University

University of Missouri

Oklahoma State University

Arkansas State University

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Lehigh University College of Education

California State University at East Bay

Fort Hays State University

Arizona State University

Texas A&M University at Commerce

Evangel University

The University of Texas Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Indiana State University

Northwest Missouri State University

LSU Shreveport

Emporia State University

The University of Texas at Arlington

Fitchburg State University

Delta State University

Columbia International University

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Liberty University

Ramapo College of New Jersey

Augusta University

Dordt University

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the most affordable online master’s in educational leadership 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 Master’s in Educational Leadership Degree


For some students, paying for their degree out-of-pocket may be possible with careful budgeting, saving, and setting aside funds for tuition and related expenses. Some universities offer payment plans that break down tuition into manageable installments, making it more financially feasible and reducing the need for loans.

Federal student loans

Federal loans typically offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms than private loans, making them more preferable. However, exploring other forms of financial aid, such as grants or scholarships, is essential to reduce your debt burden later on. Consider federal loans as a bridge to cover any remaining funding gaps. While they can certainly be helpful, you’ll want other forms of support to make the eventual repayment less taxing.

Private education loans

Private education loans often come with high-interest rates and less flexible repayment terms than federal loans, making them a less desirable choice than other financial aid options. Prioritizing scholarships, grants, or federal loans is typically a wiser approach to managing your education costs. Private loans should be considered online after exploring all other options, as their repayment can be more financially challenging in the future.


Scholarships, along with grants, do not require repayment — making them one of the preferable forms of financial aid. Even better, scholarships are awarded for meeting various requirements, including academic achievement, field of study, and personal circumstances. You can likely find scholarships at your university or from private foundations, community organizations, and corporate sponsorships.


Grants are another form of financial aid that requires no repayment, making them equally preferable to scholarships to fund your education. They are typically need-based and are often awarded to students with demonstrated financial need. You should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to find grants, as it’s the gateway to various federal and state grants. Additionally, many public and private universities offer their own institutional grants, which you can find through your school’s financial aid office.


Work-study programs can be an excellent way to fund your education, as they allow students to work part-time jobs on or off campus, gaining valuable experience while earning money to cover educational expenses. To apply, simply indicate your interest in work-study on the FAFSA. Eligibility depends on financial need, and the school’s financial aid office can help determine if you qualify. Many institutions offer multiple positions, making it easier for students to find roles that align with their career goals and financial needs.

Employer tuition assistance

Many employers offer tuition assistance benefits, covering part or all of an employee’s education costs, as it’s a win-win: employees can learn new skills, and companies benefit from a more educated workforce. This assistance can significantly reduce the financial burden on students, making higher education more accessible. Check with your employer’s HR department or benefits office to discover available programs and criteria.

Applying for Financial Aid

For many students and their families, applying for financial aid begins with submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA determines eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. Students must provide information about their family’s income, assets, and demographics to apply. The application is available online and must be completed annually to access financial assistance.

Learn more about the FAFSA

For those eager to learn more about the FAFSA, visit our Ultimate FAFSA Guide. This comprehensive resource breaks down the complexities of the FAFSA, offering insights into the loans and grants available. With step-by-step instructions, it simplifies the application process, ensuring you don’t miss crucial financial aid opportunities.

Student loan forgiveness and repayment

With the status of student loan forgiveness in the United States remaining uncertain, it’s more crucial than ever to borrow only what you need. College counselor Dana Marvin encourages students to “…take out what you need and nothing more. For example, if you’re eligible to take out a loan for $12,500 per year but only need $8,000, there’s no need to take out a loan for that extra funds.” While it may seem like a good idea at the time, it’s important to remember that “every dollar you take out in a loan will not only be paid back but with interest.”

For graduates with a Master’s in Educational Leadership, programs like Teacher Loan Forgiveness and Public Service Loan Forgiveness can offer potential relief. Teacher Loan Forgiveness may provide up to $17,500 in forgiveness for educators serving low-income schools. Public Service Loan Forgiveness can benefit public service workers, including educators, after making 120 qualifying monthly payments.

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

Step 1: Clarify what you want

Gaining clarity on your academic path is an essential first step toward boosting your confidence in the online program that’s right for you. Identifying your desired specialty, preferred program type, delivery format, and scheduling expectations can help narrow your scope to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

By honing in on these specifics, you can feel positive that you’re making a well-informed decision, increasing your chances of a successful and satisfying educational journey that suits your unique needs and career goals.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

Start by checking for institutional and programmatic accreditation, as it ensures eligibility for federal funding and signifies a commitment to quality education. Then, consider the following questions to guide your research:

  • Is the online platform user-friendly and accessible?
  • What is the student-to-faculty ratio for online classes?
  • Are there support services for online students, like academic advising and tech assistance?
  • What is the faculty’s experience in online teaching?
  • Are there opportunities for networking or collaboration with peers?

You should be able to find most of this information on school websites. Still, it can also be beneficial to connect with current students and alums through social media platforms like LinkedIn and Reddit, as they can lend first-hand perspective to your research. Seeking advice from admissions counselors and attending virtual information sessions is also an excellent way to gain insight.

Step 3: Prepare for applications and tests

Now that you have a shortlist of preferred schools for your online Master’s in Educational Leadership, you can begin preparing for the application process by researching and understanding each institution’s admission requirements.

Online programs often require the submission of academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and, in some cases, GRE scores. Enrolling in a test prep program can be immensely beneficial for schools that mandate GRE scores. These programs provide focused preparation, enhancing performance and boosting your chances of securing a seat in your top programs.

Step 4: Select your program

If you apply to several programs, it’s possible to gain acceptance to multiple schools. In these instances, revisit each program’s curriculum. Ensure that your desired specialty aligns with available coursework and that it supports your educational and professional interests.

It’s also important to consider program costs with your budget. If one program is significantly more expensive than another, you might think about how well each one supports its online students with resources, technology, and student services. Choosing an affordable program can financially benefit you for years to come. Still, ensuring that it provides the same high-quality education and support as the more expensive option is essential.

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

Once you’ve selected your program, it’s time to turn your attention to financing your degree. Although these options often require research, you should prioritize scholarships and grants, as they don’t require repayment. If needed, federal loans can be helpful to bridge financial gaps. Just remember that loans will have to be eventually repaid with interest.

When in doubt, speak with a financial aid counselor at your school. They can provide tailored advice, help you navigate available aid, and ensure you make the most informed and cost-effective choices for your educational journey.

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