Cheap online colleges – which affordable online schools are really worth it?

    Jeremy Coppock
    Jeremy Coppock

    Jeremy is an education researcher, journalist, and editor for Degreechoices. He majored in Slavic languages and has a master’s degree in Eastern European studies.

    He has previous experience as a fraud analyst, in-house translator, teacher, and truck driver.

    Cheap online colleges – which affordable online schools are really worth it?

      Online college is 13.6% cheaper on average than on-campus learning.

      The cheapest online college, by out-of-state tuition, is the University of Arkansas System eVersity, which charges just $4,200 a year.

      By average net cost, which includes all fees, the most affordable online college is University of Florida-Online.

      Online colleges are increasingly respected on the job market, and most accept FAFSA – meaning you’ll still be eligible for financial aid.

      We reveal the affordable accredited online colleges that provide the best value for money. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

      Take the first step to achieving your goals today!

      Browse hundreds of affordable online degrees and find the best fit for you.

      Were you considering studying online as a cheaper alternative to a traditional college – only to be shocked by the price tag of online schools? You’re not alone.

      While online college is generally cheaper, many online degrees now have similar tuition prices to brick-and-mortar institutions.

      To clear the fog and help you save money, we list the most affordable online colleges – by in-state tuition, out-of-state tuition, and average net price (the total cost of college per year after financial aid).

      Then, we’ll go a step further and show you what online colleges are the best value, offering the optimal combination of affordability and high earnings after graduation.

      These cheap accredited online colleges are more than just affordable – they provide a strong return on your educational investment.

      Is online college cheaper?

      Online colleges tend to be more affordable: on average, they are 13.6% cheaper than traditional brick-and-mortar colleges by net price (more on that metric later). This is less of a difference than you might expect.

      How do we know?

      To get price data on online colleges and compare it to traditional degrees, we consulted College Scorecard and IPEDS, which are official government sources of education statistics. Note that not all colleges disclose data to the government.

      Some colleges registered as on-campus institutions offer many online programs, while some “online colleges” also offer traditional in-person classes.

      Thus, not all of the colleges listed are 100% online institutions.

      How much does an online degree cost?

      The average cost of online college is $17,013 per year, by net price.

      Net price refers to the average total cost of attending college for one year, after factoring in financial aid and cost factors like textbooks, fees, etc.

      Net price is not the same as tuition!

      The average tuition of online schools is $11,657 per year for in-state students, or $12,415 for out-of-state students.

      » Read more: What is the true cost of college?

      About our data

      Government data on net price captures all in-state students who receive at least $1 in federal financial aid (over 80% of all students).

      Note that more government data is available on tuition rates than on average net cost. Some online colleges that are more expensive tuition-wise do not disclose net price data.

      Our data only includes accredited bachelor’s-dominant institutions. We excluded special focus institutions like health-science schools.

      The cheapest online colleges in America

      In the tables below, we reveal the cheapest online colleges in America according to 3 metrics: in-state tuition, out-of-state tuition, and net cost.

      • For out-of-state students, the cheapest tuition is at the University of Arkansas System eVersity ; tuition is just $4,200 – no matter what state you’re from.
      • In terms of in-state tuition, the cheapest online college in the country is the State College of Florida-Manatee-Sarasota, which charges just $3,074 per year on average in tuition.
      • Meanwhile, if we look at average net price, the most affordable online college is University of Florida-Online, where in-state students pay an average of $5,577 per year to attend. Because the University of Florida is public, out-of-state students pay considerably more.

      These cheap accredited online colleges will help you achieve your goals without breaking the bank.

      Cheapest online colleges: out-of-state tuition

      These online colleges offer cheap tuition rates to out-of-state students, meaning their low prices are accessible to people throughout the country.

      Online college Yearly out-of-state tuition rate
      University of Arkansas System eVersity $4,200
      Columbia Southern University $5,775
      City Vision University $6,000
      Manna University $6,200
      Southeastern Baptist College $6,275
      Warner Pacific University Professional and Graduate Studies $6,310
      Huntington University of Health Sciences $6,610
      Western Governors University $6,670
      University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Flex $6,750
      Amridge University $6,950
      South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary $7,140
      American Public University System $7,360
      Colorado State University-Global Campus $8,400
      Beulah Heights University $8,492
      Virginia University of Lynchburg $8,600
      Holy Apostles College and Seminary $8,720
      University of Management and Technology $9,450
      Trine University-Regional/Non-Traditional Campuses $9,576
      Franklin University $9,577

      Source: IPEDS

      Cheapest online colleges: in-state tuition

      The online colleges below charge the cheapest in-state tuition for bachelor’s students. Note that because many of these institutions are public, they have different tuition rates for out-of-state students.

      Online college State Yearly in-state tuition rate
      State College of Florida-Manatee-Sarasota Florida $3,074
      University of Florida-Online Florida $3,876
      University of Arkansas System eVersity Arkansas $4,200
      Columbia Southern University Alabama $5,775
      City Vision University Missouri $6,000
      Manna University North Carolina $6,200
      Southeastern Baptist College Mississippi $6,275
      Warner Pacific University Professional and Graduate Studies Oregon $6,310 
      Huntington University of Health Sciences Tennessee $6,610
      Western Governors University Utah $6,670
      University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Flex Wisconsin $6,750
      Amridge University Alabama $6,950
      South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary Florida $7,140
      American Public University System West Virginia $7,360
      University of Maryland Global Campus Maryland $7,560
      SUNY Empire State College New York $7,630
      University of Maine at Machias Maine $8,252
      Colorado State University-Global Campus Colorado $8,400
      Charter Oak State College Connecticut $8,553

      Source: IPEDS

      Most affordable online colleges: average net cost

      The online colleges shown below are the most affordable in the country by average net cost – which is how much the average in-state bachelor’s student pays to attend college in 1 year, after financial aid.

      Online college Average yearly net cost
      University of Florida-Online $5,577
      Southeastern Baptist College $5,753
      Franklin University $7,201
      University of Maine at Machias $7,396
      Peirce College $8,382
      Grantham University $9,245
      Western Governors University $9,969
      Beulah Heights University $10,235
      American Public University System $10,563
      Hallmark University $10,665
      Manna University $10,711
      Columbia Southern University $11,241
      The Baptist College of Florida $11,764
      Charter Oak State College $11,872
      SUNY Empire State College $11,995
      State College of Florida-Manatee-Sarasota $12,888
      Arizona State University Digital Immersion $13,107
      American InterContinental University $13,339
      Granite State College $13,725
      Bryant & Stratton College-Online $13,746

      Source: IPEDS

      The best affordable online colleges – by value for money

      Let’s face it – cheaper isn’t always better. Not all cheap online colleges provide good value.

      Think of a college education as an investment: ideally, the money you invest should result in higher earnings and a more economically rewarding career after graduation.

      To determine which affordable online colleges offer the best value, we have ranked them by ROI value, which shows which degrees offer the optimal combination of affordable tuition and high earnings, 10 years after enrolling.

      These are the best cheap online colleges because they’re the best investment you can make in your future, even with limited funds.

      Read more about our ranking methodology.

      1. University of Florida-Online

      The University of Florida, or UF, is a large public university headquartered in Gainesville. Through UF Online, it offers a large number of fully online 4-year programs that confer the same degree that traditional UF students get.

      Thanks to its highly affordable tuition, financial aid options, and rigorous academic standards, UF provides the highest-value online degree in the country.

      Students have access to student and career support services that set them up for success after graduation.

      UF offers a considerable degree of flexibility. You can take anywhere from 3 to 18 credits in a semester to complete your studies at your own pace. What’s more, most UF Online courses are asynchronous: you can watch lectures and complete assignments on your own time.

      2. Colorado State University-Global Campus

      Colorado State University-Global Campus is the online version of Colorado State University, a well-regarded public university. CSU Global is headquartered in Aurora. It offers a range of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. Many CSU global students are working professional adults.

      By value for money, CSU Global is the second-best online university in the country.

      Most courses are 8 weeks long and culminate in a Portfolio Project. While you can take classes at any time of day, you’ll still have weekly deadlines to keep you on track.

      CSU global offers 24/7 academic support, career coaching, and student success counselors, meaning you won’t feel alone even if you’re studying from home.

      3. Columbia Southern University

      Columbia Southern University is a private, for-profit university based in Alabama. Its programs are 100% online, and it offers 98 degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level. Thanks to its thoughtfully developed online curriculum, its students pay nothing for textbooks.

      The college allows you to transfer previously earned college credits and apply for federal financial aid, as well as military and veteran benefits.

      Programs include the B.S. in Occupational Safety and Health, the B.S. in Fire Administration, and the B.S. in Business Administration.

      4. Franklin University

      Franklin University is a private, not-for-profit university based in Ohio. It offers some of the best-value online degrees in the country. While it has a campus in Columbus, as well as multiple “location centers” throughout the Midwest, most of its students take courses online. Like all the colleges on this list, it is fully accredited, meaning your financial aid applies.

      Programs are flexible and designed with busy working adults in mind.

      5. American Public University System’

      Despite the name, American Public University System is a private, for-profit institution. Based in West Virginia, all its classes are offered online.

      Although it operates on a for-profit model, APU’s economic outcomes are highly competitive on the online college market. It has found particular success with veterans: about 56% of its student body has served in the military.

      It operates a Center for Cyber Defense, Center for Space Studies, Center for Teaching & Learning, and innovative IntelHub.

      » Read: 18 Best military-friendly colleges

      6. Charter Oak State College

      Charter Oak State College is a public institution that specializes in adult learning. Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, it offers affordable online degrees for students from Connecticut and nearby states. Most of the student body consists of working adults.

      Charter Oak offers many career-focused degrees and certificates: majors include business administrations, cyber security, nursing, health information management, and many other options.

      Charter Oak is accommodating to community college transfers, and it features a unique Women in Transition program, which helps working single mothers earn a degree.

      It also has a Credit for Prior Learning program that helps you get your degree faster. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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      7. Peirce College

      Peirce College is a private college in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It focuses on adult education, with many distance programs on offer. These include business, healthcare, IT, general studies, and paralegal studies.

      At Peirce, you can take your first class for free and save money on 22 credits. The college also offers a variety of personalized student services that help students succeed: academic advising and counseling, financial aid counseling, a career center, and even a Center for Male Engagement, which helps Black and Brown students access personal coaching.

      8. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide

      Embry-Riddle is a private, non-profit university that focuses on aerospace and aviation. Starting out in 1926 as a school for pilots and aircraft mechanics, it has since expanded into a national university with almost 31,000 students.

      Emry-Riddle Worldwide, its online affiliate, offers degrees in aviation, applied science, business, technology, engineering, security, and space, to name a few.

      With multiple start dates, students learn on their own schedule, and undergraduate and graduate terms are divided into 9-week sessions.

      Embry-Riddle leverages a variety of technological solutions to make online learning more enjoyable. These include Canvas (a cloud-based learning platform), EagleVision (a virtual classroom), eUnion (a virtual community for networking), and Virtual Labs.

      9. Arizona State University Digital Immersion

      Arizona State University’s Digital Immersion program delivers high-quality ASU degrees in an online format. The public university, now referred to as ASU Online, is based in Phoenix, Arizona.

      It offers the same degrees as Arizona State University (no one has to know you were studying online).

      Prominent ASU faculty build interactive courses that you can navigate asynchronously – meaning you can take them at your own pace. Most courses take 6-7.5 weeks.

      10. Western Governors University

      Western Governors University is a private, non-profit online university based in Utah. Its logo is “A New Kind of U.” It features a competency-based learning model that focuses on real-world outcomes.

      WGU offers affordable, highly regarded degrees in business, technology, health, and education.

      WGU’s personalized learning model means that students build a degree plan with a special Program Mentor, study on their own schedule, set their learning pace, and schedule an assessment themselves.

      Learning takes place whenever and wherever is convenient for the student.

      There is an Online Access Scholarship for underserved communities.

      11. Capella University

      Capella University is a private, for-profit online university based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Most of its programs are online.

      Capella prioritizes flexibility, with several study options depending on your preferences. You can choose the FlexPath mode, which allows you to set your own deadlines and work at your own pace, or the GuidedPath mode, which has more structured timelines.

      Popular programs include the RN-to-BSN nursing bridge program, the bachelor’s in IT, and the bachelor’s in social work.

      Around 70% of students are studying part time.

      12. University of Maryland Global Campus

      The University of Maryland Global Campus is the online-learning version of the University of Maryland, which is the largest higher education institution in the state. It caters especially to working professionals and non-traditional students, with education centers in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. metro areas. Online students are from across the world.

      Students can choose between online and hybrid courses, with online courses offered asynchronously – meaning you don’t have to log in at a specific time.

      Popular programs include teaching, business administration, cybersecurity technology, and strategic communications.

      13. National University

      National University is a private, not-for-profit institution based in San Diego, California. It is one of the largest nonprofit universities in the country.

      There are over 190 programs available. These are offered online and on campus throughout California. Its online classes feature both asynchronous learning and real-time virtual classrooms.

      Founded by veterans, NU serves students across the world. Education plans feature adaptive instruction, holistic student support, and competency-based credentialing.

      Scholarships are available for students in need.

      14. Warner Pacific University Professional and Graduate Studies

      Warner Pacific University is a private, not-for-profit institution based in Oregon. A Christian college, WPU is affiliated with the Church of God. It is an officially designated Hispanic-serving institution.

      Its “professional and graduate studies” program caters especially to adult learners, offering hybrid, online, and weekend courses, as well as accelerated options. The program’s multiple start dates and small cohort-based Learning Communities make this a convenient option for people who want to study in an online, Christian-friendly environment.

      It is one of the best cheap online Christian colleges in the country.

      15. SUNY Empire State College

      SUNY Empire State College, usually referred to as SUNY Empire, is a public university in Saratoga Springs, New York. It offers online degrees worldwide through its Center for Distance Learning.

      SUNY Empire is a pioneer in developing online education for adults, regardless of age and location.

      It offers over 120 online programs, many of which can be customized to fit your unique goals. To save you time and money, SUNY Empire will give you credit for experience outside the traditional classroom.

      16. University of Advancing Technology

      University of Advancing Technology (UAT) is a private, for-profit university based in Arizona. It focuses on technological applications in the workplace. Classes are available both online and on-campus.

      Students must complete an Innovation Project and an internship, ensuring they have real-world experience at graduation. Online students use the SyncFlex learning model, an asynchronous, flexible approach.

      You can get an online degree in business & innovation, cyber security, digital arts, game studies, software engineering, and more.

      17. Florida Institute of Technology-Online

      Florida Institute of Technology, or FIT, is a private research university that focuses on STEM subjects, although it offers liberal arts and business degrees as well. FIT is particularly known for its engineering programs.

      FIT’s online learning platform offers associate, bachelor’s and master’s programs in 8-week terms through the Virtual Education Center.

      Online students can major in accounting, finance, aviation management, business, IT, healthcare management, psychology, cybersecurity, supply chain management, and more.

      18. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Flex

      University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is a large public research university. It is the second-biggest institution of higher learning in the state. It offers online degrees through its “Flex” platform.

      Students enjoy a 100% online career-focused curriculum that can be completed on their own schedule. Start classes in any month and move at your own pace.

      Even better, people can apply relevant prior experience to credits, saving time and money. This affordable university offers programs in diagnostic imaging, business administration, nursing, and more.

      19. Hallmark University

      Hallmark University is a private university in San Antonio, Texas. It offers online, evening, and day courses in nursing, aeronautics, cybersecurity, and business.

      Hallmark emphasizes the accelerated nature of its coursework, meaning you can save money and get your degree in nearly half the time of a normal university.

      Many different scholarships are available to students in need.

      20. University of Northwestern Ohio

      The University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) is a private university. While it primarily offers on-campus degrees, many programs are offered 100% online as well.

      Bachelor’s degrees offered online include accounting, agribusiness management, business administration, forensic accounting, marketing, motorsports marketing, and more.

      Is online college worth it?

      Yes, online college can be worth it, as long as you choose a degree that offers good value for money.

      Check out our full list of the best online colleges – by value for money – to ensure the degree you’re considering won’t be a rip off.

      Online degrees are increasingly respected on the job market – and many prestigious universities are offering fully online programs. Gone are the days when an online degree was considered second-rate.

      People also ask

      Do online colleges accept FAFSA?

      All accredited universities accept FAFSA, meaning you can get financial aid to attend.

      However, not all online colleges are accredited. If you’re considering studying online, ensure the college has received full accreditation.

      All colleges featured on the Degreechoices website are accredited.

      How do online college classes work?

      Online college coursework is generally offered synchronously or asynchronously.

      With asynchronous, or “self-paced” learning, you can go at your own speed: you can listen to pre-recorded lectures when it’s convenient for you. Some curriculums may even offer flexibility in the order you can progress through a course.

      Meanwhile, with synchronous learning, you’ll need to log in to live broadcasts of lectures or participate in Zoom discussions in real time.

      While asynchronous learning provides more flexibility and convenience, synchronous learning mimics the traditional college experience more closely.

      Final thoughts: what are some cheap alternatives to online college?

      If you’re looking for a cheap degree, online colleges aren’t your only option. Consider the following opportunities too:

      • Community college – Community colleges are often cheaper than studying online, and many have an open admissions policy (meaning everyone gets in). An associate degree can lead to a high-earning career, especially if you’re technically minded or interested in an allied health profession. You can also use a community college degree to transfer to a 4-year university, saving a lot of cash along the way.
      • Online classes from your state university – Check out the online course offerings from your local state university. It may offer certificate programs that open doors to lucrative, niche careers. Some jobs require specific licensure, certification, or certificates that your state’s public university system can help you attain. Remember that public universities are often a better “deal” economically than private colleges.
      • Trade school – There are many great jobs in the trade professions, and trade school tends to be more affordable than college. Check out our list of the best electrician schools or the best welder programs in the country as a start! We’ve also compiled a list of 58 trade school statistics we’re sure will surprise you.
      • A normal 4-year university – We get it, these aren’t as convenient as studying online, but if saving money is your primary consideration, know that getting a bachelor’s degree the traditional way may pay off in the long run. Check out our list of the best universities in the country – by value for money – to make a financially prudent choice about your education.

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