12 Best Affordable Online Colleges in the United States [2024 Guide]

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With rising costs, students are finding alternative ways to get quality education. This is especially true for out-of-state students as the additional travel costs, accommodation, and miscellaneous fees can get pretty expensive. If you’re looking for a good education on a budget, you’ll find 12 reputable yet affordable online colleges in this article.

Top Online Affordable Colleges for Quality Education

Fort Hays State University Virtual College, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Oregon State University Ecampus are affordable online colleges that offer high-quality programs at reasonable tuition rates. These factors make them attractive options for students seeking financial support while pursuing their academic goals. 

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Are you looking for a combination of affordable tuition, financial support opportunities, and reputable accreditation? These institutions provide a pathway to a valuable education without the burden of excessive student debt.

SchoolNotable Online Programs OfferedMinimum In-State Tuition FeeMinimum Out-of-State Tuition Fee
Fort Hays State University Virtual CollegeBusiness Education, Communication Studies, Health Studies$7,853$15,641
University of North Carolina at PembrokeAccounting, Public Administration, American-Indian Studies$3,495$7,495
Oregon State University EcampusAgricultural Sciences, Kinesiology, Sustainability$13,494$35,664
Florida International UniversityWomen’s and Gender Studies, Global Sustainable Tourism, Religious Studies$6,565$18,963
Georgia Southern UniversityHuman Development and Family Science, Latin American Studies, Nursing$6,485$17,539
Sam Houston State UniversityHomeland Security Studies, Band Studies, Sustainable Agriculture$8,960$18,752
Northwestern State UniversitySports Administration, Child and Family Studies, Nursing Practice$19,46048,672
Lamar UniversityHealth Sciences, University Studies, Hospitality Leadership$8,690$18,482
Georgia College and State UniversitySpecial Education, Music Therapy, Athletic Training$8,974$28,154
American Public University SystemEsports, Cybercrime, Retail Management$6,840$8,128
University of North FloridaHealthcare Management, Business Analytics, ASL/English$6,389$20,793
Western Illinois UniversityAnthropology, Geographic Information Science, Applied Statistics$14,406$20,750

ValueColleges.com 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.

1. Fort Hays State University Virtual College

Fort Hays State University Virtual College

With in-state tuition costs of only $186 per credit hour for undergraduate programs, Fort Hays State University Virtual College tops the list as one of the most affordable online colleges. The virtual college provides comprehensive distance learning support, including virtual classrooms, online tutoring, and dedicated academic advisors to help students succeed in their virtual classes.

2. University of North Carolina at Pembroke

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke offers affordable yet high-quality online programs with an in-state tuition rate of around $175 per credit hour. One of the most affordable online colleges, you’ll get access to virtual class sessions, online resources, and dedicated student support services to prepare you for job hunting after graduation.

We connected with Jerome L. Rekart, Ph.D., who has over 15 years of experience in educational research, and University of North Carolina at Pembroke is his top choice:

“For me the University of North Carolina at Pembroke is the stand out school from this list. The fact that you would be within the University of North Carolina system, which is well funded and run, would be a major plus relative to many of the other institutions which are largely “stand alone.””

3. Oregon State University Ecampus

Oregon State University Ecampus

Oregon State University Ecampus offers bachelor’s degrees starting at just $191 per credit, making it an affordable choice for prospective online students. Even an out-of-state resident can thrive in the robust virtual learning environment with the help of live-streamed classes, online discussion forums, and 24/7 technical support.

4. Florida International University

Florida International University

With tuition rates as low as $211 per credit hour, Florida International University’s online degrees are accessible and affordable. The university’s virtual classroom platform, combined with online tutoring and academic advising services, guides students to a holistic, quality distance learning experience.

5. Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University

At only $199 per credit hour, and with many programs to benefit military veterans, Georgia Southern University is a reliable institution for online bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Even for programs like engineering and health sciences, students benefit from interactive virtual classes, online tutoring centers, and dedicated support staff.

6. Sam Houston State University

Sam Houston State University

With a virtual shelf full of accolades, Sam Houston State University has a strong reputation as one of the top affordable online colleges. SHSU in Texas gives students a wide variety of programs, including nursing and business administration, with tuition costs starting at a base of $204 per credit hour.

7. Northwestern State University

Northwestern State University

Out-of-state residents pay no extra cost for online classes, and at only $206 per credit hour for bachelor degrees, Northwestern State University in Louisiana is another affordable online college. Students have access to personalized schedules, virtual online courses, and technical support services tailored for distance learners.

8. Lamar University

Lamar University

Lamar University’s LU Online is designed as an alternative degree path for working adults and includes the Center for Military Services, helping military veterans further their education.  At only $208 per credit for bachelor’s degrees, you can choose from various specializations, including entrepreneurship, criminal justice, and computer game development.

9. Georgia College and State University

Georgia College and State University

Georgia College and State University have built their online education into a reputable, distinguished system that is still extremely affordable, starting at only $232 per credit. It’s one of the most affordable online colleges to provide interactive virtual classrooms, online tutoring services, and personalized support from faculty and advisors.

10. American Public University System

American Public University System

The only for-profit institution on the list – the American Public University System – now offers more degrees for distance learning students. UNF’s award-winning programs include traditional and accelerated-term formats, with programs combining live seminars, discussion forums, and online courses.

11. University of North Florida

University of North Florida

The University of North Florida is among the best affordable online colleges providing rare degrees, including a Master of Education in Special Education: Autism Track and a Master of Science in American Sign Language. Even out-of-state residents get access to counseling, library resources, writing centers, and academic tutoring.

12. Western Illinois University

Western Illinois University

For students wanting to pursue a non-traditional education pathway, Western Illinois University makes college education accessible to distance learners. As one of the top affordable online colleges, you can study programs like computer science or human services through live-streamed classes, online discussion boards, and comprehensive support services.

Can I Trust Affordable Online Colleges?

While you can trust affordable online colleges, there are certain things you must consider. These include the type of student services offered, the student-to-faculty ratio, and the level of accreditation. 

Woman resting her chin on her palm while a laptop is on her table

Getting a degree from a prestigious university is not cheap. However, it’s important to remember that affordable online colleges can offer you the same quality education as an expensive school – without breaking the bank. Researching online colleges on the basis of cost could be one way to find an affordable and quality education.

The best way to find out if you can trust an affordable online college degree is to check its accreditation. This means you should check whether they are recognized by a national or regional agency that evaluates and approves schools for their educational programs.

Why Should I Get a Degree From An Affordable Online College?

Cost savings, program versatility, and top-tier education benefits are a few reasons why you should consider enrolling in an online university instead of taking traditional, on-campus classes. 

In fall 2021, the country saw a 21% year-over-year decline in undergraduate students enrolling in college. This trend has been driven by the rise in popularity of low-tuition colleges online and the convenience and flexibility offered by these institutions.

Save on Costs

You don’t have to pay much money to get a good online education. Plenty of affordable online universities offer high-quality programs and degrees at a low cost. Online programs are generally lower in cost, especially online programs from a state university.

Receive Quality Education

The cheapest online university does not necessarily mean that it is a low-quality institution with an inferior degree. Additionally, an affordable online program can still provide the same level of student support services for undergraduate students.

Choose From a Variety of Accredited Programs

Accredited and affordable online colleges are held to the same standards as traditional schools by accrediting commissions. The quality of online learning is determined by the level of instruction, faculty credentials, and the institution’s accreditation. 

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Is it Cheaper to Study at Online Colleges?

Online degree programs are a great option for those who want to save money and gain access to higher education. A cheap degree program helps college students get their bachelor’s degree without building up too much student debt.

Prospective students are increasingly turning to online degree programs because they offer a cheaper alternative than attending traditional universities. The average cost of tuition is $23,000 per year at a public university while the average cost of tuition at an online university is just $6,000 per year for undergraduate degrees. 

Costs go up even more for master’s and doctoral degrees, which makes affordable online schools a great alternative for those wishing to continue their educational endeavors beyond a bachelor’s degree. The flexibility to take classes from anywhere in the world at their own pace is also making these online colleges more popular among students.

Affordable online colleges also allow students to save money on books and supplies by using textbooks and other online resources, which can be accessed for free or a small fee.

Can I Get Financial Aid for Cheap Online Programs?

Yes, you can still seek financial support for cheap online programs. However, the criteria for eligibility can vary depending on the type of school you choose to attend. Financial aid is also often available for textbooks and other education-related expenses.

  • For example, if you enroll in a public college or university, you will be eligible for federal financial aid programs and most likely state-sponsored assistance as well. 
  • If you enroll in a private institution, then they may offer loans and grants as well as federal assistance (though this varies by school).
  • Many undergraduate students will look for scholarships and grants at online colleges. Those do not need to be paid back, and student support services at many affordable online colleges will work to make sure their college students get the financial assistance they need.

What Kinds of Affordable Online Degrees Are There?

The best inexpensive online colleges offer a wide range of degrees and programs that cater to every student’s needs. This means you can get your degree in any time frame and at any pace from affordable online colleges or universities, making them a lot more wallet-friendly and convenient than traditional schools.

  • Many affordable, accredited online schools offer distance learners everything from certificate programs and associate degree programs (also offered by community colleges) to master’s programs and doctoral degrees. 
  • Undergraduate students can get cheap online college degrees and associate degrees for much less than the cost per credit of on-campus students. 
  • Online doctoral degree programs and other professional programs allow working professionals to earn their credentials more conveniently than in-person programs.

Affordable online colleges provide flexibility and accessibility for students who want to pursue a degree from wherever they want. An online school offers incredible full online programs for distance learners, including undergraduate and graduate students. Anyone can pursue cheap online degrees today without the inconveniences that come with traditional, on-campus degrees.

Woman talking with her hands as she conducts a meeting via zoom on her laptop

Related Questions

What is the Easiest Online College to Attend? 

Fort Hays State University Virtual College is widely regarded as one of the easiest and most accessible online programs. It offers a flexible and user-friendly virtual learning environment for students, including technical support for virtual classes.

Is it Cheaper to Do an Online University Course? 

Yes, online colleges and universities typically have lower tuition costs compared to traditional on-campus courses. This makes them a more affordable option, especially for out-of-state students who would otherwise have to pay higher fees.

What is the Cheapest College Degree?

While costs vary depending on the program and institution, associate’s degrees from community colleges or other cheap online colleges often represent the most affordable path to obtaining a college degree. It may also depend on the course requirements since some programs may require you to spend money on training, internships, and laboratory equipment.

Are There Cheap Online Colleges in the United States That Offer Free Laptops or iPads for Online Students?

Many of the top cheap online colleges in the United States now offer free laptops or iPads. Take advantage of this opportunity to enhance your learning experience and stay connected wherever you go.


Exploring different affordable online colleges can open up opportunities for students seeking a quality education without the burden of excessive financial strain. By taking advantage of these cost-effective options, you can pursue your academic aspirations and acquire valuable knowledge and skills for building a flourishing career.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

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ValueColleges.com 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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