Online education isn’t the future of higher education – it’s very much the present of higher education, and shows no signs of slowing, much less of being a passing fad (as many short-sighted educators believed twenty years ago). Online education has major benefits, particularly for working adult students who are returning to school for further credentialing, or to make a career change, but they are hardly the only students taking advantage of the rapidly growing online sector. Many traditional-aged students are choosing the online route too; they grew up on the Internet, after all, and it’s as real a world to them as any. Young people who have been steeped in online gaming, communication, and exploration can adapt to online higher education readily.
But online education can also be a minefield. On one hand, you have unscrupulous, predatory diploma mills that are more than happy to take your money and give you a degree that employers will laugh out of the office; on the other, reputable schools that have jumped on the bandwagon late may offer online programs, but programs that have not proven their value in the real world.
For real value, smaller regional, public universities are often the best place to look. These kinds of institutions have a dedicated mission to make education accessible, and that generally means low tuition. Many have discovered online degree programs are the key to making their degrees accessible, especially those that are located in regions with rural communities or challenges to commuting, working adult students. Online programs solve those problems, and even out to a better return on investment than many more expensive, bigger names.
In other cases, major public research institutions have the resources to create top-tier online programs whole cloth, with world-renowned faculty and all the job-market respectability that their names can muster. And in some cases, elite, highly reputed private universities offer online degree programs at prices that are surprisingly low, and seem like unbelievable bargains considering the source.
Value Colleges is here to help you navigate your way through the confusion of online degree programs to find the route that is right for you. First of all, we consider only regionally-accredited universities and colleges that have an appreciable reputation; secondly, we do our homework on programs, prices, and returns to make sure that every institution featured by Value Colleges meets our criteria; finally, we run the numbers and rank each by its balance of quality, affordability, and outcome to find the very best value.
Our ranking is based on these metrics:
- Cost (Institutions own reported per credit price)
- Reputability (U.S. News & World Report)
- ROI (Payscale’s 2017 ROI data)
With Value Colleges, you can be sure that every school featured in the Top 50 is the best possible choice; read our profiles to find the school that meets your needs.
Oregon State Ecampus
In a region of the country associated with top tech research and business – the Pacific Northwest – Oregon State University stands out. The Value Colleges #1 Best Value Online Bachelor’s Program, OSU is the only public university designated for federal land, sea, space, and sun grants, and one of only a few Pacific Northwest schools at the highest Carnegie Foundation research level. While it has its roots in agriculture and forestry, like all land-grant institutions, OSU has become a leader in STEM research.
Corvallis, OR, home of OSU, has been ranked as one of the best places in the nation to live, as well as one of the best in the Pacific Northwest to start a business, but if the convenience of an online degree outweighs living in a top college town, OSU has you covered. OSU has the most major and minor programs in the state, and two-dozen majors are available fully online, including exceptional degrees in environmental subjects such as sustainability, horticulture, and environmental economics and policy. OSU’s low tuition makes it a natural choice for an online bachelor’s degree.
Cost: $280-$331 per credit (includes fees)
University of Oklahoma - Extended Campus
Oklahoma’s leading research institution, the University of Oklahoma has been the center of learning and intellectual exploration since Oklahoma was actual frontier – pioneers in every sense. OU is still deeply invested in the life of Oklahoma, with many unique degree programs suited to OK’s history, culture, and wide-open plains, from aviation to petroleum and sustainable energy engineering to Native American languages. It’s also one of the state’s most significant sites for health and medical care and education.
As a Great Plains state, Oklahoma also has many rural communities, regions developing from an agriculture and factory economy, and with numerous working adults looking for new opportunities, OU has spent recent years building its online degree offerings to make an education more accessible for these needs. In addition to several aviation-related online degrees, OU Extended Campus offers programs in desired areas like criminal justice and leadership, at one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation. It’s a clear value for your own explorations.
Cost: $331 per credit (includes fees)
Utah State University Online
As a land-grant institution, Utah State University was built on agriculture, tying the newest scientific advancements in the field to actual applied work. USU did not stay there, however – building from the mechanical engineering that goes with the land-grant ethos, Utah State has developed engineering programs in aviation, aerospace, and other subjects that earned it a federal space grant. Further, USU is known for the oldest business school in the western US, as well as programs suited to its setting, such as a unique College of Natural Resources.
It’s a common theme that western and Midwestern states have the greatest need for online education, and therefore the most developed programs, and Utah State is no different. It’s a big state, and everyone can’t have access to the public education they need without the option of an online degree program. USU Online offers online bachelor’s programs in some of its strongest areas, such as Agribusiness, along with numerous associate’s, certificates, and minors. Utah State keeps tuition affordable, making it a small investment with life-long returns.
Cost: $277 per credit (includes fees)
The world’s foremost university specializing in aviation and aerospace research and education, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is an exceptional institution that is redefining online education. Founded as a simple pilot and aviation mechanic school, Embry-Riddle has grown into one of the most important research institutions for aviation, aerospace, engineering, security, and other areas, with deep ties to the aviation industry, the federal government, the military, and international business.
Ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report for its online bachelor’s programs, Embry-Riddle Worldwide has offered technology-assisted distance education since 1971, but really hit its stride with the introduction of the Internet. Besides far-flung outposts all over the world to support military students, Embry-Riddle offers some of the most respected, fully accredited online degree programs in the nation. Not only are there numerous bachelor’s degrees in their signature areas of aviation and engineering, but programs in Homeland Security and various Management fields are available. Students can also choose from several programs combining a bachelor’s and master’s degree in only 5 years. With Embry-Riddle’s spectacular ROI and low tuition, students can trust ERAU’s value.
Cost: $400 per credit (includes fees)
CUNY School of Professional Studies
The City University of New York system is one of the most respected public higher education systems in the nation, on par with the SUNY, University of California, and California State systems. CUNY’s whole existence is rooted in providing top-quality education at prices that ordinary people can afford, from working adults to underprivileged youth. The CUNY School of Professional Studies was founded in 2003 to focus on professional education for working adults, as well as meeting the employee education and training needs of New York’s vast business and government sectors. As such, the SPS’s programs are designed for convenience and practical learning.
Because of its mission, the School of Professional Studies was the first CUNY division to offer fully-online degrees, programs that could combine the known reputability and quality of a CUNY education with the potential offered by online education. CUNY’s online courses are designed to be as immersive and interactive as a real-world classroom environment, ensuring that students get a realistic educational experience. Plus, the savings students get from CUNY’s low tuition means a faster return on your educational investment.
Cost: $275 per credit (includes fees)
Part of the Texas State University system, Lamar University is a dark horse Best Value. Not a household name, Lamar is a mid-sized public research institution that has been gaining in reputation and recognition since being awarded an A for their educational quality by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in 2010 (with only 15 other universities matching their grade). Since that time, Lamar has moved into U.S. News & World Report’s national rankings and is frequently named as one of the best educational bargains in the US.
Lamar University Online has also emerged as a premiere name in online education, as well as a military-friendly institution with the founding of the Center for Military Services. U.S. News & World Report has cited Lamar’s robust slate of online bachelor’s degree programs as among the best, and Lamar offers many options for both accelerated 8-week courses and traditional 15-week courses. Students can choose from degree programs in Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Entrepreneurship, and many more. With one of the lowest tuition rates around, Lamar students can trust their money to be well-spent.
Cost: $248 per credit (includes fees)
North Carolina State University
North Carolina’s major land, sea, and space-grant research institution, North Carolina State University has been a center of agricultural, engineering, and applied science research for the south since its founding. As part of the Research Triangle, a region bounded by NCSU, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University, NC State has been at the forefront of studies in nuclear technology, veterinary science, textiles, and numerous other fields. NCSU’s opportunities and reputation have made it the largest university in North and South Carolina.
As a land-grant institution, NCSU’s explicit mission is to provide the best possible education to the most students in the Carolinas and elsewhere, and online education programs are a significant part of that mission in the 21st century. NCSU Online and Distance Education offers nearly 100 fully online degrees and certificates in areas from business and engineering to teacher licensure and professional certifications. With top-tier faculty and a strongly-designed educational platform, NCSU delivers world-class education at a reasonable cost, making them a constant best value.
Standard Undergraduate Degree Cost: $231 per credit (includes fees)
Engineering Online Cost: $445 (includes fees)
Indiana’s flagship institution, Indiana University Bloomington is known as one of the foremost public research universities in the nation. As a top 75 national university, according to U.S. News & World Report, IU’s profile and reputation has steadily risen as the Bloomington branch has refocused in recent years on professional and research education. IU’s combination of reputation and affordability have landed it on numerous best value rankings, including Kiplinger’s and more.
In keeping with its stated emphasis on preparing Indiana’s leaders and researchers, IU Online has put a tremendous effort into building its online offerings for working professional adults. With more than 100 degree programs, Indiana is one of the leading online educators in the US, their influence and online presence steadily growing. Students can earn a fully online bachelor’s degree in areas from writing to criminal justice, as well as various business degrees. At just over $250 a credit, an online student can’t go wrong with Indiana.
Cost: $265 per credit (includes fees)
University of Georgia
One of the first public universities (alongside the University of North Carolina), the University of Georgia has defined excellence in public higher education for two and a half centuries, setting standards for everything from agriculture to music business (one of its most popular, and competitive, programs, with contribution from the legendary musicians of Athens, GA). UGA is known for business, law, and the arts, but their influence in engineering, biomedical research, and other STEM fields is significant.
UGA’s online degree programs are steadily growing in number and recognition, with several fully-online bachelor degree programs, many certificates, and hundreds of courses. While their offerings are not yet as numerous as comparable universities like Indiana or NCSU, their quality is unquestionable. UGA has consistently been named as one of the most under-appreciated values in the US by Kiplinger’s, with the reputation and resources of a major, global research university, but extremely affordable tuition rates, lower even than many other public institutions.
Cost: $484 per credit (includes fees)
University of Central Florida
America’s first space-age university, the University of Central Florida was founded in 1963 to provide engineering and technical education for Florida’s Space Coast (Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral). As a space-grant institution, UCF has been at the forefront of research and technologies that figure into space travel and exploration, including lasers, digital media, and computing. And UCF’s excellence has drawn students in droves; UCF is now the second-largest student body in the US, all attracted by a perfect combination of quality and value.
Much of UCF’s growth has been due to its embrace of online education – not surprising, for a college built on the most modern technology. Students can choose from dozens of degree programs, with bachelor’s and certificates in areas ranging from the humanities to the applied sciences, nursing and interdisciplinary studies. Many of UCF’s large student body are fully-online students who need never visit campus to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees, all for UCF’s incredibly low tuition. It’s no wonder the University of Central Florida is a solid top 10 best value.
Cost: $212 per credit (includes fees)
West Texas A&M University
West Texas A&M University is an institution on the way up, fueled by rapid growth in the region and one of the most diverse, dynamic student bodies in the nation. Originally founded as a teacher’s college – with no less a luminary than Georgia O’Keefe as the director of the art program – WTAMU today is a significant research institution, the most important in its region, with world-class work in alternative energy, blood-borne pathogens, and other cutting-edge areas. While WTAMU is not an official Hispanic-serving institution, it has a high Hispanic population, as well as a reputation for military-friendliness.
In part, WTAMU’s military-friendly nature is bolstered by its growing field of online degree programs, designed for the kind of convenience and flexibility that makes it popular among active-duty personnel and veterans. West Texas A&M offers fully online bachelor’s programs that have been highlighted by U.S. News & World Report for their quality, including business, criminal justice, and health science. WTAMU also offers degree completion and hybrid programs, for students who may benefit from some on-campus instruction. Whatever the format, WTAMU’s tuition makes it a solid investment.
Cost: $171 per credit (includes fees)
Texas Tech University
As the first research institution in West Texas, Texas Tech University has shaped the development of the region for the past century. With the Carnegie Foundation’s highest level of research activity, Texas Tech has made major advancements in areas such as agriculture, petroleum engineering, and space exploration. Texas Tech’s schools of business, law, and education have played key roles in bringing the West Texas frontier into the modern age, and works today to provide educational opportunity to tens of thousands of students each year.
Texas Tech Online has become one of the most trusted and respected colleges in the southwest, thanks to top-quality instruction and accessibility. Students can choose from a number of fully online bachelor’s programs in fields designed for practical value and social development, such as Human Sciences, Applied Leadership, and Plant & Soil Sciences, as well as many hybrid programs. Texas Tech makes sure their tuition is low enough for anyone who is motivated to earn a degree and drive the future of Texas and the world.
Most Online Programs Cost: $362 per credit (includes fees)
UMass Lowell - Online & Continuing Education
It can be difficult for a regional public university to distinguish itself, especially when the flagship is as renowned as UMass Amherst, but the University of Massachusetts Lowell has gone to great lengths to make its reputation. As a public, urban research university, UMass Lowell has focused on practical fields such as business, engineering, health sciences, and education, with their schools finding their way into the top tier of national programs. UMass Lowell has been considered one of the most underrated schools in the nation, but that is rapidly changing as Lowell’s national ranking has skyrocketed in the past half-decade.
UMass Lowell Online has become especially recognized as an online educator, offering more online degree programs than just about any other institution in New England. Lowell offers dozens of fully-online degrees and certificates, with bachelor’s programs in Information Technology, Criminal Justice, and other in-demand fields. Commentators have also noted UMass Lowell for value, with its reasonable tuition making it one of the best values in New England, a region not known for bargain prices. All of these points of pride make UMass Lowell a clear online education value.
Cost: $370 per credit (includes fees)
Colorado State University - Online
As Colorado’s land-grant institution, Colorado State University lives on the land-grant mission – to bring practical, society-enriching education to as many people of the state as possible. Like other land-grant university, Colorado State excels in engineering and agriculture, since the land-grant institutions were founded on those fields, but CSU is also noted for their Natural Resources, Business, and Veterinary Medicine programs (ranked #3 in the nation). CSU is widely recognized as one of the best regional public universities, and as a solid value.
CSU Online has raised Colorado State’s profile to a national level in recent years, with acclaimed online degree programs, including fully-online bachelor’s and certificates. CSU offers online bachelor’s programs in everything from Agricultural Business to Economics, from Horticulture to Psychology. Their strong online programs have also helped CSU achieve a high military-friendly ranking, thanks to their combination of convenience and affordability. They are one of the most reasonably-priced universities in the region, making Colorado State a definitive value.
Cost: $444 per credit (includes fees)
Ohio State University - Online
Founded, like other institutions in this ranking, as a land-grant agriculture and mechanical science college, the Ohio State University has an ambition and entrepreneurial spirit that has made it not only a household name, but one of the leading online educators in the world. Named as a Public Ivy, as well as one of the 20 best public universities in the nation, OSU is one of the most productive research universities in the Midwest, as well as one of the most affordable, a combination that has made it the third-largest American university.
Ohio State has been building its online degree offerings for some time now, with a wide slate of graduate degrees and a number of bachelor’s programs in health areas like Dental Hygiene and Nursing. While not all of OSU’s distance programs are fully online, most are offered with minimal residency, usually only a few days out of the year, and they are widely available nation-wide (with some individual state restrictions). What Ohio State offers is a globally-respected reputation, available at a manageable tuition rate – the makings of a best value.
Cost: $539 per credit (includes fees)
University of Nebraska Omaha
A mid-sized regional institution, the University of Nebraska Omaha has traditionally served the metropolitan region of Omaha, NE. As an urban, public research university, UNO’s strongest programs are in areas most suited to its setting; computer science, public administration, and business are all especially well-regarded and highly-ranked, and UNO is home to the globally-renowned Firefly supercomputer. UNO’s rapid growth in the 21st century, fueled in part by growth in the region, promises to bring Omaha to national recognition.
That national recognition is coming even more quickly with the University of Nebraska Omaha’s online degree programs. UNO offers more than 20 undergraduate degrees and certificates, either fully online or in hybrid format, and their convenience is matched only by their affordability. UNO has one of the lowest tuition rates in the Midwest, and a majority of UNO graduates enter the workforce with less than $5000 in debt – a considerable accomplishment, and one that fires UNO to the top of the Best Value ranking.
Cost: $264 per credit (includes fees)
University of Wisconsin System - eCampus
The University of Wisconsin eCampus is one of the most respected public higher-education systems in the US, as well as one of the largest. Headed by its flagship in Madison, the UW system is a vast collection of major research universities, mid-sized regional universities, small liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. It is also one of the most highly organized university systems, having a strong brand recognition through the practice of consistent naming, but also building many collaborative degree programs, including the UW eCampus, which coordinates all of the system’s online degree programs.
Many of the UW online bachelor’s degree programs, such as nursing and management degrees, are delivered in a collaborative format, with more than one college combining their resources and faculty to provide a stronger product than either could offer alone. Others are administrated by individual colleges within the system and require admission to that particular institution. All are backed up by the UW system’s nationally-recognized reputation for excellence, and for universally affordable tuition rates, making the University of Wisconsin system the place to go for online degrees.
University of Arkansas
Perched on a hill overlooking the Ozarks, the University of Arkansas is one of the foremost research institutions of the Deep South and a public university rapidly increasing in reputation. With generous financial support, especially from Walmart’s Walton family, the University of Arkansas has spent the 21st century building a top-tier research institution, especially the Walton School of Business, ranked as one of the best in the nation, along with UA’s schools of architecture and law.
The University of Arkansas’ online degree programs have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as among the best, both bachelor and graduate, and they have been a major force in growing UA’s prominence. As a land-grant university, online education helps the University of Arkansas meet the needs of Arkansas’ population, and a low tuition rate makes it accessible to those who need it. UA’s online degrees – which include job-market ready programs such as business, nursing, and human resources – are helping the people of Arkansas make their mark without making a debt.
Cost: $283 per credit (includes fees)
Florida State University
A U.S. News & World Report top 50 public university, Florida State University is one of the top public research universities in the south. Not only does FSU have the top law and business schools in the state; as a space and sea-grant institution, they have the highest rate of funding for STEM in the state, making major insights in energy and nanotechnology. FSU has also been recognized as a best value by the Princeton Review, and is one of the leading degree-granting institutions for Hispanic students in the US.
U.S. News & World Report has ranked FSU’s online bachelor’s degree programs for their excellence. FSU’s bachelor programs are degree-completion programs, with students transferring in their junior year with fundamental courses or associate’s degrees completed. Online programs at FSU focus on fields with market interest, like criminal justice and computer science; combined with a low tuition rate, FSU’s online degree programs offer students strong job prospects and a reliable return.
Cost: $320 per credit (includes fees)
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the flagship of the University of Nebraska system, has been a national leader in areas of research ranging from agriculture (pioneering the Nebraska Method and modern farming practices) to digital humanities (with notable projects like the Walt Whitman Archive). Since they first began bringing education to the roaring frontier, the University of Nebraska has followed their land-grant mission to make a way for every Nebraskan who wanted an education to obtain one.
Like other Midwestern states with wide spaces and rural communities, UNL has found online education a useful way to bring professional preparation to their citizens. The University of Nebraska’s online graduate programs have been acclaimed by U.S. News & World Report, and while they have fewer bachelor’s degrees, the same quality remains. Online students at the University of Nebraska need not fear student loans and debt, with a low tuition rate and the trusted UNL name.
Cost: $257 per credit (includes fees)
Northeastern State University
Originally founded as a Cherokee Nation seminary for women, Northeastern State University, in Tahlequah, OK, maintains a large proportion of Cherokee students (around a quarter of the student body) and stands as a significant voice for the education of Native Americans and the working class of Oklahoma. As a small regional institution, NSU is largely focused on professional programs, though it is also home to the Jazz Lab, a performance, rehearsal, and study space for jazz musician and students.
You can’t earn an online degree in Bebop, unfortunately, but, fittingly for a region with remote communities, NSU offers a number of fully-online bachelor degrees and certificates, including highly in-demand fields like criminal justice, healthcare administration, and nursing, as well as business programs such as Supply Chain Management. The most important step Northeastern State takes to make its programs accessible, though, is in pricing – at just over $200 per credit, it’s one of the lowest prices out there.
Cost: $226 per credit (includes most fees)
Fort Hays State University - Virtual College
Mid-sized regional public universities and colleges get little in the way of praise or recognition, for the most part, despite doing some of the most important work of higher education – bringing the potential and opportunity of a college education to the people, without pretension or elitism. Fort Hays State University is one of these; founded as an unusual combination of normal school (teacher’s college) and agricultural research outpost, Fort Hays excels at bringing the people of Kansas the education they need for their lives at prices ordinary Americans can afford.
In the 21st century, online education is an essential part of doing that job, and the regional institutions that do it best are finally receiving the recognition they deserve. FHSU Virtual College has been cited by U.S. News & World Report as a top 25 university for online undergraduate education, as well as a best value. At around $200 per credit, FHSU offers dozens of fully-online, fully-accredited bachelor degrees, minors, and certificates, ensuring that working adults and other students who cannot reach campus can make headway in their careers – a valuable job, and a best value.
Cost: $209 per credit (includes fees)
University of Alaska Fairbanks - eLearning
Every college is unique, of course, but no university is quite like the University of Alaska, because no place in the US is quite like Alaska. A land, sea, and space-grant institution, UAF is central to research on the Arctic, in areas such as biology, geophysics, and environmental science, but their studies in fields such as rural development, native cultures, and even supercomputing have been critical to our understanding of the region. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has the significant responsibility of bringing knowledge and expertise to what in many ways is still the American frontier.
For obvious reasons, online education plays a large part in the University of Alaska’s distribution; Alaska’s citizens are sparsely concentrated, and traveling to campus can be a challenge. But the University of Alaska has never been afraid of reaching out and taking chances, offering a number of bachelor’s, associate’s, and certificates fully online. At a price calculated to make a degree financially painless, UAF eLearning has earned their Best Value ranking.
Cost: $239 per credit (includes fees)
Florida International University Online
A Carnegie Foundation top-tier research university and the fourth-largest university in the US: impressive for an institution that is just 50 years old, but that’s the story of Florida International University. A public research institution founded to provide public higher education to the southern end of Florida, FIU’s entrepreneurial ambitions quickly vaulted it well beyond the modest mission. Today, FIU is not only recognized as a best value and one of the best colleges for social mobility – its business and law schools are leaders in the field, and FIU lives up to the I in its name by attracting international attention and acclaim.
Part of FIU’s influence stems from their early adoption of online education, beginning online programs in 1998. Since then FIU has earned U.S. News & World Report’s highest rankings for online degree programs, developing nearly two dozen fully online bachelor’s degree programs in market-ready professional areas such as Supply Chain Management, Nursing, and Criminal Justice. FIU’s tuition rate of just $212 per credit is one of the lowest in the nation, which, coupled with FIU’s world-renown, makes for a satisfying value.
Cost: $212 per credit (includes fees)
Penn State World Campus
As a federal land, sea, space, and sun-grant institution, Penn State University is one of the most significant research universities in the nation, but Penn State’s World Campus has been a genuine game-changer in higher education. Penn State began one of the first distance education programs in 1892, allowing rural citizens the opportunity to earn degrees through mail correspondence, and that history of innovation naturally led to the creation of the World Campus in 1998.
The Penn State World Campus today is one of the first names in online education, with well over 100 degree and certificate programs available in a fully web-based format. Undergraduates have a wealth of choices, with more online bachelor and certificate programs than many colleges can offer on-campus. Where else, for instance, to study Turf Grass Science online – not to mention a host of business, management, leadership, and health programs sure to pay off on the job market. Penn State is not the cheapest of the cheap, but graduates can trust that Penn State’s name and reputation will serve them well.
Cost: $542 per credit (includes fees)
Old Dominion University
Once an extension campus of the College of William & Mary, Old Dominion University has grown over the past 75 years to become a significant research university in its own right, one of the largest in Virginia and one of the premiere names in online education. As an urban university, ODU’s programs are largely focused on the needs of urban environments such as education, health, and business, while their proximity to the major port of Norfolk has also given Old Dominion an academic influence on marine biology and environmental studies.
ODU began offering distance education by satellite link in 1994, a direct predecessor to online education, giving them one of the longest histories of technology-aided distance education in the US. They have made the most of that history, building one of the most recognizable names in the field, with a slate of fully online degree programs that puts other universities to shame. ODU offers many full bachelor’s programs as well as dozens of bachelor-completion programs, including computing, industrial engineering, and other job-ready areas. Old Dominion is one of the most trusted names in online education, and a value to boot.
Cost: $325 per credit (includes fees)
University of Florida
Florida’s flagship institution, the University of Florida is a U.S. News & World Report top 15 public university; a land, sea, and space-grant institution; and one of the most diverse universities in the nation, ranked in the top 3 institutions for awarding degrees to African-American and Hispanic students. UF is highly regarded for STEM, especially engineering (as related to space-grant research) and medicine.
While UF’s Gainesville home is known as a top party school, the University of Florida is an online education leader – no need to ever visit campus. UF’s distance education division offers more than a dozen fully-online bachelor’s degree programs, including rare-for-online offerings like Sports Management, Geology, and Environmental Management, as well as 2+2 degree completion programs. The University of Florida has a respected name and a reasonable tuition rate that combines to form a truly smart investment.
Cost: $500 per credit (includes fees)
University of Massachusetts Amherst
The University of Massachusetts is one of the first names that come to mind when the subject is excellence in public higher education. As the largest public university in New England – the region with probably the highest density of elite colleges and universities – UMass defines what a public research university is capable of. It is, however, less well known for its pioneering of adult education, with the groundbreaking University Without Walls initiative introducing the idea of degree completion programs.
The University Without Walls continues today online, with numerous degree completion programs including business, criminal justice, education, and others, while UMass has also built a number of full online bachelor’s degree programs, including business administration and RN to BSN. In the land of the Ivy League, UMass Online offers an exceedingly affordable tuition rate, all but guaranteeing that busy working adults and other online students will be able to earn a degree and come out ahead, not behind in debt.
Cost: $385 per credit (includes fees)
Arizona State University
The Arizona State story has been told often enough to be considered legend: based on the New American University concept, which emphasizes radical inclusion and public engagement, ASU has grown by leaps and bounds into the largest student body in the nation. Hailed as the most innovative university in the nation, ASU has become a model for the future of higher education, with many other institutions following its example. There is only one Arizona State, however, and its reach has grown long.
ASU’s online educational programs are the most visible sign of their forward-thinking and creativity. With interactive, engaging courses and top-quality professors, ASU makes sure their online students get the same quality of instruction as their on-campus students, while low tuition costs keep that online education affordable for all. Bachelor’s degree students can choose from more than 60 fully online degree programs in nearly every field imaginable, making an ASU education convenient and attainable. Be sure to check out ASU’s innovative Global Freshmen Academy; a program designed to help students manage the stress and the cost of college.
Cost: $490-$553 per credit (includes fees)
University of Illinois at Chicago Extended Campus
The University of Illinois at Chicago is Illinois’ premiere urban research university, a major institution that has made an indelible mark on the city of Chicago and the Midwestern region. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the 10 most diverse universities in the nation, UIC brings top-tier education to a wide range of students, with special emphasis on the issues, professions, and needs that define a large metropolitan city like Chicago. UIC is especially respected for its business programs, not surprising for a university in the city with the third largest economy in the US.
The University of Illinois system has developed a robust palate of online degree programs, with UIC Extended Campus offering fully online bachelor’s programs in its greatest strengths, business and health. Students in health and nursing may also choose from a great many related certificate programs for added credentials and experience. With the demands on working adults in mind, UIC’s online degree programs provide a way to the future now.
Most Programs Cost: $501 per credit (includes fees)
Sam Houston State University
Founded as the first teacher’s college in Texas, Sam Houston State University is still one of the most influential sites for teacher education in the state, but has grown into an important regional research university in many different areas. In particular, criminal justice and forensics have become major draws for students to SHSU, especially since Sam Houston is home to one of the oldest dedicated Criminal Justice schools, and to one of only a half-dozen “body farm” research centers in the US. A high proportion of Texas’ teachers and criminal investigators call Sam Houston State their alma mater.
With many such fields in high demand around the state, Sam Houston State has extended their reach with many fully-online degree programs, including bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and certificate programs. Undergraduate students can earn a highly-respected bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice online at SHSU, as well as Business Administration, Nursing, and more. With the massive job market and need for professionals in nearby Houston, SHSU keeps tuition low to do their part in meeting the demand in Houston and across Texas.
Cost: $466 per credit (includes fees)
Pace University is known for the entrepreneurial spirit it brings to traditional liberal arts education. Founded as an accountancy school, Pace has used its New York City location to great effect, finding a way to combine top-notch professional education with the grounding that the liberal arts can provide students. Business, law, and nursing are big at Pace, as might be expected, but Pace is also a center for theater in the city, with a prestigious MFA degree program and as the home of Inside the Actor’s Studio. Pace has a long history in NYC, and knows what it takes to make it.
Pace’s education philosophy is built on transferrable skills for the changing professional world, but students can choose fully-online degree program in nursing, business, technology, and communications. Working adults may also be attracted to Pace’s degree completion programs, which are specifically designed to best meet the educational needs of non-traditional students. Some of these programs are fully online, but others are hybrid. It’s a convenient way to earn a degree from a known and respected name in New York City.
Cost: $555 per credit (includes fees)
Oregon Tech Online
The polytechnic institute model was developed in the late 19th century in Europe; emphasizing applied science and research, it really took off in the US with universities like MIT. But while they usually excel on the job market, polytechnics, in general, are also quite expensive. The Oregon Institute of Technology, however, is the only public poly in the Pacific Northwest, and a considerable bargain because of its unique status. Oregon Tech has been recognized as one of the top regional universities in the Pacific Northwest by U.S. News & World Report.
Not surprisingly, Oregon Tech has an impressive lineup of online degree programs, with bachelor’s degrees and degree completion programs in many technology and health fields like Health Informatics, Information Technology, Radiologic Science, and Healthcare Management. Further associate’s degrees and certificates give working professionals the ability to specialize with the convenience of an online program. OIT boasts a job-market success rate of over 90% for its graduates, a statistic that makes its low tuition even more of a value.
Cost: $247 per credit (includes fees)
California State University, East Bay
It’s common knowledge that there are no deals in the San Francisco Bay Area anymore – unless you’re talking about CSU East Bay, one of the best higher education values in the west. Regularly cited as an up-and-coming institution, CSU East Bay is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top regional universities in the western US, with a highly productive education program (producing many of California’s teachers) and an extraordinarily diverse student body.
CSU East Bay’s commitment to diversity and accessibility makes online degree programs a must; in the 21st century, online is the most important tool a university has for bringing education to all who can benefit from it. East Bay offers fully online bachelor’s degree programs in market-proven areas such as business, hospitality & tourism, and recreation, at one of the lowest tuition rates in California. Never let it be said that nothing in the Bay is cheap – CSU East Bay is a bargain!
Cost: $264 per credit (includes fees)
New Mexico State University
New Mexico’s land-grant institution, New Mexico State University’s strengths are in the practical and professional sciences, especially in nursing and STEM fields. It is a large university, dedicated to bringing education to the people of New Mexico, and has dozens of centers spread throughout the state. NMSU, as the only major public research university recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution, is especially recognized for bringing more Latino students into STEM than any other school. It is also home to the Chili Pepper Institute, the single most important international research project in the world for hot-sauce lovers.
In keeping with its mission to the people of New Mexico – a large state, with many remote rural communities – NMSU maintains a highly varied, well-developed online presence, offering many in-demand and rare online bachelor and certificate programs. Students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in subjects ranging from Women’s Studies to Information and Communication Technology without having to travel to Las Cruces, and many more besides. NMSU’s tuition keeps their top-quality education affordable for all.
Cost: $288 per credit (includes fees)
Ferris State University Online
Ferris State University is a relative rarity, a public university founded by a single person, educator and statesman Woodbridge Nathan Ferris. Ferris’ educational innovations included a commitment to learning by doing and an (in hindsight) ironic opposition to public education, which in the day consisted of rote memorization rather than experiential learning. His vision for a school that would teach students practical, useful knowledge that they could use for social improvement and change remains the mission of Ferris State University.
Ferris State’s online bachelor’s programs have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for their quality and affordability, the keys to a Best Value. Ferris State offers numerous fully-online bachelor’s programs in applied sciences and health, such as Allied Health Sciences, Dental Hygiene, and Nursing, as well as Automotive Management, HVAC, and more. For the convenience and quality of a Ferris State degree, their sensible tuition rates make a good deal great.
Cost: $402-$413 per credit (includes fees)
University of North Texas
As a Dallas-Ft. Worth suburb, Denton, TX sits square in the most populous area in the state, an economic powerhouse with well over 6 million residents. The University of North Texas, a large, public research university, has a big job to do, then, and it has come through with the region’s only public law school, a highly-respected medical school, and prolific STEM programs. UNT’s Folk Music Club also has the distinction of strongly influencing the music and literature of Texas, with significant alumni such as Larry McMurtry.
With such a population to tend to, the University of North Texas needs to be innovative, and numerous online degree programs help them reach out to the busy working adults and students of Dallas-Ft. Worth. Undergraduates can choose from several fully-online degree programs, including Applied Technology & Performance, Information Science, and Rehabilitation Studies. UNT’s low tuition makes it one of the best bargains in the region, and a solid Best Value.
Cost: $405 per credit (includes fees)
Washington State University Global Campus
A U.S. News & World Report top 50 public institution, Washington State University is best known for their agricultural research, having made major contributions to food science; genetic research of fruits, grains, and vegetables; and helping define sustainable food production methods. All that is in line with their land-grant status, but WSU – Wazzu if you’re a fan – is an important player in business, health, and engineering education for the state as well, making sure Washington’s leaders, professionals, and workers are up to the challenges of the modern economy.
WSU makes singularly good use of online education as well, having established the Washington State Global Campus in 2012 to bring together all of their online degree offerings under one roof. The WSU Global Campus offers many online bachelor’s degrees in some of their strongest fields, including multiple management degrees, Criminal Justice, and Human Development. For prospective students in the Pacific Northwest, especially working adults, it’s one smart choice.
Cost: $492 per credit (includes fees)
University of Missouri
It’s not an overstatement to say that the state of Missouri would look like a much different place without the University of Missouri. Mizzou is, without a doubt, the intellectual and academic key to Missouri life – one of the few universities with schools of medicine, agriculture, engineering, law, and veterinary science; its own TV network; a groundbreaking school of journalism; and its own nuclear reactor. Not just the flagship of Missouri, the University of Missouri is one of the premiere universities of the Midwest.
In Mizzou Online, the University of Missouri has established one of the most respected and distinguished online degree programs in the nation. Mizzou Online produces more than online graduates than almost any other American Association of University institution, with nearly 100 degree and certificate programs. Mizzou offers many undergraduate programs, from Hospitality Management to Early Childhood Education, all for one of the lowest tuition rates in the region.
Most Programs Cost: $276 per credit (includes fees)
California State University, Dominguez Hills
One of the most diverse universities in the US, with the highest population of African-American and first-generation students in the state of California, California State University, Dominguez Hills, is also the key economic mover in South Bay, Los Angeles, educating a majority of the area’s professionals. CSUDH is best known for their nursing school, frequently ranked as the best in the western region, and for a growing emphasis on STEM.
CSU Dominguez Hills has made an impact on their region, and their online degree programs give them the power to make an even larger impact. Their growing slate of online degrees has gotten them named one of the best values for online education in California, and promises to grow even more over the next few years. Undergraduates can earn degree completion and fully online degrees, including a BSN from Dominguez Hills’ award-winning School of Nursing, at a tuition rate that is ridiculously low for the Los Angeles area.
Cost: $267 per credit (includes fees)
Norwich University Online
Norwich University is a uniquely distinguished institution; a private military college, Norwich is significant for being the first of its kind, literally the model of the military college, and the founding home of the ROTC. Norwich’s military philosophy makes it one of the most rigorous, disciplined universities in the nation, with high ethical and academic standards and a corresponding level of success.
Norwich’s degree programs, for obvious reasons, skew toward fields that have military applications, such as political science, civil engineering, and nursing. With a large proportion of their student body having current military obligations, Norwich has built some of the strongest online degree programs in the world, making their excellent education accessible for personnel wherever they may be. Bachelor’s programs online include Criminal Justice, Cyber Security, and Management, among others, and Norwich’s reputation and quality mean these graduates can count on their reasonable tuition taking them far.
Cost: $289-$426 per credit (includes fees)
Columbia College Online
A small private liberal arts college in Columbia, MO, Columbia College was founded as a women’s college in 1851 to meet the demand created when neighbor University of Missouri did not accept women. The college didn’t truly find its niche until the 1970s, though, when they became a pioneer in extension education for the military. Recognizing a need for education for active personnel and veterans during the Vietnam era, Columbia began establishing on-base campuses, and today has more than 30 extension campuses around the world.
Because of their history of military extension education, it was a natural step for Columbia to introduce online education, with the formation of the Online Campus in 2000. Columbia offers hundreds of courses and many fully-online programs, with bachelor’s degree programs in business, computer science, nursing, and the humanities. Their mission to military personnel leads them to keep tuition prices low, making them a perennial best value in the Midwest and one of the most affordable private colleges around.
Cost: $290 per credit (includes fees)
Drexel University Online
Founded for practical professional, technical, and career education for the working classes of industrial-era Philadelphia, PA, Drexel University is best known for its cooperative education format, which combines real-world work experience with classroom education. Employers throughout the Northeast and across the US trust the Drexel name, since Drexel’s engineering, business, and design graduates have a sterling reputation for excellence.
Drexel has also made online education one of its hallmarks, with some of the most respected programs on the East Coast. Having established their first online degree program in 1996 – when other colleges thought email was revolutionary – Drexel has had ample time to perfect the process. Bachelor’s programs in many different areas are available, including business, communication, nursing, and technology, all with the proven Drexel reputation and a reasonable cost for such a renowned private university.
Cost: $479 per credit (includes fees)
George Washington University
George Washington University is renowned as the most politically engaged university in the nation, not surprisingly since it is located in the heart of Washington, DC, and has tremendous connections to government agencies, non-profits, and the business community of the nation’s capital. GWU’s greatest strengths, for obvious reasons, are in public policy, law, and business, but they are also highly regarded for public health, engineering, and nursing. With their network of alumni and partnerships, graduates from GWU can count on a strong showing on the job market.
GWU lends its top-tier quality and reputation to their online degree programs as well, with a large slate of degree programs at all levels. Most of GWU’s bachelor’s degrees are in health sciences, including areas such as Clinical Management & Leadership, Emergency Medical Services Management, and Medical Laboratory Science, but GWU also offers a bachelor’s degree in Police and Security Studies, one of its strongest programs. Affordable tuition and excellent market reputation gives graduates a capital value.
Southeast Missouri State University
As a mid-sized, regional public university, Southeast Missouri State University has a humble but crucial job to perform for the people who live along the Mississippi River – to provide useful, low-cost education for the people who need it. SMSU, therefore, is a central part of life on the Mississippi (literally, being described in Mark Twain’s book of the same name), and Southeast has been recognized as a top regional university by U.S. News & World Report, and for its affordability by the Princeton Review.
Like other institutions in their class, SMSU has found that an online degree program is the most cost-effective way to fulfill their mission, so they have built Southeast Online into a world-class online education platform, with a wealth of undergraduate and graduate programs fully online. Some of their notable programs include Nursing, Criminal Justice, Computer Information Systems, and Technology Management, especially designed for busy working professionals to increase their credentials and experience. At less than $300 a credit, it may be the best deal on the Mississippi.
Cost: $265 per credit (includes fees)
Florida Institute of Technology
A private polytechnic-style university, the Florida Institute of Technology is ranked as the top private university in Florida and a best value for STEM education in the south. FIT has the highest ROI of any college in Florida, thanks to a combination of reasonable pricing (equal to many public universities) and a strong education in fields that are tailor-made for the 21st century job market. As a STEM research university, FIT’s specialties are in engineering, technology, and aviation.
Florida Tech offers around 20 fully online bachelor’s degree programs in some of its strongest areas, such as Aviation Management and Computer Information Systems, and other highly-marketable technical fields like Criminal Justice-Homeland Security. With their distance education program originating for the benefit of the military, FIT is still a considerably military-friendly educator, with steep discounts for veterans and active personnel, making a great deal an even better deal for American service members.
Cost: $510 per credit
Ball State University
Best known for David Letterman’s jokes at his alma mater’s expense, Ball State University has grown from a small regional college to a considerable research university since the turn of the century. Ball State’s ambition has won it recognition as an up-and-coming university from U.S. News & World Report, notably in business and environmental sustainability. They are also considered a best regional university by the Princeton Review, and have been cited by the Carnegie Foundation for community engagement.
A U.S. News & World Report pick for one of the top online bachelor’s universities, Ball State offers many fully online degrees in some of their strongest area, including Business Administration (from the highly ranked Miller College of Business), Criminal Justice, and Nursing. Ball State’s $290 per credit tuition rate shows why it’s long been ranked as a best value.
Cost: $290 per credit (some additional fees required)
Western Carolina University
Founded to bring education to the remote areas of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, Western Carolina University is a small, regional public university with some very unique and attractive features. Besides their location – prime for activities like hiking, kayaking, mountain-climbing, and skiing – Western Carolina offers research and study in Cherokee culture and history, rural technology and public policy, and an especially strong criminology and forensics program, since WCU is home (like Sam Houston State, #31) to one of the few US body farms.
While Western Carolina is the mountain- and outdoors-loving student’s dream, there is no need to live in Cullowhee to earn a WCU degree; thanks to Western Carolina’s commitment to accessibility, they have built a world-class online program to extend their reach beyond campus. WCU’s online degree programs are geared toward useful fields such as Emergency & Disaster Management, Nursing, and Criminal Justice, and Western Carolina’s tuition is so low, any choice is a good choice.
Cost: $151-$286 per credit (depending on program)
Central Washington University
As a small, regional public university, Central Washington University’s mission is designed around making education available to the residents of the center of Washington State, a beautiful, primarily rural region. Central Washington is more devoted to teaching than research, though it does play a key role in seismology and earthquake warning for the region. Agreements with the many community colleges in the region allow students dual enrollment, helping community college students complete their degrees from their home institutions.
Central Washington’s other strategy for helping students reach their goals comes in the form of their sizable online degree programs. With eight fully-online programs (and one hybrid) in areas such as Aviation Management, Law & Justice, Social Services, and more, CWU is providing education in fields that are both necessary, and in-demand, and their Finish Line program is designed specifically to support working adults who need to complete a degree. Best of all, not only is Central Washington’s tuition low – it’s only slightly higher for out-of-state residents, making it a singular value just about everywhere.
Cost: $196.90 per credit
Western Kentucky University
Rounding out the top 50 Best Value Online Bachelor’s Programs, Western Kentucky University strikes gold on all of our main criteria: it’s a top-notch regional public institution dedicated to providing the best education possible for the people it serves, for the lowest possible price. WKU has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for its success in social mobility, providing its graduates a visible advantage and means to climb the ladder of social class. It has a character all its own, known for the finest Folk Studies program in the nation. And it is exceptionally affordable.
Western Kentucky offers a great many fully online bachelor’s degree programs, including Criminology, Health Care Administration, and Computer Information Technology; it also offers a number of degree completion programs oriented toward working adults, such as Dental Hygienist and RN to BSN. These are the kinds of programs WKU’s people demand – highly sought on the job market, readily accessible, and low-risk when it comes to cost. Western Kentucky University has found the perfect formula, and have certainly earned their place in the Value Colleges Top 50 Best Values.
Cost: $496 per credit (includes fees)