During the past ten years, the cost of tuition and fees at public four-year colleges rose an average of 4.2 percent annually, according to the College Board. That means the average in-state tuition for these schools is $8,893 for 2014. Head to a private four-year school and expect to spend more than three times that amount - an average of $30,094 for a year's worth of tuition and fees.
If you're wondering how to pay for college, you may want to consider non-traditional education options, such as enrolling in an online degree program. (See: Is Online College Cheaper?). Online students can save money by eliminating the following costs:
- Room and board
- Commuting costs, including gas and parking
- Child care, for students with families
In 2014, room and board alone added an average of $9,498 per year to the cost of public four-year institutions. By studying from home and cutting the commute, students may find their college education becomes more affordable and a degree more accessible.
To help you find cheap online colleges and universities, OnlineColleges.com has analyzed the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics to find those with the lowest in-state tuition rates that also offer online degrees. Here are the cheapest colleges and universities with online degree programs in 10 popular areas of study. All in-state tuition rates listed here are for the 2014-2015 school year.
South Texas College: In-state tuition at South Texas College is $3,306. The school offers 13 Associate degrees online, as well as five certificate programs. Business-minded students can earn an Associate's Degree in Business Administration or choose from certificates in marketing, management or for accounting clerks.
Florida Atlantic University: At Florida Atlantic University, business students can earn an online Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. The degree has the same curriculum as the on-campus version and is taught by the same faculty. Students can concentrate their studies on management, accounting or marketing. In-state tuition at FAU is $4,831.
Amridge University: Founded in 1967, Amridge University was one of the early leaders in distance education. It has an in-state tuition rate of $6,900, and offers a range of online degrees from the Associate to Doctoral level. Its College of Business and Leadership offers five Bachelor's degrees and two Master's degrees. Undergraduate degrees include those in Business Administration; Human Resource Leadership; and Management Communication. At the graduate level, Master's degrees in Leadership and Management are available.
College of Southern Nevada: With an in-state tuition of $2,700, the College of Southern Nevada offers five certificates of achievement, twenty Associate degrees and one Bachelor's degree online. Students interested in a career in health may be particularly interested in the school's online Bachelor's degree in Dental Hygiene.
Bellevue College: At Bellevue College, students can earn a Bachelor's degree in Healthcare Technology and Management fully online. The program features synchronous learning so classes can hold real-time discussions and lectures. In-state tuition at Bellevue College is $3,754.
Brigham Young University-Idaho: Another inexpensive college option for health students is offered by Brigham Young University. The Idaho campus has nine certificates, five Associate degrees and ten Bachelor's degrees. Online health degrees are available in Health Science; Healthcare Administration; and Nursing RN to BSN. The in-state tuition is $3,950.
Hospitality & Culinary
Columbia Southern University: Columbia Southern University offers a variety of online Associate's, Bachelor's and Master's degrees. In addition, there are a number of certificates available for both undergraduate and graduate students. Those interested in the hospitality field can earn a certificate in hospitality & tourism. The in-state tuition is $5,135.
Youngstown State University: Another degree option for those exploring the hospitality industry is public health. At Youngstown State University, the online Bachelor's degree in Public Health can help students learn how to promote health awareness and manage crisis health situations. Both skills may be useful to hospitality professionals who are managing resorts, cruise ships or other locales where there is the potential for a public health threat. In-state tuition at YSU is $8,317.
South Dakota State University: South Dakota State University also has online certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's and Master's degree programs. For hospitality students, an online Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies can provide a broad foundation from which to explore a number of career options. In-state tuition at the university is $7,713.
Art & Design
Louisiana State University-Shreveport: With in-state tuition of $6,168, the Shreveport campus of Louisiana State University can be a good choice for art and design students. Among its 25 online degrees is a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts.
Brigham Young University-Idaho: In addition to health degrees, Brigham Young University-Idaho offers several online programs for design students. The school offers a certificate in web media and both Associate and Bachelor's degrees in Web Design and Development. In-state tuition is $3,950.
Baker College of Port Huron: At Baker College, in-state tuition is $8,280, and there are several options in the field of design. A certificate, Associate degree and Bachelor's degree are all offered online in the field of Web Development. In addition, an online Bachelor's degree in Game Software Development may be a good choice for students who want in on the growing gaming industry.
Law & Criminal Justice
American Public University System: The American Public University System makes a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs available fully online. Students eligible for in-state tuition pay $6,400 and can study for Bachelor's degrees in Criminal Justice; Cybersecurity; Homeland Security; and Legal Studies, among others.
Bellevue University: At Bellevue University, nearly 50 Bachelor's degrees are offered online. For law and criminal justice students, these include programs in Criminal Justice; Cybersecurity; International Security and Intelligence Studies; Security Management; and Legal Studies. In-state tuition at Bellevue University is $6,450.
West Texas A & M University: Its in-state tuition is cheaper than the national average at $6,782, and West Texas A&M University offers online criminal justice degrees that can be earned either fully online or through a hybrid program blending online with on-campus learning. A Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on administration can be earned completely online while the corrections and policing concentrations have on-campus requirements.
Liberal Arts & Humanities
Southern University at New Orleans: Many colleges and universities offer liberal arts degrees online, but the Southern University at New Orleans is one of the cheapest. For in-state tuition of $5,218, students can earn an online Bachelor's degree in General Studies.
Midwestern State University: Midwestern State University is another inexpensive choice for a liberal arts education. The school's Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree is available online, and in-state tuition is $7,753.
West Texas A & M University: You can also earn an online Bachelor's degree in General Studies at West Texas A&M University for $6,782 a year. The program allows students to explore diverse fields such as political science, English, music and philosophy.
University of Maine at Augusta: Through the University of Maine at Augusta, students can earn online degrees in science, such as Behavioral Science, Applied Science and Forensic Science. In-state tuition is only $7,448.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh: Meanwhile, at North Carolina State University at Raleigh, graduate students can earn a variety of advanced degrees and certificates in fields ranging from animal science to computer science. At the undergraduate level, the university offers Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics Engineering degrees that combine online class delivery with site-based activities. In-state tuition at North Carolina State University at Raleigh is $8,296.
University of Arizona: In-state tuition at the University of Arizona is $10,957. Students can earn online graduate degrees in Engineering, Agriculture and Life Sciences. At the undergraduate level, degrees in Nutritional Science and Science Teacher Preparation are available fully online.
Brigham Young University-Idaho: BYU-Idaho is also a good budget option for social sciences degrees. Students can earn certificates and Associate degrees in Family History Research or an online Bachelor's degree in Marriage and Family studies which may lead to careers in social work, counseling or similar fields. In-state tuition is $3,950.
Bellevue University: Over at Bellevue University, social sciences students can attain degrees in Communications or Psychology online. As with the university's law and criminal justice degrees, its social sciences Bachelor's degrees have an affordable in-state tuition rate of $6,450.
Peru State College: The online school at Peru State College offers a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. A hybrid option combining online with on-campus work is available as is an online minor in Psychology. In-state tuition at Peru State College is $6,272.
Technology & IT
University of Maine at Augusta: Computer science careers continue to be in-demand as technology evolves, and UMA offers several online degrees in Computer Information Systems. Students can earn an Associate degree, Bachelor's degree or advanced degree in this field. A minor is also available. In-state tuition is $7,448.
University of North Texas: On the University of North Texas eCampus, the College of Information delivers 14 programs virtually. Among the school's offerings are an accelerated Master's degree in Learning Technologies, a distance-delivered Ph.D. in Learning Technologies and a school library certificate. Undergraduate students can also earn an online Bachelor's degree in Applied Technology and Performance Improvement. In-state tuition is $9,346.
University of Wisconsin-Stout: The distance education department at the University of Wisconsin-Stout offers certificates as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees online. In-state tuition is $9,025, and technology students can earn their Bachelor's degree in Information and Communication technologies online.
Winston-Salem University: Some people might not need another degree, but they may need additional training. At Winston-Salem University, health professionals can get that training online with a Cross Cultural Competence for Health Related Professions Certificate. The post-baccalaureate program is offered by the Department of Occupational Therapy and intended to help individuals work with a variety of cultural groups. In-state tuition at Winston-Salem University is $5,583.
Emporia State University: At Emporia State University, there are 11 licensure programs available online to students. These include courses in English as a Second Language, Adaptive Special Education and Reading Specialist licensure. In-state students pay $5,746 for tuition.
Arizona Western College: Professionals looking for additional training will also find online options through the Arizona Western College Continuing Education Department. Professional development classes are offered as well as courses in adult education, administration and business services. Arizona Western College has an in-state tuition rate of $2,480.
College doesn't have to drain your wallet. Use this list of cheap online colleges and universities as a starting point to find an affordable degree for your field of study.
- Average Rates of Growth of Published Charges by Decade, College Board, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-rates-growth-tuition-and-fees-over-time
- Average Published Undergraduate Charges by Sector, 2013-2014, College Board, https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-published-undergraduate-charges-sector-2013-14
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- Online Programs & Degrees, South Texas College, http://vc.southtexascollege.edu/online-programs/
- Online BBA, Florida Atlantic University, http://www.business.fau.edu/undergraduate/online-bba/index.aspx#.U_yUzGPZodw
- College of Business and Leadership, Amridge University, http://amridgeuniversity.edu/academics/college-of-business-leadership/
- CSN Online Degrees, College of Southern Nevada, http://www.csn.edu/pages/202.asp
- Online Degrees & Certificates, Bellevue College, http://www.bellevuecollege.edu/elearning/degrees/#bas-in-healthcare-technology-management
- Degrees and Programs, Brigham Young University-Idaho, http://byui.edu/online/degrees-and-programs
- Online Degree Programs, Columbia Southern University, http://www.columbiasouthern.edu/online-degree
- Public Health, Youngstown State University, http://web.ysu.edu/onlinepublichealth
- Providing Access to Change the Future, South Dakota State University, http://www.sdstate.edu/cee/distance/degrees/index.cfm
- Undergraduate Studies, LSUS, http://www.lsus.edu/academics/undergraduate-studies
- Design & Media, Baker College, http://www.baker.edu/baker-online/programs-degrees/interests/design-media/
- Bachelor's Programs, American Public University, http://www.apu.apus.edu/academic/programs/bachelors
- Degree and Programs, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/degrees/index.aspx?bach=1
- Distance Education Degree and Certificate Programs, West Texas A&M University, http://www.wtamu.edu/academics/de-courses-and-programs.aspx
- All Online Programs, Southern University at New Orleans, http://suno.edu/technology/e-learning/online-learning-programs/all-online-programs/
- Online Courses and Programs, Midwestern State University, http://distance.mwsu.edu/webcourses.asp
- UMA Online and at a Distance, University of Maine at Augusta, http://www.uma.edu/distancedegrees.html
- Undergraduate programs, NC State, http://distance.ncsu.edu/programs/undergraduate-programs.php
- UA Online, University of Arizona, http://outreachcollege.arizona.edu/online
- Online Programs/Majors, Peru State College, http://www.peru.edu/distanceeducation/onlineprograms.htm
- Degree Programs and Certificates, University of North Texas, http://www.untecampus.com/default.php?p=programs
- UW-Stout Online, University of Wisconsin-Stout, http://www.uwstout.edu/de/deo.cfm#iTab_1
- Cross Cultural Competence for Health Related Professions Certificate, Winston-Salem University, https://wssu.edu/academics/distance-learning/ccc-health-related-professions-certificate.aspx
- Online Programs, Emporia State University, http://www.emporia.edu/distance/academicprograms/online.html
- Continuing Education Division, Arizona Western University, http://www.azwestern.edu/academic_services/continuing_education/