According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), six percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded in 2012 were in the field of education. While that may not sound like a lot, the NCES says it represents the fifth largest area of study for U.S. students.
For those who have always wanted to study education, but don't have the time to go back to school, online colleges may offer a convenient and accredited learning option.
Students may decide to study for their education degree online for a number of reasons, including the following.
- Flexible scheduling of classes and study times.
- Affordable tuition rates.
- Elimination of extra expenses that may be incurred with a traditional degree program, such as room and board or child care.
- Rigorous curricula from accredited institutions.
How to Find the Most Affordable Online Education Degrees
To find online education degrees with an affordable price tag, we turned to the NCES database and searched for colleges with in-state tuition that was no more than $10,000 per year. The rates reported by the NCES aren't just for a school's online degrees, but represent the overall average of all degrees offered by a college or university.
Then, we checked out the graduation rate to find those with the highest levels of completion. Graduation rates can be an important factor for students who want to ensure they are able to minimize tuition costs by completing their program on time.
According to the NCES, the overall 2012 graduation rate for all first-time, full-time undergraduate students was 59 percent. That means 59 percent of students who started their bachelor's degree program in 2006 finished it within six years by 2012. A school with a lower graduation rate shouldn't necessarily be eliminated from consideration, but students should make an effort to learn why the rate may be lower and what services the school offers to help keep undergrads on track.
Using the above criteria, here are ten schools offering online education degrees, ordered by graduation rate. All tuition and graduate rates reflect 2013-2014 data from the NCES database. See our Methodology section for more details on the ranking methodology.
#1 - University of Nebraska at Kearney
- Graduation Rate: 53%
- In-state Tuition: $6,542
Nationally ranked and with more than 30 accredited online programs, the University of Nebraska at Kearney offers education students the chance to earn an online bachelor's degree in Education with an early childhood unified teaching endorsement. UNK recommends students complete most of their general studies at a community college before enrolling in the online education degree. The program is delivered online, but on-site student teaching and supervised school-based experiences are required as well.
#2 - Bemidji State University
- Graduation Rate: 48%
- Tuition: $8,124
At Bemidji State University, part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, students can earn an online bachelor's degree in elementary education. The program, including the liberal education requirements, can be completed online with only three in-person group sessions required. These sessions are held in the Minneapolis area. The Bemidji State program meets all Minnesota Board of Teaching requirements.
#3 - Minnesota State University - Moorhead
- Graduation Rate: 46%
- In-state Tuition: $7,816
Another online education degree can be found at the Moorhead campus of Minnesota State University. The school offers seven online and off-site programs including a bachelor's degree in Special Education. The degree can be earned either online or through a hybrid program combining night and weekend classes with virtual coursework. Students can specialize in a learning disabilities licensure, emotional/behavioral disorder licensure or a developmental disabilities licensure.
#4 - Southwest Minnesota State University
- Graduation Rate: 43%
- In-state Tuition: $8,074
Southwest Minnesota State University is another school offering an online education degree. Their online program offers a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. Like the University of Nebraska at Kearney, students are expected to complete their general education requirements at a community college before transferring to SMSU.
#5 - Bellevue University
- Graduation Rate: 39%
- In-state Tuition: $6,300
For those who would like to work with older students, Bellevue University offers an online bachelor's degree in Adult Education. This degree prepares individuals to lead vocational education classes and implement training programs. Students who meet certain criteria, such as an associate's degree or work experience related to the field, may be eligible to complete the program on an accelerated schedule.
#6 - Delta State University
- Graduation Rate: 35%
- In-state Tuition: $6,562
Students who already have their bachelor's degree may want to turn to Delta State University for graduate degree options. The university offers online degree programs through four of its colleges. Within the College of Education, students can earn a master's degree in Elementary Education or a master's degree in Special Education online. Individuals who have a master's degree and want to specialize may be interested in Delta State University's Educational Specialist degree in Administration and Supervision or its Educational Specialist degree in Elementary Education.
#7 - Florida State College at Jacksonville
- Graduation Rate: 35%
- In-state Tuition: $2,830
The online options for students at Florida State College at Jacksonville include 14 certificate programs, 9 associate degrees and 4 bachelor's degrees. Those interested in education may want to start with an online associate degree in Early Childhood Management. While this degree is not sufficient to work in the classroom, it can provide a foundation for students to go on and earn FSC's bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education, also available online.
#8 - West Virginia University at Parkersburg
- Graduation Rate: 34%
- In-state Tuition: $2,712
West Virginia University at Parkersburg offers an online certificate, associate degree and bachelor's degree in Child Development, in addition to associate degrees in Business Administration and Technology. The WVU Parkersburg child development program is designed so students can start with a certificate, move to an associate degree and eventually earn a bachelor's degree if they wish.
#9 - Chadron State College
- Graduation Rate: 33%
- In-state Tuition: $5,600
Online learning at Chadron State College covers ten areas of instruction. For education students, the college offers two undergraduate education endorsement programs and four fully online master's degrees in Education. These online offerings include special education endorsements and Master of Education degrees in Educational Technology or Math. In addition, CSC offers four other undergraduate and two graduate programs partially online.
#10 - Western Governors University
- Graduation Rate: 17%
- In-state Tuition: $6,070
The final school on the list for online education degrees is Western Governors University. Founded by 19 U.S. governors, the nonprofit school has long been considered one of the early leaders in online education. Its online teachers college offers 30 degree options. In addition to undergraduate degrees for students planning to become teachers, WGU offers a number of advanced degrees for current teachers who want to expand their education and expertise.
Check out the OnlineColleges.com Top Online Colleges Guide for more rankings of colleges and universities.
- Adult Education Degree - Bachelor of Science, Bellevue University, http://www.bellevue.edu/degrees/undergraduate/adult-education-bs/
- Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, Bemidji State University, http://www.bemidjistate.edu/academics/distance/undergraduate/elementary_education/
- Child Development Program, West Virginia University Parkersburg, http://www.wvup.edu/academics/academic-divisions/education-and-humanities/child-development-program/
- Degrees & Programs, Western Governors University, http://www.wgu.edu/degrees_and_programs
- Distance Education, Delta State University, http://www.deltastate.edu/academics/graduate-and-continuing-studies/continuing-education/programs/distanceeducation/
- Early Children Unified (ECU) Three Options, University of Nebraska at Kearney, http://www.unk.edu/academics/ecampus/degrees-programs/ba-education-ecu.php
- Fast Facts: Graduation Rates, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=40
- Online Degrees and Certificates, Florida State College at Jacksonville, http://www.fscj.edu/academics/online-learning/online-degrees-and-certificates/
- Online Learning Home, Chadron State College, https://www.csc.edu/extended/online/
- Off-site and Online Programs, Minnesota State University Moorhead, http://www.mnstate.edu/admissions/transfer/offsite/
- Office of Extended Learning and Academic Outreach, Southwest Minnesota State University, https://www.smsu.edu/academics/extendedlearning/
- Undergraduate Degree Fields, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cta.asp