What Is The Cheapest Online Bachelor’s Degree?


Online bachelors degrees have become very popular and families are frequently on the lookout for online college degrees that are affordable and easy on the pocket.

As a whole, colleges that accept ACE or NCCRS approved online transfer credits such as Excelsior, CUNY and Charter Oak are the most affordable with annual costs of about $3,000 for a US bachelor’s degree. These colleges allow over 75% of credits transfer into their degree from online college courses with external ACE accredited providers.

There is considerable misconception about what constitutes the annual college tuition expenses when it comes to flexible college programs such as those found in Excelsior, CUNY, Charter Oak and Thomas Edison state colleges.

Cheapest Way To Get A Bachelor’s Degree Online

Our Methodology for College Affordability

Colleges such as Thomas Edison, Excelsior and CUNY School of Professional Studies allow students to enroll into their degree program and meet a majority of their degree requirements via external online course providers such as Study.com, Sophia.org and Saylor Academy.

So students are not restricted to paying high online tuition at most of these colleges, as long as students earn most of their online credits via ACE/NCCRS recommended online credit courses.

These colleges have no residency requirement and as long as students take a small number of the college’s own online courses (about 1 to 5), they are free to take external online courses from low-cost online providers charging a small monthly fee for unlimited courses such as StraighterLine, Saylor (free), Study.com and Sophia.

List of Top 25 Colleges with Alternative Credit Costs

Here is the list of the most affordable colleges for a 4 year bachelors degree with:

  • the annual flexible cost via ACE/ NCCRS accredited online courses option,
  • versus annual cost via regular college courses.

As listed above, the 1st flexible cost option includes for monthly Sophia ($79/month) and Study.com ($99/month) subscriptions (or Straighterline- $199/month) for the entire 4 years, in addition to the required online courses at the college.

S No.

COLLEGE

Annual Online College Cost With Online External Courses + Other College Fees

Non-Collegiate Sources of Credit Documentation

Annual Online Tuition Cost With College’s Own Courses

College Course Fee Documentation

CUNY School of Professional Studies

$2,546

Credit for Non-Collegiate Learning

$7,798

Undergraduate Degree Students Tuition

Thomas Edison State College

$2,934

Earning Credit from ACE and National CCRS Evaluations

$4,639

Undergraduate Tuition Comparison,

Other Fees

Excelsior College

$3,000 to $3,400

Statement of Policy

$15,795

Undergraduate Tuition And Fees

Franklin University

$3,121

Pre-evaluated Learning

$11,940

Undergraduate Costs

Charter Oak State College

$3,143

ACE College Credit Recommendation Service and NCCRS

$13,400

Undergraduate Current Fees

University of Florida Online

$3,875

Transfer Credit

$3,875

Tuition and Financial Aid

Columbia Southern University

$3,899

Transfer Credit Policy

$7,050

Affordable Tuition Rates

Champlain College Online

$4,521

Credit For Prior Learning

$9,540

Tuition Rates

Southern New Hampshire University

$4,536

Testing Out of College Courses

$9,600

Online Tuition

Grantham University

$4,724

Transfer Credit

$10,350

Tuition Rates for Online School

The University of Arizona, Global Campus

$4,959

Transfer Non-Traditional College Credit

$17,700

Online Tuition and Financial Aid

Troy University

$5,046

Transfer Credits, Non Traditional Transfer Credit

$11,640

Tuition and Fees

Southern Utah University

$5,400

Additional Credit Information

$5,400

Online Undergraduate Tuition and Fees

Granite State College

$5,234

Credit For What You Know

$11,310

Tuition and Fees

Eastern Kentucky University

$5,264

Transfer Credit Guidelines

$12,510

Tuition EKU Online

University of Maryland, Global Campus

$5,879

Credit for Professional Courses,

Fast Paths to Credit

$14,970

Tuition Rates

Eastern Florida State College

$5,953

ACE Credit Evaluation

$15,268

EFSC Tuition Rates

Empire State College

$6.010

Credit For College Level Learning

$18,000

Undergraduate Tuition and Fees

Purdue University Global

$6,310

Types of Transfer Credit, Prior Learning Assessment

$16,685

Undergraduate and Graduate Tuition and Fees

Elizabethtown College, School of Graduate and Professional Studies

$6,374

Transfer Credit and
Prior Learning

$17,656

Undergraduate Tuition

University of Wisconsin, Parkside

$6,750

Credit for Prior Learning

$6,750

Online Tuition

Wilmington University

$7,313

Credits Through Alternative Providers

$11,700

Tuition and Fees

Western Governors University

$7,525

Generous Transfer Policy

$7,525

Tuition at WGU

Northern Arizona University

$9,962

Undergraduate Transfer Credit

$16,770

Undergraduate Tuition

Goodwin College of Professional Studies, Drexel University

$12,317

Transfer Credit and Assessment

$40,725

Tuition/Fees

Top 7 Popular and Affordable Degree Majors

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following are degree majors that provide the most job opportunities (highest to lower), along with a good salary.

Below, I’ve also included the colleges in which these can be completed online with reduced college expenses using credits transfer of ACE accredited credits and other college courses.

College Degree Major Job Title Median Salary

(2016-26)

CUNY SPS Thomas Edison Excelsior Franklin Charter Oak U of Florida Online Columbia Southern Univ Champlain College S New Hampshire Univ Grantham University
BS in Nursing

(BS-RN)

Registered Nurses

$70,000

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Y

BS in Business Administration or Leadership

(Majoring in General Business, Operations, Finance or Sales)

Business Managers

(General, Operations, Financial or Sales Managers)

$107,250

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

BS in Business Administration

(Majoring in Accounting)

Accountants and Auditors

$69,350

N

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

BS in Computer Science/ Information Technology Software Developers

(Applications software, System software)

$104,695

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

BS in Information Technology/ Engineering System Analysts/ Administrators

(Computer System Analysts, Network/ System Administrators)

$83,870

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

BA in Education

with Science, Mathematics or other subjects

School Teachers

(Elementary, Secondary, Middle school, Kindergarten or Special Education)

$57,376

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

N

BS in Engineering Engineers and Architects

(Civil, Mechanical, Industrial, Electrical)

$86,012

N

P

P

N

N

N

N

N

P

P

Note: Y – Yes, N – No, P – Partial/ Some majors

For the engineering majors, Southern New Hampshire University provides most engineering degrees on campus, but for the online format, the university offers only Computer Science and Game programming.

But even with the on campus degree majors, students can still transfer in up to 90 credits from ACE/ NCCRS accredited, online college courses. So this would mean that you would only have to spend about one year on campus and can earn the remaining credits with external online courses and get those credits transferred when starting the on-campus degree program at SNHU.

Is It Possible To Get A Bachelor’s Degree Online?

Yes, many colleges and universities offer online bachelors degree programs. Some of them tend to be almost as expensive as fulltime, on-campus degree programs.

But in this post, we’ve included the most affordable online degrees which can be completed with a combination of the college’s online courses, combined with up to 90 credits of the total 120 credits which can be earned via external ACE accredited online credit-eligible courses that you can transfer into your degree program free of cost.

How Much Does A Bachelor’s Degree Cost Online?

Some colleges such as the University of Phoenix charge between $15,000 to $18,000 every year for a fully online bachelor’s degree program. Their credits transfer is limited and only allows transfer of credits earned previously at other accredited colleges.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the University of the People (UoPeople) which offer free tuition and only charges an assessment fee of $120 for each course. This adds up to about $4,860 for 4 years, or $1,125 annually at UoPeople.

But the disadvantage currently with UoPeople is that it does not have regional accreditation but only is only nationally accredited. National accreditation is sufficient with most employers for getting a job, but getting admission for a masters at a regionally accredited college with a bachelors from UoPeople will not be possible. So it’s always advisable whenever possible to complete your degree from a regionally accredited college.

All the Top 25 colleges we’ve listed above are regionally accredited, offer online degree programs, and are also extremely affordable with annual costs starting from $2,546.

Do Employers Accept Online Degrees?

Most employers nowadays accept online degrees to be on par with traditional classroom-based college degrees. Employers have been accepting various forms of distance learning since the late 1800’s.

Currently, online learning has become very popular and most colleges and employers are actively promoting online degrees.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, most education was completed via live classroom learning which was subsequently followed by the student’s own learning via textbooks. But even as early 1923, 10% of radio stations were owned by educational institutions for delivering educational learning.

Then in the 1950’s with the advent of the television, American homes started to have the black-and-white TV sets. In 1951, the City Colleges of Chicago started the first television instructional programs whereby students could earn college credits and complete a college degree via television courses.

After the start of the first internet browser in 1993, fully online college programs started to take root by 1998, starting at New York University Online, Western Governors University, the California Virtual University and the Trident University International.

Therefore, with this long history of distance and online college level learning, online college degrees are certainly here to stay. As many as one-third of college students utilize online learning to complete their college degrees and this percentage is continuing to exponentially increase since 2020.

As such, online college degrees are just as valuable as a brick-and-mortar classroom-based college degrees. Online student communities and virtual classrooms are able to deliver a high quality of college learning and this is certainly recognized by most employers as an effective form of college education.

What Are The Benefits Of Completing A Bachelors Degree?

A bachelor’s degree is required for getting a job in many occupations such as business management, accounting, computer software, teaching positions, engineering and so on.

For nursing, a bachelors degree is preferred for a good career but is not required for an entry-level position.

Starting your career with a bachelors degree in these popular fields is a great start to one’s career with a good salary and other perks. As you build more experience, it is possible to get into many senior positions using the length and breadth of your experience combined with the bachelors degree.

There are many people who hold prestigious high level positions when combining their bachelors degree with additional experience. Therefore, a bachelors degree especially in one of the popular fields is a great way to begin and grow a successful career.

For senior managerial and leadership roles, it is helpful to also complete a masters degree or an MBA. Similarly for STEM majors, it is good to combine experience with a master’s degree for further career growth.

As a general rule, associate degree holders are able to get the more junior level positions, but for a good higher-level starting position, a bachelors degree is the first important credential to have.

What Are The Top Paying Bachelors Degrees?

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s study in 2017, the following are the highest paid occupations (with median annual salary) that require a bachelors degree:

  1. Chief Executives: $183,270
  2. Computer and Information Systems Managers: $139,220
  3. Architectural and Engineering Managers: $137,720
  4. Airline Pilots, Co-pilots and Flight Engineers: $137,330
  5. Petroleum Engineers: $132,280
  6. Marketing Managers: $132,230
  7. Financial Managers: $125,080

Among these, financial managers have the maximum number of job openings every year of about 56,000, followed by Computer Systems Managers of about 32,000 openings every year from 2016-26.

What Is The Fastest Way To Get A Bachelor’s Degree?

The fastest way to get a bachelors degree is with a flexible, degree completion program that combines unlimited and continuous credits transfer with many low-cost, online and offline methods of earning college credits.

Residency requirements at the college should also be minimal so that students can complete most of their learning online and remotely, within the convenience of their own schedules.

Additionally, there should be way to evaluate work experience and other non-accredited forms of learning for equivalent college credits.

This will ensure that every form of the student’s knowledge and learning is recognized for getting a college degree, irrespective of how and where the learning was completed.

The college’s own costs and fees also need to be limited so that students are able to comfortably complete the degree in the shortest time possible.

All of these facilities will enable a super-fast and efficient way to complete a US bachelors degree.

How Many Years Does It Take To Earn A Bachelor’s Degree?

In general, a bachelors degree takes 4 years to complete. However, there are some cases when a bachelors degree takes 5 or 6 years or more to complete.

This delay in completing a bachelors degree happens due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Working fulltime and parttime college
  • Lack of finances
  • Lack of time for study
  • Unable to accommodate class schedules

Therefore, one of the best ways to complete college within 4 years is to undertake an online college degree that is affordable and which provides many low-cost ways of earning college credits, along with the provision for unlimited transfer of credits.

Can You Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Two Years Online?

It is certainly possible for students to complete their bachelors degree online in 2 years.

Here are the different ways for completing a bachelors degree in 2 years:

  • Transfer 2 years worth of college credits from previous college learning or from an associate degree, so as to complete the remaining college courses in 2 years.
  • Take many ACE accredited online courses along with CLEP/ DSST exams to quickly complete your college degree in 2 years.
  • Obtain college credits for your work experience or for any non-accredited courses or learning.
  • Combine all of the above methods of credits transfer, ACE accredited courses, CLEP/DSST and credits for work experience to graduate college even faster!

Affordable Online Bachelor Degree Programs For International Students

A majority of the colleges listed in this post such as CUNY, Excelsior and SNHU accept international students into their online, affordable degree programs. The admission requirements for international students is the same as for US students, and international students pay the same fee as out-of-state students in the US.

Just like US residents, international students need to have graduated high school and have completed about 15 or so college credits in their native country before gaining admissions into one of these colleges.

These college credits can be earned by taking college courses that are recognized by the department of education of the respective country. Otherwise, you are also free to take AP (advanced placement) exams, or complete a few ACE or NCCRS accredited US college courses with providers such as Sophia, Study.com or Saylor Academy.

Once you have earned about 15 to 20 credits, that would be a good time to apply for admission to one of these colleges. The only extra requirement for international students is to prove english language proficiency via exams such as TOEFL or IELTS.

For college courses completed in your native country, you will also need to complete a foreign credential evaluation with providers such as ECE or WES, so as to convert your international college courses & scores to US equivalent college credits and grades.

Once you choose a college from the above 25 list, they will provide you their list of recommended foreign credential evaluators for getting the US equivalent college credits for international college courses.

Which Colleges Offer Affordable Associate Degrees?

The following 10, out of which 3 are community colleges, provide online, affordable associate degrees with 75% or more of credits transfer via ACE/ NCCRS accredited online courses.

S No.

COLLEGE

Annual Online College Cost With Online External Courses + Other College Fees

Non-Collegiate Sources of Credit Documentation

Annual Online Tuition Cost With College’s Own Courses

College Course Fee Documentation

Dallas College (community college)

$2,448

Alternative Credit Project

$6,000

Cost and Tuition

Thomas Edison State College

$2,934

Earning Credit from ACE and National CCRS Evaluations

$4,639

Undergraduate Tuition Comparison,

Other Fees

Excelsior College

$3,000 to $3,400

Statement of Policy

$15,795

Undergraduate Tuition And Fees

Franklin University

$3,121

Pre-evaluated Learning

$11,940

Undergraduate Costs

Charter Oak State College

$3,143

ACE College Credit Recommendation Service and NCCRS

$13,400

Undergraduate Current Fees

Columbia Southern University

$3,899

Transfer Credit Policy

$7,050

Affordable Tuition Rates

Virginia Western (community college)

$4,912

Prior Learning

$11,106

Current Tuition and Fee Rates

Grantham University

$4,724

Transfer Credit

$10,350

Tuition Rates for Online School

Montgomery College (community college)

$5,645

Transfer Credit, Credit for Prior Learning

$14,034

Paying for College

University of Maryland, Global Campus

$5,879

Credit for Professional Courses,

Fast Paths to Credit

$14,970

Tuition Rates

Which Colleges Offer Inexpensive Masters And Doctorate Degrees?

Many of the 25 affordable colleges listed in this post provide inexpensive Masters and Doctorate programs.

The following are a few that provide both Masters and Doctorate degrees:

  1. Thomas Edison State College,
  2. Franklin University
  3. Columbia Southern University
  4. University of Arizona Global
  5. Southern New Hampshire University
  6. Troy University

Here are a few colleges which provides Masters and Bachelors degree programs but no doctorate degree programs:

  1. Excelsior college
  2. Grantham University
  3. Empire State University
  4. Western Governors University

References

University and College websites: the relevant college URL links are provided above within the article

Saylor Academy, Study.com, StraighterLine, Sophia.org

Employment outlook for bachelor’s-level occupations

History of Telecourses

Online learning in higher education

Distance Learning and the Evolution of Online Learning in the United States

High Wage Occupations by Typical Entry-Level Education, 2017

Recent Posts