Cost is one of the largest considerations for students planning to go to college. With the busy lives we all lead, it’s often difficult to fit college into our already busy schedules. Online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees while continuing to work. According to U.S. News & World Report (www.usnews.com), the number of schools that are offering online degree programs has almost doubled in the last ten years. What are the costs of online programs? Listed below are the ten most affordable online associate degree programs, as well as several online colleges.
Determining the Most Affordable Online Colleges
Finding the most affordable online colleges may not be as easy as one might think. There are two ways to decide which online college is the cheapest. You can look at the total tuition to complete the entire associate degree program, or you can look at the school’s tuition cost per credit hour. One thing to keep in mind is that even though a school may have cheap tuition per credit hour, it may still not be the cheapest school if its program requires more credit hours to complete the degree program. Here’s a better example:
School A offers an online associate degree program that requires you to complete 24 credit hours and charges $210 per credit hour for a total cost of $5,040. School B offers an online associate degree program that requires you to complete 18 credit hours and charges $275 per credit hour for a total cost of $4,950. As you can see, School B charges a higher tuition but is actually the cheaper option because it requires fewer credit hours, which means a cheaper total cost. When looking at a group of cheap and affordable schools, compare total cost of earning the degree. Look at what all you’re paying for rather than just a flat tuition rate.
List of Top Online Colleges
While some traditional colleges offer online courses as part of their regular curriculum, some schools specialize strictly in online degree programs. Here are some of the top affordable colleges that offer online associate degree programs:
- Baker College
- American InterContinental University
- California Coast University
- Kaplan University
- Virginia College
- Kent State University
- Liberty University Online
- Columbia Southern University
While some online degree programs allow students to complete all the courses through distance learning, others may require internships or hands-on training on site. For instance, students completing an online criminal justice program may be required to complete supervised field work at an academy or with a local law enforcement agency. Medical programs may also require supervised clinical education at a medical facility after the online courses are complete.
Top 10 Most Affordable Online Associate Degree Programs
Since the number of schools offering online programs has increased, so has the number of online associate degree programs increased. Listed below are the top most affordable online associate degree programs. Each of the schools offer additional programs beyond what is listed; these are the most common and most affordable. The programs may also charge additional technology or course fees.
- Associate of Applied Science in Business –$200 per credit hour at Columbia Southern University for this 60-credit hour program
- Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice –$200 per credit hour at Columbia Southern University for this 60-credit hour program
- Associate of Business in Accounting – $225 per credit hour at Baker College for this 95- quarter-hour program
- Associate of Applied Science in Computer Programming – $225 per credit hour at Baker College for this 97-quarter-hour program
- Associate of Applied Science in Emergency Services Management – $225 per credit hour at Baker for this 99-quarter-hour program
- Associate of Science in Health Administrative Services – $325 per credit hour at Colorado Technical University for this 93.5-credit hour program
- Associate of Science in Business Administration – $325 per credit hour at Colorado Technical University for this 93-credit hour program
- Associate of Arts in Business –$340 per credit hour at Liberty University for this 60-credit-hour program
- Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies – $340 per credit hour at Liberty University for this 60-credit-hour program
- Associate of Applied Science in Health Information Technology – $371 per credit hour at Kaplan University for this 92-credit-hour program
Accreditation Affects Tuition and Costs
If you’re pursuing a degree, you’re probably doing it to further your career. It would be a shame if after all your hard work, you didn’t receive acknowledgement for your degree. This could happen if you chose a school that was not accredited. To be accredited, a school must meet certain educational standards. Always check to make sure your online school is accredited. A school can be nationally or regionally accredited.
It’s important to know that credits from a nationally accredited school may not be able to be transferred to another college, so you may want to look for a regionally accredited online college. When looking into accredited and affordable online colleges, keep in mind that regionally accredited colleges are typically more expensive than nationally accredited schools. You may want to keep that in mind when looking at overall costs. Despite the higher cost, the regionally accredited college may be the better choice because it could offer you more employment opportunities.