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2020 Most Affordable Online Doctorates in Education

By the OnlineU team | Updated 2/10/2022
2020 Most Affordable Education Doctoral Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 2/10/2022

Our ranked list of the most affordable online Ed.D. programs helps prospective doctoral candidates select the school that best meets their needs. Online doctoral degrees in education are designed for those who want to help teachers and students meet the challenges of an evolving educational environment. Many of today's educators acknowledge that there is a significant need for reform in all levels of education — including a new focus on contemporary skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. An online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) helps prepare high-level administrators to address these issues. Following the list, we provide information on program requirements, costs, financial aid, accreditation, and careers.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or browse our rankings of the most affordable online doctoral degrees. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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All tuition numbers were manually collected and verified
Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 California Coast University $4,350
# 2 #2 University of North Georgia $4,545
# 3 #3 Texas Tech University $5,070
# 4 #4 Marshall University $5,677
# 5 #5 Kennesaw State University $5,745
# 6 #6 University of Arkansas $6,029
# 7 #7 West Texas A&M University $6,297
# 8 #8 University of Wyoming $6,480
# 9 (tie) #9 (tie) Aspen University $6,750
# 9 (tie) #9 (tie) Columbus State University $6,750
# 11 #11 University of North Carolina at Greensboro $7,163
# 12 #12 University of Illinois Urbana - Champaign $7,230
# 13 #13 Carson-Newman University $7,470
# 14 #14 University of Kentucky $7,535
# 15 #15 Indiana University - Bloomington $7,727
# 16 #16 Sam Houston State University $7,769
# 17 #17 Belhaven University $7,875
# 18 #18 William Carey University $7,920
# 19 #19 Southeastern University $8,000
# 20 #20 University of Florida $8,110
# 21 #21 University of Virginia $8,115
# 22 #22 Murray State University $8,160
# 23 #23 Valdosta State University $8,204
Annual Tuition: $4,350
Annual Tuition: $4,350
Annual Tuition: $4,350

California Coast University (CCU) offers several fully online EdD programs in educational administration, educational psychology, and organizational leadership. All three programs require 13 courses or 66-semester units and culminate in a final examination and a dissertation. The research and dissertation portion of the degrees includes three classes that cover planning, proposal, and oral defense.

Online learning at CCU is flexible and self-paced, so students can complete work around their schedules.... Students have several interest-free payment plans to help offset the cost of tuition, which include a single down payment and a fixed amount to be paid each month. CCU also accepts 8-semester units of academic credit that can be transferred into their doctoral degree programs. Students who are employees of corporate partners or previous CCU graduates, active-duty military, veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, or government employees qualify for a 10% tuition discount. Online students have access to various library resources, including multiple research databases.

Prospective students must have a master's in education and submit an online application to apply. Applicants with graduate degrees in other subjects may be accepted, but they must complete prerequisites in education before beginning the program.

  • School Accreditation: DEAC

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Ed.D. Educational Administration
  • Ed.D. Educational Psychology
  • Ed.D. Organizational Leadership
Annual Tuition: $4,545
Annual Tuition: $4,545
Annual Tuition: $4,545

The University of North Georgia (UNG) offers a fully online EdD program in higher education leadership and practice. Students have the option to complete an on-campus orientation. The 60-credit program can be completed within three years. To graduate, students must complete a research development seminar and 15 credit hours of dissertation research.

Online classes are asynchronous and hosted on the UNG online platform, where students complete one- or two-week modules that include reading assignments,... writing responses, and participating in discussion boards. UNG offers various institutional scholarships and tuition waivers for international and out-of-state students. No-interest payment plans are also available. Students located near campus may apply for graduate assistantship positions. Online students have access to academic support services and online library resources.

To apply, students must have a master's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.5. Applicants who do not meet this requirement may be considered for provisional admission. Application materials include three letters of recommendation, a resume, a writing sample, and a personal statement.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1190
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,138
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 311
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership and Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) - Nursing Education

Texas Tech University

Lubbock (TX)
Annual Tuition: $5,070
Annual Tuition: $5,070
Annual Tuition: $5,070

Texas Tech University offers various online doctoral programs in education that prepare students to take on leadership or executive roles within educational institutions or districts. The 66-credit programs can be completed in three years. To graduate, students must complete 12 hours of dissertation research.

Online classes are hosted on the Blackboard learning platform and taught by the same faculty as on-campus courses. Graduate students may transfer up to 30 credits into the EdD program. To help... reduce overall tuition costs, fully Online students are charged a per-credit rate that is similar to the in-state tuition fee. Additionally, TTU offers need- and merit-based scholarships to new and current students. Online students have access to several resources, including 24/7 IT support, library services, the writing center, and online tutoring.

Applicants must have a master's degree and submit unofficial transcripts, in addition to a resume, personal statement, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, and a response to a prompt.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 78%
  • Average SATs: 1070 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,931
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,811
  • School Type: Nonprofit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC

Online Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Education in Agricultural Education
  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction - Track in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction - Track in Language, Diversity & Literacy Studies

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Ed.D. Degrees

What’s the Difference Between an Ed.D. And a Ph.D.?

Although they are both doctoral education degrees, the focus and curriculum of an Ed.D. and a Ph.D. in Education are distinctly different. An Ed.D. is designed for those who want to assume leadership positions in educational settings, so programs focus on teaching students how to identify high-level problems in this field and develop practical solutions to implement. The Ph.D. in Education, by contrast, is designed for those who intend to conduct original research and contribute to the body of literature on education, possibly while they teach at the college level. Courses in these programs concentrate on the use of various methods to gather and analyze data.

Is an Ed.D. Prestigious?

Yes, an Ed.D. is largely considered a prestigious degree. According to the most recent census statistics, only about 3.5% of Americans have earned doctoral or professional degrees, so anyone with a doctorate is part of a highly educated, elite group. However, Dr. Vaughn A. Calhoun, Assistant Vice President and Dean of the Center for Academic Success at Seton Hall University, notes that some view an Ed.D. as less prestigious than a Ph.D. in Education because earning an Ed.D. does not require that a dissertation include original educational research.

Can I Get an Ed.D. Online?

Yes, you can get an Ed.D. online. Many options are available, and our list features a range of affordable online Ed.D. programs.

Can You Get an Online Ed.D. Without a Dissertation?

Yes, some online Ed.D. programs do not require a dissertation, but nearly all programs require a culminating project that involves research and writing, often called a capstone project or thesis. These projects are different from typical Ph.D. dissertations because they don't require original research, but students must investigate existing literature and data. Ed.D. candidates generally begin by identifying a specific problem in education — often drawn from their personal work experience. Then, students formulate a solution and develop a plan for implementation. At the end of their programs, they usually present and defend their culminating project in front of a review panel.

Overview of Online Ed.D. Programs

Unlike a Ph.D. in Education that focuses on theory and research, an Ed.D. program concentrates on preparing professionals to devise practical solutions in education. Many programs feature areas of specialization so students can explore the issues that most interest them, such as curriculum and instruction, social justice, or higher education administration. In some programs, newly enrolled doctoral candidates join a small cohort of like-minded education professionals and are encouraged to solve problems through a collaborative, team-based approach.

Ed.D. programs typically require the completion of 42-60 credits. Most online degree programs are structured into three years of part-time study to accommodate the time constraints of working adults. The first two years are often designated for program coursework, leaving the final year for the dissertation or culminating project. However, those looking for the shortest Ed.D. programs may be interested in accelerated online doctoral programs, which are meant to be completed in two years of full-time study. The curriculum for an Ed.D. program may include advanced online courses in educational leadership, creativity, psychology, and instructional design, as well as research methods and data analysis. Graduation requirements may include one or more on-campus residencies, an internship, and successful completion of the final exam.

The curriculum for an Ed.D. program may include advanced online courses in educational leadership, creativity, psychology, and instructional design, as well as research methods and data analysis.

The admissions criteria vary somewhat across Ed.D. programs. In general, applicants must have a master's degree in education or a related field as well as multiple years of work experience as a teacher or administrator. Prospective doctoral candidates are usually asked to submit an application, academic transcripts meeting a minimum GPA requirement, a personal goal statement, a resume, letters of recommendation, and a copy of their teaching credential. Schools may also ask for GRE scores, although a growing number of programs are omitting this requirement. In some cases, students may need to complete one or more prerequisite courses before enrollment in their program.

Interested in learning about other popular doctoral programs? Explore the 25 most affordable schools for online doctoral degrees.

How Much Does an Ed.D. Program Cost?

Earning a doctorate can be expensive, but enrolling in a distance learning program may reduce the cost. The average annual tuition for the online Ed.D. programs on our list is $6,912, with the cheapest online Ed.D. programs coming in under $5,000 a year. This is a significant savings when compared to the average cost of an Ed.D., which is approximately $37,300 annually. A distance education program may be a more affordable option because many schools offer lower tuition rates for online students, even non-resident online students . Some schools also waive the additional fees for on-campus services, although distance learners may have to pay technology fees. Doctoral candidates may be able to save in other ways as well. Some may qualify for employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs or various types of financial aid.

Are There Fully Funded Online Ed.D. Programs?

Unless an online Ed.D. student lives close enough to work on campus, they are probably ineligible for a fully funded Ed.D. program. A fully funded doctoral program also includes other forms of compensation from the school, such as a combination of tuition, stipends, and health insurance. In exchange for this financial support, doctoral candidates are usually required to work full or part-time on campus as research or teaching assistants.

Financial Aid for Online Ed.D. Degree Programs

Ed.D. candidates may be eligible for financial aid, such as federal, state, and college grants and scholarships, which don't have to be repaid. Candidates may also consider taking out student loans, but they should thoroughly review a loan’s terms beforehand. Private loans often stipulate higher interest rates and stricter repayment plans than federal and state student loans. To apply for financial aid, candidates should begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Representatives from a school's financial aid office are available to answer any questions about aid.

In addition to applying for school-sponsored scholarships and grants that are geared toward graduate students, doctoral candidates may be eligible for privately sponsored scholarships through professional and community service organizations. For example, members of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society for educators, may qualify for scholarships. The eligibility criteria and awards for these scholarships vary but typically require a separate application from the FAFSA. Some Ed.D. graduates may also qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, depending on their chosen career path.

For college affordability tips, students can check out our resources about paying for a college degree.

Accreditation for Online Ed.D. Programs

Accreditation is one of the most important factors prospective doctoral candidates should review before applying to any program. To obtain accreditation, colleges and universities must meet established quality standards for their academic programs, faculty, student services, and other resources, which lends to their credibility. Candidates must be enrolled in an accredited program to qualify for federal financial aid, and a degree from an accredited school may be required for state licensure.

Candidates must be enrolled in an accredited program to qualify for federal financial aid, and a degree from an accredited school may be required for state licensure.

In addition to earning accreditation for the entire institution, schools can also seek accreditation for individual degree programs. The approved accrediting agency for Ed.D. programs is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, which encourages schools to conduct ongoing evidence-based analyses of their programs. Programmatic accreditation assures that the curriculum design reflects the most current theories and practices. Some programs may also be members of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate, where participating schools collaborate to enhance and improve the quality of their Ed.D. programs.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation both provide searchable databases of recognized schools and accrediting agencies.

What Can You Do With an Online Doctorate in Education?

Graduates of online Ed.D. programs can choose to follow a number of different career paths. Some aim for high-level school administration positions in K-12 education, while others opt for teaching or administrative roles in college education. A few move into the business sector, lending their instructional expertise to organizations with strong professional development programs.

Some of the occupations below only require a master's degree for entry-level positions, but a doctoral degree may make job candidates more attractive because of their advanced education and leadership training.

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Annual Median Salary:  $98,490
Job Outlook: 8%

Elementary, middle, and high school principals perform an array of managerial functions, including planning activities and schedules, managing teachers, monitoring finances, interacting with parents and students, and preparing reports to the school district. Principals usually need multiple years of teaching experience and are often required to obtain state-issued licenses to work in public schools. The BLS states that the median annual salary for principals is $98,490, and it projects an 8% increase in demand for professionals through 2030.

Postsecondary Teachers

Annual Median Salary:  $80,560
Job Outlook: 12%

Postsecondary teachers create lesson plans, provide information to students, and assess students' progress as part of their college-level instructional responsibilities. They may also have administrative duties, conduct research, and write scholarly works. The median annual salary for postsecondary teachers is $80,560, but the range varies from $63,560-$116,430 depending on the subject area. The BLS predicts a 12% growth in job openings through the end of the decade.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Annual Median Salary:  $97,500
Job Outlook: 8%

Postsecondary education administrator is a title that can refer to academic deans, provosts, registrars, and other high-level education professionals who oversee the operation of academic, student service, and research departments at colleges and universities. Deans and provosts typically need a doctoral degree along with years of administrative experience to qualify for these positions. Postsecondary administrators earn a median annual income of $97,500, and openings are projected to expand by 8% through the decade.

College Presidents or Chancellors

Annual Median Salary:  $107,680
Job Outlook: 8%

College presidents or chancellors oversee the operation of an entire school as chief executive officers. They set policies and procedures, form strategic alliances and partnerships, finalize the budget, participate in managing the faculty and other staff, and report to the school's board of directors. Many schools require candidates to have at least 10 years of administrative experience. The BLS views this role as similar to all other top executives, who earn a median annual salary of $107,680, and it projects an 8% increase in job openings through 2030.

Instructional coordinators

Annual Median Salary:  $66,970
Job Outlook: 10%

Instructional coordinators develop and implement school curricula, ensuring that programs meet local, state, and federal regulations. They also work closely with teachers to provide additional support and make recommendations on teaching materials and techniques. In some states' public schools, instructional coordinators may be required to have a teaching license. The median annual wage for this position is $66,970, and the BLS is expecting a 10% increase in job growth over the decade.

Is an Online Doctorate in Education Worth It?

Earning a doctorate in education means investing more time, money, and effort beyond what you've already devoted to earning your bachelor's and master's degrees. Most likely, you have personal circumstances, such as financial and family obligations, that need to be factored in as well. You must decide whether an online doctoral degree in education will help you fulfill your goals, but the following pros and cons may help you make that choice:

Potential Benefits

A doctoral degree may lead to a higher salary. Several high-level occupations in education do not require an Ed.D., but you might earn more if you have one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median weekly salary for master's degree holders is $1,497, while the median for doctoral degree holders is $1,883, a difference of 20%.

Online education allows you to choose the best program for your needs. By considering an affordable online Ed.D. program, you can choose from a wider selection of offerings with different concentrations, formats, and graduation requirements. You can enroll in the program that best fits your career goals and budget without having to change jobs or relocate.

Potential Drawbacks

Some occupations in the education field may require you to work unusual hours. If you decide to become a K-12 principal, college teacher, or some other type of administrator, you may need to work some evenings and weekends to accommodate your students' schedules or attend school events.

Online programs require self-discipline. Because of the relatively unstructured nature of online programs, you'll have to create your own schedule for your coursework and manage your time effectively.


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