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Most Affordable Overall Online Colleges Methodology

The Most Affordable Online Colleges for bachelor's, master's, associate, and doctoral degrees highlight the top 25 schools with the lowest online tuition that meet the eligibility requirements.

Read more to learn about the eligibility criteria and tuition collection.

While our ranking lists sometimes include our advertising partners, we use the same methodology for all schools — partners or non-partners — when developing these lists. No online schools are given preferential treatment. Furthermore, all partner schools are marked with an icon for full transparency.

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To be considered for our Most Affordable Online Colleges list, schools must have regional or national accreditation and offer at least 10 fully online degrees at the specified degree level, with programs that cover three general subject areas.

Data Sources

Data for tuition and degree information was collected from official school websites, reflecting data for the 2021-2022 school year or their most recent available tuition if that year is unavailable.



In cases where schools offer a standard tuition rate — also referred to as "global tuition" — across most programs at the specified degree level, the standard tuition rate was used. Otherwise, the tuition amount reflects the lowest tuition rate available at the specified degree level.


Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition was offered to all online students.


Tuition was calculated assuming a student's full-time status. Additionally, when determining the tuition rate, we assumed that bachelor’s programs required four years to complete, while master’s and associate programs required two years.

Fully Online Status

Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work required was limited to less than two weeks. We chose this length of time because some degrees require in-person commitments; however, a limit of two weeks or less still allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.

IPEDS Data (not used to calculate rankings)

We utilize IPEDS data — a system of surveys conducted by the U.S. Dept of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics — to provide school locations and accreditation information.

Data Limitations

Tuitions are manually collected and undergo quality assurance checks, but errors may still occur due to the complexity of tuition collection.

Questions? If you are a school representative and have resources to share with us or questions about how your school's tuition is calculated, please contact us.


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