This guide to affordable online and brick & mortar colleges and universities, with a section on those schools with the best return on investment (ROI), is the source for information on affordable colleges. Students looking for the best bang for their college buck need look no further.
What makes a college affordable?
Going to college can be a costly proposition, but it doesn’t have to be. For every expensive private learning institution, there is a cost-effective public option. For every exclusive regional campus, an online college offers the identical curriculum. For every pricey liberal arts degree, a more direct path exists to professional accreditation. In short, college can be affordable. You just need to know how to define, seek, and identify affordability.
Affordability isn’t mere cost. A low price tag doesn’t qualify as affordable if you’re buying something mediocre. This most certainly applies to your college degree. In measuring affordability, we look beyond price tag to measure a number of factors.
Opportunities for Assistance
Some of the most highly-regarded and selective colleges also offer some of the most generous financial aid programs on the higher education landscape. This can be an affordability game-changer for ambitious applicants with limited funds.
Online college presents the opportunity to earn a degree without expenses like housing, travel, parking, and, in some cases, books. Schools that offer high-quality online curricula, instruction and degree programs offer some distinct advantages in terms of affordability.
See also: Financial Aid for Online College
The degree that you seek will have a direct bearing on the most optimal educational path for your purposes. You might be best served by a two-year, four-year or certification program. Finding the most affordable option means matching your ambitions with a degree path that makes sense for you.
Return On Investment (ROI)
Separate from the question of what your college education costs, you must also ask what your college education is worth. Is it worth the expense? For the cost of your college, what kind of education will you experience? What kind of instruction will you receive? What kind of value will your degree hold in the real world? What kind of debt will you have to manage when you graduate? Affordability hinges on these factors, which means that you need to ask these questions of every college on your list.
Fortunately for you, we have taken the time to ask these questions and we have factored other tangible cost determinants into our affordability rankings, with the ultimate goal of accounting for both Net Price and Value when it comes to paying for college. Using the average yearly net price listed for each institution in NCES CollegeNavigator (which factors in actual tuition paid after certain types of financial aid, fees, room and board), we also incorporate questions of value such as ROI, online accessibility and degree options to provide you with a uniquely encompassing set of affordability rankings. See the Ranking Factors and Methodologies sections on each page for further details as to how rated and ranked each school.
College & Degree Affordability Rankings
The Most Affordable Four-Year College in Each State. Ever wondered what and where the most affordable college in your state is? This college ranking list focuses on non-profit colleges, whether public or private.
Find the most affordable college in your state:
The 50 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Associate Degrees. While community colleges may already have a reputation for affordability, these online associate degree programs excel in an already budget-friendly space, offering students a lot of options for their education.
The 50 Most Affordable Online Colleges for Bachelor’s Degrees. A bachelor’ degree remains the cost of entry in many fields. But why spend more than you must? These bachelor-level programs offer the very best options for cost-conscious students.
The 25 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Business Studies. Business has been the most popular major at the undergraduate level for over a decade. It’s just good business to get that online degree affordably.
The 25 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Communications and Public Relations. Professionals with communications and public relations skills remain desirable across all businesses. Here’s how to pay less to grow that skill.
The 25 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice Studies. Paying too much for a degree is a crime. This article ranks colleges for affordability of online bachelor’s degrees that focus on law enforcement and corrections.
What makes a college a top return on investment?
Choosing a college is a time-consuming and arguably tiresome task. Of course, the payoff can mean a successful life and career, so the college search effort is worthwhile in the long run
Yet with over 2,000 institutions in the U.S. that grant bachelor’s degrees, having some filters reduces the amount of time spent researching schools. Each student has their own priorities, and we try to cover as many of them here as we can.
These lists of 125 online, public, and private colleges look at "best return" by considering a large set of institutional factors, summarized in part below, which are supplemented by Payscale.com’s bachelor’s salary report for early-career and mid-career average salary data by college. See the Ranking Factors and Methodologies sections on each linked page for further details as to how we rated and ranked each school.
A variety of programs means more choices, greater ease to change majors, and more options for declaring a major. (To appeal to a breadth of students, only schools that have at least five bachelor’s degree programs are listed.)
For a student whose yearly family income is between $0 and $48,000, this is the average yearly cost (affordability) at a given college.
Payscale — Early/Mid Career Salary Ranges
Five (early) and ten (mid) years after graduation, a student with a bachelor’s degree from this college can expect this average yearly salary.
In-State Tuition and Mandatory Fees
This considers the school’s published costs and fees for in-state students.
A school’s graduation rate, first-year-student retention rate, popularity (number of applicants), out-of-state tuition and mandatory fees, and student/teacher ratio all count toward the overall return.
College Return on Investment Rankings
25 Online Colleges with the Best Return on Investment. In convenience and costs, online colleges are already an excellent value. These represent the cream, rising to the top of a solid category of colleges and universities.
50 Public Colleges with the Best Return on Investment. For many in-state students, nothing beats an education from a public college or university. These make a great value even better.
50 Private Colleges with the Best Return on Investment. When you think private college, high costs comes to mind first. These, however, are an excellent deal for the education received.
The Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition. How affordable is free? Whether through grants, work-study, or special programs, these colleges and universities manage to reduce tuition to zero.
Much has been said about rising student debt and the cost of college loans. For further pros and cons of student loans, plus sources for loans and loan refinancing, we offer these insights: