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affordable grad school

You can afford graduate school! We have ranked the top 20 most affordable graduate schools in the United States to help you evaluate the best options.

Graduate school is a big decision. It can be a profoundly enriching experience, both personally and professionally. However, many people look at the mounting cost of tuition and shy away from taking that next step. If you’re worried about the cost of obtaining your graduate degree, this article can help. Each school on our list of the most affordable graduate schools costs less than $9,000 a year. And in some cases, that figure is substantially less. So, if you’re interested in finding the cheapest graduate online programs at top-tier colleges, read on!

Important Takeaways

• Pursuing a graduate degree can be a considerable expense. However, many students don’t realize there are plenty of cheap graduate programs out there. And just because you attend one of the least expensive graduate schools doesn’t mean you will sacrifice quality. Some of the cheapest graduate programs are offered at top research institutions.

• The best value graduate schools will often allow online students to pay in-state tuition rates. Additionally, even the most affordable graduate programs feature generous assistance. For example, with cheap master’s programs, most students are still eligible for help. This includes scholarships, grants, and financial aid. Many affordable grad schools even offer internships and assistantships. These opportunities can further reduce the cost of online graduate programs.

• Students looking for cheap grad schools won’t be disappointed with this list. Each of the affordable master’s programs and doctoral programs on this list has tuition rates of less than $9,000 per academic year.

Why Pursue an Affordable Graduate School?

If you’re considering an affordable grad school, congratulations on taking the next step in pursuing your higher education! There are several excellent reasons to enroll in graduate school:

Career Advancement

A graduate degree is required for career advancement in certain fields. For example, many academic, research, and healthcare positions require a graduate degree. Attending an affordable grad school can secure you a great-paying job.


A graduate degree allows you to specialize in a particular area of study. You can explore topics you care about. And you will add depth to what you already know about your field. This can give you a competitive edge in the job market and open doors to new career opportunities.

Personal Growth

Graduate school can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. It allows you to develop new skills, expand your knowledge, and grow as a person.


Graduate school provides excellent networking opportunities. You’ll meet other experts and professionals in your field. This can lead to valuable connections and future opportunities for collaboration.

Higher Earnings

In most cases, a graduate degree can lead to better pay. In fact, according to the US Department of Social Security, those with a college degree make much higher earnings over their lifetime. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn between $600,00 to $900,000 more than those with only a high school diploma. However, those with graduate degrees make substantially more than that. For example, women with graduate degrees earn an average of $1.1 million throughout their careers. And men earn an average of $1.5 million more in median lifetime earnings. 

Can Graduate School Really Be Affordable?

It is essential to consider the cost and time commitment of graduate school. Naturally, you want to be sure you’ll see a return on your investment. The average cost of a graduate degree at a public university or college is $12,410 a year. At private universities, that figure jumps to $28,430 a year. It is also vital to research graduate programs carefully. Look at the classes offered for your preferred area of study. And check out all the resources available for online graduate students. With so many options, you’re sure to find the most affordable master’s programs that align with your career goals and interests. 

affordable grad school

Combatting the Rising Costs of College

Yes, grad school is expensive. So when you start researching tuition prices, you might get sticker shock. But it’s not as bad as it seems at first glance. There are many affordable graduate schools. And there are plenty of ways to make cheap graduate schools even more affordable.

For starters, many employers will reimburse tuition if you’re completing a graduate program in your current field. So be sure to check with the human resources department where you work. They may have programs you weren’t even aware of. 

Secondly, there are plenty of scholarships and grants up for grabs for graduate students. Did you know online students are just as eligible for scholarships as those attending school in person? Plus, many of the most affordable graduate schools have assistantships and internships for graduate students. This is another way to make college more affordable for you. 

Check out the best scholarships for online students

Finally, when seeking out the most affordable graduate schools, don’t forget about Federal financial aid. Graduate students (even online graduate students) are still eligible for many financial aid options. So be sure to fill out the FAFSA to see what you qualify for. 

The tips above, plus this list of the 20 most affordable graduate schools, can ensure you get the lowest price on your graduate education. 

You may also find our guide to master’s degree programs helpful

Methodology for the Most Affordable Graduate Schools

We approached this college ranking similarly to our others. However, all the schools on this list are ranked solely on tuition rates. To begin, we curated a list of schools that all meet the following criteria:

  • The college must have at least one graduate-level distance education degree program.
  • The college must be based in the United States.
  • The college must be appropriately accredited.
  • The college must be a not-for-profit institution.

Once we had a complete list, we determined each school’s graduate tuition rate. The 20 with the lowest rates are presented here, with the most affordable graduate schools ranking the highest.

All of the tuition information for this list of the most affordable graduate schools was gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics

We did not consider any scholarships or financial aid a student may receive. We also did not consider any additional fees associated with attending each graduate school program. Please note that the costs listed are based on in-state graduate tuition. In some cases, the prices for out-of-state students will be more. And in other cases, online graduate students enjoy the same low tuition costs as in-state students, no matter where they live. 

This information is accurate at the time of writing. However, you should always consult with the financial aid office at any affordable grad school you consider.

Interested in earning an undergraduate degree online? You may find the school for you in our article featuring the Top 100 Best Online Colleges.

Top 20 Schools With Affordable Online Masters Programs

Fort Hays State University$3,729
Wayne State College$4,185
University of the Cumberlands$4,282
University of West Georgia$4,338
Valdosta State University$4,572
Chadron State College$4,650
Georgia Southern University$4,986
West Texas A & M University$5,088
Kennesaw State University$5,328
Oklahoma State University$5,611
Henderson State University$5,670
Dakota State University$5,999
University of South Dakota$6,123
University of Louisiana at Monroe$6,490
Emporia State University$6,547
Utah State University$6,763
Western Governors University$7,765
University of Arkansas$,7875
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology$8,130
Troy University$8,550

Ranking The Top Online Affordable Graduate Schools

Fort Hays State UniversityFHSU: affordable online master's programs

Hays, Kansas

Fort Hays State University is a comprehensive public university in Hays, Kansas. The school’s mission is “ to develop the engaged global citizen-leaders our world needs today.” It is known for its caring and innovative faculty, who have a deep commitment to mentoring and teaching. And it has an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. This ensures that all graduate students receive the individual attention they need to succeed. This graduate school consistently ranks among the top universities in the Midwest. And a full 95% of FHSU graduates secure employment after graduation. 

FHSU features 60 online graduate degree programs through its five colleges. Students can study at the  Master’s, Education Specialist, and Doctoral levels. Some of the most popular graduate online degree programs include:

  • English
  • Corporate Communications
  • Global Management
  • Political Leadership and Public Service
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Instructional Technology
  • Elementary Education
  • Educational Administration
  • Gifted Education
  • Digital Leadership
  • School Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Health and Human Performance
  • Nursing Administration
  • Doctorate of Nursing Practice

FHSU also has an impressive online MBA program with 15 concentration areas. These online MBA programs are flexible and designed for working professionals. All online classes are taught in 8-week course sessions. There are five start dates a year. And graduate students from all backgrounds are welcome to apply. Financial aid is available. 

Fort Hays State University is committed to online learning. Courses are delivered through Blackboard, the school’s digital learning management platform. Coursework may include videos, labs, discussion boards, team projects, and more. The school offers an array of services for its students. Graduate students can take advantage of:

  • Free Online Tutoring & Writing Center
  • Accessibility and Counseling Services
  • Circles of Support
  • Career Services
  • Software and Technical Support
  • Library Resources and Research Help
  • Credit for Prior Learning
  • Events, Clubs, and Organizations
  • Discounted Internet Service

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $3,729

Wayne State CollegeWSC: affordable online master's programs

Wayne, Nebraska

Wayne State College is a small public college in Wayne, Nebraska. It serves around 4,500 students a year. The school is known for its academic excellence, friendliness, and affordability. There is also a strong focus on service learning at WSC. Students are encouraged to lead community projects no matter where they live. These projects are designed to enrich their learning experience and strengthen the communities around them. Over 80% of the school’s faculty hold terminal degrees in their respective fields. 

The college features over 100 programs of study through four schools. And those who want to attend graduate school online have over 30 options. Some are fully online, while others are hybrid graduate degree programs with a mix of on-campus and online instruction. Some of the online master’s degrees include:

  • Athletic Administration
  • Business and Information Technology Education
  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Criminal Justice Administration and Management
  • Curriculum and Instruction – Instructional Leadership
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Education Specialist
  • Elementary Education
  • Family and Consumer Sciences Education
  • Human Performance and Wellness Management
  • Industrial Technology Education
  • Information Technology Management 
  • Organizational Management
  • Public Relations Management
  • School Administration
  • Sport and Recreation Management 

Most of the online master’s programs are highly flexible and can be completed in as little as two years. There are typically several start dates a year for the most popular programs. Financial aid is available. Courses are delivered through Canvas and may be asynchronous or synchronous, depending on the specific graduate program. Online graduate students have access to helpful resources such as:

  • Academic Coaching and Advising
  • Writing Help
  • Peer Tutoring
  • Disability Resources
  • Library Resources
  • Career Services

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $4,185

University of the CumberlandsUniversity of the Cumberlands: affordable online master's programs

Williamsburg, Kentucky

The University of the Cumberlands is a non-profit private Christian university in Williamsburg, Kentucky. It is formally affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. However, students of all backgrounds attend this affordable college. It was founded in 1889, and today, the school serves close to 20,000 students. The school offers dozens of programs, many of which can be completed online. Some of the online master’s degree programs at the graduate school include:

  • Artificial Intelligence in Business 
  • Finance
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Project Management
  • Strategic Management
  • Addiction Studies 
  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Justice Administration 
  • Teaching 
  • Digital Forensics 
  • Global Business with Blockchain Technology 
  • Information Systems Security 
  • Information Technology
  • Coaching 
  • Health and Human Performance 
  • Nursing 
  • Physician Assistant Studies
  • Cyber-Engineering 
  • Christian Studies 

University of the Cumberlands also features several online doctoral degrees. Some of the options include:

  • Business Administration 
  • Information Technology 
  • Leadership 
  • Physical Therapy 
  • Counselor Education & Supervision 
  • Educational Leadership

Coursework is delivered online, and classes can be completed at your own pace. The college has a user-friendly class management system. This platform provides all the interactions of a traditional classroom in a flexible, online environment. Graduate students maintain regular contact with their instructors. And they are provided with plenty of options to communicate and collaborate with their peers. Financial aid is available. 

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

In-State Graduate Tuition: $4,282

University of West GeorgiaUWG: affordable online master's programs

Carrollton, Georgia 

The University of West Georgia is a four-year public institution in Carrollton, Georgia. This non-profit university was founded in 1906 and serves around 12,600 students a year. The school is known for its diverse culture and commitment to academic excellence. It boasts an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1. And it offers degrees at all levels, from associate degrees to Ph.Ds. UWG features over 90 dynamic programs. And many of them are offered partially or entirely online. Some of the online master’s degree programs include:

  • Applied Business Analytics
  • Criminology
  • Digital and Social Media Communication
  • Elementary Education
  • Integrative Health and Wellness
  • Instructional Technology, Media & Design
  • Music Education
  • Music
  • Nursing
  • Physical Education
  • Reading Instruction
  • Special Education
  • Sport Management

UWG also offers four excellent online doctoral programs. They include:

  • Higher Education Administration
  • Nursing Education
  • Professional Counseling and Supervision
  • School Improvement

Online courses are delivered through Google Meet, CourseDen (D2L), and other technologies. Students in the online graduate education programs receive plenty of support. For example, faculty members hold online office hours so students can meet with them one-on-one. The graduate school offers virtual counseling services, tutoring, and writing help.  Students at UWG (including online students) can also pursue Credit for Prior Learning. This is accomplished through departmental exams, CLEP exams, and portfolio assessments. Financial aid is also available. 

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

In-State Graduate Tuition: $4,338

Valdosta State UniversityVSU: affordable online master's programs

Valdosta, Georgia

Valdosta State University is a four-year public university in Valdosta, Georgia. It is a comprehensive university and one of four colleges in the University System of Georgia. The school was initially established in 1906 as a normal college which trained teachers. Today, it offers dozens of programs through several academic divisions. While VSU only has eight online bachelor’s degrees, there are numerous flexible graduate degree programs. And over 70% of graduate students study online. Some of the online master’s degree programs through the graduate school include:

  • Adult and Career Education
  • Criminal Justice
  • Curriculum and Instruction/Accomplished Teaching
  • Education Leadership
  • Elementary Education
  • English Studies for Language Arts Teachers
  • English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
  • Foreign Language Education (French or Spanish)
  • MBA
  • Health and Physical Education
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Higher Education Leadership
  • Instructional Technology
  • Library and Information Science
  • Middle Grades Math and Science
  • Public Administration
  • Special Education: General Curriculum or Deaf/Hard-Of-Hearing

Students at Valdosta State University can also earn a doctoral degree online. Options include:

  • Coaching Pedagogy in Physical Education
  • Educational Leadership
  • Instructional Technology
  • Leadership
  • Public Administration
  • School Counseling
  • Special Education
  • Teacher Leadership

The college also offers several hybrid programs. In these programs, students will take courses both online and on campus. Hybrid programs are ideal for busy working students who live near Valdosta. They allow you to collaborate in person while giving you plenty of flexibility in your schedule. 

Online graduate students at Valdosta have access to world-class resources and plenty of support. The school offers career, counseling, and disability services. All students can also access online tutoring, academic support, and technology help. The school uses Brightspace by D2L as its online learning management platform. And financial aid is available. 

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

In-State Graduate Tuition: $4,572

Chadron State CollegeCSC: affordable online master's programs

Chadron, Nebraska

Chadron State College is a public college in Chadron, Nebraska. It was founded in 1909 and is a member of the Nebraska State College System. This is a small college serving just over 2,200 students a year. However, despite its small size, it still houses four academic divisions. And students can choose from dozens of areas of study. The school offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees. And many of them can be completed entirely online. 

  • School Counseling
  • Educational Administration
  • History and Math/Science Education
  • Education
  • Organizational Management
  • Athletic Training
  • Business Administration

The online MBA program at Chadron is particularly popular. Students can pursue a general track or opt for one of three specializations. These include  Accounting, Digital Marketing, and Healthcare Management. There are six entry points a year for the MBA. And no GMAt is required for admission to the program. Additionally, it is ACBSP-accredited. The degree can be earned in two years of part-time study.  Full-time students can complete the program in about 18 months. 

The Organizational Management program also offers three areas of focus. These include Human Services, Natural Resources, and Sports Management. The MS in Organizational Management takes about three years to complete. And students will complete an internship, a scholarly project, and a thesis. 

Many of the courses for the online master’s degree programs are delivered in an accelerated eight-week format. This allows students to complete their degrees faster than the traditional on-campus programs. Students have access to 24/7 support. And online students pay the same tuition as in-state students. 

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $4,650

Georgia Southern UniversityGSU: affordable online master's programs

Statesboro, Georgia

Georgia Southern University is a large public research university in Statesboro, Georgia. It is known as a conservative, military-friendly school. There are over 27,000 students attending Georgia Southern. 

The university houses eight colleges and offers nearly 150 degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. And the school features dozens of online graduate degrees and certificates. Some of the most popular online master’s degree programs include:

  • Health and Physical Education
  • Curriculum & Instruction 
  • Educational Leadership
  • Evaluation, Assessment, Research, and Learning
  • Higher Education Administration
  • Instructional Technology
  • Special Education
  • Professional Communication and Leadership
  • Criminal Justice & Criminology
  • Public Health
  • Accounting
  • MBA
  • Applied Economics
  • Logistics and Supply Chain Management
  • Kinesiology
  • Sports Management 

Courses are taught by the same esteemed faculty members that teach on campus. And students earn the same respected degree. The graduate school offers a wide range of services for its students, including:

  • Student Accessibility Resource Center
  • Counseling Center
  • Career Services
  • Testing Services
  • Multicultural Student Center
  • Library
  • Online Course Support
  • Writing Center
  • Academic Success Center (Tutoring)

Financial aid is available. Graduate students can also explore a wide range of professional continuing education opportunities. 

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

In-State Graduate Tuition: $4,986

WTAMU: affordable online master's programs

West Texas A&M University

Canyon, Texas

West Texas A&M University is a public university in the Amarillo metropolitan area. Like most universities in America, WTAMU was established as a normal college. Doors opened to an inaugural class in 1910. Today, it serves a student population of around 9,600. And it features dozens of majors through seven colleges and departments. 

The college features over 20 remote graduate programs. Many online graduate programs at WTAMU have been nationally recognized as some of the best online graduate programs in the country.  And most of them can be completed 100 percent online. Students also have the option of completing them as a hybrid program. This allows them to attend some classes on campus and engage with peers and faculty while earning their master’s degree. Some of the online master’s degree programs include:

  • Accounting
  • Agriculture 
  • Business 
  • Communication 
  • Computer Information Systems and Business Analytics 
  • Counseling 
  • Educational Diagnostician 
  • Educational Leadership
  • Engineering 
  • English
  • Finance and Economics
  • Instructional Design and Technology
  • Leadership in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Mathematics
  • Nursing
  • Public Administration
  • Social Work, 
  • Sports and Exercise Sciences

WTAMU also features one online doctoral program, an Educational Leadership Ed.D. In this program, students complete 86-99% of their coursework online. However, there are some required on-campus components. 

Financial aid is available. And those pursuing a master’s degree have access to many resources to help them succeed at WT. Some of these include:

  • Office of Student Engagement and Leadership
  • Cornette Library
  • Student Success Center
  • Testing and Tutoring Services
  • Student Affairs Resources

Currently, WTAMU is offering to beat any offer from another college or university in the United States!

So it is possible to earn your graduate degree at an even lower cost than the listed tuition. 

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

In-State Graduate Tuition: $5,088

Kennesaw State UniversityKSU: affordable online master's programs

Kennesaw, Georgia

Kennesaw State University is a large, four-year public doctoral research institution. It is part of an elite group of only 6% of U.S. colleges with an R1 or R2 Carnegie designation. Headquartered in Kennesaw, Georgia, it serves close to 43,000 students a year. And it is one of the largest universities on our list. 

The school comprises 13 colleges and offers over 180 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs. And many areas of study can be completed online. Some of the online master’s degree programs at KSU include:

  • Systems Engineering
  • Cybersecurity
  • Engineering Management
  • Digital Financial Technologies
  • Intelligent Robotic Systems
  • TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages)
  • Information Systems
  • Instructional Technology
  • International Policy Management
  • Special Education
  • Art and Design
  • Secondary and Middle Grades Education
  • Elementary and Early Childhood Education
  • Business Administration, Web MBA
  • Educational Leadership

In addition to the fully online master’s degrees, students can choose from 14 hybrid programs. These involve a combination of on-campus and online learning. And they are ideal for busy working professionals who live in the area and need a flexible master’s degree program. There are also three online doctoral programs at KSU. They include:

  • Teacher Leadership
  • Instructional Technology
  • Secondary and Middle Grades Education

KSU offers a full range of services to its students. They include academic advising, library, career planning, and more. Plus, students are provided with 24/7 mental health support to ensure their wellness and happiness during college. Financial aid is available. 

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

In-State Graduate Tuition: $5,670

Oklahoma State UniversityOSU: affordable online master's programs

Stillwater, Oklahoma

Oklahoma State University is a public land grant university in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It was founded in 1890 and is classified as a Carnegie R1 research university. The school currently serves close to 25,000 students. The university offers degrees at every level through six different colleges and schools. 

OSU has a very esteemed reputation. And it has been recognized by a variety of organizations over the years. Most notably, it has been named a Truman Honor Institution. And its School of Entrepreneurship has been recognized as 10th in the world for research productivity. There are hundreds of programs of study offered at the school. OSUOnline is where you will find its distance-learning options. There are over 70 online graduate programs offered. Some of the most popular online master’s degrees include:

  • Aging Studies
  • Agricultural Education and Leadership
  • Aviation and Space
  • Curriculum and Leadership
  • Design, Housing, and Merchandising
  • Digital Design
  • Educational Leadership Studies
  • Educational Psychology
  • Educational Technology
  • Engineering Technology: Mechatronics and Robotics
  • Family and Community Services
  • Consumer Sciences Education
  • Fire and Emergency Management Administration
  • Engineering Technology,
  • Health Care Administration
  • Industrial Engineering and Management
  • Management Information Systems
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Public Health

In addition to the online master’s degrees, OSU features five online doctoral programs, including:

  • Applied Educational Studies: Aviation and Space option
  • Fire and Emergency Management Administration
  • Forensic Sciences
  • Health, Leisure and Human Performance: Leisure Studies option
  • Healthcare Administration

Every master’s degree student at OSU is assigned a personal advisor. Their advisors are knowledgeable and will help them to successfully complete their plan. Students also have access to free one-on-one tutoring, career services, an online writing center, and more.  

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $5,611

Henderson State UniversityHSU: affordable online master's programs

Arkadelphia, Arkansas

Henderson State University is a public university headquartered in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. It is part of the Arkansas State University System. This university was founded in 1890 and was a teacher’s college for four decades. Today, this small college serves about 3,000 students a year. The university encourages creative and scholarly activities in a caring, personal atmosphere. The motto of HSU for the past century has been “The School with a Heart.” 

There are five colleges and schools that comprise HSU. And it offers several distance programs. The online graduate programs include:

  • MBA (General)
  • MBA Accounting
  • MBA Aviation Management
  • MBA Data Science
  • MBA Engineering Management 
  • MBA Management
  • Master of Science in Education Technology Leadership
  • Master of Science in Education or Ed.S. Educational Leadership 
  • Master of Science in Education or Ed.S. Special Ed Curriculum/Program Administration 
  • Master of Science in Education or Ed.S. Building Level Leader
  • Master of Science in Education or Ed.S. Instructional Facilitator 
  • Master of Science Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Master of Science Nurse Administrator 

One degree program that stands out at Henderson is the fully online MBA. This AACSB-accredited program can be completed in as little as 14 months. And it features several areas of focus. All faculty members have a Ph.D. and extensive experience in their respective fields. Costs are the same for both in-state and out-of-state students. 

The school uses Canvas as its web-based learning management system. Canvas has many features and tools to help enrich the online academic experience. Remote students pursuing their master’s degrees have access to an online writing lab, tech support, the Huie Library, and more. 

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $5,670

Dakota State UniversityDSU: affordable online master's programs

Madison, South Dakota

Dakota State University is a small four-year public university in Madison, South Dakota. It opened in 1881 as a teacher training school, eight years before South Dakota achieved its statehood. It was the first school of its kind in the Dakota territory, and it slowly evolved throughout the years. Today, it has a student body of around 3,200.

Despite its small size, the university has received a lot of recognition. It is one of the first Centers for Excellence in Cyber Security in America, as designated by the NSA. It holds several of these awards in various fields. It has also been recently ranked among the top 50 public schools by U.S. News & World Report

DSU is made up of four colleges offering associate, undergraduate, and graduate degrees. Many of them can be completed online. Dakota State prides itself on both affordability and the quality of its academic programs. You can receive a rigorous and engaging online education at DSU on your own time. The university has seven online master’s programs. These include:

  • Health Informatics and Information Management
  • Business Administration (MBA)
  • Analytics
  • Computer Science
  • Cyber Defense 
  • Educational Technology
  • Information Systems

Students at DSU can also pursue two online doctoral degrees. They include PhDs in Cyber Defense and Information Systems. 

Dakota State University uses D2L as its online learning management system. Students will log into the virtual classroom to view lectures, get assignments, take exams, and more. Most online master’s program courses are highly flexible and can be completed in your own time. Students learn from the same professors that teach the on-campus programs. And they earn the same respected master’s degrees.

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $5,999

University of South DakotaUSD: affordable online master's programs

Vermillion, South Dakota

The University of South Dakota is a public research university in Vermillion, South Dakota. It was founded in 1862 and is the oldest institution of higher education in the state based on this date.  Nearly 9,500 students attend the college. USD houses the only medical school, law school, and accredited business school in South Dakota. The university comprises seven colleges and schools and offers more than 200 academic programs. Many of the master’s degrees can be completed entirely online.

Online courses are taught by the same faculty members that teach on campus. Additionally,, USD has a low student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1, So students can be assured of ample time with their instructors. There are 15 online master’s degrees to choose from. They include:

  • Accountancy
  • Addiction Counseling and Prevention
  • Administration
  • Business Administration
  • Elementary Education
  • Executive Public Administration
  • Human Development and Education Psychology
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Kinesiology and Sport Management
  • Music 
  • Pre-Kindergarten-12 Principal
  • Public Health 
  • Secondary Education 
  • Social Work 
  • Technology for Education and Training

Students at USD can also pursue one of four online doctoral programs:

  • Health Sciences
  • Human Development and Education Psychology
  • Pre-Kindergarten-12 Principal
  • School District Superintendent 

One of the most popular online graduate degrees at USD is the MA in Interdisciplinary Studies. This program is designed for students with a specific interest that does not fit a defined discipline. Students work with their advisors to create a program that meets their professional goals. This flexible program master’s degree students to gain skills in multiple disciplines. 

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $6,123

University of Louisiana at MonroeULM: affordable online master's programs

Monroe, Louisiana

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a public university located in Monroe, Louisiana. It was founded in 1931 and is now part of the University of Louisiana System. Close to 9,000 students attend the school. ULM features programs at all levels, from associate to doctoral degrees. And students can choose from nearly 100 majors and minors across four academic divisions. The school offers —-online graduate programs. They include:

  • M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction
  • M.Ed. Educational Leadership
  • M.Ed. Educational Technology Leadership
  • Ed.D. Curriculum & Instruction
  • RN to BSN
  • MSN Gerontologic Clinical Nurse Leader

Many of the graduate programs offer accelerated classes. And they can be completed in as little as 15 months. Online graduate students take classes in a traditional semester schedule. And in most cases, courses are primarily self-paced. However, some sessions may have a synchronous component. 

The college prides itself on offering high-demand experiential and educational opportunities. And they strive to meet the personal, academic, cultural, and social needs of students. The online programs are designed with maximum flexibility for busy working adults. ULM also offers several Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) options. Students may choose to test out of a particular course by taking an exam such as CLEP or DSST. Some courses also offer skills or challenge exams as an option to coursework. Portfolio assessments may also be an option for some master’s degree students. 

Remote students at ULM have access to the same excellent services as on-campus students. Some of these resources include:

  • Career Development Services
  • Veterans Services
  • Professional Academic Advising
  • Tutoring
  • Technological Support
  • Library

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

In-State Graduate Tuition: $6,490

Emporia State UniversityESU: affordable online master's programs

Emporia, Kansas 

Emporia State University is a mid-sized public university in Emporia, Kansas. The university was established in 1863 and is among the oldest institutions of higher education in the state. The school has a professional and friendly atmosphere. And its programs are geared toward advancing students into professional careers. ESU comprises four colleges and schools and is home to about 5,600 students. 

ESU features over 200 academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Most programs of study focus on business, education, or technology. Many of the school’s graduate degrees can be completed entirely online. They include:

  • Master of Accountancy
  • MBA
  • MBA with Accounting Concentration
  • MBA with Information Systems Concentration
  • MBA with Marketing Concentration
  • MS in Information Technology and MBA Dual Degree
  • MS in Educational Administration
  • MS in Curriculum & Instruction – Curriculum Leadership PreK-12
  • MS in Curriculum & Instruction – Effective Practitioner PreK-12
  • MS in Curriculum & Instruction – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader PreK-12
  • MS in Curriculum & Instruction – National Board Certification PreK-12
  • MS in Information Technology
  • MS in Information Technology and MBA Dual Degree

A unique aspect of ESU’s degree programs is civic leadership. Leadership principles are woven into the curricula. And all ESU students are encouraged to be active members in their local communities. Master’s degree students are expected to make a positive impact on the world. 

Online courses at ESU are presented in a convenient asynchronous format. This allows students the flexibility they need to juggle academics, family, and work. However, the university doesn’t compromise quality. Students have access to the same dedicated faculty as on-campus students. And they can take advantage of a host of student services. These include tech support, the library, veterans resources, and more. Financial aid is available. 

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $6,547

Utah State UniversityUSU: affordable online master's programs

Logan, Utah 

Utah State University is a four-year public land-grant research university in Logan, Utah. The university was founded in 1888 and currently has a student population of over 27,000. It has Utah’s largest public residential campus. However, many of its students complete their studies online. The university is organized into nine colleges and schools and offers over 200 programs. Many of these can be completed through USU online. 

U.S. News & World Report has recognized USU as having some of the best online graduate programs in the nation. These flexible programs are ideal for busy students who want to change professions or advance their careers. Some of the online master’s degrees include:

  • Agricultural Extension and Education 
  • Aviation Science
  • Dietetics Administration 
  • Educational Technology and Learning Sciences
  • Food Safety & Quality
  • Health Education & Promotion
  • Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences 
  • Master of Technical Communication 
  • Natural Resources
  • Physical & Sport Education
  • Public Health Nutrition
  • Sport Management
  • Veterinary Public Health 

Utah State University also offers one online doctoral program. Students can pursue a Ph.D. in Career & Technical Education.

Many online students are not located near USU. However, they have access to all the student resources available to on-campus students.  Some of these resources include:

  • Academic Support
  • Disability Resource Center 
  • Online Library
  • Peer Mentoring 
  • Test Proctoring 
  • Tutoring 
  • Individual Counseling and Therapy 
  • Career Planning
  • Veterans & Military Resources
  • IT Service Desk 

The financial aid office at USU can help make a degree possible for every qualified student. Financial aid, loans, grants, and scholarships are available. These funding sources pertain to online students as well. 

Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

In-State Graduate Tuition: $6,763

Western Governors UniversityWGU: affordable online master's programs

Salt Lake City, Utah

Western Governors University is a private, not-for-profit, fully online university. It is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, there is no physical campus for students to attend. However, it is one of the largest schools in the country, with over 150,000 students. The school is fully accredited and offers associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. There are dozens of majors to choose from. Some of the most popular master’s degree programs online include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • MBA Information Technology Management
  • MBA Healthcare Management
  • Marketing 
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Accounting 
  • Data Analytics
  • Management and Leadership 
  • Information Technology Management 
  • Learning Experience Design and Educational Technology
  • Educational Leadership
  • Curriculum and Instruction 
  • Teaching, Special Education (K–12)
  • Nursing – Leadership & Management (BSN-to-MSN)
  • Nursing – Nursing Informatics (RN-to-MSN)
  • Nursing – Leadership & Management (RN-to-MSN) 
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to-MSN) 
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (BSN-to-MSN)
  • Cybersecurity & Information Assurance

Something that sets the university apart is its competency-based approach. Students have the opportunity to demonstrate through assessments that they have the knowledge and skills would obtain in a particular course. Then, they can opt out of taking that class. This is another way to save money on your online education. The school also partners with many community colleges and has a generous transfer policy. 

This institution may not be a good fit for those of you who rely on plenty of interaction with faculty. The student-to-faculty ratio is 42 to one. However, the online master’s programs at WGU are perfect for disciplined, independent students. You set your own schedule according to your needs. There are no set class times and no due dates on assignments. Instead, you log in and complete your studies whenever you want. 

There are also several support services in place to help you succeed. For example, there are many one-on-one mentors who will guide and support you every step of the way. You can also join a student community to network and connect with fellow students. Some of the other available services at WGU include:

  • Military and Veterans Support
  • Employer Partnerships
  • Scholarships for Diverse Learners
  • Federal Financial Aid
  • Online Library
  • Tech Support

Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

In-State Graduate Tuition: $7,765

University of ArkansasUARK: affordable online master's programs

Fayetteville, Arkansas

The University of Arkansas is a top public research university in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It is the flagship campus of the University of Arkansas System. The Carnegie Foundation classifies UARK as having “the highest possible level of research.” This places the school among the top three percent of universities in the nation. The university serves a student body of nearly 30,000 learners. And it offers more than 200 programs of study. 

The University of Arkansas’ global campus is typically referred to as U of A Online. It features many online programs. This allows students from all over the globe to attend a graduate school program at a premier research university. Some of the  online master’s programs include:

  • Social Work
  • Agricultural & Food Law
  • Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Adult and Lifelong Learning
  • Community College Leadership
  • Human Resource and Workforce Development Education
  • Physical Education
  • Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • Agricultural and Extension Education
  • Construction Management
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Engineering Management
  • Food Safety
  • Human Environmental Sciences
  • Nursing
  • Operations Analytics
  • Operations Management
  • Supply Chain Management

There are also five online doctoral programs offered at  U of A Online. These include:

  • Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning
  • Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
  • Doctor of Education in Human Resources and Workforce Development Education
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice/MBA Dual-Degree Program

The University of Arkansas offers a full range of services to online students. They can access tutoring, personal coaching, or connect with a student liaison. There is also an online student union, career services, and much more. Online graduates also get their names engraved on the campus’ Senior Walk. Scholarships are available for both online and on-campus students. Financial aid is also available. 

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $7,875

South Dakota School of Mines and TechnologyMines: affordable online master's programs

Rapid City, South Dakota 

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a public college in Rapid City, South Dakota. It was established in 1885 as the Dakota School of Mines. This small science and engineering university is known for personal attention. And it has an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 11 to 1. It is also known for placing its students into top-paying jobs. Mines offers three excellent online MS engineering programs. They include:

  • Construction Engineering & Management
  • Engineering Management
  • Mining Engineering and Management 

Several publications have ranked Mines as having some of the most affordable online degree programs in the US.  Plus, financial aid is available. The school also boasts a graduate placement rate of 97%, with an average starting salary of $68,685. Some of the top employers of Mines graduates include:

  • Amazon
  • Black Hills Energy
  • Blattner Energy
  • Burns & McDonnell
  • Bobcat
  • Cargill
  • Collins Aerospace
  • Garmin Kiewit 
  • Microsoft 
  • South Dakota Department of Transportation 
  • Western States Fire Protection

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

In-State Graduate Tuition: $8,130

Troy UniversityTroy: affordable online master's programs

Troy, Alabama

Troy University is a public university in Troy, Alabama. It is the flagship institution of the Troy University System, which encompasses four campuses throughout the state. The school is known for its innovative on-campus and online programs. And it services many international, nontraditional, and military students. Troy has a student population of nearly 15,000. The school has a diverse student body representing more than 60 countries. It also has a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1. So students can be assured of getting personalized attention from their instructors.

Troy University offers degrees at all levels through five colleges. There are over 260 undergraduate and graduate programs to choose from. And many of the degrees can be completed online. Some of the most popular online master’s degrees include:

  • Elementary Education 
  • Instructional Leadership and Administration
  • School Counseling
  • Music Industry
  • Public Administration
  • Instructional Leadership and Administration
  • Interdisciplinary Education, Physical Education
  • Adult Education, Curriculum, and Instruction Design 
  • Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence 
  • Computer Science, Cyber Security 
  • Computer Science, Software Development 
  • Computer Science, Video Game Design
  • Criminal Justice 
  • Environmental and Biological Sciences, Environmental Policy
  • Human Resource Management
  • International Relations, Global Studies
  • Kinesiology 
  • Project Management
  • Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Sport Management 

The online Doctoral programs at Troy include:

  • Ph.D. Global Leadership, Higher Education
  • Ph.D. Global Leadership, Organizational Leadership
  • Ph.D. Sport Management
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice, Family Nurse Practitioner (Post-Baccalaureate)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice, Nursing Leadership (Post-Baccalaureate)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (Post Masters)

The credit transfer process is incredibly smooth. Classes are asynchronous but provide ample opportunities for collaboration. Tuition is reasonable, and there are numerous scholarships and financial aid opportunities. The online master’s degrees are highly flexible. And most of the programs offer both a thesis and a non-thesis option.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

In-State Graduate Tuition: $8,550

affordable grad school

What Is a Graduate Program?

A graduate program is an advanced level of study you can pursue after completing your undergraduate degree. Graduate programs are typically more specialized and focused than undergraduate programs. And they require a higher level of academic achievement and dedication.

Graduate programs can take several forms. These include master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and professional degrees. Master’s degrees are typically awarded after completing one to two years of study. Doctoral degrees can take several years to complete. Professional degrees include law degrees or medical degrees. These usually require several years of study and practical training.

Graduate programs often involve more intensive coursework, research, and writing than undergraduate programs. They may also require you to complete a thesis or dissertation. This is a comprehensive research project that demonstrates mastery of the subject matter.

Graduate programs can lead to a variety of career opportunities, depending on the field of study. Some common areas of study for those who attend graduate school include:

  • Business
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Social Sciences
  • Natural Sciences
  • Computer Science
  • Public Health
  • Communications
  • Environmental Science
  • Public Administration 

These are just a few examples of the many fields of graduate study available to students. Of course, the choice of an online master’s program will depend on the individual’s interests, skills, and career goals.

Does Attending a Cheap Graduate School Mean a Lower Quality Education?

Attending a cheap graduate school does not mean getting a sub-par education. In fact, there are many cheap master’s programs that have rigorous academic standards. Here are some reasons why attending a cheap graduate school does not mean sacrificing quality:


Accreditation is a process by which colleges are evaluated for quality and rigor. Accredited programs meet certain standards for academic excellence. This is true whether they are expensive or affordable. 


The quality of the faculty is a key factor in the quality of education. Many affordable graduate programs have highly qualified faculty members. These instructors are experts in their fields. Many hold doctoral degrees. And they are committed to providing a top-notch education to their students.


Affordable graduate programs may have fewer resources than more expensive programs. However, they still offer the most essential services. This includes access to libraries, online tutoring, and academic advising. In short, even the cheapest grad schools feature resources vital to a quality education.


The curriculum at cheap grad schools is typically just as rigorous as more expensive programs. And many affordable programs offer opportunities for hands-on learning and research.

Career Outcomes

The ultimate measure of a high-quality education is the career outcomes of graduates. Many affordable grad schools have excellent track records for job placement. This serves as a testament to the quality of education they provide.

affordable grad school

Is It Worth It To Pursue an Online Masters Degree Program?

Should you pursue an online master’s degree? That depends on several factors. These include your career goals, personal circumstances, and the quality of the program. Here are some potential pros and cons of pursuing an online master’s program:



An online master’s degree offers exceptional flexibility compared to traditional on-campus master’s degree programs. Online master’s degrees are designed with busy, working professionals in mind. As a result, those who pursue a master’s degree online can usually create their own schedule. This allows them to balance their studies with work, family, and other commitments.


If you choose an online master’s degree, you can study from anywhere. You don’t need to relocate. Instead, you can stay where you are. Or, you can travel and learn from anywhere in the world. As long as you have a reliable internet connection, your location does not matter. This means there are more online master’s degrees available to students than ever before. 


An online master’s degree is often less expensive than an on-campus program. Sometimes, an online master’s degree has lower tuition and fees. Other times, students qualify to pay in-state tuition fees, even if they live out of state. Financial aid is typically available as well. 

Additionally, with an online master’s degree, you’ll save money on other expenses. These include things like housing, commuting, and other living expenses. 

Career Advancement

An online master’s degree can help you advance your career and earn a higher salary. This is especially true in fields where advanced education is required for promotion.


Limited Social Connections

Pursuing an online master’s program has many advantages. But for students who value the social aspect of college, it may feel isolating. Many graduate schools offer online clubs and organizations for master’s degree students. However, there are usually fewer opportunities to get to know other students that share your interests. 

Lack of Structure

An online master’s degree requires more self-discipline than a traditional master’s degree program. In many cases, the master’s degree program can be completed on your own schedule. This is great for graduate school students who have other commitments. But it also means staying motivated and on track with your coursework. 

Students who lack self-discipline may find an online master’s degree challenging. However, there are some master’s degree programs online that are synchronous. This means that all students meet in the virtual classroom at specific times. Students who need more structure might opt for this type of master’s degree program. They might also choose a hybrid master’s degree. This is where you complete part of your coursework online and part of it on campus. 

Less Interaction With Instructors

Some students who pursue an online master’s program find there is less interaction with their instructors. This is especially true at schools where there is a high student-to-faculty ratio. However, there are options for those who want more personalized attention. Such students can choose a school with smaller class sizes and a low student-to-faculty ratio. This can ensure more one-on-one time with faculty members during graduate school. 

Pursuing an online master’s program requires the same level of commitment as a traditional program. Whether it’s the right choice for you depends on your individual circumstances. Above all, students should carefully research the master’s degree programs that interest them. Of course, you’ll want to choose the most affordable online master’s programs. But you will also want a master’s degree program that suits your needs and interests. This will help to ensure your academic success at graduate school. 

Affordable Grad School