Cheapest master’s degrees: The most affordable options

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A master’s degree typically takes two years to complete. It prepares you for prestigious roles in your field, like education administrators, nurse practitioners, and managerial positions. Some of the cheapest master’s degrees cost about $10,000 — and some even less. 

One factor that affects the overall price is whether the program occurs online or on campus. Many online master’s degree programs cost less than their in-person counterparts. They also provide flexibility to those who want to continue working while studying. 

The Education Data Initiative reports that master’s degree holders often have over $70,000 in debt from undergraduate and graduate studies. Many master’s degree students also have families and jobs. All these factors make affordability a top concern when choosing a school. Start your search for cheap master’s degrees with our list below. 

Top 10 most affordable online master’s degrees: Quick facts

College

Degree stats

How much?

Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, NH

  • No GMAT or GRE admission requirements
  • more than 100 master’s degree programs
  • 5 annual start dates 
  • Transfer up to 12 credits

Per credit hour:

  • $627 online courses
  • $700 on-campus courses

Application fee: Free

Florida International University

Miami, FL

  • Accelerated online degrees 
  • 106 master’s degree options
  • Hispanic-serving institution
  • $237 million in research expenditures

Per semester (full time): 

  • $4,101 in-state and on-campus students
  • $9,015 out-of-state and on-campus students
  • $4,310 in-state and online students
  • $9,224 out-of-state and online students

Application fee: $30

Arizona State University

Scottsdale, AZ

  • 13,194 online graduate students
  • more than 450 graduate degrees
  • 6 annual start dates for online courses
  • Graduate mentor resources

Per semester (full time): 

  • $5,860 in-state and on-campus students
  • $11,772 out-of-state and on-campus students
  • $4,986 online students

Application fee: $70

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

West Lafayette, IN

  • No GRE or GMAT admission requirements
  • Courses require 20 hours of work per week
  • 30 online graduate programs
  • 22 concentrations across 5 graduate degrees

Per credit hour: 

  • $420-$700 out-of-state students
  • $378-$630 in-state students

Application fee: Not publicly available

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL

  • 43 online graduate degrees
  • Offering online courses since 1995
  • Award-winning faculty 
  • more than $600 million invested annually in research

Per semester (full time): 

  • $3,840-$14,064 online
  • $6,720-$24,750 in-state and on-campus students
  • $12,996-$26,607 out-of-state and on-campus students

Application fee: $70

How can I pay for a master’s degree?

Once you have chosen an affordable master’s degree program, you can potentially lower the cost even further. First, consider completing the FAFSA and applying for federal student aid. You may qualify for federal grants. 

If you have served in the National Guard or on active duty, you may qualify for GI Bill benefits. Some schools may even accept military experience for credits or offer discounts to veterans. 

Certain jobs offer tuition reimbursement. You can also apply for campus employment through research or teaching assistantships. Other options include graduate student stipends and grants. If that interests you, consider only applying to schools that offer those awards. 

Scholarships can also help you pay for your graduate degree. Explore the list of scholarship resources below. Some awards have eligibility limitations — like specific majors, demographics, or year of study — so review the requirements closely. 

The most affordable master’s degrees

Below you can find a list of the ten schools with the most affordable master’s programs. We used ZDNet’s ranking methodology, which combines expert insight and a proprietary ranking algorithm. 

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, College Scorecard, and each school’s website. Note that for public colleges, the average annual net price given is for in-state students.

1. Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire

About the school: SNHU has prioritized flexible learning since its founding in 1932. It offers dozens of career-focused master’s degree programs both online and on campus. 

  • Annual graduate tuition: $9,405 (online); $10,500 (on campus)
  • Fastest time to completion: One year; full-time and part-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 2.75 (full acceptance); 2.0 (provisional acceptance)
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous); on campus; hybrid

Accreditation: Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Education (NECHE).

2. Florida International University
Miami, Florida

About the school: FIU, a leading public research university, has provided online classes for more than 20 years. This Hispanic-serving institution focuses on innovation, health, justice, and the environment.

  • Annual graduate tuition: $8,620 (online, resident); $18,448 (online, non-resident); $8,202 (on campus, resident); $18,030 (on campus, non-resident)
  • Fastest time to completion: 10 months; accelerated, part-time, and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Varies by program; requirement suspended until Fall 2022 for most
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three; some programs offer rolling admission 
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous classes); on campus; hybrid

Accreditation: Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). 

3. Arizona State University
Scottsdale, Arizona

About the school: Since its 1886 founding, ASU has grown into a top research university. Its innovation extends to interactive classes for the more than 100 online graduate programs.

  • Annual graduate tuition: $9,972 (online); $11,720 (on campus, resident); $23,544 (on campus, non-resident)
  • Fastest time to completion: 18 months; accelerated, part-time, and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Varies by program
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two to three
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous or synchronous); on campus

Accreditation: Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

4. Purdue University Global
West Lafayette, Indiana

About the school: Part of the Purdue University System, Purdue Global offers flexible online degrees for working adults. On average, students complete the master’s degree programs in just under two years. 

  • Annual graduate tuition: $10,080-$16,800 (resident); $9,288-$15,120 (non-resident)
  • Fastest time to completion: 1.5 years; accelerated, part-time, and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous with synchronous components)

Accreditation: Purdue University Global is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, Illinois

About the school: Founded in 1867, U of I is a respected research institution with a global reach. It offers more than 100 graduate programs, with more than 40 master’s degrees available online. 

  • Annual graduate tuition: $7,680-$28,128 (online); $13,440-$49,500 (on campus, resident); $25,992-$53,214 (on campus, non-resident)
  • Fastest time to completion: One year; part-time and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Varies by program
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Varies by program
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous); on campus

Accreditation: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

6. California State University, Dominguez Hills
Carson, California

About the school: CSUDH began in 1960 as an urban university focused on environmental, social, and educational justice. It offers more than 20 master’s degrees online and on campus. 

  • Annual graduate tuition: $7,176 (full time, resident); $4,164 (part time, resident); non-residents and business majors pay extra per-credit fees
  • Fastest time to completion: 18 months; part-time and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Varies by program
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5; higher for some programs
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous); on campus; hybrid

Accreditation: California State University-Dominguez Hills is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

7. California State University, Northridge
Northridge, California

About the school: CSUN started in 1956 and has become an institution focused on sustainability. Students can pursue more than 100 master’s degree programs online or on campus. 

  • Annual graduate tuition: $7,176 (full time, resident); $4,164 (part time, resident); non-residents and business majors pay extra per-credit fees
  • Fastest time to completion: One year; part-time and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Varies by program
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous); on campus

Accreditation: California State University, Northridge is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

8. University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida

About the school: UF dates back to 1853. It has grown to include more than 53,300 students, about 26% of whom are earning master’s degrees

  • Annual graduate tuition: $3,500-$27,000 (online); $12,744 (on campus, resident); $30,138 (on campus, non-resident)
  • Fastest time to completion: 1.5 years; part-time and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Varies by program
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous with some synchronous components); on campus

Accreditation: University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

9. Texas A&M International University
Laredo, Texas

About the school: Founded in 1970, TAMIU serves a multicultural community. The graduate school offers multiple master’s degree programs, and over 80% of its graduate students take at least one distance learning class.

  • Graduate tuition and fees: $10,991-$17,616 (online, resident, per program); $30,900-$49,440 (online, non-resident, per program) $4,489 (on campus, resident); $10,254 (on campus, non-resident)
  • Fastest time to completion: 10 months; accelerated, part-time, and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Varies by program
  • Minimum GPA: Varies by program
  • Enrollment periods per year: One to six
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous); on campus

Accreditation: Texas A&M International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

10. California State University, San Bernardino
San Bernardino, California

About the school: Founded in 1965, CSUSB states it values inclusivity, social justice, and sustainability. It offers master’s degree programs in social work, public health, accountancy, and other areas.

  • Annual graduate tuition and fees: $8,849 (full time, resident); $5,837(part time, resident); non-residents and business majors pay extra per-credit fees
  • Fastest time to completion: 16 months; part-time and full-time formats
  • Minimum GRE score: Varies by program
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: 100% online (asynchronous and synchronous); on campus; hybrid

Accreditation: California State University-San Bernardino is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

In conclusion

Pursuing a graduate degree may prepare you for more prestigious positions and potentially higher salaries. You can enjoy these employment benefits without as much student loan debt by pursuing an affordable master’s degree. 

Continue exploring the schools listed above and review their master’s degree program options. When you have found one that fits your budget and interests, fill out the application. Don’t forget to also apply for FAFSA, scholarships, and other financial aid options. 

Does your budget have a little wiggle room? Check out our list of the best online master’s programs.



Original Article

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