Most Affordable Accredited Online Public Schools Ranked for 2023

Table of Contents

We ranked the most affordable online schools with full Department of Education-recognized accreditation.

Key Takeaways

  • Accreditation is important when it comes to online degrees.
  • Online public colleges and universities are regionally accredited.
  • Online students in public schools usually pay lower in-state tuition.

What are online bachelor’s degree programs?

Online bachelor’s degrees are online degree programs for undergraduate students. Most students can complete their online degree programs in a minimum of four years. Both online and traditional students will typically be required to earn 120 credits toward the completion of their undergraduate bachelor’s degrees.

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How can you get into an online bachelor’s degree program?

Most students who earn a high school diploma or complete a high school education equivalency test will qualify for undergraduate learning opportunities. In most cases, public colleges and universities that provide distance education will maintain the same eligibility requirements for both students in online programs and brick and mortar schools.

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What’s the difference between public and private non-profit colleges and universities?

The primary difference between public and private non-profit schools is the way that they are funded. Public or state schools are funded in part by tax dollars, whereas private non-profit schools are funded entirely by tuition revenue and private endowments.

This often means that public college students will pay lower tuition rates than students in private universities. This is especially true for students earning their degree through a university in their home state. Public accredited online colleges generally offer a high quality education with generous in-state tuition rates.

In most cases, this means that the most affordable four-year college in your state will typically be a public college or university.

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What are accredited online schools?

Accredited online schools are colleges and universities that award degrees primarily through online classes and are recognized by a Department of Education approved accreditor. Higher education accreditation is a process by which an accrediting association provides recognition to colleges and universities that meet a set of standards for quality, curriculum, faculty, and more.

Only students who attend colleges and universities with accreditation from Department of Education recognized accreditors will be eligible for financial aid.

There are two main types of institutional accreditation—regional accreditation and national accreditation. Regional accreditation is generally considered the more rigorous standard. This is particularly important for students who plan to transfer credits into a regionally accredited program or an advanced degree program. In either case, only credits from regionally accredited online colleges will be recognized.

If you plan to transfer or pursue an advanced degree, be sure that the undergraduate degree from your online school is accredited by a schools commission on colleges and schools in your region. For instance, if you’re searching for the best online degree programs in the state of Georgia or Florida, be sure that your online degree is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Programmatic accreditation is another type of accreditation, usually given to degrees rather than institutions. Programmatic accreditation is more important when it comes to specific degree program types, especially for online graduate students. For instance, if you’re considering a master’s degree in business administration, you may want to search for those with accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

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Is online education respected?

Online degree programs offer a strong point of entry into a broad spectrum of potential careers in areas like business, education, criminal justice, and health sciences. Distance learning is likewise an excellent option for students with an interest in teacher education, legal education, and much more.

And because an ever-growing number of reputable and regionally accredited institutions are offering online courses and bachelor’s degree programs, a wide range of employers are coming to view online degrees with the same level of respect given traditional degrees. In fact, as long as you earn you online degree from an accredited institution, most employers will not distinguish between online and traditional students.

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What are the advantages of online learning?

Online students enjoy several advantages over traditional on campus students including lower student expenses, greater scheduling flexibility, and access to the college education in your state regardless of your geographic location. Often, the most affordable online college in your state will be a public college or university. Online degree programs give distance learners access to these highly reputable accredited degree programs.

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The 15 Most Affordable Accredited Online Public Schools

  1. Other Rankings

    What do we love about the University of Arizona?

    University of Arizona is a public university based in Tucson, Arizona. The research university was formed in 1885, which makes it the very first university in the territory that would eventually become the state of Arizona.

    University of Arizona serves more than 50,000 students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, making it one of the ten largest schools in the U.S.

    • University of Arizona is great for students who:

      Enjoy college athletics. The Arizona Wildcats have won numerous championships across various Pac-12 Conference sports.

    • University of Arizona might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer an intimate college experience.

    University of Arizona’s Online Degrees

    BA in Africana Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Administration of Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Care, Health and Society
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  2. What do we love about Purdue University Global?

    Purdue University Global is a public online university that is part of the Purdue University system. Purdue Global began life as the for-profit structured Kaplan University before its 2018 acquisition.

    Today, Purdue Global is a “public-benefit corporation” which means that in-state students can enjoy reduced tuition rates.

    • Purdue University Global is great for:

      Military veterans. Servicemembers and veterans make up a significant portion of the student population.

    • Purdue University Global might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a traditional grading system. Purdue Global uses competency-based learning to award credits to students.

    Purdue University Global’s Online Degrees

    BS in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 180
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Analytics
    • Required Credits: 180
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 180
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  3. Other Rankings

    What do we love about the University of Iowa?

    The University of Iowa is a public university that is noteworthy for the depth and excellence of its research activities. The oldest and largest school in the state rests on the banks of the Iowa River and serves more than 30,000 students.

    The University of Iowa is home to a particularly large contingent of graduate students, with more than 6000 students pursuing their advanced degrees in the Fall of 2022.

    • The University of Iowa is great for students who:

      Are interested in campus activities. The school is home to roughly 500 student-run groups, 22 athletic teams, and an enormous alumni network.

    • The University of Iowa might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a small-campus experience.

    University of Iowa’s Online Degrees

    BA in Applied Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Creative Writing
    • Human Relations
    • Justice Studies
    • Political Science
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Enterprise Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120-136
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Liberal Studies
    Degree Concentrations
    • Expression in Writing and Arts
    • Global Studies
    • Family
    • Community
    • and Social Support
    • Health and Human Studies
    • Justice and Ethics
    • Organizational Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 32
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Radiation Sciences
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 121-132
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online

  4. What do we love about the California State University, Fullerton?

    California State University, Fullerton is a massive public university campus. With more than 41,000 students enrolled, Fullerton is the largest of the expansive 23-school CSU system.

    And with 5000 graduate students, California State University, Fullerton awards among the largest number of advanced degrees in the state of California.

    California State University, Fullerton’s Online Degrees

    BA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 54
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Humanities and Social Sciences
    • Required Credits: 51
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 51
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. Other Rankings

    What do we love about University of Central Florida?

    University of Central Florida is a public university based in Orange County, Florida. UCF began life as Florida Technological University in 1968 with the direct mission of supporting the U.S. space program.

    Today, University of Central Florida is home to more than 70,000 students both online and on-campus. This makes it the second largest public university in the United States.

    University of Central Florida’s Online Degrees

    BS in Hospitality Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Restaurant and Foodservice Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Senior Living Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Legal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Technical Education And Industry Training
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Anthropology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication And Conflict
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Diversity Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in English
    Degree Concentrations
    • Creative Writing
    • Literature
    • Technical Communication
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in History
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BGS in Integrative General Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in International And Global Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Latin American Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Political Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Religion And Cultural Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Social Sciences
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Informatics And Information Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Services Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online

  6. Other Rankings

    What do we love about Stony Brook University?

    Stony Brook University is a public university based in Stony Brook, New York. Stony Brook began its history as the State University College of Long Island in 1957. This makes it the flagship university of the SUNY system, alongside the University of Buffalo.

    Stony Brook University is home to more than 26,000 students and, with more than 15,000 employees, is the largest single-site employer in Long Island.

    • Stony Brook University is great for students who:

      Are pursuing graduate degrees. More than a third of students at Stony Brook are enrolled in post-graduate degree programs .

    • Stony Brook University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer an intimate campus environment.

    Stony Brook University’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 57
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Electrical Engineering
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  7. Other Rankings

    What do we love about Wayne State University?

    Wayne State University was founded in 1868 by five returning Civil War veterans. Initially chartered as the Detroit Medical College, today the public university is the third largest in the state of Michigan.

    Wayne State University serves roughly 25,000 students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels at its flagship Detroit campus, across four satellite campuses, and through online classes.

    Wayne State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Mortuary Science
    • Required Credits: 56
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  8. What do we love about San Diego State University?

    San Diego State University is a public university that was founded in 1897. Originally begun as a teachers college, SDSU is the third oldest university in the California State University public school system.

    San Diego State University is home to roughly 37,000 students and continues to grow at a rapid pace.

    • San Diego State University is great for students who:

      Plan to seek professional opportunities in the San Diego region after school. SDSU is actually the primary educator of the local workforce.

    • San Diego State University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a small campus atmosphere.

    San Diego State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 49-55
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 51-60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. Other Rankings

    What do we love about University of Massachusetts, Amherst?

    University of Massachusetts, Amherst was founded as an agricultural college in 1863. Today, it is the only public land-grant university located in the state of Massachusetts

    University of Massachusetts, Amherst is home to more than 32,000 students, which makes it the second largest school in the state by enrollment.

    • University of Massachusetts, Amherst is great for students who:

      Enjoy a sprawling campus. At 1,463 acres, Amherst owns the largest campus in the state.

    • University of Massachusetts, Amherst might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are focused on liberal arts. Many of the state’s top programs are focused on the sciences.

    University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Online Degrees

    BA in Film And Media Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Bachelor Of Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Hospitality And Tourism Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Arts Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA/BS in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Bachelor Of Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online

  10. Other Rankings

    What do we love about University at Buffalo?

    University at Buffalo is one of two flagship campuses—alongside Stony Brook University—in the public SUNY system. Though Buffalo merged with the SUNY system in 1962, it actually began life as a private medical college in 1846.

    University at Buffalo serves more than 32,000 students today at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    • University at Buffalo is great for students who:

      Are earning master’s degrees. More than 10,000 Buffalo students are currently enrolled in advanced degree programs.

    • University at Buffalo might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a small campus experience. University at Buffalo is the state’s largest public university, encompassing three campuses.

    University at Buffalo’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. Other Rankings

    What do we love about University of Cincinnati?

    University of Cincinnati was founded in 1819, which makes it the largest institution of higher learning in this major Ohio city. Today, this public research university is part of the University System of Ohio.

    University of Cincinnati serves more than 44,000 students at both the graduate and postgraduate level.

    • University of Cincinnati is great for students who:

      Are pursuing their master’s degree. More than 11,000 students are currently enrolled in the university’s array of post-graduate programs.

    • University of Cincinnati might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are seeking a smaller campus experience. The University of Cincinnati is the second largest school in the state of Ohio.

    University of Cincinnati’s Online Degrees

    BBS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Public Health
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BS in Respiratory Therapy
    • Required Credits: 50
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    Degree Concentrations
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BS in Radiation Science Technology
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Technical and Applied Studies (BTAS)
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Information Management
    • Required Credits: 52
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Law & Paralegal Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Early Childhood Education (ECE)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Pre-Occupational Therapy
    • Required Credits: 52
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Communication
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Social Work
    • Required Credits: 57
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Fire Science & Emergency Management
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BS in Substance Abuse Counseling
    • Required Credits: 60-120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Technology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Networking and Systems
    • Software Application Development
    • Cybersecurity
    • Game Development and Simulation
    • Data Technologies
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: None Reported
    BS in Health Sciences
    • Required Credits: 59
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online

  12. What do we love about California State University, Northridge?

    California State University, Northridge is a public university based in Los Angeles. With more than 38,000 students, Northridge is the third largest university in the 23-school state university system.

    In fact, California State University, Northridge is so large that its operation is said to generate nearly $2 billion in economic output every year.

    California State University, Northridge’s Online Degrees

    BA in Liberal Studies
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Public Sector Management
    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  13. Other Rankings
    What is University of Georgia known for?

    University of Georgia’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    What do we love about the University of Georgia?

    University of Georgia is a public university that was founded in 1785 in the cultural hub of Athens, Georgia. As the flagship university in the state school system, the Athens campus is the oldest public university in Georgia.

    The University of Georgia is notable for the excellence of its research tradition and facilities, earning classification as an R1 Doctoral University.

    • The University of Georgia is great for students who:

      Enjoy a lively culture scene. In fact, Rolling Stone magazine once ranked Georgia in the top ten among “Schools that Rock” for producing prominent musicians including members of R.E.M., the B-52s, and producer Danger Mouse.

    • The University of Georgia might not be the best fit for:

      Non-traditional students. The University of Georgia caters more directly to recent high school graduates and may not always offer the most flexible course options for working adults.

    University of Georgia’s Online Degrees

    BS in Education
    Degree Concentrations
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  14. Other Rankings

    What do we love about Florida International University?

    Florida International University was founded in 1965 and has rapidly grown into the fifth largest public university in the United States. FIU serves more than 56,000 students at both the graduate and undergraduate level across 11 colleges.

    Florida International University is based in Miami-Dade and reflects the region’s emphasis on college athletics. FIU’s intercollegiate teams have secured five athletic championships across various sports.

    • Florida International University is great for students who:

      Like to get the best bang for their buck. FIU ranks tops in the state for “performance funding.”

    • Florida International University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a small campus and an intimate learning experience.

    Florida International University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Theatre
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BFA in Theatre
    • Required Credits: 128
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BBA in Finance
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  15. What do we love about St. Petersburg College?

    St. Petersburg College was founded in 1927 as a small regional junior college. Today, the Pinellas County, Florida public college serves nearly 30,000 students.

    St. Petersburg College is specifically geared toward undergraduates.

    St. Petersburg College’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Financial Services
    • International Business
    • Marketing
    • Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Management And Organizational Leadership
    Degree Concentrations
    • Management And Organizational Leadership General
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Project Management
    • Sustainability And Green Management
    • Sports Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Cybersecurity
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Technology Development And Management
    Degree Concentrations
    • Data Science
    • Cybersecurity Management
    • Software Development
    • Project Management
    • Software Assurance
    • Cyber Security Defense And Risk Mitigation
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Public Safety Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Criminal Justice
    • Fire Science
    • Emergency Management And Homeland Security
    • Cross Discipline
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Educational Studies And Community Leadership
    Degree Concentrations
    • Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Educational Interpreting
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Educational Studies And Community Leadership Degree With Preschool Specialization
    Degree Concentrations
    • Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Early Childhood Education
    • Educational Interpreting
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Public Policy And Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Dental Hygiene
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Health Services Administration
    Degree Concentrations
    • Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist
    • Compliance And Security
    • Management
    • Human Services
    • Public Relations And Marketing
    • Respiratory Care
    • Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist
    • Compliance And Security
    • Management
    • Human Services
    • Public Relations And Marketing
    • Respiratory Care
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 121
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BAS in Veterinary Technology
    Degree Concentrations
    • Clinical
    • Hospital Management
    • Combined Clinical And Hospital Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online

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