This is for when I go back to school!I don't envy college students today. Back when I entered college, pricing at the in-state university I chose allowed me to pay off all loan debt within a few years. Today, however, it’s hard to open a magazine or turn on the news without hearing about rising tuition costs and unpaid student debt. Add in an uncertain economy and unpredictable job market and attending college can start to feel less like making a wise investment and more like gambling! But even in this sea of uncertainty, there are still a number of wonderful institutions that will permit you to earn your degree without reaping a lifetime of debt in return. Check out this list—it just might include your future college or university!

Keeping collage affordable

Today, statistics indicate college is not an affordable prospect for many students (the average student graduates carrying $26,000 in student loan debt).

Can I afford it? Questions to ask:

  • What is "affordable" for me? 2014 statistics indicate that the average "affordable" degree may run you from $4,000 – $10,000 per year (or a total of $40,000 tuition/4-year degree).
  • Online or brick-and-mortar? On average you can expect to pay less in overhead (expenses, books, fees, parking, etc.) if you attend an online institution. Also, online institutions don't differentiate between "in state" and "out of state" tuition.
  • Financial aid? Will you be eligible for scholarships, grants, work-study programs, assistantships, federal funding, interest-free loans or low-interest financing?
  • What’s my degree plan? Your degree plan can determine the number of options you have for where to attend college and how much you will have to pay to earn your degree.

Want to attend college tuition-free? 

Nope, that is not a typo. Last year KCL posted a list of seven institutions with unique structures that permit students to earn a degree and emerge debt-free.

10 Budget-Friendly online colleges

If none of the above institutions are a good fit, one of the affordable distance learning institutions on this list may be!

1. Sam Houston State University

  • Website: http://distance.shsu.edu
  • Application fee: $45
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $195
  • Undergraduate programs: Business, Criminal Justice, General Studies
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $254
  • Graduate programs: Criminal Justice, Education, M.B.A., Library Science, Information Assurance and Security, Public Administration
  • Awards & honors: http://distance.shsu.edu/about/awards-recognitions.html
  • Accreditation: SHSU is accredited regionally and nationally for undergraduate and master’s programs (read more).

2. Fort Hays State University

  • Website: http://www.fhsu.edu/virtualcollege/
  • Application fee: $30
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $182
  • Undergraduate programs: Business, Education, IT, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Nursing, Medical Diagnostic Imaging
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $247-$400 (depending on program)
  • Graduate programs: Nursing, Education, Counseling, School Psychology, M.B.A., Health/Human Performance
  • Accreditation: FHSU is fully accredited nationally (read more).

3. Lamar University

  • Website: http://luonline.lamar.edu
  • Application fee: $25
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $208
  • Undergraduate programs: Nursing, Business, Communication, General Studies, Criminal Justice
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $235-$250 (depending on program)
  • Graduate programs: Nursing Education/Administration, Criminal Justice, Education
  • Accreditation: LU is accredited regionally by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to offer associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

4. University of Arkansas

  • Website: http://online.uark.edu
  • Application fee: $40
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $212
  • Undergraduate programs: Nursing, HR, Workforce Development
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $250-$362 (depending on program)
  • Graduate programs: Electrical Engineering, Nursing, M.B.A., Education, Information Sciences, Human/Environmental Sciences
  • Accreditation: UofA is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and some programs are also nationally accredited by various agencies and governing boards (read more).

5. University of North Dakota

  • Website: http://und.edu/academics/extended-learning/online-distance/
  • Application fee: $35
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $257
  • Undergraduate programs: Engineering (multiple plans), General Studies, Social Studies, Psychology, Communication, Nursing
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $276
  • Graduate programs: Nursing, M.B.A., Aviation, Forensic Psychology, Space Studies, Applied Economics, Education
  • Accreditation: UND itself is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Other agencies and organizations offer accreditation to specific programs (read more).

6. Valdosta State University

  • Website: http://www.valdosta.edu/academics/online-programs/search.php
  • Application fee: $40
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $250
  • Undergraduate programs: Legal Assistant Studies, Office Administration, Criminal Justice, Organizational Leadership
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $285-$700 (most are in the $285 range)
  • Graduate programs: Education, Public Administration, Criminal Justice, Library/Information Sciences
  • Accreditation: VSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to offer associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees (read more).

7. West Texas A&M University

  • Website: http://www.wtamu.edu/academics/distance-education.aspx
  • Application fee: $40
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $233
  • Undergraduate programs: Criminal Justice, General Studies, Nursing, Business Administration, Emergency Management Administration
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $298-$366 (depending on program)
  • Graduate programs: M.B.A., Educational Diagnostician, Nursing, Teaching, Curriculum and Instruction, Instructional Design/Technology
  • Accreditation: WTA&M is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to offer associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and 3 or fewer doctoral degrees (read more).

8. Columbia College

  • Website: http://www.ccis.edu/online/
  • Application fee: $35
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $245
  • Undergraduate programs: General Studies, Business, Psychology, English, Human Services, Computer Information Systems, Political Science
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $335-$345 (depending on program)
  • Graduate programs: Criminal Justice, Teaching, Military Studies, Educational Leadership, M.B.A.
  • Accreditation: CC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (read more).

9. University of West Georgia

  • Website: http://uwgonline.westga.edu
  • Application fee: $40
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $256
  • Undergraduate programs: Criminology
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $282-$700 ($700 for M.B.A. degree only)
  • Graduate programs: M.B.A., Instructional Technology, Music Education, Reading Instruction,Early Childhood Education, Nursing, Applied Computer Science
  • Accreditation: UWG is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees (read more).

10. Oregon State University

  • Website: http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/online-degrees/
  • Application Fee: $60
  • Undergraduate tuition (per credit hour): $191
  • Undergraduate programs: Anthropology, Women/Gender/Sexuality Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Sustainability Studies, National Resources, Horticulture, Human Development/Family Studies, German, Liberal Arts, Environmental Sciences, Fisheries/Wildlife Sciences, Agriculture, Economics, Computer Sciences, Environmental Economics/Policy
  • Graduate tuition (per credit hour): $550
  • Graduate programs: K-12 Education, Counseling, Natural Resources, M.B.A. (Executive Leadership only), Adult Education (partial online program), Science Education, Mathematics Education, Fisheries/Wildlife Administration
  • Accreditation: OSU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (read more).

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