The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: Grad School andThe Short List: Online Programsto find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.
Students, especially those with family or job responsibilities, often turn to an online degree program for its flexibility.
With online education, learning is not confined to a physical classroom. Students can complete coursework from the comfort of their home, office or even a coffee shop.
The need for adaptable education has increased in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced higher education to reevaluate its course delivery methods. Now, more colleges offer remote options in addition to hybrid or in-person instruction.
At first glance, online programs may seem like the most affordable route, since housing, meal plans and transportation costs are eliminated. But with additional fees for software programs and instructor training, completing a degree online is not always less expensive than the traditional on-campus experience.
Among the 173 ranked public schools offering online bachelor's degrees that submitted data to U.S. News in an annual survey, the average total out-of-state program tuition was $56,427. The out-of-state per-credit cost among all ranked public schools for the 2021-2022 school year was $463.
There are relatively inexpensive online options at some public colleges, however, even for out-of-state students. The average total program cost at the 10 most affordable schools for out-of-state online undergraduate students, for example, is $24,434, less than half the overall average price.
Middle Georgia State University offers the lowest out-of-state per-credit rate at $113 -- with a total program cost of $13,560. Ohio University charges $243 per credit for out-of-state students, putting it at No. 10 on the list of affordable schools.
The average per-credit price among these 10 colleges is about $203, per U.S. News data.
Most of the 10 most affordable online schools for out-of-state students are in the South. Four are located in Georgia, and the others are in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio.
Among all ranked public colleges with online programs, a student needs an average of 122 credits to graduate. But the 10 most affordable schools require 120 credits to complete a degree -- except for Georgia Southern University, which requires 126 credits.
Time to degree completion varies based on each student. But entering college with prior learning assessments, such as military training or College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams, can speed up the process and reduce costs.
Below is a list of the undergraduate online programs where out-of-state students are charged the lowest total program cost during the 2021-2022 school year. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News, were not considered for this report.
OUT-OF-STATE COST PER CREDIT
CREDITS NEEDED TO GRADUATE
OUT-OF-STATE TOTAL PROGRAM COST
U.S. NEWS RANK
School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed more than 380 colleges and universities for our 2022 Best Online Bachelor's Programs rankings. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Online Programs rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The tuition data above is correct as of Jan. 27, 2022.