Updated 9/30/13: This article has been updated to remove New Mexico State University, which has notified U.S. News that it incorrectly reported the in-state, per-credit cost of its online bachelor's program. Earlier, on 9/12/13, the article was updated to remove the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee for the same reason.
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: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.
For many adults, pursuing online education seems like the only realistic path to earning a bachelor's degree.
The flexibility of online education allows people juggling family and work commitments the chance to study when they want, where they want. Plus, from a financial perspective, online learning eliminates commuting costs and allows adults to continue earning income while they are in school.
Despite any cost savings, earning an online bachelor's degree still comes with a significant price tag.
[Explore the list of the Best Online Bachelor's Programs.]
First-time, first-year freshmen in 2012-2013 could expect to pay an average of $49,560 and median of $48,728 in in-state tuition for their degrees at the 10 most expensive public online bachelor's programs, according to data provided by 66 public schools in an annual U.S. News survey. The average in-state program tuition for all the online public bachelor's programs was $31,111.
Many students will never pay the full costs of these complete programs, however, because they typically enter with some credits already applied toward their degrees. During the 2012-2013 school year, 59 percent of online bachelor's degree programs admitted no first-time, first year students.
It's also important to note that per-credit costs change over time, so if students take several years to complete a degree, they may end up paying more. The total program cost also doesn't include any scholarships or other forms of student aid, nor does it include any of the extra fees that schools may charge.
Pennsylvania State University—World Campus had the most expensive public online bachelor's program, with total program in-state tuition reaching $60,480 for a first-time, first-year freshman.
Pennsylvania State University—World Campus, the only East Coast-based school on the list, was also the highest ranked among the most expensive schools. The school placed 16th in the U.S. News list of the Best Online Bachelor's Programs.
The majority of the most expensive programs were based in the Midwest and South. Costs at these schools would likely be even higher for out-of-state students. Like many programs at public schools, online programs can charge different tuition rates for students depending on where they live.
[Discover whether online ed is right for you.]
At the other end of the spectrum, North Carolina's Winston-Salem State University had the cheapest tuition, charging online students $11,400 to complete its entire bachelor's degree program. The school did not report to U.S. News whether it admits first-time, first-year students.
Below are the 10 most expensive public online bachelor's programs based on per-credit cost and the number of required credits.
|School||Credits needed to graduate||In-state, per credit cost||Full program in-state tuition||U.S. News rank|
|Pennsylvania State University—World Campus||120||$504||$60,480||16|
|Arizona State University||120||$442||$53,040||40|
|University of West Alabama||120||$429||$51,480||131|
|Western Kentucky University||120||$424||$50,880||137|
|Northwestern Oklahoma State University||124||$394||$48,856||RNP*|
|University of Northern Colorado||120||$405||$48,600||45|
|University of Alabama—Huntsville||128||$373||$47,744||21|
|University of Minnesota—Crookston||120||$385||$46,200||60|
|University of South Alabama||128||$360||$46,080||143|
|Wayne State University (MI)||120||$352||$42,240||114|
*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its rankings category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.
Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find tuition data, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed 237 public, private and for-profit schools for our 2013 Best Online Bachelor's Programs rankings. Schools reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News's data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of these survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Online Bachelor's 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. These data are specific to schools' online bachelor's degree program offerings and have no influence over U.S. News's Best Colleges rankings assessing traditional bachelor's programs. The tuition data above are correct as of Sept. 3, 2013.