Education is one of the most personally rewarding fields available because it allows you to positively impact the academic, social, and vocational development of young people. It’s reported that there are more than 3.7 million teachers currently working in our country’s elementary and secondary schools to shape the lives of our future leaders. Requirements for becoming an educator vary by state, but the majority require at least an accredited bachelor’s degree in a specialized area of education. Since the price of attending college has risen nearly 40% in the United States since 2001, aspiring teachers are depending on affordable education degree programs and financial aid opportunities to achieve their full career potential.
Thanks to the advent of online education, it’s becoming simpler for teachers to save some extra cash and study in a more convenient schedule. Accredited online degree programs are wise investments for college students seeking to receive a quality education while juggling work or family obligations. Although most online education degrees require practicum and internships, all coursework typically is available 24/7 from the comfort of home. Whether you’re planning to teach little preschool children, growing adolescents, or even other college students, there’s likely an online degree tailored to fit your interests. Not all cheap online teaching degrees are created equal though. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best education schools in America offering a variety of online degrees at affordable prices.
Ranking the Top Affordable Online Education Degrees
In crafting our program ranking, we began by searching for universities offering a convenient online format to completing all requirements to earn an education degree approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in America. Accreditation certifies that the universities haven’t compromised on high-quality teacher preparation to offer online courses. From there, we sorted universities based on their average annual in-state tuition rate for full-time undergraduate students. All prices were taken directly from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator tool. Since loans, grants, and scholarships are helpful in making education degrees even more affordable, we only included universities where more than 90% of students receive some form of financial aid.
Attending a school with a good reputation can make an online degree more valuable, so we gave preference to any affordable universities with recognition from the U.S. News and World Report as well as other ranking systems. Extra brownie points were granted to schools with specific accolades for their affordable education degree programs. Other factors included in determining our final picks were cutting-edge technology, student support, faculty credentials, job placement, graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, and world-class learning opportunities. The following is our finalized list of the top 10 most affordable online education degree programs that can build a successful career in teaching without breaking the bank.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $4,469
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 97%
As the fourth-largest state school in Kansas, Fort Hays State University is a comprehensive public co-educational teaching institution first founded in 1902 as a normal school for teachers. FHSU now serves more than 5,200 students on its rural 200-acre campus in the small city of Hays within the state’s northwestern corner and around 6,000 online learners from anywhere in its Virtual College. Fully accredited by the North Central Association, FHSU currently educates students from over 27 countries in 40 online degree programs. The U.S. News and World Report has recognized FHSU as a national leader with the 16th best online bachelor’s programs and 30th top online graduate education programs. FHSU is consistently named the #1 “Best Buy Online” for education degrees from GetEducated.com too.
In addition to having our list’s lowest in-state tuition price at $4,469 each year, Fort Hays State University offers students a wide range of “open educational resources” to replace the cost of notoriously expensive textbooks. This makes it very affordable to earn an FHSU education degree. Online learners at the undergraduate level can pursue the Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) in a 127-credit curriculum with student teaching. With approval by the NCATE, this program provides the option to specialize in Early Childhood Unified, Elementary Education, or Special Education for initial teaching licensure. There’s also a unique Online B.S. in Business Education for FHSU students wishing to teach business in secondary schools.
Opportunity doesn’t stop there because graduate students at Fort Hays State can enroll in the Virtual College to earn their Master of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.) fully online. Featuring a two-year full-time format of 36 credits, this program gives teachers the chance to further their career by concentrating in the areas of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Library Media Specialist, Reading Specialist, Transition to Teaching, JROTC Instructor Prep, or Higher Education Student Affairs. Those seeking to become licensed as a principal can pursue their Master of Science in Educational Administration online in a 36-credit curriculum developed by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) as well.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $5,642
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 95%
Initially founded in 1891 to educate African American students, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is a major comprehensive public land-grant HBCU research institution enrolling over 10,700 diverse students. From its main 200-acre urban campus in Greensboro within the famous Piedmont Triad region, North Carolina A&T offers around 215 academic programs, including many with online learning components. The U.S. News and World Report has crowned North Carolina A&T the largest and 10th best historically black college and university in the United States. Furthermore, it’s renowned for having the 119th best online bachelor’s programs and 125th top online graduate education programs. North Carolina A&T was even named #2 nationwide by Washington Monthly for social mobility and service.
Despite its cheap tuition price of $5,642 a year, North Carolina A&T remains selective with an acceptance rate of 56.2% to admit only high-achieving students into its research-oriented programs centered on STEM. For more than 10 years, the Distance Learning Division has been giving non-traditional adult learners the option to enroll in fully online programs. Undergraduate aspiring teachers have the option to earn a B.S. in Agricultural Education in a 2+2 format after earning their associate’s degree in an agricultural-related field. Future high school business teachers can also enroll in the B.S. in Business Education program online. Both programs require 127 credits and a senior capstone teaching experience in a local secondary classroom.
At the graduate level, teachers can further their pedagogical skills without placing life on hold by pursuing the M.S. in Instructional Technology program online. This program at North Carolina A&T is focused on preparing qualified PreK-12 teachers who can create responsive learning environments using the latest educational technologies. There’s three tracks offered for Instructional Technology Director, Media Coordinator, or Business and Industry. In a 37-credit curriculum, the M.S. in Agricultural Education program is also available online with professional licensure options to produce competent secondary educators. Although all courses are offered online, some may require hands-on experience in the university’s smart classrooms and at the North Carolina A&T Agricultural Research Farm.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $5,862
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 95%
Based on a beautiful 516-acre rural campus in Russellville near Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas Tech University is a comprehensive four-year public institution fully approved to grant undergraduate and graduate degrees by the North Central Association (NCA). Enrolling more than 12,003 students, ATU is highly regarded for delivering tech-focused programs, including 12 that can be completed fully online. ATU has been ranked the 92nd best regional college and 47th top public school in the South by the U.S. News and World Report. As the most affordable option among the top five universities in Arkansas, ATU has maintained a superb reputation for world-class instruction and outstanding facilities at a great value since 1909.
Affordable education degree offerings are abundant at Arkansas Tech University through eTech at the low price of just $5,862 per academic year. After attending an on-campus orientation in Russellville before the first semester, students have the ability to obtain an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Early Childhood Education online. Building on child development theories, this two-year online program seeks to prepare students for working with early childhood service agencies. Students wishing to receive a four-year online degree can join the Bachelor of Professional Studies (B.P.S.) with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. This program is offered for adult learners with at least five years of work experience to complete their accelerated degree in just 18 months.
Online learners at the graduate level have even more education options at Arkansas Tech. With approval from the NCATE, the Master of Education (M.Ed.) program can be completed fully online with a specialization in Educational Leadership for future principals and superintendents. An M.A. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program is delivered in a flexible online format for K-12 teachers seeking endorsement in bilingual education. Those looking to work at the post-secondary level can follow the 36-credit online path to a M.S. for College Student Personnel (CSP) too. There’s even the chance for advanced students at ATU who hold a master’s degree and administrative license to receive the Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership virtually.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $5,950
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 99%
Classified as a Hispanic-serving university by the federal government, New Mexico State University is a major comprehensive public land-grant and space-grant research institution offering a student-faculty ratio of 19:1 to its population of over 18,400. Along with its sprawling main 3,500-acre suburban campus in Las Cruces just 50 miles from the Mexico border, NMSU offers classes at its Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Doña Ana, Grants, and virtual campuses. Well-known for reflecting the Southwest’s vibrant mix of cultures, NMSU has an award-winning faculty to deliver the 161st best online bachelor’s programs in America. In fact, the U.S. News and World Report also recognized NMSU for having the 153th best education school and 157th top online graduate teaching degrees.
With its affordable cost of $5,950 annually, NMSU was the state’s only university ranked in the top 75 national master’s-level institutions for social mobility in Washington Monthly magazine. The Center for Urban Education also named NMSU the 25th best university for awarding bachelor’s degrees to Latinos too. Using innovative technology methods, New Mexico State University delivers all of its web-based degree programs in the Distance Education Division. For aspiring educators seeking licensure, there’s an Online Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education program offered. Students work to complete 132 credit hours through an interactive distance classroom to teach in grades K-5 at public and private schools. The extensive field experiences can easily be arranged to any student’s location across New Mexico.
Graduate students at NMSU have a bit more freedom in choosing their specialization in a range of technology-based programs. It’s possible to earn the NCATE-approved M.A. in Agricultural and Extension Education, M.A.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, M.A.Ed. in Learning Technologies, M.A.Ed. in Early Childhood Education, M.A.Ed. in Online Teaching and Learning, or M.A. in PreK-12 Education Administration completely online. There’s also a Master of Music in Music Education program available 100% online with accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Teachers can complement their master’s degree by completing an online certificate in Elementary Education Licensure, Reading Disabilities, School Library Media Specialist, Special Education Alternative Licensure, or Online Teaching and Learning.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $6,070
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 100%
First established by 19 American governors in 1997, Western Governors University has evolved into a major comprehensive private non-profit institution for serving more than 57,200 students around the nation. Although it’s based in Salt Lake City, Utah, WGU only provides online degree programs from a competency-based learning approach. Fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), WGU offers 55 academic programs in its four distinctive colleges through cohort-based online learning environments. WGU has been honored by winning the USDLA’s 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning. Western Governors University has also been ranked #1 in the United States by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) for online elementary and secondary teacher education.
Consistently named among the top five on the GuidetoOnlineSchools.com, WGU maintains its commitment to non-profit education and affordability with a yearly tuition cost of $6,070. Since being the first exclusively online university to be approved by the NCATE, the Teachers College at Western Governors has grown to provide several online programs leading to licensure. Undergraduate students at WGU can choose to obtain the B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (K-8), B.A. in Special Education (K-12), B.A. in Mathematics (5-12), or B.A. in Science (5-12). Those enrolling in the science education program can further tailor their studies with a focus in Chemistry, Physics, Biological Science, or Geosciences. There’s also Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Preparation for Elementary Education, Mathematics, Science, and Social Sciences.
New teachers needing licensure can enroll in the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) online through WGU with a specialization in Elementary Education (K-8), English (5-12), Mathematics (5-12), Science (5-12), or Social Science (5-12). Already licensed teachers also have a wide range of online degree options, including the unique M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, M.S. in English Language Learning, M.Ed. in Instructional Design, and M.S. in Special Education (K-12). Licensed classroom teachers looking to advance their careers by becoming school principals can also complete the M.S. in Educational Leadership online for endorsement. Most of these programs require a total of 30 Competency Units (CUs) and just 15 hours of studies per week from anywhere.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $6,313
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 96%
As a prestigious member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the University of Florida is a major comprehensive public research institution maintaining land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant status since opening in 1853. With the eighth largest enrollment in America, UF enrolls around 49,000 students annually on its vast main 2,000-acre suburban campus in the lively college town of Gainesville and online from anywhere. The U.S. News and World Report has named UF the 48th best university and 14th top public school nationwide. After all, the Times Higher Education listed the University of Florida as the 126th top college on the planet. UF is specifically recognized for having the 30th best education school with the 13th top online bachelor’s degrees and 13th best graduate online education degrees.
Despite its high enrollment, the University of Florida manages to provide small class sizes with a student-faculty ratio of 21:1 to achieve a four-year graduation rate of 65%. With a low in-state tuition rate of $6,313, it’s no surprise why Forbes magazine has crowned UF the 13th top college in the South for valuable education too. Since 96% of students receive financial aid, finding an affordable online education degree from UF is easy. At the undergraduate level, students can choose to earn a B.S. in Health Education fully online to promote healthy lifestyle choices among children and/or adults. There’s also Post-Baccalaureate Certificates online for Instructional Design, K-12 Teaching with Technology, Managing Distance Education Environments, or Online Teaching and Learning.
Due to student-teaching needs, most of UF’s online education degrees are offered to graduate students who have fulfilled this requirement. Teachers can obtain their M.Ed. in Educational Leadership or M.Ed. in Special Education fully online without quitting their teaching job. UF also offers an Online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction program with two specializations in Teacher Leadership for School Improvement and Education Technology. A step further ahead, there’s Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) programs delivered online for Curriculum and Instruction as well as Special Education. Advanced teachers who have already earned a master’s degree can also complete their Ed.D. degree fully online in Educational Technology, Curriculum Teaching and Teacher Education, Educational Leadership, or Higher Education Administration.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $6,674
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 99%
Within the 11-member North Dakota University System, Valley City State University is a comprehensive public land-grant teaching institution that has a long legacy of training teachers tracking back to 1890. Offering more than 80 academic programs accredited by the North Central Association (NCA), VCSU enrolls around 1,375 students each year on its 64-acre rural campus in the small town of Valley City and at a distance. The U.S. News and World Report ranked Valley City State as the 44th best regional college, 2nd top public school, and 14th best university for veterans in the Midwest. Even more importantly, the survey noted VCSU for having the country’s 111th best online bachelor’s programs and 54th top online graduate education degrees.
Since becoming one of America’s first pioneering “laptop universities,” VCSU has continued to make innovative use of technology to provide many online offerings. North Dakota students flock to VCSU to receive a high-quality, affordable education degree accredited by the NCATE for the low in-state price of $6,674 each year. Undergraduate students at VCSU can be admitted into the 120-credit Online B.S. in Education degree during their sophomore year. Specializations are specifically offered in Business Education, Career and Technical Education, English Education, History Education, and Technology Education for secondary teachers. All students are required to supplement online courses with 105 clock hours of practicum and 12 weeks of student teaching field experience.
Online students at the graduate level can benefit from the multitude of online options at Valley City State University too. There’s a practitioner-oriented Master of Education (M.Ed.) program offered online for VCSU students building advanced skills to meet the needs of diverse 21st century learners. Six customizable concentrations are available in Library and Information Technologies, Technology Education, Teaching and Technology, Elementary Education, English Education, Business Education, and Teaching English Language Learners. Online certificates are available for post-baccalaureate students in Teaching English Language Learners (ELL), Library and Information Technologies, or STEM Education. VCSU has also partnered with Ed2Go to provide more than 250 non-credit continuing education courses online for experienced teachers maintaining certification.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $6,963
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 96%
Educating a total of over 8,500 students, the University of Louisiana – Monroe is a comprehensive public co-educational teaching institution that evolved from a junior college first established in 1931. Headquartered on a main 238-acre urban campus in the city of Monroe along the banks of the Ouachita River in northeast Louisiana, ULM is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to deliver on-campus and online programs in 11 distinctive academic divisions. ULM has been ranked the 81st best regional college and 39th top public school in the South by the U.S. News and World Report. Featuring a student satisfaction rate of 70.8%, ULM is also recognized for having the 160th best online bachelor’s degrees nationwide.
Through eULM, the university has shifted its caring commitment to provide over 30 online degree programs with no campus residency requirements in Monroe. Consistently earning accolades from AffordableCollegesOnline.org (ACO) as the 22nd most affordable school, ULM offers its online degrees at the low in-state price of $6,963. Undergraduate students wishing to attend the University of Louisiana – Monroe can earn the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education completely online in an NCATE-accredited curriculum. In this 120-credit online program, future elementary teachers are challenged to blend general studies with major education coursework, specialized electives, and clinical teaching practicum. There’s also an Online Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) that can be tailored to fit the needs of educators.
At the graduate level, ULM provides the opportunity for non-licensed students to obtain their Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) degree online. Although all tracks require a total of 42 credits for achieving Louisiana teaching certification, graduates can choose to concentrate in Elementary Education (Grades 1-5), Secondary Education (Grades 6-12), Special Education (Grades 1-5), or Special Education (Grades 6-12) for Mild/Moderate Disabilities. Current teachers can also expand their instructional tactics by obtaining the M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, or M.Ed. in Educational Technology online. ULM gives advanced students the online pathway to obtain a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Curriculum and Instruction too.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $6,980
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 96%
Fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the University of Southern Mississippi has been a high-achieving comprehensive public institution with high research activity for 115 years. Along with its 300-acre urban headquarters in Hattiesburg just 70 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, USM has teaching sites in Gulfport, Long Beach, Jackson County, Keesler Air Force Base, and online virtually through the Internet. Enrolling more than 15,300 students total across its six academic colleges, Southern Miss has been named one of the country’s “Most Popular Universities.” Out of 245 doctoral institutions in America, USM has ranked 98th for social mobility and service by Washington Monthly. Forbes also named USM the 145th best university in the South.
Not only does the University of Southern Mississippi have a below-average tuition rate of $6,980 for in-state residents, but it also provides 96% of the student body with financial aid. With quality courses accredited by the NCATE, Southern Miss is another wise choice for investing in an affordable pathway towards teaching objectives. Through Online at Southern Miss, undergrad students can start their career with a B.S. in Elementary Education degree. This two-year program is designed specifically for teacher assistants with an associate’s degree to advance towards certification and run their own classroom. There’s also a similar two-year program leading to a B.S. in Special Education degree online for assistants wishing to create inclusive learning environments for students with disabilities.
Graduate students with a bachelor’s degree have a plethora of affordable online education degree programs to choose from at USM. The most popular option is the Master of Education (M.Ed.), which can be tailored to fit teachers’ interests in Educational Administration and Supervision, Music Education, or Special Education. The Master of Arts in the Teaching of Languages (MATL) is delivered fully online for meeting the multi-faceted needs of foreign language teachers in the United States and abroad. An M.S. in Instructional Technology program is built with an online 30-credit curriculum to train teachers in applying various technological systems in the classroom. Online certificates are also available in Child Nutrition, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and School Library Media.
- Average Yearly Tuition Price: $7,140
- Students Receiving Financial Aid: 93%
Named a comprehensive public doctoral-granting institution with very high research activity by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation, Mississippi State University has grown from its 1878 inception to enroll more than 20,100 students system-wide. In addition to its main 4,200-acre rural campus near Starkville in Oktibbeha County, MSU has locations in Meridian, Biloxi, Vicksburg, and online from anywhere with an Internet connection. The U.S. News and World Report has called MSU the 156th best university, 84th top public school, and 47th best college for veterans in America. In fact, Mississippi State is recognized for having the nation’s 99th best education school and 107th top online graduate teaching degrees. MSU also ranks in the top 15 countrywide in awarding bachelor’s degrees in education to African Americans.
In the MSU Center for Distance Education, students can choose from 27 fully online degree programs that have been given the stamp of approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). At the low cost of just $7,140 per academic year, students can earn their degree with flexibility in both time and location. Aspiring educators can take this opportunity to earn their B.S. in Elementary Education online with a concentration in Early Childhood (PreK-3) or Middle School (4-8) grades. Students are guided by MSU mentors in practicum and student teaching to meet teaching licensure requirements. It’s also possible to earn a B.S. in Technology Teacher Education to specialize in teaching middle or high school technology.
Graduate learners at Mississippi State University have their own fair share of online degree options as well. A Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program for Middle Level Education is available online for students wishing to obtain licensure to teach at least one subject in grades 4-8. Some may qualify for the Teacher Education for Rural Middle Schools (TERMS) scholarship by agreeing to teach in one of 72 partner districts after graduation. There’s also an M.A.T. in Secondary Education and M.A.T. Community College Education for working in higher grade levels. Advanced students who hold a master’s degree may be interested in enrolling in the Ph.D. for Community College Leadership program online to step into higher education.
Saving Money with an Online Degree in Education
Becoming a teacher is an emotionally rewarding career choice that allows you to leave a lasting mark on the development of our nation’s future generations. However, some individuals are held back from reaching their dreams in education simply due to the hefty college expenses incurred in fulfilling state certification requirements. After all, the College Board reports that average total in-state cost is $23,410 at public universities and $46,272 at private colleges every year! You shouldn’t give up your teaching goals simply due to finances though because there are several affordable options available nationwide if you look closely. Pursuing an online education degree can be both more convenient and cheaper than enrolling in a traditional brick-and-mortar program. Online students can save a considerable amount of cash on housing, meal plans, transportation, childcare, and other personal expenses. Keep these top 10 most affordable online education degree programs in your search to pay less than $8,000 in tuition annually.