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10 Affordable Online Colleges for Out-of-State Students

Emma Kerr

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, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matter to you in your college or grad school search.

Online programs can offer students the flexibility to learn from any location with a reliable internet connection, even if the institution is hundreds of miles away. Many public colleges that offer an online bachelor's degree charge out-of-state tuition to nonresidents, but tuition can be as low as $115 per credit for out-of-state students, according to U.S. News data.

As more public universities begin offering online learning options, students interested in studying at an out-of-state college may consider this path to save costs. The Babson Survey Research Group's 2018 report, Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States, found that the number of distance learning students taking at least one course grew to more than 6 million, increasing by 5.6% from fall 2015 to fall 2016.

More than half of the students who took only online courses reside in the same state as the institution at which they are enrolled, the report found.

Those students who are looking to earn a degree from an institution located in another state have options.

[Read: What You'll Pay for an Online Bachelor's Degree.]

Of the 181 ranked colleges offering online bachelor's degrees that submitted this data to U.S. News in an annual survey, about a third offer 2019-2020 out-of-state total program tuition estimated to cost under $50,000 for their entire programs. The average per credit cost for out-of-state students among all ranked schools is $464.

The 10 colleges topping the list of least expensive online bachelor's degrees for out-of-state students offer an average per credit cost of $238, amounting to an average $26,488 total tuition cost.

Most online bachelor's programs require students to complete 120 credits to graduate, but one on this list, Asbury University in Kentucky, requires just 64 credits. These online colleges are located in states like Georgia, Kentucky and New York, but students across the country can take advantage of these low tuition prices.

Two of the colleges making this list are ranked in the top 50 Best Online Bachelor's Programs: the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the University of Arkansas.

[Read: 7 Ways to Reduce the Cost of an Online Degree.]

Costs for out-of-state students vary widely among all ranked programs, ranging from $115 per credit at the College of Coastal Georgia, which tops this list, to $1,138 per credit at Coastal Carolina University.

The cost of an online bachelor's degree can depend on a number of factors, like whether students already have some college transfer credits that may shorten their time to degree completion, which online college students choose to attend and how many credits are required at that institution to graduate.

Below is a list of the undergraduate online programs where out-of-state students are charged the lowest total program cost during the 2019-2020 school year. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be ranked, were not considered for this report.

School (state) Out-of-state cost per credit Credits needed to graduate Out-of-state total program cost U.S. News rank
College of Coastal Georgia $115 120 $13,800 166 (tie)
University of North Carolina--Pembroke $188 120 $22,560 66 (tie)
Valdosta State University (GA) $202 120 $24,240 143 (tie)
Asbury University (KY) $399 64 $25,536 223 (tie)
Georgia Southern University $204 126 $25,704 152 (tie)
Fort Hays State University (KS) $219 124 $27,156 80 (tie)
Ohio University $243 120 $29,160 99 (tie)
University of Arkansas $252 120 $30,240 29 (tie)
Lee University (TN) $259 120 $31,080 66 (tie)
CUNY School of Professional Studies $295 120 $35,400 16 (tie)

School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed more than 350 colleges and universities for our 2020 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. 14, 2020.

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