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Where Can You Find the Most Affordable Online Schools? (Clue: Not in the Major Cities)

You may never have heard of them, and they're based in little-known Google Map locations like McAllen, TX; Pahrump and Winnemucca, NV; and Albany, GA. But these three institutions have taken the top spots in a survey by OnlineU ranking the most affordable online colleges and degrees in the country.

To be considered for the list, the schools have to fit these criteria:

  • They must be non-profit colleges;
  • They must offer at least 10 programs that can be completed entirely online; and
  • At least one of those programs must be at the bachelor's level.

South Texas College came in first in the ranking, with an annual tuition of $3,450 for out-of-state students. This public college offers four online baccalaureate degrees, including programs for computer and information technologies, technology management and organizational leadership. Spring 2016 enrollment at South Texas rose by 13 percent, with 6,315 students pursuing its 30 online programs.

Number 2 was Great Basin College with five campuses around the state of Nevada, as well as a healthy online program. There, out-of-state tuition runs $5,013. The public college system offers five online bachelor degrees, including digital information technology and management in technology.

Third place was claimed by Darton State College in Georgia, where non-resident tuition is $5,625. That school delivers two "emajors," as they're called at Darton, including one in organizational leadership.

None of the 25 schools referenced in the ranking charges more than $8,400 in tuition for their online programs.

"There has been a lot of talk about how expensive attending college has become, but no one is taking the time to recognize colleges that are making a concerted effort to keep tuition costs low," said Sung Rhee, CEO of SR Education Group, the Kirkland, WA company that owns OnlineU, in a prepared statement. "The colleges represented on our '2016 Most Affordable Online Colleges' lists are revolutionizing the education industry by offering quality degrees at palatable prices."

"Our support from the state has been cut drastically six years in a row, yet we still find ways to add new degrees (both live and online) and support our students to provide rigorous and engaging education," noted Lisa Frazier, associate vice president for distance education at Great Basin, in an e-mail to Being recognized as one of the most affordable online colleges in the country "was reason to celebrate," she said. "This, in conjunction with awesome instructors, small courses, amazing student support and great retention rates, reminds me why I work 12 hours a day. At the end of the long days, it's all about the students' success."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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