Going to college is an important financial decision. It can substantially increase lifetime earnings (data from the 2009 to 2012 national U.S. census indicates it can double the earnings of a high school graduate), but it can also cause financial hardship. Because lifetime earnings depend on many factors and not everyone will realize the average found by the census, it is important to make balanced financial decisions based on individual situations, not generalities. Choosing a cheap but reputable school, like these, is the best option whenever possible.

1. Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) offers both fully and partially online programs. Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are available in a variety of subjects. Fully online degrees are available in marketing, business administration, education, criminal justice and nursing. Because of state requirements for distance education, some programs (such as nursing) may not be accepted in certain states.

FAU charges $105/credit hour for undergraduate students and $303.71/credit hour for graduate students. This is in-state tuition, and out-of-state students may have to pay additional fees.

2. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida (UCF) offers more than 35 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Degrees are available in fields such as literature, anthropology, forensic science and history, as well as the more traditional online fields of business, psychology, engineering and education. In addition to degrees, UCF offers 29 certificate programs online.

UCF charges $105.07/credit hour for undergraduates and $288.16/credit hour for graduate students. Out-of-state tuition is more and a few programs have their own tuition rates.

3. University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming (UW) offers both online and traditional correspondence courses through their Outreach Program. Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are available in a wide variety of subjects, as well as four doctoral degree programs and 15 certificates.

For the school year 2015-2016, undergraduate tuition is $119/credit hour in-state, and graduate tuition is $232/credit hour in-state.

4. Western New Mexico University

Western New Mexico University (WNMU) offers six graduate programs, 11 baccalaureate programs, and three associate’s degree programs online. Graduate degrees include business administration, education and social work, while undergraduate degrees include English, nursing, psychology, and criminal justice.

Undergraduate tuition for in-state students is $237.68/credit hour for 2015-2016. Graduate tuition for the same period is $249.94/credit hour. Out-of-state fees do apply.

5. Missouri Southern State University

Unlike the other schools on this list, Missouri Southern State University (MSSU) offers only bachelor’s degrees and undergraduate certificates. Some of the 10 available bachelor’s degrees are degree completion programs, meaning that students need to have preparatory coursework, usually from a community college, in order to enroll. Others are completely online programs.
Tuition at MSSU is $177.03/credit hour for in-state online students, and $354.06/credit hour for out-of-state online students.

Cut the Cost, Not the Quality

Historically, cheap online schools have not had the best reputation. However, with so many different schools getting into the fray, it is now possible to find lower-priced options at reputable universities. All of these colleges have been accredited by the major accreditation body in their part of the country.