The Most Affordable Online Master’s in Educational Leadership Programs

Finding an affordable online master’s in educational leadership program is the number one priority for many students looking to further their career in the field of education, both in the classroom and at the administrative level. Graduates often work as superintendents, principals, and curriculum developers. Others pursue this master’s degree to improve their teaching skills in the classroom.

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Due to the convenience and flexibility of online degree programs, students can complete their coursework while teaching. This allows them to apply their learning to an educational setting as they earn their master’s degree. Balancing school expenses with income is essential for many students, and an online master’s in educational leadership program is an attractive option for those mindful of affordability. These programs allow students to maintain their paycheck while cutting ancillary costs such as transportation.

Principals earned an annual salary of $90,410 as of May 2012, according to the BLS.

Value is also an important consideration. It would be easy to evaluate the cheapest online master’s in educational leadership programs by only considering tuition and fees. This, however, would provide an incomplete picture of affordability. It is important to note that the affordability of the colleges we have selected are evaluated on more than just cheapness. Using our new College Affordability Score methodology, we weighed factors such as a school’s return on investment (ROI), its track record for helping online students graduate on time, the amount of financial aid given to students, and loan default rates among graduates. The scores determine which institutions offer quality, affordable online master’s degree programs, and not just those with the cheapest up-front costs.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Recieving Loans Location Description
1 Texas A & M University-College Station 84.66 1/5 33% College Station, TX

Texas A&M University offers robust programs geared towards those looking to work in education administration at different school levels and settings. The 36 credit-hour master's in education administration is shaped for students interested in getting their principal certification for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade-level schools.

Students looking to work in education administration at the collegiate level also have a master's degree program to fit their needs; the department offers a higher education administration master's in science degree that consists of 42 credit-hours.

Those enrolled in Texas A&M University's education administration master's programs have access to a variety of funding opportunities. First-time graduate students can apply for the Graduate Merit and Graduate Diversity fellowship, and the Office of Graduate Studies provides even more opportunities for students to apply for graduate assistantships, fellowships, and grants. The breadth of graduate-level funding options at this state school makes Texas A&M University a particularly affordable option for online students.

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2 Indiana University-Bloomington 82.72 1/5 32% Bloomington, IN

The online master's of science in educational leadership at Indiana University-Bloomington stands out as a valuable graduate degree program for both students with and without teaching experience. The master's degree also has Indiana's principal license certification built into the curriculum for eligible students, making for a time efficient and cost effective program. Students enrolled in this online degree program use IUconnecteED, an online platform which caters well to teachers pursuing their master's of science in educational leadership.

Financial aid is available and widespread for students completing their online master's degree in educational leadership. In addition to the financial aid opportunities provided by the university, its School of Education offers specific fellowships and assistantships to those enrolled in its programs. The school also provides a rich resource of funding opportunities for graduate students at their GradGrants Center, which helps both remote and on-campus students find, write, and receive grants at no cost.

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3 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College 80.21 1/5 35% Baton Rouge, LA

LSU’s master of arts in education with a specialization in higher education administration is a program designed to be completed remotely in as few as 15 months. Students with varying undergraduate majors can apply to earn this master’s degree; current students in the program hold bachelor’s degrees in business, communications, and sports management. The program’s emphasis in higher education caters to students seeking careers in student affairs and administration.

Online graduate students at LSU are eligible to apply for certain financial aid sources to offset the cost of tuition. The financial aid office provides specific guidelines for online degree-seekers applying for loans at this school, noting that online students can receive the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan and the Federal Direct Graduate Plus Loan. Online graduate students can also receive additional funding through the Graduate Plus Loan. With a variety of funding options, LSU is a viable option for both in- and out-of-state students.

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4 The University of Texas of the Permian Basin 78.72 1/5 21% Odessa, TX

UTPB offers a master of arts in educational leadership program that can be completed entirely online. The coursework for this 36-credit hour online degree can be completed in two or more years depending on the student’s schedule and work situation. Many students in this graduate program look to pursue careers as a principal or superintendent. Every online course in this degree is taught by the same faculty members who teach on campus, and the courses last just seven weeks each.

Financial aid applications are available to all students through the school’s financial aid office. Students interested in the online master of arts in educational leadership program are often eligible for several types of aid, including loans, grants, and scholarships.

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5 University of Florida 78.55 1/5 32% Gainesville, FL

UFL’s master’s degree in educational leadership is ranked the number one master’s in education program by U.S. News & World Report, and with good reason. The school’s master’s degree in educational leadership program in particular uses a flexible online platform to deliver coursework relevant to students looking to attain their principal certification. In addition to coursework, the program requires students to complete 150 hours of practicum experience by working directly with a certified principal, making this degree program highly valued for hands-on work experience.

Financial aid provided by the school, state, and federal government as well as private funding sources are recommended by the university’s financial aid office and can ease the burden of tuition expenses for many students. UFL offers several different forms of aid, many of which are applicable to online graduate students, including scholarships, grants, loans, fellowships, and endowments.

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6 University of Utah 78.14 1/5 34% Salt Lake City, UT

Students at the University of Utah can earn their master of education in K-12 school administration while working full time and gaining valuable internship experience. The school aims to provide courses that working professionals can fit into their existing schedules, and most students are able to complete the program within two years.

The program also has a 51-hour internship that is to be completed in person, and the school connects students with local and state education agencies and associations, such as surrounding school districts, to help them fulfill this requirement. Because of this, students interested in the program should consider their location in relation to the school. The school offers financial aid opportunities to all, making this master’s degree program affordable for in-state students in particular.

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7 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 77.66 1/5 39% Champaign, IL

The U of I has an entire department devoted to educational policy, administration, and organization. Within this specialized department are several online master’s degree programs that cater to students looking to pursue a career in education administration in different capacities: human resource development with an emphasis in international education administration & leadership, international education administration & leadership, and educational administration & leadership.

Each of these master’s degree programs can be completed remotely and offer unique instruction to best align with the degree specialties.

Tuition prices vary depending on a student’s residency status. To offset these costs, the university’s Financial Aid Office offers several different types of aid that online students can apply for, including grants, scholarships, tuition waivers, and loans.

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8 University of Nebraska-Lincoln 77.52 1/5 39% Lincoln, NE

UNL offers two online-based programs for graduate students: a master’s in arts degree with a higher education administration focus, and a master’s in arts degree with a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school leadership focus. The latter degree is geared towards students looking to get administrative certification--most often the elementary or secondary principal endorsement. These online programs have flexible timelines to work with students who are completing their degree in addition to a full-time job. The online master’s programs are typically completed between 2-4 years.

To pay for these programs, students can apply for grants, loans, and other sources of funding through UNL’s Financial Aid Office. Graduate students, in particular, can apply to certain fellowships to offset tuition costs. The school recommends that those interested in pursuing a teaching career apply for the TEACH Grant, which provides funds to students who agree to teach full-time for four years as either a highly qualified teacher, a teacher servicing low-income students, or a teacher in a high-need field.

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9 Thomas Edison State College 76.52 N/A 14% Trenton, NJ

Thomas Edison State's Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program allows students to choose from three different learning tracks. The 36-credit 'Building Leadership' option is designed to prepare graduates for school supervisor and principal endorsements. The 42-credit 'District Leadership' option features the same curriculum as 'the Building Leadership' track, as well as a course and practicum session focused on superintendent training. Finally, the 'School Business Administration' emphasis covers financial management, economics and budgetary forecasting, as well as fundamentals of educational leadership; this option includes 36 required credit hours and three optional courses.

Most students complete either of the 36-credit programs within 18 months, enrolling in two three-credit courses over six 12-week terms; additional time may be required for the District Leadership pathway. Applicants must currently work in K-12 education, and have at least years of professional experience in teaching or educational services. According to the most recent data, 135-145 students enroll in Thomas Edison State's MAEdL program each year.

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10 University of Louisiana at Monroe 74.83 1/5 38% Monroe, LA

The ME in educational leadership is a graduate degree offered through ULM’s online school. The program consists of 36 semester hours, and coursework is conducted on My Homework Application. While the majority of the graduate degree is completed remotely, students are required to complete an internship worth six credit hours.

This requirement can be completed at the same location where the student currently teaches if he/she so chooses, making for a convenient, highly-efficient, and valuable field experience opportunity. The ME in educational leadership has a broad scope of applications; students can earn their principal certification or teacher leader endorsement, among other distinguished titles.

All students enrolled in ULM’s educational leadership online master’s program pay $475.00 per credit hour. The flat-rate tuition cost makes this degree an affordable option for both in and out-of-state students. The university’s Office of Financial Aid also offers different types of loans and grants to students who qualify to offset the cost of tuition.

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11 Western Governors University 74.69 1/5 59% Salt Lake City, UT

This online school, which provides a variety of specialized degrees at varying levels, offers a master’s of science in educational leadership. In order to enroll in this program, students must be experienced, licensed classroom teachers. This master’s degree is suited for those who want to earn their principal certification. Students spend an average of 15 hours per week for two years to complete this program.

Students from all states except for Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Tennessee can receive principal certification from this university upon graduation. The broad range of states that students can live and work in make this program particularly efficient and financially strategic for many.

Financial aid is available to online students at WGU. Students can apply for aid with the FAFSA and connect with loans or grants to fund their education. WGU also offers veterans and military tuition assistance, corporate reimbursement, and scholarships.

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12 Western Washington University 73.72 1/5 47% Bellingham, WA

The master’s degree in educational administration at Western is geared towards current educators who are looking to move their careers into a more administrative position in the field of education. Those who want to earn their principal certification also have the option to fulfil the requirements for Washington State’s residency administrator certificate while completing this master's degree. The 52-credit program requires the completion of four research-based courses that include the study and research of school administration case studies, readings, and evaluation pedagogies. All four of these courses are offered through online platforms.

Students in the educational administration master’s program at Western can apply for financial aid created specifically to graduate students. These sources of funding are offered through The Graduate School, and include options such as grants, loans, and scholarships. In addition, graduate students have access to funding options provided through the school’s financial aid office.

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13 University of Iowa 73.45 1/5 46% Iowa City, IA

UI has multiple degree offerings to prepare students for careers in education administration. Their educational leadership program has different degrees and principal certifications for leadership positions in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools. The school’s master of arts in educational leadership with principal licensure can be completed entirely online through Adobe Connect, its technology platform.

Students in UI’s educational leadership programs come from a variety of educational and career backgrounds, and the online courses are designed for those who are working as they complete their degree.

Graduate students at the university can apply for loans, grants, and scholarships through the school’s financial aid office, and can access a rich resource of funding options available only to graduate students. Students in the educational leadership program can apply to specific graduate assistantships that relate to their studies--in particular, the assistantship in educational policy and leadership studies. These unique and highly specialized funding options make a graduate degree in educational administration even more financially feasible.

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14 Iowa State University 72.86 1/5 52% Ames, IA

ISU offers a master’s degree program in a hybrid online setting for current teachers looking to earn their principal certification. The program is designed for teachers who are working full-time and have at least three years of teaching experience. The master’s degree in educational administration prepares students for administrative positions in educational environments, and includes a 400-hour field experience requirement, where students gain valuable experience shadowing school administrators. While this portion of the degree must be completed in person, online students have the option to complete other courses in a part-time, online setting to fit in their current work schedule.

To make this master’s degree affordable for students, ISU’s Office of Financial Aid provides different loan, grant, scholarship, and employment opportunities to students. The options most viable for online graduate students fall under the loan and grant categories; in particular, the school connects interested and qualified students with the TEACH Grant, which can be an affordable option for remote master’s students in the educational administration program looking to continue teaching after they get their graduate degree.

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15 University of Colorado Colorado Springs 72.72 1/5 47% Colorado Springs, CO

The master’s in leadership offered through the University of Colorado is a two-year program that can be completed entirely online. This technology-based master’s degree provides two options to students: completing coursework for the principal certification only (27 credits), or completing both the certification and the master’s degree (36 credits). In either case, the courses are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

UCCS provides a variety of payment methods for this program, including payment plans, employer’s reimbursement programs, and a military tuition assistance voucher. In addition, the school offers cheaper tuition not only to residents, but also to non-resident online students, making this program notably affordable.

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16 Fort Hays State University 72.17 1/5 41% Hays, KS

Fort Hays State offers a Master of Science in Educational Administration degree geared toward aspiring school principals. The 36-credit program incorporates elements of leadership, business administration, technology, school law and curricular planning. Additionally, all students are required to complete at least 150 hours of on-site clinical work related to their major and detail these activities in their Building Leadership Practicum ePortfolio (BLPeP), which must be presented as part of the comprehensive exam period prior to graduation. Most students finish the required courses and earn their degree within two calendar years. The school's online options for aspiring principals include a non-degree principal endorsement; a specialist in education degree (educational administration) and non-degree district leadership (superintendent) endorsement are available, as well.

The tuition rate for graduate students at Fort Hays State's Virtual College is currently set at $253.07 per credit hour; prospective applicants can estimate the cost of annual attendance using the school's online calculator. Paid graduate assistantships are available to master's-level students who are able to visit the campus on a regular basis; assistants may work up to 20 hours per week, and must be enrolled in at least six credit hours for every term of their assistantship.

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17 Augusta University 71.34 1/5 55% Augusta, GA

The online Master of Education in Leadership degree program at Augusta University (formerly Georgia Regents University) allows students to choose from two specializations. The school administration emphasis features courses in principal training, school law, personnel management and business administration, as well as three practicum sessions.

The teacher leadership emphasis focuses on areas like curriculum development, instructional supervision and grant writing; two practicum sessions are required for this track. Both Master of Education in Leadership options carry a 36-credit requirement.

Candidates must meet the following GRE scores: 146 for Verbal, 140 for Quantitative and 3.0 for Analytical Writing. Applicants must also provide an undergraduate transcript showing a 2.5 cumulative GPA; a 3.0 GPA may be used to substitute deficient GRE scores in the Verbal or Quantitative categories. A criminal background check and proof of legal residency in the United States are required for admission, as well. Augusta's tuition rates are capped at 12 credit hours per semester, allowing students to enroll in extra courses each term and potentially save money in the long run.

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18 University of Nebraska at Kearney 70.76 1/5 50% Kearney, NE

Four unique online master’s degrees are offered at UNK for those interested in educational administration jobs. These specialized degrees include an educational administration master’s in school principalship, supervisor of special education, curriculum supervisor of academic area, and school superintendent. All of these graduate programs can be completed online, except for a field study and internship that must be completed in person.

The programs require at least a bachelor’s degree and previous teaching experience, and the school superintendent education administration degree only enrolls students with previous master’s degrees and principal certificates.

While these online degree programs differ in content and prerequisites, all provide students with financial aid opportunities. Students in these programs are connected with graduate school funding options that include grants, loans, and scholarships. The university recommends the TEACH Grant as a funding option relevant to educational administration master’s degree students.

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19 Nicholls State University 70.59 1/5 50% Thibodaux, LA

Two online educational leadership graduate degree programs are administered by Nicholls State University and the University of Louisiana. Their master’s in educational leadership with a concentration in K-12 School Leadership is a two-year program that combines online courses with an in-person school principal mentorship and is geared towards those interested in a career as school principal.

The master’s in educational leadership with a concentration in educational technology leadership is an innovative online degree that helps students attain Louisiana’s Educational Technology Facilitator and Educational Technology Leader certifications.

Both in and out-of-state students in the online graduate educational leadership programs can offset tuition expenses through financial aid funding. The university recommends students in these sorts of grad programs apply for a scholarship through SR Education Group, an online education publisher. This company connects with Nicholls State University to offer $5,000 scholarships specifically to education graduate students, helping make this online degree affordable.

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20 Clemson University 70.52 1/5 43% Clemson, SC

Clemson’s master of human resource development program prepares students to move to administrative human resource roles in education, training, and development settings. The program consists of 36 semester credit hours, all of which can be completed online. Many students in this program gradually complete this program as they work over a span of two years, registering for two courses each semester.

The cost for this Clemson University program is $638 per credit hour, regardless of whether or not the student is a South Carolina resident. To offset this cost, students are encouraged to apply for financial aid through the school’s Student Financial Aid Office. Clemson University recognizes that many of its graduate students are earning their degree on top of full-time jobs and family, and must balance finances as they complete their degree remotely. The school’s financial aid resources reflect this, as they provide links to internal and external funding options that cater to graduate online students both in and out of state.

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21 University of Alaska Anchorage 70.21 1/5 26% Anchorage, AK

UA Anchorage offers a hybrid Master of Education in Educational Leadership degree program aimed at aspiring school principals. The curriculum begins with two courses: an orientation to graduate-level leadership and an introduction to Alaska culture and social issues.

The remaining 30 credit hours are focused in two core areas: research foundation (six credits) and principal education (24 credits). The program concludes with two practical seminars and a six-credit internship. Students must also provide a portfolio demonstrating competency in the standards set forth by the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC). Graduates will be eligible to apply for an institutional recommendation for a Type B Administrator Certificate from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (EED).

Applicants must provide an undergraduate transcript showing a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, as well as a resume indicating at least three years of experience as a certified elementary teacher, secondary teacher or Type C educational services provider. A current Alaska Teacher certificate (or eligibility to obtain one) is also required.

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22 Wilmington University 69.59 1/5 48% New Castle, DE

The 33-credit Master of Education in Instruction degree program at Wilmington is divided into two core areas. The bulk of the curriculum is dedicated to foundation courses in topics like curriculum development, assessment and evaluation, instructional design and psychology of learning. An additional 12 credits are allotted to elective coursework; students may choose from classes focused on educational technology, teaching innovations and other niche topics. Candidates must complete the credit requirements with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher in order to graduate.

Although most courses are delivered in the online format, students must be currently working at a school or educational services provider in order to fulfill the program's practical components. For this reason, all candidates must hold a valid teaching certificate in order to earn admission. Applicants must also provide an official transcript from an accredited, four-year institution and satisfactory scores in all three categories of the ETS Praxis Series Core Academic Skills for Educators (or scores from an equivalent exam).

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23 Arkansas Tech University 67.59 1/5 45% Russellville, AR

Arkansas Tech's Master of Education in Educational Leadership degree program prepares graduates for licensure as a school principal or assistant principal. The 34-credit curriculum incorporates elements of educational law, financial management, improved teaching strategies and instructional leadership. All courses are delivered online. Candidates must additionally submit a completed portfolio that demonstrates competency regarding standards set forth by the state of Arkansas and the Interstate School Leaders; an academic advisor will monitor portfolio progress throughout the program. An on-site administrative internship is also required, and students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Applicants must hold a valid Arkansas teaching license and submit a resume with at least two years of professional experience as a teacher or educational services provider. Students are allowed to transfer up to nine applicable course credits from other accredited institutions.

Please note: students in Kentucky or Massachusetts are not currently allowed to participate in this online program.

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24 George Mason University 66.45 1/5 43% Fairfax, VA

This Virginia school has an online master’s in education leadership degree for students looking to attain management positions in the field of education. The program, which is offered through the College of Education and Human Development, consists of courses that total 30 credit-hours.

All of these courses can be completed online, and incorporate required material for the Virginia licensure in Administration and Supervision for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools.

Those who qualify for the PreK-12 Virginia Educators Discount pay lower tuition, and Mason offers a 45% discount to all out-of-state students as well. This online student discount makes George Mason University’s program price incredibly valuable for remote students looking for a highly specialized, selective learning environment. Tuition can become even more affordable for all students in the online master’s in educational leadership program by applying for funding assistance through the school’s Office of Student Financial Aid

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25 University of Arkansas 66.38 1/5 40% Fayetteville, AR

master of educational leadership program is a practical option for remote, working teachers interested in becoming principals at elementary and secondary schools. In addition to online coursework that can be completed while working a full-time job, an in-person internship is required to attain a principal certification.

Students can apply to enroll in this degree at any time and start in the fall, spring, or summer.

In addition to financial aid opportunities, the College of Education and Health Professions offers several scholarship opportunities, and students in the master of educational leadership program are eligible to apply. These scholarships are available for both current and prospective students, and are typically one-year awards that students can re-apply for each year. The University of Arkansas also has the IMPACT Arkansas Fellowship Program, which gives full tuition scholarships to K-12 teachers in the online master of education (ME) in educational leadership program who want to work in high-need schools in Arkansas.

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