The Most Affordable Online Master’s in School Counseling Programs

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A master’s degree in school counseling prepares graduates to pursue a rewarding professional career in an important and growing field. Across the country, aspiring counselors can find a variety of school counseling programs offering competitive tuition. Increasingly, students are pursuing their master’s degree in school counseling online, a convenient and affordable option for students from all backgrounds.

While searching for schools, it is important to separate affordable programs from cheap schools. Affordability is a key concern for students, and to be sure, distance learners should avoid colleges that charge too much in tuition or fees. But it’s just as important to find a quality program. Prospective students must do their homework, and avoid diploma mills selling the cheapest online master’s in school counseling degree you can find: these schools offer poor instruction and carry little credibility on the job market.

Below, we’ve ranked the most affordable online master’s in school counseling programs in the country. We built the list with help from our “College Affordability Score” algorithm, which measures how student-friendly schools are financially. We considered a variety of factors, including return on investment, the amount of financial aid awarded to students, the amount of students entering loan agreements, and the number of students who are able to repay their loans. The following colleges offer the best blend of academic quality and affordability.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1University of Louisiana at Monroe76.902/540.5%Monroe, LA

Louisiana-Monroe offers an online MS in counseling with an optional concentration in school counseling. Students are required to take 12 credits per term in their concentration, in addition to core courses. Tuition for online graduate students is set per credit hour and is all-inclusive, though in some cases additional fees may be required.

Online students at ULM can take advantage of financial aid in the form of grants and loans. The university also offers tuition reimbursement programs through participating employers and businesses, along with financial aid for veterans and active military personnel. Many graduate students can claim "independent" status on their FAFSA application, opening the door to additional federal and state aid opportunities.

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2Gallaudet University74.833/545.81%Washington, DC

Gallaudet offers an online master's in school counseling degree in a hybrid format. Coursework is completed online during a total of six fall and spring semesters, with summer sessions held on campus for three consecutive terms. This MA degree requires students to complete practicum and internship courses. The program is primarily grant-supported. Graduate students in Gallaudet's online programs pay a set tuition fee per eight-week session. Additional fees and surcharges are added to tuition costs for international students, with fees varying depending on whether they live in a developing or non-developing country.

Graduate students may qualify for a variety of federal grants and scholarships, both merit-based and need-based. The school offers a limited number of institutional grant-in-aid awards to full-time students from the United States. Overall, Gallaudet's out-of-state tuition is 38% lower than the national average.

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3Fort Hays State University73.793/543.01%Hays, KS

Fort Hays State offers an online master of science in school psychology; graduates are eligible for school counselor licensure in Kansas. The program requires students to attend two five-day summer workshops on campus, in addition to their distance learning courses. Graduates may continue on to the education specialist in school psychology degree. Fort Hays offers one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation.

Fort Hays offers graduate students several financial aid opportunities, including scholarships, grants, loans, and veterans benefits. Additionally, Fort Hays is one of only a few schools nationwide to offer scholarships specifically for online degrees and distance learners.

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4University of North Dakota69.313/555.49%Grand Forks, ND

North Dakota offers an online master of arts in counseling, with an emphasis in K-12 school counseling. The almost-entirely online program combines interactive online courses with two mandatory four-day campus visits during summer semesters. The online master's in school counseling program comprises 50 course credit hours. The school offers in-state tuition prices to all distance learners.

Online students are eligible for most of the same financial aid opportunities as residential students. Graduate students enrolled in distance learning programs may pursue institutional financial aid, including scholarships and other merit-based awards. The school also supports military and veterans benefits, along with employer-provided tuition assistance. Of particular interest to distance learners, UND offers the Ben & Ruth Gustafson Continuing Education Endowment specifically for nontraditional online students.

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5University of Alaska Fairbanks69.142/532.24%Fairbanks, AK

Alaska Fairbanks offers an online master of education in counseling with a focus in school counseling. The hybrid program offers primarily online courses, though students must attend a six-week summer session on campus. An internship is also required. The university's distance learning division offers a separate online school counseling certification program for aspiring professionals. Tuition is calculated per credit, depending on the student's residency status and whether their courses are considered lower-level, upper-level, or graduate-level.

All graduate students are eligible for institutional grants and scholarships, along with external loans and veterans benefits. Though UAF requires additional per-credit fees for distance learners, their tuition rates are very affordable compared with other grad programs around the country. For a nominal up-front fee, the university also allows students to spread five tuition payments over the course of the semester as part of its payment plan option.

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6Lehigh University66.384/587.39%Bethlehem, PA

Lehigh offers an online master's degree in international counseling for aspiring school counselors. The hybrid M.Ed. in international counseling comprises 30 course credits; full-time students can graduate in just two years. The degree includes mandatory practicum and fieldwork requirements. Tuition is competitively priced per credit hour.

Distance learners have access to the same financial aid opportunities as residential students. Graduate students can obtain loans and pursue outside scholarships and departmental funding to offset education costs. Additionally, the university offers an installment plan for tuition payments, and also accepts tuition employer deferment and tuition remission plans. Less than one percent of students at Lehigh have defaulted on student loans. This year, the school helped 460 students through the Loan Elimination Initiative, while another 500 benefited from an initiative aimed at loan reduction.

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7University of Missouri – Columbia66.213/569.48%Columbia, MO

Missouri offers an online master of education in mental health practices in schools. The 34-hour program is delivered entirely through Mizzou Online. All students must complete a capstone project to graduate: they may choose to write a paper, present a project, or complete a residency to fill this requirement. Online graduate students pay in-state tuition prices regardless of where they live.

Online graduate students have the same financial aid opportunities as their on-campus counterparts. Distance learners may also be eligible for the school's tuition support program and tuition cost-sharing through the awards and funding arm of the graduate studies department. Tuition is priced competitively and charged per credit; online students pay nominal additional technology and administrative fees per course but are not assessed campus fees.

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8Chadron State College63.453/536.23%Chadron, NE

Chadron State offers an online master of education in school counseling through its graduate studies division. The program is offered almost entirely online, though students must take two classes on campus; they must also complete an internship and practicum course locally. Graduates looking to obtain licensure in their state will need to take a few additional courses to become eligible for the national certification exam. Internship requirements vary depending on whether you are pursuing a K-6, 7-12, or K-12 school counseling endorsement.

Distance learners may be eligible for federal funding opportunities as determined by their FAFSA application. Among several institutional scholarships available, the school offers the Dr. Earl Strohbehn Memorial Graduate scholarship, open to graduate students studying on-campus or online.

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9University of Massachusetts – Boston61.903/542.08%Boston, MA

UMass-Boston offers a 60-credit online master of education degree in school counseling. The almost-entirely online program combines distance learning coursework with a mandatory in-person internship and practicum experience, supervised by online chats with university professors. The program also meets the requirements for school guidance counselor licensure in Massachusetts. UMass Boston offers competitive tuition prices, and waives some service fees for distance learners.

Online graduate students can tap into several sources of financial aid at UMass Boston. Graduate students enrolled in at least six credits or more may apply for federally-funded loans and grants, and pursue private loans for additional aid. The school also awards merit-based scholarships to qualifying students, along with benefits for active-duty military and veterans and their families. Last year, the university distributed over $5 million in scholarships to 1,100 UMass Boston students.

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10Oregon State University61.213/563.07%Corvallis, OR

Oregon State offers an online master of counseling with a school counseling concentration. Half of all courses are online; the rest are held on two weekends each term in Salem. OSU also requires students to take internship and practicum courses, which are conducted exclusively through live web sessions. Ecampus students are charged their own tuition rate, regardless of residency.

Distance learners and on-campus students are eligible for many of the same financial aid opportunities at Oregon State. International students and Oregon residents are afforded special consideration for certain financial aid opportunities. A need-based Ecampus grant is available specifically for online students enrolled in a qualifying OSU program. Students must take at least five credits to qualify for financial aid. OSU's fixed tuition rates remain the same regardless of how many credits you take.

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11Wake Forest University61.034/588.22%Winston Salem, NC

Wake Forest offers an online MA in Counseling with an optional concentration in school counseling. This specialty track requires students to complete 60 total credit hours within three years. Graduates are eligible to sit for the national counselor examination for licensure and certification. One hundred-percent of Wake Forest's graduates in the field have passed the exam.

Graduate students can pursue federal awards and grants, along with private loans where applicable. The school also offers an interest-free monthly payment plan and third-party billing options for tuition payments.

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12University of the Cumberlands59.833/535.56%Williamsburg, KY

UC offers an online MA in counseling with an optional clinical mental health counseling track. This concentration includes specialty training in child and adolescent counseling. UC's master's program is delivered almost entirely online, in conjunction with required practicum and internship courses. Tuition and additional fees are set per term, and determined according to the number of credit hours you are taking.

Online graduate students can apply for the same financial aid opportunities as students on campus. Distance learners may qualify for federal and UC-funded grants. UC also supports interest-free tuition payment plans, and does not charge an application fee. On average, the university awards more than $19,000 in financial aid per student.

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13Northern Arizona University58.453/551.57%Flagstaff, AZ

NAU offers a master of education in school counseling, delivered in a blended format. The program is comprised of 48 credits in a combination of online and residential courses. The degree also requires students to complete an internship and post-internship practicum. NAU offers the same affordable per-credit tuition rate to both online and on-campus students, as well as fewer additional fees than most colleges.

In addition to federal and institutional scholarships and grants, distance learners may be eligible for veterans benefits or reduced tuition for out-of-state, online-only study. The university also offers an interest-free tuition payment plan and a personalized learning program, including package-pricing for select online competency-based courses.

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14University of Mississippi57.933/561.36%University, MS

Mississippi offers an online master of education in professional counseling with an optional school counseling track. The hybrid program includes online courses in conjunction with on-campus coursework at the Tupelo or Oxford regional centers. The 48-credit-hour program also requires students to complete an internship and practicum. All students pay the same tuition rate. The university offers several scholarships specifically for graduate students, along with a few geared toward education students in particular. Additionally, the school offers federal and state grants and loan opportunities specific to graduate study. Olle Miss awarded more than $270 million in financial aid to its students in 2015.

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15University of Central Arkansas56.033/544.67%Conway, AR

Central Arkansas offers an online master of science in school counseling, with optional additional tracks for both certified and non-certified students. Distance learners must complete an on-site internship and practicum in addition to online coursework, comprising 48 total credit hours. With low per-credit tuition, UCA offers one of the most affordable online counseling degrees in the country. The university features one of the nation's largest collections of institutional scholarships, including several UCA Foundation scholarships, each awarded to students based on particular criteria, from department of study to ethnicity to religious orientation. Offerings for graduate counseling students specifically include the Richard Allen Scott Psychology/Counseling Scholarship and various awards through the department of education. The school also provides military and veterans benefits to qualifying students.

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16Angelo State University55.523/529.75%San Angelo, TX

Angelo State offers an online master of education in guidance and counseling, with optional add-on coursework for those seeking school counselor licensure in Texas. The program is taught entirely online, and does not require students to complete an internship or a practicum. Full-time distance learners may complete the 36-credit-hour program in less than two years. Angelo State offers a variety of Carr Academic Scholarships, funded by one of the largest endowments at a U.S. regional university. A Carr graduate scholarship can be applied to the guidance and counseling program, for a significant discount on your overall tuition.

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17University of Tennessee – Martin51.902/547.04%Martin, TN

Tennessee-Martin offers an online master of science in education, with an optional concentration in school counseling. The 48-credit-hour program combines online coursework with a mandatory practicum and "culminating experience" comprised of two internship courses. Tuition for online graduate students are set per-credit-hour, depending on both the student's residency status and how many credits they are enrolled in per semester. Graduate students may apply for one or more of the university's departmental scholarships for psychology and counseling programs. The school also helps facilitate need-based grants and private loans, and offers merit-based institutional scholarship programs for qualifying graduate students.

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18Canisius College49.144/567.91%Buffalo, NY

Canisius offers an online master's in community and school health degree. The program can be completed entirely online, with no internship or practicum requirement. The 33-credit online master's curriculum requires students to complete a thesis project of their choosing; full-time students can graduate in just one year. Distance learners have access to all graduate financial aid options that Canisius has to offer. This includes federal and state grants and scholarships, along with New-York-based grants specifically for education and childcare-related programs. The university also offers a variety of merit-based and specialized award opportunities, including the MLK Scholarship and the WNY Prosperity Scholarship. Canisius provided more than $36 million in merit scholarships to students in 2015.

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19Seton Hall University42.074/566.45%South Orange, NJ

Seton Hall offers an online master's in school counseling. The program comprises 48 credit hours in core and clinical courses, culminating with a 9 credit field internship. Students in this two-and-a-half year program take classes in a cohort format. Seton Hall offers several institutional graduate scholarships--open to all students--as well as separate departmental awards. The transfer of credits and individual courses is restricted in this program. Altogether, students can pursue one of the cheapest online master's in school counseling programs in the country at Seton Hall.

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20Edinboro University of Pennsylvania41.553/544.71%Edinboro, PA

Edinboro offers an online master's in counseling with an emphasis in school counseling. Available almost entirely online, the master's in school counseling program offers a traditional curriculum and culminates in a mandatory internship. Graduates are prepared to sit for the national licensure examination in Pennsylvania. Tuition is priced per-credit-hour, and varies based on your state of residency. Master's candidates are generally dependent on federal and private loans to supplement their graduate education. The school also supports veterans benefits and offers employer-reimbursement assistance. Edinboro also provides a large selection of departmental scholarships for education students, and awards specifically for graduate studies.

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