The Most Affordable Online Master of Science in Nursing Programs

Badge with 2-Line TitleOnline Master'sin Nursing2017
See MethodologyGet Ranking Seal

Affordability is a key concern for many students who apply to and enroll in online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs. It’s important, however, to look beyond the cheapest online MSN programs in terms of tuition and fees. There are many affordable online MSN programs available that will provide true value and a return on the investment of time and money. Accredited online programs are designed to prepare graduates to work as managers, policy experts, or educators in the field. An MSN degree is also a required prerequisite for some doctoral programs in nursing education. Many graduate-level nursing students are registered nurses (RNs). Some MSN programs, however, admit students with undergraduate degrees in other fields. These students from other backgrounds are usually required to take additional entry-level nursing courses.

Coursework in online MSN programs covers a variety of topics, including health care ethics, health care policy, advanced practice nursing, biochemistry, and pharmacology. Additionally, online MSN students pick a specialty in the field, such as health care leadership, nurse-midwifery, gerontology, pediatrics, or psychiatry. The flexibility of online coursework allows students to continue working as RNs or as full-time professionals while they earn their degree.

In the interest of helping students evaluate the most affordable online MSN programs, we use our College Affordability Score methodology to rank programs based on several factors, including financial aid opportunities, the number of students who take out loans, graduation rates, and loan default rates for graduates. The list below is not a ranking of schools by lowest tuition rate, that is, they’re not necessarily the “cheapest” online MSN programs. Instead, our rankings reflect the overall economic value these colleges offer online MSN students.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Recieving Loans Location Description
1 University of Louisiana at Lafayette 82.94 N/A 31% Lafayette, LA

Online students at Louisiana Lafayette can earn an MSN to become either nursing educators or family nurse practitioners. As a part of the Intercollegiate Consortium for a Master of Science in Nursing, ULL partners with other public universities in the state to offer an affordable and quality distance learning curriculum.

Other participating schools include McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana, and Nicholls State. All 600 of the program’s required clinical hours must be completed in the state of Louisiana, though you can take classes anywhere with an Internet connection.

MSN students can apply for federal loans and federal grants as well as scholarships for health professionals. The financial aid advisors at ULL help students navigate the process of applying for financial assistance.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
2 University of Hawaii at Manoa 78.83 N/A 37% Honolulu, HI

All MSN courses at UH are offered in online, face-to-face, and hybrid formats. MSN students can also take interactive television system (ITV) courses, for added convenience and flexibility. Students can pursue an adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist track or the advanced public health nursing track, allowing online students to find their niche in a rapidly growing field.

The Clinical Nurse Specialist route requires 42 to 45 hours to complete and generally takes two to four years. The Advanced Public Health Nursing option can be completed in 30 to 39 hours (one or two years).

Degree-seekers study either part-time or full-time. The school offers a variety of scholarships and fellowships to new and returning students.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
3 California State University-Chico 78.56 N/A 46% Chico, CA

Designed to meet the needs of nurses working in rural areas, CSU Chico’s MSN offering is one of the most flexible programs of its kind in the country. Students follow either the nurse educator or nursing leadership track and complete 30 units of coursework over a span of five semesters. All courses are offered online, and do not require in-person clinical hours.

During the first year of this program, enrolled nurses study foundational subjects, such as technology, nursing research, and health care organizational systems. In their second year, they delve into more specialized subjects.

CSU Chico offers nine different scholarships to graduate nursing students, along with 28 donor scholarships. Students are also able to apply for federal loans, grants, and special community scholarships.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
4 Stony Brook University 78.28 N/A 45% Stony Brook, NY

Dedicated to providing students with convenient online options, Stony Brook offers students the opportunity to choose from nine different specialties. This prepares them to become nurse leaders, nurse educators, nurse practitioners, or to practice advanced midwifery. MSN students complete their degrees, which range from 36 to 45 hours, part-time and remotely. Distance learners must attend an orientation on campus.

In addition to affordable tuition, SBU provides graduate nursing students with a number of financial aid opportunities. Grants, loans, and employment opportunities are all available to qualified students. Additionally, a limited number of scholarships are available to graduate-level health professionals through private foundations and government agencies affiliated with the school. Students can apply for scholarships once they have been accepted to the university.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
5 California State University-Dominguez Hills 77.22 N/A 38% Carson, CA

The online program at CSUDH prepares registered nurses to practice as nurse educators, nurse administrators, clinical nurse specialists, or family nurse practitioners, depending on their preferred academic track. Some degree requirements must be completed on-campus, but most courses are offered online.

Students must complete between 30 and 40 units of coursework, in addition to clinical hours, within five years in order to graduate. Fifteen of the 30 units cover foundational subjects, such as health care policy and nursing research.

CSUDH offers the CACN Nurse Educator Scholarship, the Deloras Jones RN Scholarship Program, and the CampusRN Scholarship Program for qualified MSN students. Additional financial assistance opportunities are provided by the school’s financial aid office, and the university gladly helps students identify external scholarship opportunities as well. The financial aid office also offers exit counseling services to graduating students to help them learn about their loan repayment options, and how to manage student debt.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
6 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 75.28 N/A 54% Oshkosh, WI

Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s MSN degree is available entirely online. Students can pursue nurse educator and clinical nurse educator specialties, and those seeking careers in nursing leadership or nursing education are particularly well-suited for the program. Both specialties require 37 credit hours and either two years of full-time study or three years of part-time work.

UW-Oshkosh offers a limited number of need and merit-based scholarships, and fellowships are available to help students as well. Additionally, distance learners can easily obtain federal loans and grants with the help of the school’s financial aid office. Students from Minnesota are eligible for tuition rates that are only slightly higher than in-state tuition rates. Qualifying students from other Midwestern states may also be able to pay reduced tuition.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
7 Thomas Edison State College 75.00 N/A 14% Trenton, NJ

Thomas Edison State provides convenient and flexible learning opportunities to adult and professional learners. Students are taught by experienced faculty members, teachers familiar with online education and practical experience in the field.

Students can take MSN courses entirely online, and pursue concentrations in nurse education, nursing informatics, and nursing administration. Each concentration requires students to complete 36 credits. The nurse educator and nursing informatics concentrations require students to complete 120 hours of clinical experience; the nursing administration concentration requires 150 clinical hours.

Prospective and current distance learners at TESU receive a financial aid shopping sheet that helps them estimate academic costs and identify federal funding opportunities. Through the Thomas Edison State University Foundation, donors and corporate partners also offer a limited number of scholarships to qualified graduate nursing students.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
8 Georgetown University 73.17 N/A 27% Washington, DC

Georgetown’s online MSN offers cutting-edge online coursework taught by nationally renowned faculty members. The program also facilitates a hands-on clinical practicum that conveniently fits into online students' schedules. Students pick one of four specialty areas that prepare them to become nurse practitioners who serve aging populations, families, or women.

Depending on their specialty, degree-seekers complete between 40 to 49 credit hours and between 650 and 1,000 clinical hours. Students can take classes full-time or part-time and complete the program in 19-27 months.

Distance learners can apply for federal student aid, Graduate PLUS Loans, National Health Service Corps Scholarships, federal grants, state scholarships, and scholarships for minority students. Additionally, MSN graduates are eligible to participate in nursing education loan repayment programs and public service loan forgiveness programs. All students who receive financial aid in the form of loans are required to complete loan entrance counseling, which prepares them to manage the costs of their education.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
9 University of Colorado-Colorado Springs 71.83 N/A 47% Colorado Springs, CO

UCCS offers an entirely online program for prospective nurse practitioners. Online graduate students can choose from the following specialties: primary care adult/gero nurse practitioner, primary care family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.

Depending on the MSN specialty, the program requires between 46 and 48 credit hours to complete. Students can take courses part-time but must graduate within six years.

This affordable program offers great value to distance learners, especially students who live in states that participate in the Western Regional Graduate Program. These students receive discounted tuition, even if they are not Colorado residents. Scholarship, grant, and loan opportunities for online MSN students are also available through the financial aid office. Students are required to submit separate applications for certain scholarships.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
10 Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus 70.83 N/A 33% Portales, NM

ENMU strives to provide registered nurses with the opportunity to become nurse educators and to help fill the nationwide gap in nursing education. Students take a combination of nursing education classes and nursing professional development classes. Graduates must pass 36 credit hours to graduate. Students are encouraged to take six hours in the fall, spring, and summer semesters in order to complete their coursework within two years.

ENMU offers the second lowest tuition for graduate students in the state. Additionally, out-of-state students are eligible for in-state tuition rates if they initially enroll in six or fewer hours per semester, making ENMU one of the most affordable schools in the country.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
11 Tennessee Technological University 70.72 N/A 45% Cookeville, TN

TTU partners with other universities in Tennessee to deliver its state-of-the-art online MSN program. TTU offers four MSN specialties: RN to MSN, family nurse practitioner, nursing administration, and nursing education. The core and specialized academic components of the program can be taken entirely online. Additionally, TTU students can choose to complete their clinical hours at approved local facilities.

The mission of TTU’s online MSN program is to “use technology to improve access to high-quality, affordable, student-centered graduate nursing education opportunities.” With reasonable tuition and 33 school-sponsored scholarship opportunities available to distance learners, TTU is a leader in affordable distance education. Beyond scholarships, MSN students also often receive sizable grant and loan packages from the federal government. Their federal loans are eligible for a few loan forgiveness programs if they decide to work in the public sector after graduation.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
12 University of Delaware 70.56 N/A 52% Newark, DE

Students at Delaware complete complete all degree requirements in a hybrid online and on-campus format. They must take six “Core Graduate Courses” online and then complete nine clinical courses onsite at UD.

On-campus clinical courses are offered in the evenings Monday through Thursday. MSN degree-seekers can study to become family nurse practitioners or adult gerontology practitioners. Full-time students graduate in two and a half years; part-time students will need another year.

UD offers all admitted students scholarships that cover 55% of their tuition. Additionally, students receive up to 60% off tuition costs if they work for partnering facilities and hospitals, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia employees are also given partial tuition remittance.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
13 McNeese State University 70.39 N/A 41% Lake Charles, LA

Like the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, McNeese State belongs to the state’s Intercollegiate Consortium. MSN students take classes offered by faculty from MSU, ULL, Nicholls State, and Southeastern Louisiana to complete their degrees. They can earn an MSN from MSU in one of several concentrations, including family nurse practitioner, psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or nurse executive.

Depending on their concentrations, students take between 34 and 43 hours of courses. Most distance learners graduate in four to six semesters, depending on their schedules and specialties.

MSU provides a number of financial aid plans and resources, while also offering relatively low tuition to all students. The program is particularly affordable for Louisiana residents, who only have to pay approximately $1,800 per semester in tuition. The school also offers tuition fee deferral for students looking to pay in installments.

Tweet this Share this School Profile
14 University of North Dakota 68.00 N/A 51% Grand Forks, ND

North Dakota offers an entirely online MSN degree with five concentrations. Most courses are available online, although students in many of the concentrations are required to spend a week on-campus twice over the course of their program. Some concentrations can be completed in just two years; students must complete 42-59 credits, depending on their specialization, which include:

Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing

  • Nurse Educator
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Advanced Public Health
  • Adult-Gerontology
  • All distance learners pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live. Scholarships, grants, and loans can further help students defray tuition costs.

    Tweet this Share this School Profile
    15 Montana State University 67.94 N/A 47% Bozeman, MT

    Montana State offers a master of nursing (MN) program to students. The material presented is nearly identical to that found in most MSN programs, and the degree prepares graduates for equivalent professional work.

    Montana State’s MN program prepares students to become nursing leaders and educators. Once they’ve completed the program, students are also qualified to take certification examinations to become clinical nurse leaders. The MN degree requires at least five semesters of study, and students must complete 34 credit hours to graduate. Classes are offered in online, videoconference, and teleconference formats. Clinical hours are not required, but students must complete a professional project that aims to affect the state of health care in their communities.

    Tweet this Share this School Profile
    16 University of Arkansas 67.83 N/A 40% Fayetteville, AR

    All coursework for Arkansas’ online MSN with a nurse educator concentration can be completed entirely online. Additionally, the university arranges clinical hours with health care providers near the student’s home, allowing them to obtain the clinical experience they need without having to travel.

    Students can either take classes along the school’s 39-credit non-thesis track or the 42-credit thesis option. The degree can be completed full-time in four semesters or part-time on a modified schedule.

    Students pay just $399.94 per credit hour, and distance learners have access to a variety of scholarships. Many MSN students receive scholarships directly from the College of Education or the university itself. Loan forgiveness programs for graduates working in nursing are also available through the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    Tweet this Share this School Profile
    17 University of Arizona 66.61 N/A 41% Tucson, AZ

    Arizona’s RN to MSN program gives registered nurses the opportunity to earn their master’s on an accelerated schedule. All distance learners take classes in the school’s clinical systems leadership track, which prepares them for a variety of roles in nursing leadership and education. RNs with associate degrees in nursing complete 44 hours of coursework over two years, while those with a bachelor’s complete 31 hours over 15 months. Courses are delivered entirely online.

    A leader in affordable online education, Arizona offers relatively low in-state and out-of-state tuition, along with a variety of scholarships. Federal funding and loans are also available to students who apply, and financial aid advisors at UA can guide students throughout the process. Loan repayment programs for nurses working in the public sector are also available.

    Tweet this Share this School Profile
    18 West Virginia University 66.22 N/A 52% Morgantown, WV

    WVU offers several online nursing programs. The school’s MSN program delivers a rigorous curriculum in a flexible and convenient platform. Students pursue one of three concentration options: family nurse practitioner (FNP), pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), or nursing leadership. The program consists of 44 credit hours, which can be fulfilled over the course of two years if taken full-time or three to four years for part-time students.

    MSN students can apply to 28 different scholarships provided by the school. Additional costs can be covered by both federal loans and grants, which all WVU graduate students are eligible for. WVU provides a helpful cost calculator on its website to help current and potential students estimate their academic costs. Their financial aid office is also dedicated to enhancing financial literacy and financial empowerment among students, before and after graduation.

    Tweet this Share this School Profile
    19 University of Central Florida 65.78 N/A 45% Orlando, FL

    UCF offers its MSN program in both an online and a hybrid format. Online students can pursue concentrations in leadership and management, nurse educator, and nursing and healthcare simulation. Hybrid degree plans--which can be completed through a combination of online and in-person coursework--include the adult/gero acute care nurse practitioner, adult/gero primary care nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner tracks. Depending on your specialization, you should be able to graduate in 30 to 46 hours, over the course of four to nine semesters.

    Tweet this Share this School Profile
    20 Purdue University 65.61 N/A 41% Hammond, IN

    Distance learners at Purdue can apply to one of the school’s two MSN concentrations: adult-gerontological clinical nurse specialist, and family nurse practitioner. Purdue offers competitive tuition and a program available almost entirely online (students are required to commute to campus during their time in the program). Students must complete a practicum, and technical help is available 24/7. Purdue also offers a master of science with a nursing major and post-master’s certificates.

    Tweet this Share this School Profile
    21 Indiana University-Purdue University 64.50 N/A 51% Indianapolis, IN

    IUPUI offers a variety of online master’s in nursing options for distance learners:

    • An MSN
    • A master of nursing leadership in health systems
    • A master of nursing education

    Online courses at IUPUI are offered asynchronously. Some courses are offered in a hybrid format, which requires some in-person attendance. The nursing education program requires students to complete 42 credits and a 135-hour supervised practicum.

    The school has several financial aid options for distance learners to pursue. Prospective students can apply for loans, grants, and scholarships. IUPUI has also put together this informative video to show how graduates can reduce their loans or get them forgiven upon graduation.

    Tweet this Share this School Profile
    22 University of Southern Indiana 64.17 N/A 53% Evansville, IN

    USI offers students an online MSN program with six possible concentrations. These include:

    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGNR)
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP
    • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (AGCNS)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

    Tweet this Share this School Profile