The Most Affordable Online RN to BSN Programs

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Nurses are at the forefront of healthcare delivery in America’s increasingly complex healthcare system, and the demand for qualified nurses is on the rise. A 2010 report by the Health Resources and Services Administration found that a large proportion of nurses are working in the late stages of their careers. As these professionals begin entering retirement, new nurses will be needed to fill their roles in the coming years. Job prospects are strong for students currently pursuing a degree in nursing; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of registered nurses (RNs) will grow around 16% between 2014 and 2024.

The most common way to earn RN credentials is to pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN) at a community college. However, obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is invaluable for upward mobility and increased earnings in the profession. BSN degree-holders typically work in hospitals, areas of research, and community healthcare centers.

An increasing number of nursing students are now choosing to pursue their BSN degrees online. Not only is an online degree more affordable, but the distance format allows nursing students to complete their schooling and advance their careers while they work. With hundreds of cheap online RN to BSN programs available, finding the right one may seem like an overwhelming task. At BestColleges.com, we use our unique College Affordability Score to make the process easier. By weighing factors such as return on investment (ROI), the amount of financial aid given to students, and loan default rates among students, we’ve created a list that ranks schools based on their overall value, rather than just a cheap tuition up-front. Each school included in the ranking offers students a quality, affordable online RN to BSN degree program that is guaranteed to pay off in the long run.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Receiving Loans Location Description
1

California State University – Fresno

82.172/533%Fresno, CA

campus-california-state-university-fresno

The RN to BSN program at Cal State Fresno is designed for registered nurses who have already earned an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Students in the program complete upper division nursing courses that focus on leadership skills, evidence-based practice methodologies, and management skills. The courses are offered online, except for one 90-hour clinical course in community health nursing.

While in the program, students are encouraged to choose an area of specialization and collaboratively take care of patients in settings such as critical, acute, long-term, home, and ambulatory care. Upon completing the program, RNs can enter the master of science in nursing (MSN) or school nurse credential programs. BSN graduates can work in community health settings by applying for a California Public Health Nursing Certificate. The CSU system makes every effort to keep tuition at a reasonable cost. The program is also an affordable online RN to BSN program in part because of the school's Affordability Learning Solutions program, which includes the use of high-quality Open Educational Resources, the use of library materials, and digital or customized textbooks to replace costly textbooks.

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2

Appalachian State University

78.73/547%Boone, NC

campus_Appalachian_State_Campus

App State’s RN to BSN program is an online, part-time degree completion program for nurses seeking to advance in the field or pursue graduate school. To be eligible, the candidate must have earned an associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing from a hospital program, and have an RN license to practice nursing in North Carolina or a compact state.

The program lasts 12 months and is cohort-based—students begin and complete the requirements in a specific timeframe. A total of 124 semester hours are required, including 30 semester hours for nursing major courses and 30 hours of credit awarded for prior learning after the second semester is completed. In addition to the required core, major courses include nursing informatics, leadership, and management and nursing research.

It is an affordable online RN to BSN because distance learners have access to the same financial aid resources available to residents in the state. The program has a list of courses from a North Carolina community college that can be used to fulfill program requirements.

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3

Louisiana State University

76.112/531%Baton Rouge, LA

campus-Louisiana-State-University

UL Lafayette’s RN to BSN program helps students apply nursing theory to guide decision-making and to implement nursing care. The 30-credit hour program is 100% online and can be completed in as few as 12 months. Among notable courses are those focusing on the impact of a disaster on the population, the role of nurses in managing health needs, and delivering community-focused healthcare across diverse populations.

Making education affordable is a top priority of the university. The school’s Financial Aid Department actively works with students to help remove the barriers that may preclude them from participation; UL at Lafayette helps students locate the funding opportunities to meet their needs, making this one of the most affordable online RN to BSN programs. Multiple start dates are offered during the year, giving students enrollment flexibility.

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4

California State University – Bakersfield

73.62/541%Bakersfield, CA

campus-california-state-university-bakersfield

CSUB’s full-time online RN to BSN program builds on the knowledge and skills of RNs with an associate degree returning to school to further their careers. The 12- to 15-month program is predominantly online, delivered through Blackboard. Nursing didactic courses include research methods, nursing leadership, community health nursing, and pathophysiology. One clinical course, community health practicum, requires 100 hours of clinical experience.

Enrollment eligibility includes being a graduate of an accredited associate degree in nursing program and a GPA of at least 2.5 in the last 60 semester/90 quarter units at the last postsecondary institution attended. CSUB has different kinds of financial aid options available, including grants, loans, and scholarships. CSUB notes that its students get all of the benefits of a private university, such as cutting-edge research, smaller class sizes, and outstanding faculty, at the cost of a public institution.

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5

University of Illinois at Chicago

73.43/550%Chicago, IL

campus-university-of-illinois-at-chicago

UIC’s School of Nursing is one of the top nursing schools in the country and is recognized internationally for nursing leadership. UIC offers the RN to BSN program for registered nurses seeking to complete their baccalaureate degrees. The program is 100% online; required courses are eight weeks in length. Areas of focus include nursing informatics and evaluating concepts and processes in the field.

Once students enroll in the program, they are assigned an advisor to help them navigate registration, financial aid, career counseling, and schedules—all the way to graduation. The program includes information-rich course content, access to educational resources, and personalized attention. Students use discussion boards, multimedia, and collaborative sessions. UIC is known for providing great value because students pay lower tuition than their contemporaries at other institution but earn more than many of their peers post-graduation. In addition to federal financial aid, students may apply for grants, scholarships, assistantship, and fellowship opportunities at UIC.

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6

University of Wisconsin – Madison

72.393/536%Madison, WI

At UW Madison, students get an education at a world-class institution recognized for excellence. Registered nurses can deepen their knowledge of nursing theory and practice through the school’s RN to BSN program offered full-time or part-time online. Coursework is delivered through Desire2Learn, accessible from computers and smartphones.

Students taking the program part-time can complete it in about 2 to 2.5 years. While most of the courses are delivered online, there is one required clinical in which students must complete approximately 180 hours. It can be arranged close to where the students reside. The university’s tuition and fees are lower than many private and for-profit educational institutions. In additional to federal financial aid opportunities, prospective students and students already admitted to or enrolled in the nursing program are eligible to apply for scholarships from the School of Nursing.

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7

University of Iowa

71.913/546%Iowa City, IA

UI’s School of Nursing is the state’s leader in making advanced degrees more accessible to registered nurses. Prospective students need a cumulative GPA of 3.0 to be admitted into the RN to BSN program, and they can enroll full-time (three semesters) or part-time (five semesters). While the program is delivered online, there is a required community/public health practicum and a leadership course with face-to-face components.

UI’s tuition and fees are among the lowest in the Big Ten. Approximately 80% of UI students receive some form of financial aid, such as grants and loans. The school awards about 2,000 scholarships based on academic achievement, financial need, or both. In addition, students admitted to the RN to BSN program in 2016 or in the spring of 2017 receive free tuition for the first nursing course.

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8

University of Wyoming

68.673/536%Laramie, WY

UW is a nationally recognized research institution with world-class facilities. The Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing’s RN to BSN program is delivered nationwide as an online completion program with no on-campus classes. It is designed for registered nurses with a diploma or an associate degree. The program’s areas of focus include leadership, political and regulatory processes, and collaboration with inter-professional teams. There is capstone project requiring analysis of a public health issue to address competencies and the interventions’ impact on the affected population.

UW is consistently highly ranked as an institution providing the best value to students because of high-quality programming, low tuition rates for both in-state and out-of-state students, and many scholarship opportunities in addition to financial aid. The nursing school also awards numerous scholarships to qualifying students. Wyoming offers the Accelerated Loan Repayment Nursing Program designed to help students in the state pay for tuition.

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9

California State University – Chico

68.623/546%Chico, CA

CSU Chico’s nursing graduates are well-regarded in the field and in the communities they deliver healthcare. The 15-month RN to BSN track, available for nurses with an associate degree or diploma, is delivered online to accommodate the needs of working nurses. The theory courses require only one meeting on campus each semester. Students may be able to take a required public health practicum in his or her local community. CSU-Chico has been offering distance learning for 40 years and is considered a leader in such delivery; its online classes can be synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination.

New students will take the RN-BSN bridge course introducing the RN to CSU-Chico, the nursing school and the professional role of the baccalaureate-prepared nurse. In addition to traditional financial aid options, students can apply for funding through the state-funded Middle Class Scholarship program designed for undergraduate students with family income up to $150,000. In addition, CSU-Chico has its own scholarship program for qualified students.

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10

California State University – Dominguez Hills

66.971/538%Carson, CA

Nurses going back to school can complete a bachelor’s degree by enrolling into the RN to BSN program at CSU Dominguez Hills. Students will learn to be leaders in the field performing critical tasks such as designing patient-centered professional care and engaging in evidence-based practice. All but one of the BSN courses are offered online. The clinical role performance classes are delivered online, but each student will arrange to do the role performance portion in the student’s community.

Entry into the program will require 60 or more transferable college units, RN licensure and a GPA of at least 2.0. The school’s tuition is more than 30% below the national average for state schools, providing students with an education that is affordable, high-quality, and transformative. In addition to federal financial aid, scholarship opportunities are available to help students finance their degrees. CSUDH’s online courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system.

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11

University of Utah

66.913/534%Salt Lake City, UT

The University of Utah's College of Nursing works to advance the profession by developing a pipeline of healthcare professionals skilled in nursing, gerontology research, and practice. The school is well-known for its research initiatives to advance innovation in healthcare in areas such as cancer, hospice, and palliative care. Its RN to BSN track is 100% online and can be completed in as few as eight months full-time, or 16 months part-time. Students must complete a 32-hour clinical job-shadow that can be set up where the student is located.

Courses include evidence-based practice in nursing and global health nursing. The college also offers a geriatric specialty within the RN to BSN track designed to improve geriatric nursing care. In addition to federal financial aid, scholarships are available for RN to BSN students through the College of Nursing. Students complete 30 nursing credits, and an additional 30 nursing credits are awarded at no extra charge.

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12

University of Arkansas

65.693/540%Fayetteville, AR

U of A is a top-tier public research institution with a nursing school at the forefront of innovation. The university is ranked within the top 2% of colleges and universities nationwide in research, providing students with mentoring opportunities, a low student-to-teacher ratio, and affordability. The Eleanor Mann School of Nursing offers a 29-credit RN to BSN program that can be completed in one year. The program can be taken full-time or part-time and is 100% online and asynchronous. A required practicum can be taken in the student’s geographic area.

Courses are offered year-round and the nursing core includes subjects such as therapeutic communication, pharmacology, and professional role implementation. The school notes that 100% of nursing graduates find employment within a year after graduation. Financial aid opportunities at U of A include scholarship awards totaling about $12 million each year, Governor’s Scholarships, Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarships, and non-resident tuition waivers.

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13

Rutgers University – Newark

65.432/557%Newark, NJ

Rutgers University is a leading national research university with a storied 250-year history of world-class academics and prestige. The school’s RN to BSN program is designed to enhance the knowledge and skill set of practicing nurses. It is a primarily asynchronous online program with clinical practicums in New Jersey. Registered nurses with an associate degree or diploma may transfer between 24 and 40 credits of nursing coursework, up to 21 nursing science credits, and an additional 33 general education credits.

A range of resources and tools are available to distance learning students, including videos, simulations, and group projects. Students can simultaneously earn up to 12 credits to transition into graduate studies. Affordable education at Rutgers can be achieved with financial aid loans and scholarships and grants offered by the school. Rutgers notes that on average, its graduates have loan debt less than the national average and that of other colleges and universities in the state.

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14

University of Texas at Brownsville

65.432/536%TX

UTB is known for academic excellence, innovation in academics and research and affordable education. UTB’s RN to BSN program focuses on holistic nursing, emphasizing the self-care and holistic care of individuals, their families, and communities. The 121-credit program includes a 51-credit general education core and a 32 credit core of BSN nursing classes. Graduates have a number of career options besides being a member of nursing staff, including clinical faculty, clinician, public health, and leadership positions.

Among the program’s notable nursing core courses is transcultural nursing and clinical skills in nursing and foundations of holistic nursing. UTB offers courses through Blackboard with synchronous and asynchronous communications tools. The school touts its 93% rate for vocational nursing licensures. UTB notes that is is one of the best values in tuition in the state. Many financial aid alternatives are available, including scholarships, grants, and endowments.

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15

Georgia College & State University

65.163/547%Milledgeville, GA

Georgia College is committed to developing a pipeline of nurses trained to be leaders in the field with a mastery of clinical reasoning, professional nursing skills, and solid values. Entry into the RN to BSN degree program can be accomplished once the registered nurse completes core coursework and U.S. and Georgia history requirements. The program requires 120 credit hours and takes three semesters or longer to complete. There are a number of courses for which registered nurses may earn articulation credits for a total of 30 hours. Clinical practice experience is required and is supervised and coordinated by course faculty.

The program is fully online with optional meetings for exams and presentations. Approximately 80% of students at Georgia College receive some form of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and student loans. The school notes that it offers the best of both worlds -- smaller classes for more personalized learning and the affordability of a state school.

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16

West Virginia University

64.682/552%Morgantown, WV

WVU admits students into its RN to BSN program with 50 nursing credit hours to fulfill its general education foundation (GEF) requirements. Advisers will evaluate the student’s transcript from an associate degree program to identify courses that meet the GEF requirements, and a plan will be developed for completion of missing credits. The student must then take must 28 credit hours of nursing courses. The RN to BSN can be completed full-time in three semesters, or part-time in six semesters. In total, 128 credit hours must be fulfilled in order to be awarded the degree.

WVU notes that it was ranked 6th most affordable in-state tuition by the College Board’s 2012 Trends in College Pricing. The college offers all of the benefits, including high-quality programming, of a major university at a price that is lower than the national average.

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17

McNeese State University

64.152/541%Lake Charles, LA

McNeese State is one of nine universities within the University of Louisiana System. The School has developed a nursing program that emphasizes clinical judgment, communication, professionalism, role development, and service to the community. Its RN to BSN is completely online and requires 120 credit hours, 29 of which go towards the nursing core. Students who attended another college within the state of Louisiana will need to go online to determine which general education and science coursework will transfer. The degree can be earned in less than two years depending on coursework completed prior to admission.

The school offers academic scholarships in addition to financial aid opportunities. McNeese notes that it is very affordable, ranking second among public and private schools in Louisiana for low tuition. In addition, the school ranks fourth in the state regarding starting salaries for its graduates making it one of the cheapest RN to BSN online.

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18

Fort Hays State University

63.623/541%Hays, KS

Located in Kansas, FHSU boasts rigorous programming, high placement rates, and low tuition. The school’s College of Health and Behavioral Sciences offers an RN to BSN that is 100% online and can be completed in as few as three semesters; enrollment can occur in the fall, spring, or summer. The program requires 120 credit hours, 30 taken directly through FHSU. Students with an associate degree are required to have a minimum of 45 transferrable credit hours of general education. The student must have a cumulative GPA of above 2.5.

Among four-year, masters-level public universities, FHSU has the second-lowest tuition in the nation. The school works with students in the application process for financial aid, grant funding, and scholarships. FHSU has its own distance learning scholarship and $1,000 grants awarded to help students pay for college and continuing education online.

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19

Northwest Florida State College

63.562/58%Niceville, FL

NWF combines educational excellence with a commitment to the local community. Nurses holding a valid Florida Registered Nursing license and an associate degree or diploma can apply to the institution’s RN to BSN degree career ladder program. The program, which can be completed in about three to four semesters full time, is delivered using the Brightspace learning management system. While theory courses are taught online, clinical instruction is localized targeting Okaloosa and Walton healthcare providers.

Core nursing classes focus on areas such as evidence-based practice, nursing ethics, and mastery of writing skills. NWF offers one of the cheapest RN to BSN online programs because the school’s affordable tuition is among the lowest in Florida and approximately half the cost of attending a state university. In addition to federal financial aid and grant opportunities, the school’s foundation awards approximately 300 scholarships every year to students based on need, academic achievement, and other factors.

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20

Ohio State University

61.863/544%Columbus, OH

OSU offers an RN to BSN designed to give its graduates the training necessary to keep up with the evolving profession. Students will be able to enter the field as generalists and will be equipped to pursue further graduate studies. The general education and prerequisite courses necessary for admittance can be fulfilled at any of the Ohio State campuses and online. The program has articulation agreements with a number of local institutions.

The RN to BSN program is completely online with no on-campus requirements. It is offered in many states; students should check to make sure theirs is one of them. All residents in the United States who are enrolled in distance learning at Ohio State pay in-state tuition rates. It is one of the top public universities in the country, and completing the degree online gives graduates an affordable, well-respected credential.

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21

Saint Cloud State University

60.853/548%Saint Cloud, MN

St. Cloud State is the largest school in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The institution’s online RN to BSN program integrates critical thinking, health advocacy, and alternative healing methods to create a pipeline of highly trained nurses. There is a focus on culturally appropriate patient care to prepare nurses to work in contemporary settings. The nursing school has a simulation lab in which students learn how to use the latest equipment. A senior capstone experience is required with seniors immersed in applied learning via clinical partnerships across the state.

Minnesota has a well-defined transfer agreement system between the state’s universities, colleges, and technical colleges; 34% of St. Cloud State’s undergraduates are transfers. The RN to BSN is an affordable online program because of a 95% first-try pass rate on the state’s nursing licensure exam; 100% of nurses are employed after graduation; and the school awards $122 million in scholarships, grants, and loans.

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22

Minnesota State University – Mankato

60.693/559%Mankato, MN

Big ideas and real-world thinking are hallmarks of the education students receive at MNSU. The university has developed a reputation for breakthrough research in a number of fields. Its 30-credit RN to BSN program for licensed registered nurses with an associate degree or diploma is fully online and can be completed part-time in five semesters or full-time in three semesters. Scheduled meetings, usually once per semester, occur online.

The nursing core focuses on areas such as leadership and management principles, critical inquiry, and evidence-based practice. Class sizes are kept small so that each student gets the personalized learning needed for success. The Minnesota State University system has made affordable tuition a priority and issues numerous grants to address student’s financial needs. The institution awarded more than $127.6 million in scholarships, grants, and other financial support in 2014-2015. MNSU graduates receive a high-quality education and low levels of debt.

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23

New Mexico Highlands University

60.593/538%Las Vegas, NM

Located in Las Vegas, New Mexico, NMHU’s RN to BSN program graduates leaders in the nursing profession, nearly half of whom go on to pursue advanced nursing degrees. The program has both part-time and full-time options with all classes delivered online. Students are able to do the clinical portion of the program close to home for convenience, and so that they are better able to understand the particular challenges facing his or her community.

An eight-week RN to BSN Bridge course is required in the first year to acclimate students to the program. Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA in nursing courses in order to stay in the program. It is one of the cheapest online RN to BSN programs because the institution has one of the lowest tuition rates among four-year colleges in the region.

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24

University of Louisville

60.163/542%Louisville, KY

The University of Louisville’s RN to BSN is a newly revamped program designed by nurses for nurses and can be completed in as few as 16 months. The program is affordable and convenient, delivered 100% online using the Blackboard system. A total of 31 core credits are required in addition to 30 portfolio credits.

The program is affordable because of its low cost, student-faculty ratio, and high-quality education. It is one of the cheapest online RN to BSN programs in the state and in the nation because students’ professional activities and professional development can earn them 30 tuition-free credit hours toward graduation requirements. This saves them approximately $14,000 in tuition costs. In addition, the program was recently revamped with courses merged and new ones added, resulting in additional savings. Furthermore, the out-of-state tuition for online courses is the same as in-state tuition.

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