Best Online Colleges With the Lowest Out-of-State Tuition of 2021

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Published on July 30, 2021

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With the national student loan debt totaling $1.5 trillion dollars and steadily growing, many prospective students are looking for cost-effective routes to a postsecondary degree. While attending a public college as an out-of-state student has traditionally meant an exorbitant price hike (CollegeBoard.org reported that out-of-state students paid an average of $15,650 more than their in-state peers in 2017-18), many public institutions are leveling the playing field by offering competitive rates for all students. Some offer residents and nonresidents the same tuition, while others charge only slightly more.

What Are the Best Online Colleges With the Lowest Out-of-State Tuition of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus University Park, Pennsylvania
#2 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, Florida
#3 University of Florida-Online Gainesville, Florida
#4 Maryville University of Saint Louis Saint Louis, Missouri
#5 Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas
#6 California State University-Los Angeles Los Angeles, California
#7 Arizona State University-Skysong Scottsdale, Arizona
#8 Appalachian State University Boone, North Carolina
#9 Texas State University San Marcos, Texas
#10 University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida
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Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

2021 Best Accredited Online Colleges With the Lowest Out-of-State Tuition

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Pennsylvania State University-World Campus View School Profile University Park, Pennsylvania

Program Overview

Located in University Park, Penn State World Campus offers students more than 150 degrees and certificates online. Penn State launched its World Campus in 1998 to make online degree programs available to students beyond the reach of its physical campuses. The school specializes in serving adult learners, corporate partners, and the military.

Bachelor's degree options include psychology, political science, software engineering, and accounting. Master's programs include data analytics, educational leadership, electrical engineering, and nursing. The school also provides associate degrees, certificates (graduate and undergraduate), doctoral degrees, and minor emphases. Online student services include advising, career counseling, technical support, and tutoring in writing and math-related fields.

Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $576-$617 per credit (undergraduate); $900-$1,200 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: Not required for undergraduate programs; GMAT or GRE scores required for some graduate programs (waived through 2021)

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Florida Atlantic University View School Profile Boca Raton, Florida

Program Overview

FAU's online division offers bachelor's and master's degrees, along with certificates, in a variety of topics and programs. The Boca Raton-based public institution provides online education through its various colleges, including social work and criminal justice, nursing, business, and education.

Bachelor's degrees offered include accounting, computer science, public safety administration, and interdisciplinary studies. Undergraduate certificates range from casino and gaming industry management to geographic information systems. Available graduate programs include master of science and master of education degrees in areas like information technology management, exercise science, and computer science. Students may also pursue advanced certification in data analytics and cybersecurity.

Florida Atlantic University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $105 per credit (undergraduate); $304 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online and/or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: SAT or ACT required for undergraduate programs; graduate requirements vary by program

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University of Florida-Online View School Profile Gainesville, Florida

Program Overview

Located in Gainesville, UF Online offers more than 20 bachelor's degrees, along with an array of graduate and doctoral degrees and certificates. These online programs feature the same admission standards, experienced faculty, and academic focus as those offered on campus.

BA program offerings include education sciences, criminology, and geology. Online students can also earn a BS in areas like biology, health education, and environmental management. In addition to numerous graduate and undergraduate certificates, UF Online also oversees seven doctoral programs, including educational leadership and classical civilization.

The University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $500 per credit (undergraduate); $350-$1,500 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and/or synchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT required for undergraduate programs; GRE or GMAT required for some graduate programs

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Maryville University of Saint Louis View School Profile Saint Louis, Missouri

Program Overview

A private institution founded in 1872, Maryville's online division offers flexible start dates, personalized advisor support, and a wide array of degree programs. The St. Louis, Missouri-based university partners with top businesses to build degree programs and offer job placement and advancement.

Maryville offers roughly 30 online bachelor's programs across topics such as financial services, forensic psychology, computer science, and business administration. Online master's studies include cybersecurity, software development, and nursing. Students interested in advanced nursing studies may select from doctoral programs, as well. Additionally, the school provides online certificate programs in big data and machine learning.

Maryville University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $500 per credit (undergraduate); $714-$897 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: Not required

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Texas Tech University View School Profile Lubbock, Texas

Program Overview

Distance learners at TTU can choose from more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees, plus graduate certificates.

Online bachelor of arts and science degrees offer studies in areas such as communication studies, English, education, and kinesiology. Master's topics include communication studies, art education, and various engineering emphases. Working professionals may also opt to earn certification in areas such as mathematics, grants and proposals, software engineering, and wind energy.

Texas Tech University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $685 per credit (undergraduate); $735 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: Requirements vary by program

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California State University-Los Angeles View School Profile Los Angeles, California

Program Overview

Students at Cal State LA, part of the 23-campus California State University System, can enroll in fully online and hybrid programs. They can pursue bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, as well as certificates and degree completion programs.

Online bachelor's degrees include business administration, education, health professions, and social work. Master's programs range from education and library science to mathematics and arts and humanities. Doctoral programs focus on nursing practice and education, while degree completion programs cover topics like art, computer and information sciences, and hospitality.

California State University, Los Angeles is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $678 per credit (undergraduate); $738 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: Not required for undergraduate programs; graduate requirements vary by program

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Arizona State University-Skysong View School Profile Scottsdale, Arizona

Program Overview

ASU Online offers students more than 200 degrees and certifications in fields such as business, digital media, engineering, and sustainability. The university's faculty include Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, Fulbright scholars, and Guggenheim fellows. Special services include online tutoring.

Students interested in a BA can pursue degrees in areas like communication, global health, and history. BS options range from human systems engineering to information technology and psychology. Graduate students may select from degrees like criminal justice, curriculum and instruction, emergency management, and healthcare innovation, among others.

Arizona State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $561-$661 per credit (undergraduate); $543-$1,343 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT required for undergraduate programs; GMAT or GRE required for graduates

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Appalachian State University View School Profile Boone, North Carolina

Program Overview

App State Online allows students to connect with faculty on the school's main campus in Boone, North Carolina, from the convenience of home. The university offers flexible, interactive undergraduate and graduate programs, taught by the same professors who teach on campus.

Popular online programs focus on topics like education (elementary, middle grades, and special education) and healthcare. Learners can also pursue professional studies in areas like communication and management, business administration and public administration, and sociology.

Appalachian State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $644 per credit (undergraduate); $896 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online and/or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and/or synchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: Requirements waived for undergraduate programs through 2021; GRE, GMAT, or MAT scores required for graduate programs

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Texas State University View School Profile San Marcos, Texas

Program Overview

Located in San Marcos, Texas State's distance learning division offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in online and hybrid formats. Distance learning programs require formal admission into the university.

Undergraduates can pursue online credentials through the colleges of applied arts and health professions. Graduate programs include accounting and information technology, health information management, geographic education, and construction management.

Texas State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $715 per credit (undergraduate); $765 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online and/or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and/or synchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT requirements for undergraduate programs waived through 2021; graduate requirements vary by program

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University of Central Florida View School Profile Orlando, Florida

Program Overview

UCF Online's vast selection of bachelor's degrees includes English, history, and political science (bachelor of arts) and health services, hospitality management, and nursing (bachelor of science). Graduate students can choose from MA programs such as educational leadership, art education, and instructional design. MS programs focus on topics like forensic science, engineering management, and hospitality and tourism. Online certificates include corrections leadership, cyber risk management, and financial mathematics.

Based in Orlando, the University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $716 per credit (undergraduate); $441-$1,152 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT required for undergraduate programs; graduate requirements vary by program

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New Mexico State University-Main Campus View School Profile Las Cruces, New Mexico

Program Overview

NMSU offers more than 70 online programs, awarding associate, bachelor, and master degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Students may also select from degree completion programs and hybrid/ITV programs.

Associate programs focus on the arts, criminal justice, science, and public health, while bachelor's tracks are available in business administration, sociology, and criminal justice studies. Master's programs focus on music, Spanish, nursing administration, and industrial engineering. Students may also pursue certification in K-12 reading, online teaching and learning, and public utility regulation.

With its main campus in Las Cruces, New Mexico State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $380 per credit (undergraduate); $412 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT required for some undergraduate programs; graduate requirements vary by program

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Oklahoma State University-Main Campus View School Profile Stillwater, Oklahoma

Program Overview

Located in Stillwater,OSU oversees a variety of online degree and certificate programs. Distance learners have access to a variety of student support services, such as a writing center, math learning success center, tutoring, and career services.

Online undergraduate degrees include computer science, business, nursing, and finance. Graduate-level programs focus on topics like healthcare administration, education, reading, and forensic science.The school also offers 20 online graduate certificates, such as online teaching, business data mining, and marketing analytics.

Oklahoma State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $696 per credit (undergraduate); $360 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT required for undergraduate programs; graduate requirements vary by program

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Ohio University-Main Campus View School Profile Athens, Ohio

Program Overview

Ohio Online — the distance-learning division of this Athens-based university — offers flexible education options. The university offers undergraduate, graduate, and degree completion programs online. Learners may also receive academic credit for military service and types of experiential learning.

Bachelor's degree programs include human services, communication, psychology, and technical and applied studies. Students may earn their associate degree in science, business management technology, or arts. The school also partners with community colleges throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Ohio University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $243 per credit (undergraduate); $527-$1,194 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT optional for undergraduate programs; graduate requirements vary by program

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Madonna University View School Profile Livonia, Michigan

Program Overview

MU — a private institution in Livonia, Michigan — offers undergraduate and graduate degrees that can be completed entirely online. Distance learners may access a writing lab, peer tutoring and collaborative learning, and library services.

Online undergraduate degrees are available in topics like sociology, family and consumer science, criminal justice, and general studies. Students may transfer in up to 74 credits from a two-year school and 90 credits from a four-year institution. MU's wide variety of graduate program offerings include humane leadership, senior living administration, and accounting. Students may also earn a graduate certificate in bereavement or online instruction.

Madonna University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $445 per credit (undergraduate); $910-$980 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: Requirements vary by program

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University of Alaska Fairbanks View School Profile Fairbanks, Alaska

Program Overview

UAF's eCampus programs award undergraduate and graduate degrees, occupational endorsements, and certificates.

Distance learners can earn associate degrees in science, applied accounting, and the arts, as well as bachelor's degrees that emphasize business, security and emergency management, and sport and recreation business. Post-bachelor and graduate certificates are available in accounting, business continuity, and security. Additionally, graduate-level programs delve into topics like education, business, and arts.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Program Snapshot

Tuition: $234-$289 per credit (undergraduate); $539 per credit (graduate)
Schedule: Semester
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

Standardized Tests: SAT or ACT required for undergraduate programs; graduate requirements vary by program

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Comparing In-State and Out-of-State Tuition

The table below shows that being an out-of-state student increases the cost of your education. Typically, a student who does not reside in the state where they attend school can pay two or three times as much in tuition at a public university. Private universities usually do not charge out-of-state students more, but they charge more overall. Public universities are cheaper because they receive some state funding. Out-of-state students pay more for tuition because they, or their families, haven't paid taxes in the state to help defray the cost of education.

While there are various ways to help reduce costs, the best option is to attend school in the state where you have residency. Residency requirements vary, but in many cases you can complete an entire bachelor's degree without earning residency. Federal financial aid can help reduce the cost of tuition across the board through scholarship and grant opportunities. State-based financial aid is usually reserved for residents, but some states use it to bring in more students and grant aid to non-residents.

College Tuition Prices: In-State vs. Out-of-State Schools

  2018-2019 2019-2020
Public 4-year In-State College $10,230 $10,440
Public 4-Year Out-of-State College $26,290 $26,820
Private 4-Year Nonprofit College $35,830 $35,880

Source: CollegeBoard

Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students

While out-of-state tuition can be higher than resident tuition, there are several programs which allow students to pay the lowest out-of-state tuition. The Western Undergraduate Exchange allows students from 16 Western states and territories to pay reduced tuition at hundreds of schools within those states. The Midwest Student Exchange Program does the same with ten states in the Midwest. The Academic Common Market allows students in 15 Southern states to pay resident tuition at many schools regardless of residency. The Tuition Break program provides discounted out-of-state tuition for students from New England who study in other New England states. Each of these programs has unique requirements and covers different regions, but can help students save money when they study within certain regions.

Two-Year vs. Four-Year Colleges

One way to save money on the cost of a bachelor's degree is to first earn your associate degree from a community college, and then transfer your credits to a university. Community colleges, sometimes referred to as two-year colleges or junior colleges, typically have much lower tuition rates than public or private universities. Many community colleges have transfer agreements set up with nearby universities which let you easily transfer your credits, allowing you to effectively take the first half of your bachelor's degree at a more affordable tuition rate.

If you know where you want to go to school and what you want to study, this can be a great option. Check with your intended university to see if they have any such agreements with community colleges, and then work with academic advisors at each institution to make sure you take the right courses and don't end up repeating things when you get to the university.

Public vs. Private Colleges

Cost is one of the many differences between private and public colleges, this difference is due to the way schools get their funding. Both rely on private donors as well as student tuition and fees, but public colleges get a large part of their funding from the state. State funding is not only why public colleges cost less, but why they usually have different tuition rates for residents and out-of-state students. Residents pay less because they, or their families, have been paying into the funding of the schools through taxes. Private schools usually charge the same tuition for everyone, but they charge more than public schools. As you can see from the table above, private schools cost on average around $9,000 more per year than out-of-state tuition.

The cost of public universities has increased steadily over the years. Since 2000, public tuition has risen 136%, while private school tuition has only risen about 17%. For the time being, private colleges still cost more than public ones, but that gap is likely to close more as funding for higher education continues to slow down.

There are other differences between the two, such as the number of students enrolled or degree options offered. Public universities tend to enroll more students and offer a wider array of degrees, while private universities tend to enroll fewer students and have more focused degree options. If cost is not your primary consideration, you might find better options at private colleges.

Online vs. On-Campus Colleges

Another consideration when looking for the lowest out-of-state tuition is online versus on-campus learning. Online programs have grown dramatically in recent years and have become an increasingly viable way to earn a degree. Many colleges charge one flat tuition rate for online students regardless of their residency, mainly because those students are not taking advantage of on-campus resources. Non-resident students might still pay more at certain colleges for online programs, but these schools are in the minority.

In addition to saving money on tuition, online students have more flexibility in where they live. Not all college students live on campus, but housing in areas near major universities tends to be expensive, and affordable housing might result in a significant commute. Online students do not have to worry about being on campus, and can easily study from out-of-state. As you can see from the table below, living on-campus can add significantly to the cost of your degree. Online learning can be the key to attending a school out of state or the key to attending one in your state for a lower cost.

Room and Board Fees
  2018-2019 2019-2020
Public 4-Year In-State / Out-of-State College $11,140 $11,510
Private Nonprofit 4-year College $12,680 $12,990

Source: CollegeBoard

Types of Financial Aid for Out-of-State Students

There are several types of financial aid available. Student loans are the best known, but there are also scholarships, grants, and work-study programs. While you can find a variety of these through internet research or by talking to financial aid advisors, you should always start by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA not only gives you access to federal aid but is also required as part of the application process for many other funding options.

Grants

Grants are awards of money, often from the government, which usually do not have to be repaid. Filing the FAFSA may qualify you for small grants, though probably not enough to pay for college. Larger grants are often geared toward graduate-level research. Grants can come from many sources and are often awarded to certain student populations, such as education students. There are some grants, such as federal TEACH grants, which require recipients to work in a certain field or region for a specific amount of time after graduation or repay the grant. Applying for grants is much like applying for scholarships, and a good place to start looking is your school's financial aid department.

Work-Study Programs

Work-study programs place you in jobs on- or off-campus. Your pay during the semester or school year will total the amount you have been awarded through the work-study program. Work-study is a good way to gain experience and have your wages put directly toward your education costs. Wages, hours worked, and other factors will vary by state or municipal laws. While work-study programs have many benefits, they can be difficult for online students, as jobs are generally located near the college participating in the program.

Loans

Student loans are the most common form of financial aid. Most are federal or state loans, which come with lower interest and more repayment options than private loans from banks or other lenders. Most of the money from federal aid is in the form of loans. There are two kinds of government student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans do not require you to pay interest on them while in school or for the first six months after you graduate; they are only awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. Unsubsidized loans accrue interest from the date they are awarded and offer no post-graduation grace period. They are also the only kind of loans available to graduate students. Private loans follow rules established by the lender and should be a last resort when considering financial aid.

Scholarships

Scholarships are awards of money that, like grants, do not have to be paid back, but come from schools, organizations, and other private interests. Scholarships are competitive, meaning you must prove you need the funds or will make better use of them than anyone else. Most scholarships are geared toward specific student populations. Scholarship requirements may be as broad as being from a certain state to as narrow as applying to a specific program at a certain school. Scholarships exist for most populations and most fields of study. You can learn more about scholarships offered by your school from the financial aid department or the staff of the department in which you study. Scholarships come in different amounts, but most tend to be small, and paying for an entire semester, much less a degree, can be difficult.

Finding Scholarships

There are many scholarships available to students but finding those that are applicable to you can be a daunting task. If you know what you want to study, begin by checking with your department or doing an internet search. There are numerous websites that can help you find scholarships, including the FAFSA site.

Start looking for scholarships early. Applications are usually due before the academic year in which they will be applied, and they nearly always require an essay or letter of intent. When you find a scholarship for which you qualify, apply for it. There is no reason to limit yourself, as you can accept and combine multiple awards in order to pay for your degree.

Tips for Saving Money in College

Adopt Healthy Spending Habits - Reducing your spending in college can result in fewer loans, which will save you money in the long run. Tools like Spending Tracker, Habitica, and Slice can help you save money and develop good spending habits. Be careful with credit cards; use them to build credit responsibly. Many banks and credit unions offer courses in fiscal responsibility and other skills to help you save money. At-Home Meal Preparation - Food can cost a great deal if you aren't careful. Preparing your meals beforehand or eating at home can save you a lot of money. Use Student Discounts - Student discounts can be found in many places. Some online retailers offer discounts to students who provide a university email address. Restaurants and shops located near campus often offer discounts as well, if you show your student ID. Many of these discounts are not clearly advertised; you may have to do some research to find them. Find Cheap Textbooks - One of the most expensive things about college is textbooks, but there are some ways around this. Online retailers sometimes charge less, and e-books are sometimes an option. Some books can be checked out from the library instead of purchased, and buying used books whenever possible saves a lot of money. Increase Credit Load - Another way to save money in the long run is to take a heavier course load. While more credits means you will pay more and have to work harder in a given semester, it can also mean graduating earlier. Spending less time in college means less money on room and board and less money on tuition, which generally increases annually.

Additional Resources for Students

College Affordability and Completion

Provided by the United States Department of Education, this site provides resources regarding financial aid and other subjects of interest to current and future college students.

College Affordability and Transparency Center

This site provides tools to determine the total potential cost of your degree, as well as comparisons of tuition in order to figure out where to find the lowest out-of-state tuition.

National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

NASFAA provides information on student financial aid, including opportunities within specific states, to make understanding, finding, and utilizing financial aid easier.

National Center for Education Statistics

The NCES collects a huge amount of data about higher education, including tuition rates, fees, and other expenses across the country, which can help you find the most affordable option.

In-State Tuition and State Residency Requirements

Among other resources, FinAid provides information about the in-state residency requirements for many states, as well as general advice for obtaining residency.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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