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35 Best Affordable Master’s Degree Programs

Best Affordable Master's in Best Degree Programs

What if you could somehow make an extra $17,000? 

Best Affordable Master's in Best Degree Programs

When you earn a master’s degree, you can.

Does that sound like a lot of baloney to you? It shouldn’t—because it’s true. When you take the time to earn a master’s degree, you can, on average, earn $17,000 more per year than you already do with just a bachelor’s. 

Although $17,000 might not sound like much, consider how much it will add up over your lifetime. If you’re new to your career or fresh out of your undergraduate program, earning a master’s degree could be a financially savvy choice. 

Plus, earning a master’s degree can help you make a career change. Gone are the days when someone entered into a career at the beginning of adulthood and stayed in that same job until adulthood. No, now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person changes jobs around a dozen times in their lifetime. 

Earning an affordable master’s degree will make it easy for you to explore other options and have a more versatile career that meets your current needs and professional goals. Graduate students will have the skills and expertise necessary to pursue work in a wide variety of fields. Because of this, the unemployment rate for individuals with master’s degrees is much lower than it is for people with a bachelor’s degree or less. 

Not only that, but with a master’s degree, you’ll enjoy increased respect and credibility. It takes a lot of guts to earn a master’s. Also, a lot of time, sacrifices, and money. Plenty of employers view a master’s degree as a testament to a person’s drive to succeed. 

Because of this, you and your unique skill set will be highly sought-after in the job market. You’ll be able to level the playing field when it’s time to apply for jobs. It will give you a greater sense of confidence and competency in your field. The skills for your resume that will no doubt set you apart from the competition. 

It doesn’t matter what kind of master’s degree you decide to pursue. Or even if you want do an online master’s degree program. Graduate students may be interested in interested in studying:

  • business
  • business administration
  • romance languages
  • anthropology
  • data analytics
  • data science
  • nurse practitioner
  • social work
  • homeland security
  • social justice
  • project management

With affordable masters degrees, you will graduate with skills in things like:

  • communication
  • problem-solving
  • leadership
  • writing
  • research
  • critical thinking

These skills that will prove to be invaluable regardless of where you choose to work. 

Of course with a master’s degree or online master’s degree program, there’s the cost of attendance to be considered. Master’s degrees offer a higher earning potential. This might eliminate the need for you to live paycheck to paycheck or stress about your bills.  You do have the tuition of higher education to consider. 

Fortunately, earning a master’s degree doesn’t have to break the bank. You can find an affordable masters degree or affordable online master’s programs. Many graduate programs and employers offer stipends for students enrolled in graduate study. This helps to significantly lower the cost of attendance. Many have programs like research and apprenticeship programs that will give you hands-on experience and pay for the bulk of your college expenses. Online master’s degree programs can be especially flexible and attainable. 

If you really want to advance your career and save money at the same time, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 35 of the cheap master’s programs for you to consider. 

See Also: Top 50 Highest Paying Masters Degrees

What Are the Best Affordable Master’s Degrees?

We know that you have educational goals that you’re itching to pursue, but you may not know where to start. The editors of Master’s Programs Guide utilize a unique ranking methodology based on the following five aspects:

25% Overall Degree Affordability: Average cost of undergraduate and graduate tuition per school

25% Graduation Rate: Number of students who start at the university and actually finish there

20% Earnings Potential: Average mid-career salary of school alumni

20% Selectivity: The number of students who apply versus the number who actually get accepted

10% Online Graduate Offerings: The number of programs offered online in each department

At Master’s Programs Guide, we strive to do our best to guide you and your family toward a fruitful academic career. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble one, and we want to help you reach your goals. Find a master’s degree or online master’s program that works for you.

Affordable Online Master’s Degree and Online Graduate Programs

#1. Georgia Institute of Technology 

Georgia Tech Best Master's Degree Programs

Georgia Institute of Technology, or “Georgia Tech,” has campuses not only in Atlanta, but also in places as far away as France, Ireland, China, and Singapore. The school was first created as part of Reconstruction plans to reboot the industrial economy in post-Civil War America. It was founded in 1885.

This school originally only offered degrees in mechanical engineering. Today it has programs in more than 31 departments. Many of which are offered at the graduate level. No matter what you’re interested in studying, there’s a good chance that you’ll find it at Georgia Tech. The school offers affordable master’s programs in departments like:

  • business
  • computing
  • design
  • engineering
  • liberal arts
  • sciences

A vast array of these cheapest masters programs are even offered online. For example, you’ll find online master’s degree programs in-demand majors such as:

  • sustainability, energy, and environmental management
  • cybersecurity
  • analytics

Choose to study at Georgia Tech’s 400-acre campus in a wooded section of Atlanta, and you’ll benefit from a close-knit, stimulating learning environment. Located in Midtown, the school combines the educational, economic, and entertainment opportunities of an international city with all kinds of opportunities for hands-on learning. You’re just a short walk away from:

  • parks and green spaces
  • multinational corporations
  • small businesses
  • museums
  • concert venues
  • restaurants

On campus, Georgia Tech offers graduate students more than 400 student organizations to choose from. Cheer on your favorite sports team. Atlanta is home to the Atlanta Hawks, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and the Falcons football teams. Take in a concert at Philips Arena. No matter how you choose to spend your time here, you’re sure to find an activity that is relaxing and rewarding at the same time. 

Although earning a master’s degree might be a daunting endeavor (both in regards to the time and monetary commitment required) the return on investment is there when you choose to study at Georgia Tech. You’ll be granted access to a wide range of options and opportunities to help you offset programmatic costs, including:

  • competitive scholarships
  • financial aid (such as loans, grants, and work-study)
  • earn-while-you-learn internship and co-op programs
  • research opportunities that will grant you stipends or class-credit

Let’s not forget that when you choose to study at Georgia Tech, the affordability and quality truly speak for themselves. You’ll earn a well-respected degree from one of the top-ranked institutions in the world. In fact, PayScale has ranked this school as number one in the country for its annualized return on investment in higher education. 

Ready to apply for one of the cheap master’s programs at Georgia Tech? To do so, you will need to complete an online graduate application along with supporting materials such as:

  • transcripts
  • test scores
  • letters of recommendation
  • variation of lawful presence

The deadlines for admission vary depending on your program of interest, so it pays to check in with your school and program before you start gathering your materials. All students are also required to pay a $75 application fee, although waivers are often available. Master’s degrees or online master’s degree programs from Georgia Tech are a top choice.

Georgia Tech is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

#2. Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Master's Degree Programs

A residential college in Lubbock, TX, Texas Tech University is a public research institution that attracts students from all over the world. In fact, the hometown of most students here is more than 300 miles away, on average, from Lubbock. It has many cheapest masters programs and online programs.

Texas Tech has more than:

  • 150 undergraduate
  • 100 graduate
  • 50 doctoral degrees

The school is among the more than 130 schools listed in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s “Very High Research Activity” category. Created in 1923, the school is the only campus in Texas that is home to a law school, medical school, and a major university alike. Although it first opened its doors as the Texas Technological College, the school now offers a variety of programs in the liberal arts and humanities as well. 

If you’re thinking about studying at Texas Tech, likely your biggest challenge will be in deciding which major to pursue! No matter what you’re interested in, there’s a good chance they haves it as a major such as:

  • animal science
  • anthropology
  • kinesiology
  • public administration

The school offers a variety of affordable graduate programs through noteworthy schools like:

  • Jerry S. Rawls College of Business Administration
  • School of Law
  • Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering

Ranked as one of the Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report, Texas Tech has a small student-to-faculty ratio of just 21:1 with the most popular majors including:

  • business
  • engineering
  • communication
  • human sciences

Ultimately, if you can’t decide which major to pursue, don’t fret—because Texas Tech also offers a multitude of certificate and dual-major programs as well. Some programs that are unique to Texas Tech include the global food security graduate certificate, the autism graduate certificate and the agricultural leadership graduate certificate. 

Your learning will extend far beyond the limits of the campus, too. You’ll be able to participate in sports teams that compete in the NCAA Big 12 Conference or to sign up for one of more than 450 student organizations. Texas Tech even has an extensive Greek community with 50 different sororities and institutes. Of course, you can choose to make your experience strictly academic, working to improve your resume as you work at one of the school’s many university-run research institutes and centers, like the National Wind Institute. 

If the cost of attendance has you worried about attending graduate school, don’t let it. Texas Tech offers multiple ways for you to make ends meet when it comes to financing your education. Not only is tuition extremely low, but the school also has a multitude of financial aid opportunities for you to explore. For example, you can apply for grant funding as long as you are enrolled in at least five credit hours of study per semester. 

Texas Tech also has many affordable online master’s degree programs. Find out more here.

When you are ready to apply for admission, you will need to submit a formal online application along with an application fee. Unofficial transcripts for any post-secondary institutions you’ve attended are necessary, as is documentation of citizenship or similar materials for international graduate students. Other admissions requirements vary depending on the major you’ve selected as well as whether you plan to study fully online, fully on campus, or in a hybrid fashion. 

Texas Tech is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

#3. University of Florida

UF Master's Degree Programs

The University of Florida is a public university that was founded in 1853. With a large enrollment of more than 52,000 students, this school is ranked as one of the best National Universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report. The only member of the Association of American Universities in Florida, the school is home to 16 academic colleges as well as more than 150 different research centers and institutes. 

If you’re hoping to study in the Sunshine State, you won’t find a better option than this Gainesville, Florida-based institution. It’s just two miles from the downtown area. This provides graduate students with the best possible access to a bustling college town and community. You’ll love taking in a game from the Florida Gators, sports teams who compete in the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference. 

If sports aren’t your thing, don’t worry—you can join in while participating in one of the school’s many other student activities. In fact, the University of Florida has more than 60 different fraternities and sororities. 

But if you’ve stumbled upon this ranking in search of one of the best affordable graduate programs, you might be wondering what the University of Florida has to offer in terms of its majors. The university has multiple well-regarded graduate programs through:

  • the College of Medicine
  • the Levin College of Law
  • the Warrington College of Business
  • the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering

There are plenty of graduate degrees for you to choose from. With a student-to-faculty ratio of just 17:1 and more than half of its classes containing fewer than 20 students, this school is home to popular majors in professions such as:

  • business
  • engineering
  • biological and biomedical sciences
  • health care professions

The school has multiple professional programs, too, including:

  • veterinary medicine
  • dentistry
  • engineering
  • law
  • business administration
  • medicine
  • pharmacy

You’ll have access to plenty of support services to help you meet your goals. From nonremedial tutoring to a career placement service and even daycare, security services, and more, the University of Florida offers everything you could possibly need in order to be successful. 

You won’t have a hard time paying for your education, either. As a state-funded institution, the school has low tuition and fees that total just $6,380 for in-state students and $28,658 for those studying from out of state. The average student receives a need-based scholarship or grant award of more than $8,000—the return on investment here just can’t be beaten. In fact, the school is home to thousands of successful alumni including two Nobel prize winners and numerous Pulitzer Prize winners. You will find a cheapest masters program here.

Even applying is a cinch. You will need to have a recognized degree from a regionally-accredited intuition with a minimum grade point average of 3.0. For some degrees, such as the graduate degree in law, you must meet additional requirements and have certain credentials in order to be eligible for admission. 

UF is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

#4. Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Colorado State Master's Degree Programs

At Colorado State University-Fort Collins, you’ll be able to study at a location where world-class research and teaching come together to produce an educational experience that is nothing short of spectacular. The school is consistently ranked as one of the country’s top universities in many categories. This includes:

  • student achievement
  • research

A recognized doctoral university with very high research activity, it’s one of the best places to turn to if you are looking for a best affordable master’s degree or online master’s degree programs

Colorado State is a public land-grant university that is the flagship university of the state university system. There is an enrollment of more than 34,000 students studying both on-campus and online. The school is ranked as one of the best in the nation when it comes to research and medical school spending in particular. 

You’ll have plenty of options to choose from as you pursue graduate study here. There are more than:

  • 2,000 faculty teaching in eight colleges
  • 55 academic departments
  • 55 total master’s degrees
  • 40 doctoral degrees

Degrees are offered online, on-campus, and in a hybrid fashion. Some featured majors include:

  • cell and molecular biology
  • accountancy
  • public health
  • advanced silviculture
  • agricultural sciences
  • anthropology
  • arts leadership and cultural management

With a main campus in Fort Collins, a city that’s nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado State offers one of the best locations for students who want their education to take place not just in the classroom, but in the world. CSU is one of the country’s top research universities so you’ll be able to work closely with faculty and staff as you explore innovative concepts in a variety of fields. 

You may also consider an online master’s degree program for CSU.

It’s not all work and no play, though. The school has more than 350 campus organizations and 35 fraternities and sororities. Not only that, but there are plenty of sports you can choose from, too, with teams at the varsity, club, and recreational level. Known as the Aggies, a testament to CSU’s agricultural school past, the sports teams here compete in the NCAA Division I Mountain West Conference. 

It’s easy to see why Colorado State is ranked as a Best Value School and a Best College for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report. The class sizes are small, typically featuring a student-to-faculty ratio of just 14:1. You’ll have access to all kinds of student services, including tutoring, a women’s center, and career placement services. 

Tuition is incredibly affordable, coming in at just $12,495 for in-state students. Numerous financial aid opportunities, including grants, fellowships, and scholarships, are available for qualifying students, too. Master degree online affordable programs are also available. 

To apply, you’ll need to first choose between fall or spring admission dates. This will determine your deadline. An online application is required as is an application fee. GMAT or GRE scores are required for many programs, though not all. You will need to also submit official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and other documents as requested by the program to which you are applying. 

#5. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus

University of Colorado Denver Master's Degree Programs

The University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus has a reputation for being one of the most research-focused graduate schools in the nation. There are two campuses to choose from:

  • downtown Denver
  • Anschutz Medical Campus (Aurora, CO)

The National Science Foundation reports that this school granted more graduate degrees than any other school in the state. 

Founded in 1912, this school was first opened as a nursing and medical school before rapidly expanding its offerings to other programs in the health sciences and beyond. Today, UC Denver has a variety of affordable masters degree offerings including those for students who wish to continue their education after earning a bachelor’s degree at the university. You can choose from a variety of master’s and doctoral programs along with graduate certificates and accelerated degrees. 

You can study on campus or online, with plenty of online master’s degree programs through CU online.

Online programs include:

  • accounting
  • master of business administration
  • marking
  • health sciences

There are doctoral degrees in 14 programs, six different MBAs, and ten master’s of science degrees in the business school alone. Other degrees can be pursued through:

  • the College of Engineering, Design, and Computing
  • the School of Public Affairs
  • the College of Architecture and Planning

In fact, the University of Colorado Denver is the only school in Colorado with accredited degrees in:

  • landscape architecture
  • urban planning
  • architecture

You can also choose a more interdisciplinary pathway by pursuing a degree in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The opportunities are endless!

No matter which affordable master’s degree program you choose, you will be supported in your endeavors by faculty who rank among some of the best in the nation. Class sizes here, particularly at the graduate level, are extremely small. The student-to-faculty ratio is just 17:1!

You’ll have access to plenty of support services here, too, including:

  • tutoring
  • career placement service
  • health services
  • daycare

The school is home to more than 100 different campus organizations, volunteer opportunities, and various publications. Although there aren’t any varsity athletic teams on campus, there are plenty of intramural sports and fitness classes you can pursue to stay active.

Let’s not forget about this school’s affordability, either. At the University of Colorado Denver, you’ll pay just $8,017 as an in-state student and $23,821 if you’re coming in from out of state. Provided that you complete a FAFSA and submit any supplementary materials, you can also be considered for numerous types of:

  • financial aid
  • scholarships
  • grants

When you’re ready to apply, you will need to submit an online application for admission along with a $50 application fee. Transcripts from any college you have attended are required, too. Some programs may have additional application requirements, such as:

  • standardized test scores
  • letters of recommendation
  • a statement of purpose
  • a resume
  • portfolio
  • essays

#6. University of Nebraska-Lincoln

University of Nebraska Lincoln Master's Degree Programs

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln was founded in 1869 under the 1862 Morrill Act. It opened its doors just two brief years after Nebraska became a state and is, as a result, the oldest university in the state and the largest in the state university system.

Today, this public land-grant research university offers a variety of programs and online programs that conduct groundbreaking research and involve students in hands-on training every single day. You can pursue all kinds of majors here, including those at the graduate level. The online master’s programs available can be found here

You’ll have no shortage of options when it comes to affordable master’s degree programs. Just to name a few, you can pursue:

  • Master of Science for teachers
  • Master of Professional Accountancy
  • Master of Legal Studies
  • Master of Fine Arts
  • Master of Engineering Management
  • Master of Community and Regional Planning

For most graduate degrees, you can choose a program of study with one of three options. You can pursue:

  • a thesis track
  • a non-thesis track with additional classes outside of the major
  • a non-thesis, non-minor track that requires you to focus on advanced courses in your chosen field of study

Depending on the program, most students take just two years to complete their graduate degrees, but you’ll be given up to ten regardless.

With a total enrollment of nearly 26,000 students, it might seem as though, at this school, you’ll be just another face in the crowd. That’s far from the case. While taking classes in one of the school’s highly ranked graduate schools, like the College of Law or the College of Education and Human Sciences, you’ll be part of a close-knit learning environment. In fact, the student-to-faculty ratio here is just 17:1. 

This public school is ranked as one of the Best National Universities, Best Colleges for Veterans, and Best Value Schools by U.S. News & World Report. You’ll have access to all the help you could possibly want, including:

  • tutoring
  • health services
  • career placement
  • alumni networking

Not only that, but if you choose to study on campus (the online master’s degree programs are noteworthy, too) you can choose from a variety of student organizations. The university is home to more than 400 student organizations, including an extensive Greek network of more than 40 fraternities and sororities. 

Tuition here is some of the lowest in the country, making this school one of the most affordable you will find. On average, you’ll pay just $7,588 per semester as an in-state graduate student. The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid here does a wonderful job of helping to keep the cost of attendance affordable. You’ll have access to all kinds of programs, including:

  • scholarships
  • fellowships
  • grants
  • loans

When you’re ready to apply to this graduate school—which is ranked as ninth-best in the country when it comes to its online graduate education programs by the U.S. News & World Report, we might add—you will need to complete an online application and submit academic transcripts from any schools you have attended.

#7. Texas A&M University-Commerce

Texas A&M Master's Degree Programs

As the fourth-oldest state university in the entire state of Texas, Texas A&M University-Commerce is a public research university with plenty to offer potential graduate students. Founded in 1889, this historic and groundbreaking school is situated just 65 miles from downtown Dallas with a premier location on the edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. It offers affordable online master’s degree programs and top graduate programs.

Commerce is a city of roughly 8000 people. Here, you’ll enjoy a unique combination of rural life with festivals, local music, dining, and plenty of other opportunities to pursue. You’ll also have nearby access to one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas. 

The Graduate School at Texas A&M University-Commerce offers aspiring and current students plenty of guidance when it comes to finding the right pathway for study. As a student here, you’ll gain the skills you need to conduct original research, become an independent thinker, and forge the way for your own successful career.

Not sure what you want to study? Don’t worry. At Texas A&M University-Commerce, you’ll have plenty of majors to choose from. With more than 40 accredited, nationally-recognized programs at the doctoral and master’s level, you’ll have your hands full just in deciding what you want to study! There are numerous graduate certificates and educator certification programs available, too.

The best affordable master’s degrees are administered through:

  • the College of Business
  • the College of Education and Human Services
  • the College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources
  • the College of Science and Engineering
  • the College of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Arts

There are dozens of cheap masters programs to choose from, but some unique titles include:

  • applied criminology
  • educational administration
  • health, kinesiology, and sports studies
  • physics

Of the university’s many graduate certificates, popular options include:

  • business analytics
  • film studies
  • chemical dependency counseling
  • sustainable food systems

In these affordable masters degree programs, you’ll not only be able to work closely with internationally-recognized instructors who are at the pinnacle of success in their respective fields, but you’ll also be able to network with other professionals. You can pursue your program on-campus, online, or at one of the school’s many branch campuses. 

You don’t have to break the bank in order to earn a degree from this award-winning school, either. The average student will pay just $6,424 in tuition when coming from the state of Texas—out-of-state students pay just over twice that amount, still an incredibly affordable sum. You will be considered for many types of financial aid, too, including scholarships and grants. The school provides multiple grant opportunities for students including:

  • the Federal TEACH Grant
  • the Texas Aggie Graduate Grant
  • the Texas Public Education Grant

If you’re convinced that Texas A&M University-Commerce might be a good choice for you, it’s time to start filling out your applications. You will need to complete an online application and submit an application fee of $50. All official transcripts for any bachelor’s degree coursework is required, as are official GRE scores.

Texas A&M is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

#8. University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands Master's Degree Programs

A private institution founded in 1888, the University of the Cumberlands is a rural university located in Williamsburg, KY. Ranked as one of the country’s best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, this school has an academic reputation that is just as renowned and unique as its history and background.

This private school was created by Baptist ministers and originally known as Cumberland College. The school changed its name only in 2005, adopting the mascot of the Patriots for its 13,000 enrolled students at approximately the same time.

Currently, it is home to four colleges, including:

  • Cumberland College (dedicated primarily to undergraduate programs)
  • the Hutton Center for Leadership Studies
  • the Hutton School of Business/Management
  • the Graduate/Professional Education school

There are 12 academic national honor societies and several master’s degrees available to students, including:

  • Christian studies
  • psychology
  • education
  • business administration

The motto of the university is “A Life More Abundant”—and abundance you will find here for sure. The University of the Cumberlands is home to a diverse student population with representation from more than 37 states and 15 countries. It’s home to numerous unique extracurricular opportunities, such as a Campus Activity Board, a forensics team, and a low-power radio station.

You can study on-campus in Williamsburg, or you can study an online master’s degree program. In addition to those two options, the University of the Cumberlands also has a Northern Kentucky facility just south of Cincinnati, OH in Florence, KY. 

Not only that, but the school provides opportunities for campus ministry through:

  • Appalachian Ministries
  • Campus Family and Life groups
  • Mountain Outreach
  • Baptist Campus Ministries

It’s committed to improving the lives of those in the surrounding community, so as a student here, you’ll also be able to participate in countless volunteer experiences. In fact, students are encouraged to participate in community service, and those who accumulate more than 200 hours of community service are awarded with special certificates upon graduation.

Curious about what you might be able to study here? In addition to the popular affordable graduate programs listed above, there are dozens of majors and minors available to graduate students, both on-campus and online programs, including:

  • education
  • coaching
  • Christian studies
  • nursing
  • strategic management
  • mental health counseling

With tuition rates as low as $5,970 for in-state students, there’s no reason not to consider the University of the Cumberlands on your quest for one of the most affordable master’s degrees. By completing a FAFSA with the University of the Cumberlands, you can be considered for eligibility for a variety of financial aid types, including:

  • scholarships
  • grants
  • loans
  • work-study

Once you’re ready to apply for admission, you can do so by completing an online application. For most programs, graduate admissions requirements are the same, but certain competitive programs may require supplementary materials. In any case, transcripts from any university you have attended are required. 

University of the Cumberlands is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

#9. North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University at Raleigh Master's Degree Programs

North Carolina State University at Raleigh was first established in 1887 as the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. A land-grant college, it forms one of the corners of the “Research Triangle,” a well-respected cluster of schools and academic powerhouses that includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University in Durham.

Classified among the “R1: Doctoral Universities-Very High Research Activity,” North Carolina State University at Raleigh offers one of the best opportunities for graduate students who really want to get their hands dirty. If you’re interested in learning by doing and want to explore opportunities for research and innovation, this is one of the best places you can be. 

With an enrollment of more than 35,000 students, NC State is one of the largest in the country. While many of these students are enrolled in the school’s 106 fields of undergraduate study, you’ll find plenty of master’s and doctoral programs to choose from, too. You will also find online master’s degree programs. 

The largest four-year college in the state, North Carolina State University at Raleigh offers students plenty of opportunities to get involved. There are nearly 600 clubs and organizations you can join along with a large Greek community (roughly 13% of the student body is involved in some kind of fraternity or sorority). There are plenty of events in Raleigh you can explore, too, including the North Carolina State Fair and Winterfest. 

At NC State, as it’s frequently called, you’ll gain mastery of complex ideas and acquire the skills necessary to put those ideas into practice. U.S. News & World Report ranks nearly a dozen of the school’s graduate programs among the top in their disciplines on a national level. Some of the top-ranked—and most popular—programs include:

  • textiles
  • statistics
  • veterinary medicine
  • engineering
  • nonprofit management

With more than 160 master’s and 60 doctoral programs to choose from, you will have unparalleled opportunities to become a leader in:

  • education
  • agriculture and life sciences
  • natural resources
  • engineering
  • veterinary medicine

As a graduate student, you will likely take courses in departments such as the highly ranked engineering school, the Jenkins Graduate School of Management, or the School of Education. 

Tuition at North Carolina State University at Raleigh is some of the lowest in the country, offering many cheap master’s programs. It starts at just $11,495 for in-state students. As a student and applicant, you’ll be eligible for financial aid funds from federal, institutional, state, and private sources. As a result, this school isn’t just considered a top National University by U.S. News & World Report, but it’s also ranked as a Best Value School and a Best College for Veterans, too. 

To apply to the graduate school at North Carolina State University, you will need to submit an online application along with transcripts from a previously earned bachelor’s degree. Depending on the program, supplementary materials like essays or letters of recommendation are often required as well.

North Carolina State University is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

#10. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Master's Degree Programs

Home to 16 different schools and colleges and more than 100 graduate programs of study, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the last school on our list of the best affordable master’s degrees—but it’s certainly not the least. 

A public land-grant research institution in Illinois, this school has campuses in both Champaign and Urbana. As the flagship university of the University of Illinois system it is a member of the Association of American Universities. 

As a graduate student here, you’ll find plenty of resources to support you on your journey toward achieving higher education. Not only is the campus library system home to the second-largest university library in the United States (it is second only to Harvard) but it also offers a Research Park that is home to innovation centers for nearly 100 different multinational corporations and start-up companies. Some of the biggest names here include Yahoo, State Farm, and Capital One. 

You will find dozens of graduate majors and concentrations to choose from here, including:

  • accountancy
  • agriculture
  • anthropology
  • architecture

You will learn from instructors who are at the top of their game. The school is home to:

  • 30 Nobel laureates
  • 2 Turing Award winners
  • 27 Pulitzer Prize winners

Your life doesn’t have to focus solely on academics while you’re here, either. Although the graduate schools, including the College of Law, College of Engineering, and School of Information Sciences, are ranked as some of the best in the nation, there are plenty of extracurricular offerings here, too. You can choose from more than 1600 student organizations including:

  • political
  • philanthropic
  • professional clubs

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is also home to one of the largest Greek systems in the nation. Nearly a quarter of the student population here is involved in some way! Because of the extensive opportunities for personal and professional advancement, this university is ranked as one of the top National Universities and Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report.

U of I also offers many online master’s degree programs. The iMBA is a top degree program if you are looking for a master’s degree online that is flexible and of academic excellence.

This school is known all over the country for its low tuition rates. On average, you’ll pay just $18,126 as an in-state student. In 2020 alone, more than $961 million in financial aid was administered with more than two-thirds of all applicants receiving some form of financial aid. You’re not going to miss out on anything just because you’re paying less money, either. Although tuition is low, class sizes are small, featuring an average student-to-faculty ratio of just 20:1. 

Once you’re ready to apply, you’ll need to start by gathering the requisite documents. Although some programs, such as those in the College of Law and College of Veterinary Medicine, have additional, separate requirements for the application, most require an online application and a bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. In many cases, letters of recommendation are also required. 

Whether you are looking for online learning or an on campus experience, you will find affordable option that fits your budget.


#11. West Texas A & M University

Location: Canyon, TX

Degree: Master’s and Online Degree Programs


#12. Fort Hays State University

Location: Hays, KS

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#13. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Location: Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#14. Nova Southeastern University

Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#15. Clemson University

Location: Clemson, South Carolina

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#16. Fitchburg State University

Location: Fitchburg, MA

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#17. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Degree: Master’s Degree Programs


#18. Stony Brook University 

Location: Stony Brook, NY

Degree: Master’s Degree Programs


#19. Maryville University

Location: St. Louis, MO

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#20. University of Arizona

Location: Tucson, AZ

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#21. National Louis University

Location: Chicago, IL

Degree: Master’s Degree Programs


#22. Lamar University

Location: Beaumont, TX

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#23. Concordia University-Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#24. Purdue University

Location: West Lafayette, IN

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#25. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Location: Greensboro, NC

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#26. Auburn University

Location: Auburn, AL

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#27. Missouri University of Science and Technology

Location: Rolla, MO

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#28. University of Alabama at Birmingham

Location: Birmingham, AL

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#29. University of Oklahoma

Location: Norman, OK

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#30. University of Illinois at Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#31. University of Louisiana at Monroe

Location: Monroe, LA

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#32. Texas Woman’s University

Location: Denton, TX

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs

Net Price: $7,336

#33. Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Degree: Master’s Degree Programs


#34. Augusta University 

Location: Augusta, GA

Degree: Master’s and Online Master’s Degree Programs


#35. Lehigh University

Location: Bethlehem, PA

Degree: Master’s Degree Programs 


Other Schools to Consider for Master’s Degrees or Online Master’s Degree Programs

University of South Dakota

Check out the master’s degrees and online master’s degree programs at University of South Dakota here.

Arizona State University

Check out the master’s degrees and online master’s degree programs at Arizona State University here.

University of Texas- Austin

Check out the master’s degrees at University of Texas- Austin here.

Western Governors University

Check out the master’s degrees and online master’s degree programs at Western Governors University here.

University of South Carolina

Check out the master’s degrees and online master’s degrees at University of South Carolina here.

University of North Dakota

Check out the master’s degrees and online master’s degree programs at University of North Dakota here.

Common Application and Admission Questions about Master’s Degrees and Online Master’s Degree Programs

Applying for a master’s program or an online master’s degree program sounds like a daunting task, but really, it’s quite straightforward. You’re already familiar with the process of applying for a bachelor’s degree. While a master’s degree is one step forward, the process is more or less the same.

First, start by making a list of the schools to which you’d like to apply for your master’s degree or online master’s degree program. This list should include:

  • dream schools
  • safety schools
  • target schools

A dream school, of course, is one with competitive admissions, but that you’d really like to attend. A safety school is one that you’re practically guaranteed to be admitted into, while a target school is right in the middle. 

You don’t need to make this list super long. In fact, just four or five schools is really all you need to apply to for a master’s degree or online master’s degree programs. Any more than that and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed once the letters of acceptance start rolling in (or worse, before that—when you’re trying to fill out applications and pay for costly application fees). Any fewer, and you might not have a lot of options to choose from if your top schools decide that you are not the right candidate for them. 

Once you know where you want to apply, take the time to get in touch with the admissions office at your top schools. Make a checklist or spreadsheet that includes the application requirements for each school. This will allow you to be more efficient as you move through your applications. Some require personal statements and provide prompts for your responses. Making a spreadsheet will help you keep tabs on what you need to submit, and to whom.

Not all graduate schools require GMAT or GRE scores for admission. For those who do, it’s important to take the time to research the minimum and average scores. Take note of the averages that are in the 75th percentile and 50th percentile of admitted students. This will give you a good target to shoot for as you begin working your way toward graduate school.

In general, most graduate schools will accept scores from these exams that were taken in the last five years. Don’t wait too long to take the test, though, as it can take several months for scores to become available. You should also leave yourself enough time to retake the exam if necessary. Taking practice tests is a great idea if you’re shooting for a particular score! 

There are other kinds of documentation you will need to provide, too. Official transcripts are pretty much universal, although the GPA requirement for most schools will vary. Usually, it’s around a 3.0. You will also need to supply things like:

  • a personal statement or essays
  • letters of recommendation
  • resume

You will need to decide if you want to be on campus or do online master’s programs. Both have perks.

The key to applying for graduate skill is this—stay calm and stay organized. You’ve got this! A cheap masters degree can be within your reach.

See Also: 50 Best Master’s Degree Programs

What About Financial Aid & Scholarships for Graduate Students?

The FAFSA might seem like a headache. When it comes to financial aid and paying for graduate school, it’s something you’ve really got to make the time to complete if you are looking for cheapest masters programs.

The FAFSA isn’t just a funny-sounding acronym. It stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. If you are reading this after already having graduated with a bachelor’s degree, you’re probably already familiar with what the FAFSA has to offer. FAFSA may be your key to affordable master’s degree programs. 

Fill this form out, which is available starting January 1st of the year in which you plan to attend college, and you’ll be considered for all kinds of financial aid. All you have to do is spend a bit of time gathering your financial documents, such as your W2s and tax returns. If you’re still living at home, you’ll need your parents’ information, too. 

The FAFSA will be used to determine whether you are eligible for a variety of federal- and state-subsidized funding, such as:

  • grants
  • scholarships
  • low-interest federal student loans

In many cases, universities use the information from the FAFSA to determine whether you might be eligible for:

  • institutional scholarships
  • grants
  • fellowships
  • assistantships

One of the biggest considerations that sets undergraduate and graduate students apart is whether you are a dependent or independent from your parents. If you file as an independent, you’ll likely earn far more financial aid than if you still rely on your parents for financial support. 

Once your dependency status is determined, the other difference is that, as a graduate student, you won’t be eligible for subsidized federal loans. You can still apply for unsubsidized loans and there are also a number of federal grants that do not have to be repaid, including the Federal Pell Grant and the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant.  

You can also consider applying for federal work-study funds. These are often given in exchange for working in the community or on campus, meaning you can gain experience while also saving money on the cost of attending college. 

There is no set amount of federal funds that graduate students can receive. You can borrow up to $20,500 in Federal Direct Stafford Loans and up to the cost of attendance in PLUS loans. Make sure you only borrow what’s realistic for you, though, and don’t borrow more than is needed. 

If you don’t qualify for any federal financial aid, don’t panic! You still have options. You can apply for local and regional scholarships, as well as national scholarships through organizations such as:

  • Educators for Fair Consideration
  • Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Golden Door Scholars

Many employers offer remission plans, too. The key here is that you leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding money for college. Keep reading and find affordable graduate programs.

See Also: 40 Fastest Online Master’s Degree Programs

How Much Can I Make With a Master’s Degree? 

Earning a master’s degree or an online master’s degree really pays off. There are many advantages to pursuing graduate study. A bigger paycheck is one of the most significant. According to information from the 2000 U.S. Census, workers aged 21-64 who had just bachelor’s degrees earned around $42,877 per year. Those who had a master’s degree earned $55,242. Of course, the difference between those two figures has only become more pronounced in recent years. 

Of course, your average salary will vary depending on whatever it is you choose to study. Salaries vary by field as well as the level of degree you earn. The location of the company that ultimately hires you will also play a role, with workers in large metropolitan areas earning higher wages than those in rural communities. 

There are several master’s degrees or online master’s degree programs you might want to consider if you’re looking for a lucrative, high-paying career. One of the most prominent is a software engineer. As a software engineer with a master’s degree, you can earn nearly $96,000, according to CareerBliss. This is a salary that’s nearly $20,000 more than if you just had a bachelor’s. Those two extra years will really pay off!

Management is another popular field for individuals who want to earn high salaries. Earn an MBA, or a Master of Business Administration, and you could work in just about any field. Managers and administrators are needed in all industries, so you’ll find that an MBA will help prepare you with the leadership skills and management chops you need to lead any team to success. The average MBA graduate earns well over $106,757, according to the U.S. News & World Report, with some professionals earning even more depending on where they land.

Finance is another common pathway for graduate study. If you’re thinking about becoming a financial advisor, a graduate degree is almost a given. While many companies hire individuals who only possess bachelor’s degrees, those with master’s degrees earn almost 20% more per year. How much money does that add up to? On average, you’ll earn around $78,000 per year. 

For aspiring educators, a master’s degree or online master’s degree program isn’t just a luxury that can help enhance your salary if you decide it’s the right pathway for you. A master’s degree is an outright necessity. Many states require educators at both the elementary, secondary, and administrative level to earn master’s degrees to show that they have the right training to handle diverse populations of students. Again, you’ll enjoy a salary increase of nearly 20%, with some program directors in education earning more than $89,000 per year.

Big tech is another field in which earning a master’s degree is a smart choice. Web designers and database administrators alike find that master’s degrees are the best pathways when it comes to drawing a bigger paycheck. Come payday, the average web designer with a master’s degree earns more than $59,000 per year—that’s compared to just $46,657 for workers who only have bachelor’s degrees.

As a database administrator, you’ll earn an extra 21% if you pursue a master’s degree. The average wage for master’s-holding workers in this field is around $96,028. Now that’s an impressive increase! 


Michael Templeton
Managing Editor

Kacey Reynolds Schedler
Contributing Editor