For the last decade, the master of business administration (MBA) has been the most popular graduate degree in the nation. As salaries and demand for trained management personnel continue to rise, the popularity of the MBA degree will increase even more. To accommodate these students, more high-quality schools are creating and adopting affordable online MBA programs. The best online MBA degrees allow working professionals to complete their studies without ignoring family or work obligations. To assist students in their search, we've compiled a list of the 10 most affordable MBA online degrees under $50,000.
As salaries and demand for trained management personnel continue to rise, the popularity of the MBA degree will increase even more.
Each of these online MBA programs boasts some of the most affordable tuition rates for students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that management positions in the business industry will increase faster than average in almost all cases, which should inspire more working professionals to seek out the best affordable MBA online programs.
To compile this list, we ranked the best affordable MBA online programs based on their perceived prestige (awards, rankings, reputation), academic quality, and affordability.
What Are the Best Value Online MBA Programs?
University of Florida Gainesville, FL
In addition to offering a traditional two-year degree program, the University of Florida offers an online one-year MBA in an accelerated 16-month format to those with an undergraduate business degree earned in the last seven years. This 32-credit affordable online MBA program bypasses the core business courses already received by those students with an undergraduate business degree and requires one weekend campus visit in every four-month term.Tuition – $48,000 for the accelerated one-year program. Books, room, board, and travel are not included in tuition.
Ball State University Muncie, IN
The online Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Ball State University is designed to bring business professionals the knowledge and expertise they need for management and executive-level positions. The 30-credit-hour general MBA online is one of the cheapest online MBA programs available. It is also flexible and allows for customizable schedules. In addition, the Ball State University program offers the choice of five specializations in the areas of entrepreneurship, finance, sales management, logistics and supply chain management, and health economics, policy, and administration. While the pace of study is up to the individual, the average student takes two courses each semester and completes the degree in five to six semesters.
Tuition – $11,820 in-state/$17,700 out-of-state for the general MBA. Each concentration adds $1,820 in-state and $1,770 out-of-state. Price is for tuition only and does not include course and technology fees.
Arkansas State University Jonesboro, AR
The 33-credit-hour online Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Arkansas State University prepares future leaders with the global business knowledge and social and ethical leadership skills necessary to excel in today’s global business environment. Students train on the latest technologies and benefit from action-based learning. A supply chain management concentration (39-credit-hours) is available for students who wish to further focus their learning experience.
Tuition – $19,371 for the general MBA. Choosing a concentration results in an additional $1,761-$3,522. Books and other expenses are not included in the price of tuition.
Adams State University Alamosa, CO
Adams State University offers a 100% online Master of Business Administration (MBA) to professionals looking to advance their careers. The 36-credit-hour program is cohort-based, meaning students are grouped together according to their enrollment date and work through six straight semesters as a unit, completing the degree in two years. The degree features an emphasis in the areas of accounting, health administration, leadership, and public administration. One of the cheapest online MBA programs around, this degree offers small classes in which students have access to unparalleled support and hands-on opportunities that make the learning process as effective and long-lasting as possible.
Tuition – $14,760 for tuition only. The price does not include technology fees or other program expenses such as books or service fees.
Florida State University Tallahassee, FL
The online MBA at Florida State University is a 39-credit-hour part-time MBA that takes seven semesters to complete. Students in the MBA have the option of specializing in real estate, management information systems, or risk management and insurance. This degree is one of the best value online MBA programs available and prepares future business leaders by delivering courses in business-to-business sales and marketing, supply chain management, and investment analysis and management.
Tuition – $30,427 in-state/$31,599 out-of-state. Price does not include books. Some out-of-state students qualify for special tuition supplement that reduce tuition costs to in-state levels.
University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst, MA
The online MBA at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) allows students to build a schedule that works best with their life. The online MBA is completable in less than three years, though students have the option of slowing things down and taking up to five years to complete. Online courses are delivered asynchronously and taught by the same faculty as the on-campus business MBA. Students have the choice of tailoring their degree as well, with focus areas available in business analytics, finance, entrepreneurship, healthcare administration, sport management, and marketing. Online students benefit from innovative technology and no residential requirements, but in-person courses are available for anyone interested living near a UMass satellite campus.
Tuition – Typical student tuition is $35,100. Books and material costs are not included.
Oklahoma State University Stillwater, OK
Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) Master of Business Administration (MBA) online learning degree has two options for students. The part-time option is a 42-credit-hour program and the full-time option is a 45-credit-hour program. The part-time program allows students to take a limited number of courses over a few years, while the full-time program features intensive study and is completable in less than 18 months. Concentrations are available for distance learners in business sustainability, energy business, entrepreneurship, global marketing, marketing analytics, human resource management, global marketing, and nonprofit management. There are no required residencies or campus visits, but a mix of online and on-campus courses is an available option.
Tuition – $18,447 resident/$44,892 non-resident. Books are not included.
Wayne State College Detroit, MI
Offering more than 90 academic programs, many of which are available online, Wayne State College is not only one of the most accessible schools in the nation, but it is also one of the most affordable. The 30-credit Master of Business Administration (MBA) is fully online and requires no campus visits. Courses are delivered asynchronously, though some classes require synchronous meetings with professors. Though no specific concentrations are available, students customize their degree with electives available in leadership ethics, government, international business, and information systems technology and management.
Tuition – $9,750. Textbooks and required course materials are not included.
Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO
The Online Professional MBA (OPMBA) at Colorado State University is built for maximum flexibility. The length of study is determined by the student’s schedule, eligible for completion anywhere between 21 months and five years. The degree consists of 42 credit hours, primarily made up of core management courses, though there are electives available in the areas of professional enrichment, marketing, computer information systems, and finance. Several certificates are available to complement the MBA degree as well, including applied finance, the accounting ethics and auditing certificate, marketing management, project management, business intelligence, and business information systems. No residency or campus visits are required.
Tuition – $39,732. Books are not included.
University of Maryland Adelphi, MD
The online Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) prepares students for leadership careers in in business, government, and/or nonprofit organizations. The customizable and flexible online format allows students to finish the 36-credit-hour degree in as little as 18 months. For students who wish to move through the program more slowly, UMUC allows up to five years to complete the program. This cheap online MBA is also one of the most innovative online programs, delivering a comprehensive education to students with no textbook purchases necessary and no campus visits required.
Tuition – $24,984.
How Much Does an Online MBA Cost?
Students considering affordable online MBA programs sometimes ask if the costs of this degree outweigh the benefits. The answer is complicated. The price of a master's degree varies by institution. While tuition costs roughly the same for online and on-campus programs, online learners may save on transportation, lodging, and other expenses. Annual tuition ranges from less than $10,000 at the most affordable state colleges and universities to approximately six figures at the most prestigious business schools.
Prospective students should also consider the expected rate of return on their investment weighed against opportunity costs and time commitment.
The price of an online MBA is an important factor when choosing a school, as prices vary considerably. The information below demonstrates the price range among our top 10 best affordable MBA online programs.
Least Expensive Online MBA (In-State): $9,750 - Wayne State College, Detroit, MI
Most Expensive Online MBA (In-State): $48,000 - University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
What Affects the Cost of an Online MBA Program?
Choosing an affordable online MBA requires careful research. While public institutions generally offer more affordable tuition than private schools, prestigious public universities often charge hefty tuition and fees. Schools may impose higher tuition rates on students residing out of state; however, many institutions belong to reciprocity agreements that offer discounted rates to nonresident students enrolled in member schools. Additionally, some online programs offer discounted tuition to students taking a full credit load each term.
While distance learners may save on commuting, lodging, and other costs associated with campus-based programs, they often must pay technology fees. Online programs generally appeal to students looking to study part time. However, these students may end up paying more than students who attend full time, as it often takes them longer to complete their degrees.
Is an Online MBA Worth It?
Students researching affordable online MBA programs often ask about the return on their investment. While a graduate degree does not necessarily guarantee employment, an MBA offers career advantages and increased salary potential. The Graduate Management Admission Council reports that MBA graduates remain in high demand among major companies and continue to command the highest salaries. Employers also express confidence that MBA graduates bring considerable skills and knowledge to the workplace.
Most online programs offer students various services to help them plan for and launch their careers.
The best affordable MBA online programs teach students how to lead organizations and accurately analyze and evaluate information to find solutions and implement strategic plans. These skills help MBA graduates break into highly competitive careers and qualify for advanced roles and higher salaries.
A typical MBA curriculum includes courses in accounting, finance, marketing, organizational behavior, micro- and macro-economics, management, and business ethics. Online programs also stress global orientation, research and quantitative skills, and information technology. Most online programs offer students various services to help them plan for and launch their careers.
Many programs also provide students with the opportunity to acquire real-world experience through internships and independent projects. Students not only learn transferable skills for the workplace, but they benefit from the networking and mentoring opportunities they receive from business professionals. Some degrees require a capstone project or thesis where students demonstrate their ability to conduct business research. In addition, many schools offer job placement services to help students find employment after graduation.
Will an Online MBA Help My Career?
As one of the most versatile graduate degrees, an MBA traditionally leads to employment in business management, finance, and consulting. MBA students pursue leadership roles in tech, healthcare, nonprofit, and government industries. An online MBA provides students with the necessary academic knowledge and specialized training in business and organizational leadership to pursue professional roles in the public and private sector. An MBA also develops other important traits demanded by top employers, including communication skills, creativity, and cultural competency.
Below, we provide five popular careers students pursue with an online MBA degree.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Medical and Health Service Managers
Marketing Research Analysts
Salary Potential for Online MBA Graduates
MBA students entering technology and healthcare administration fields earn higher-than-average salaries.
An MBA opens up multiple career paths with mean annual salaries significantly higher than positions requiring only a bachelor's degree. However, actual salary potential depends on several variables. MBA graduates with considerable work experience earn the highest salaries, with top levels of compensation for graduates with ten or more years of experience. Salary levels also vary by industry. The manufacturing and financial sectors, major employers of MBA graduates for several years, continue to offer some of the highest salaries. In recent years, MBA students entering technology and healthcare administration fields earn higher-than-average salaries.
Additionally, graduates should consider a company's size and geographic location when researching positions, as larger organizations and companies in urban centers typically offer more rewarding compensation packages.
|Experience||Average Annual Salary|
|Less than 1 year||$52,713|
|Industry||Average Annual Salary|
|Information Technology (IT) Services||$98,603|
Financial Aid Options for an Online MBA
Students enrolling in even the most affordable online MBA programs may need financial assistance to help defray the cost of their degree. All prospective students should begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for federally funded loans, grants, and scholarships. Many privately funded grants and scholarships, college-specific awards, and state-administered programs also require the FAFSA.
Both federal loans and private bank loan programs require repayment upon graduation.
Online students should research the types of financial assistance available and the differences between them. Both federal loans and private bank loan programs require repayment upon graduation. Students may receive grants and scholarships, based on need or academic merit, paid directly to them or their school without the expectation of repayment.
Many colleges and universities also offer work-study opportunities that provide part-time, on-campus employment. Federally funded work-study programs require students to demonstrate financial need. School-funded programs often place students in jobs related to their majors as research assistants or tutors.
Employer Reimbursement Programs
Many companies offer tuition reimbursement to encourage employees to continue their education and bring skills and knowledge back to the workplace. Employees should check with their human resources department to find out if their benefits include college reimbursement. These companies require employees to pay the cost of their tuition up front, reimbursing them after completion of the course or degree. Employers may only provide this benefit for job-training courses or for degrees in industry-related fields.
Scholarships for Online MBA Students
Several foundations and professional organizations provide funding for students pursuing an online MBA or business-related graduate degree. Students receive these awards free, and unlike loans, they do not require repayment. In addition, scholarships may offer support for underrepresented groups in business careers, and many provide funding for students pursuing specialized fields of study.
Rick Guggolz Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship provides support for undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing careers in insurance-related industries. Applicants must have completed at least four courses in an accredited MBA program or related field.
Cathy L. Brock Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: First- and second-year graduate students pursuing a degree in healthcare administration or a comparable degree (including an MBA) may apply. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Association of Latino Professionals Annual Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Sponsored by the Association of Latino Professionals for America, this need-based scholarship supports students enrolling in undergraduate and graduate programs. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a Hispanic background and 3.0 GPA.
Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Sponsored by the Zonta International Foundation and open to women of all ages, this scholarship supports undergraduate and graduate study in business administration. Applicants must be nominated by a local Zonta club member.
Mary Elizabeth Lockwood Beneventi MBA Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Funded by the Daughters of the American Revolution, this scholarship provides support for MBA students enrolled full time in an accredited college or university. Applicants must possess a minimum 3.25 GPA.
Money-Saving Tips for Online MBA Students
Students may find that some of the most affordable online MBA programs stretch their budgets. While some schools offer tuition-free programs for students demonstrating extreme financial need, admission is competitive and they often require work-study and service commitments after graduation. Students might also consider some other easier-to-accomplish ways to save money.
Adopt healthy spending habits
For most students, an MBA degree serves as the catalyst for an advanced career in their field. An important part of making this transition involves building a good credit history and avoiding reckless spending habits that create unnecessary debt. Spending Tracker, a useful personal finance app, can help you monitor cash flow and credit card balances to keep you within your budget.
At-home meal preparation
While many graduate students rely on the convenience of fast food, this can become an expensive and unhealthy habit. Easy and quick home-prepped meals can save you time and money. Meal preparation and grocery apps like Mealboard and Pepperplate not only keep track of your food budget, but they help you maintain a healthy diet.
Use student discounts
Your student ID or college email address can land you all kinds of discounts on products and services. Amazon, an expansive online marketplace, offers a Prime Student Membership that includes six months of free delivery and benefits such as unlimited video streaming and photo storage. In addition, Banana Republic, a contemporary clothing store for men and women, features an in-store discount of 15% with a valid student ID.
Find cheap textbooks
Next to tuition, textbooks are often students' biggest expense. Fortunately, some online programs include access to downloadable course materials in their tuition fees. Many college bookstores offer rental copies, and publishers are producing more e-book versions of their texts. Apps like StudentRateTextbooks provide information on textbook prices and offer coupons and promotions.
To determine the best MBAs under $50,000, we looked at the most important factors for prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs, including admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the top 10 MBAs under $50,000. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.