Last Updated: March 15, 2021
An MBA delivers the business savvy needed to successfully manage an organization. With demand for business managers on the rise, MBA students can look forward to pursuing well-paid managerial positions after graduation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median annual wage of $116,720 for human resource managers and $126,640 for sales managers.
Earning an MBA involves a significant investment, but affordable options exist. Many affordable online MBA programs offer a first-rate education culminating in a venerable, in-demand MBA degree.
The rankings below provide detailed information about the most affordable online MBA programs. This page also offers insights into the benefits of getting an affordable online MBA, typical jobs graduates from an affordable MBA program can expect, and how to choose the right affordable online MBA program.
2021's Top 10 Cheapest Online MBA Programs
|1||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|2||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Chapel Hill, NC|
|3||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|4||Purdue University||West Lafayette, IN|
|5||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||Champaign, IL|
|6||University of Texas at Dallas||Richardson, TX|
|7||Florida State University||Tallahassee, FL|
|8||California State University, San Bernardino||San Bernardino, CA|
|9||Indiana University, Bloomington||Bloomington, IN|
|10||New Jersey Institute of Technology||Newark, NJ|
Why Get an Affordable MBA?
The path to an MBA involves substantial financial outlay. However, aspiring business managers can attend an affordable yet reputable MBA program.
An affordable online MBA program promises a better return on investment (ROI) and a good chance of graduating without heavy student debt. An MBA can serve as a stepping stone to a high-level managerial position with a comfortable salary.
The list below provides additional insight into some of the benefits of earning a degree from an affordable online MBA program.
- Same Job for Less Money: Despite the lower cost of affordable online MBA programs, graduates often successfully compete for the same jobs as peers from higher-cost schools. Provided that the affordable program satisfies certain marks of excellence (e.g., reputation and accreditation), degree-seekers can expect similar job opportunities.
- Faster ROI: Many MBA students graduate from an expensive program deeply in debt, requiring them to work in top-level positions for several years before they begin to see a positive ROI. Opting for an MBA from an affordable program is a sensible investment that may pay off earlier in your career.
- Lower Opportunity Costs: If unexpected changes crop up, an affordable online MBA program reduces the opportunity costs of shifting directions or halting studies mid-course.
10 Most Affordable Online MBA Programs
See our list of the top 10 online MBA programs in 2021. Our rankings system measures quality, reputation, and affordability to help learners find the best MBAs to fit their career ambitions and financial needs.
Each school we list holds regional accreditation, meaning it adheres to the education standards set by a third-party regional accrediting agency. Some departments also hold program-specific accreditation. Accreditation ensures that each ranked program suits the needs and expectations of business students. Relevant accrediting agencies include:
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC)
1. University of Florida
A public land-grant university located in Gainesville, the University of Florida is great for both innovation and business. For example, in the last 15 years, the school helped cultivate over 190 tech startups.
UF's Warrington College of Business offers two options for completing an online MBA: a two-year program and an accelerated, one-year program for qualified applicants with undergraduate degrees in business. Both options require at least two years of full-time professional experience.
All UF online MBA students enjoy access to the Washington Campus, a nonprofit, Washington, D.C., based partnership of 16 total universities offering collaborative residencies and courses. These credits go toward the MBA's required total.
Tuition for the two-year option costs $58,000, or $48,000 for the one-year option. The Warrington College of Business offers several resources for additional financial support, including third-party employer sponsored tuition and a number of scholarships from UF's Hough Graduate School of Business.
Program at a Glance
2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Opening to students in 1795, the University of North Carolina was one of the first in the nation's history. Carolina was the only public university in the nation to award degrees during the 18th century.
Carolina's online MBA offers five concentrations: entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, strategy and consulting, and data analytics and decision-making. Students can also take two-credit electives in specialized fields or skills, such as global supply chain management, new ventures discovery, and Python for business analytics.
Additionally, graduates of the Kenan-Flagler Business School enjoy access to many school resources, including record lectures from completed courses, career and leadership coaching, and a reduced fee for any additional courses after graduation.
In addition to a limited number of fellowships and scholarships covering partial tuition, such as the HubShout Internet Marketing Scholarship, the MBA at UNC also works with some employers willing to cover tuition for MBA candidates.
Program at a Glance
3. Florida International University
Based in Miami, Florida International University ranks among the 10 largest universities in the United States. Opening its doors in 1972, FIU is also among the youngest public universities.
FIU's online MBA offers eight specializations. A specialization fulfills two of the program's 14 required courses. Early on, the program also requires three professional development seminars about topics like presentation skills to help candidates fully prepare for professional success. The curriculum entails 12 core classes covering topics such as management, business strategies, financial reporting, and financial analysis.
The Chapman Graduate School of Business offers scholarships and assistantships to students seeking financial aid to cover tuition. Graduate assistantships at FIU can include teaching, grading, and research, and online MBA students can apply for program-specific scholarships.
Program at a Glance
4. Purdue University
Purdue University is a public land-grant university in West Lafayette, Indiana. Among its most notable attributes is its unique sports team name, the Boilermakers, a now-legendary callback to the community's industrial history.
Offering six concentrations, including healthcare management and information technology, Purdue's online MBA emphasizes career-specific applications of a degree in business management. Each concentration requires an additional 16 credits.
The program culminates in an MBA capstone course. This course centers both individual research assignments and collaborative group projects to help candidates put into practice their managerial and problem-solving skills. Students in the capstone course work with career services to apply their skills after graduation. This course is required for all students regardless of concentration.
Purdue offers scholarships and tuition reduction for some corporate training programs that work with the MBA program, along with detailed information about federal financial aid. Students can also save by transferring credits when applicable.
Program at a Glance
5. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign serves career-seeking undergraduate and graduate students through 15 colleges, including law, veterinary science, social work, and medicine.
Boasting a 93% retention rate, this online iMBA is a star member of U of I's Gies College of Business, which just recently celebrated its 100th birthday. Students take at least six specialization courses, including digital marketing and innovation, in addition to their core curriculum.
This iMBA offers a standout feature: the chance to enroll in courses without fully committing to the program. Students can take noncredit courses for their own personal or professional interest or to work toward certification. With these options, the iMBA proves its dedication to enhancing students' business management skills.
U of I's Affordability
The program's noncredit course options cost $302 per credit hour, and U of I notes that tuition for the full iMBA costs just $22,500.
Program at a Glance
6. University of Texas at Dallas
A public research institution in Texas, the University of Texas at Dallas is known for its tech-driven research, including its Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Blackstone LaunchPad and Techstars program.
Offering 15 concentrations and 59 electives, UT Dallas's online MBA is an ideal choice for part-time students. Students take 32 core credits and choose 21 elective credits, which can include any graduate course in the Jindal School of Management.
Students can also pursue a double-degree plan to pair their online MBA with an MS degree, giving them a leg up in the job market. MS offerings include information technology, marketing, and business analytics.
UT Dallas's Affordability
UT Dallas guarantees four-year locked tuition, giving students more flexibility to complete their MBA without a tuition hike if they need extra time.
Program at a Glance
7. Florida State University
Based in Tallahassee and founded in 1851, Florida State University is the state's oldest higher education institution. FSU provides detailed information for online learners through its Office of Distance Learning.
Students pursuing FSU's online part-time MBA may choose a standard degree plan or a specialization in real estate. Both options require the same number of credits, and the real estate emphasis works alongside the university's Center for Real Estate Education and Research. The MBA is open to students of all academic backgrounds.
Enrollees take core classes in management, analytics, and ethics, plus 12 elective credits which can count toward one of five concentrations.
FSU's per-credit cost for the online MBA is similar for both Florida residents and out-of-state students. Learners may work with the Graduate Management Admissions Council's loan program to receive graduate assistance.
Program at a Glance
8. California State University, San Bernardino
Founded in 1965, California State University, San Bernardino, serves 20,000 students annually with more than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The online MBA at CSUSB offers an open enrollment process, including an introductory "bootcamp" course which consists of focused self-study modules on topics like finance and marketing. Enrollees also take two elective courses, followed by foundation and essential courses. This program is useful for students aiming to earn an MBA quickly and efficiently.
CSU San Bernardino's online MBA is affordable for both part-time and full-time students, with accessible per-credit costs.
Program at a Glance
9. Indiana University, Bloomington
Home of the famous Hoosiers, Indiana University Bloomington offers over 200 undergraduate degrees for its broad array of student interests, skills, and careers.
IU's online MBA easily tailors to students' needs; over 50% of the program is customizable. Students can major in either strategy and leadership or digital technology management, and they may add a 12-credit MS degree in a related field. Half of the required 54 credits are electives, allowing students to craft a degree that meets their unique needs.
IU's online MBA offers a flat-rate tuition for Indiana residents and out-of-state students. This makes the degree affordable for all prospective learners.
Program at a Glance
10. New Jersey Institute of Technology
Based in Newark, New Jersey, the New Jersey Institute of Technology traces its roots to 1881. Among its many connections to the community is a $1 billion neighborhood redevelopment project.
Built around broad themes in business management, including competition, innovation, and navigating uncertainty, NJIT's online MBA prepares students for changes in the business world.
The two-year intensive program includes carefully placed courses over four semesters and summer sessions. Core curriculum and concentration modules cover topics such as global marketing management, corporate finance, investment analysis, and portfolio theory.
NJIT offers several graduate research fellowships to qualified applicants and identifies available external scholarships through Scholarship Universe. Additionally, the online program charges a flat rate with no additional fees for full-time learners.
Program at a Glance
Jobs for MBA Graduates
One of the most versatile graduate degrees, an MBA can open the door to rewarding and challenging careers across virtually all occupations and industries. Many graduates work in hedge funds, private equity, or information technology (IT).
The BLS reports median salaries exceeding six figures for many managerial positions, including median earnings of $135,900 for marketing managers and $146,360 for computer systems managers. Factors such as type of employer, work experience, and employment location can substantially impact individual pay, however. The following list provides further insight into some popular MBA careers.
Sales Manager: Sales managers oversee an organization's sales team. Typical job duties include preparing budgets and approving expenditures; monitoring customer preferences to determine the focus of sales efforts; and developing customer acquisition plans through direct sales, cold calling, and business-to-business marketing.
Financial Manager: Financial managers prepare financial reports for decision-makers, make investment decisions, and develop long-term financial plans for organizations. Job duties include preparing quarterly reports for shareholders and monitoring financial transactions to ensure compliance. These professionals also analyze market trends with an eye toward maximizing profits and identifying expansion opportunities.
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager: Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers help generate customer interest in products or services. Job responsibilities include conducting market research, identifying new customer and market opportunities, and developing pricing strategies. They may also plan advertising campaigns for television, digital media, and billboards.
Computer and Information Systems Manager: Computer and information systems managers direct a company's computer-related activities. Typical job duties include analyzing computer needs, recommending upgrades, and directing hardware and software installation and maintenance. They may also research new technology to keep networks and electronic documents safe.
Human Resources Manager: Human resources managers direct companies' human resources departments. Job duties may include supervision of employee compliance with labor laws, managing recruiting, and handling layoffs. They may also advise other managers on human resources issues, such as equal employment opportunity, affirmative action, and sexual misconduct.
What To Expect From MBA Programs
MBA programs deliver advanced knowledge of business theory and practice. Popular concentrations include IT, healthcare administration, and human resource management. A typical MBA curriculum includes foundational, elective/concentration, and capstone or thesis courses. Classes explore topics like marketing, investment management, and business law.
A typical affordable online MBA program requires 60 credits and takes two years to complete. Some schools offer accelerated programs requiring students to take all 60 credits within one academic year. Other schools provide part-time programs, allowing learners to complete their degree in a few more years. Most affordable MBA programs take place online or in a hybrid format.
Degree costs vary by type of school, program format, and financing options. Standard admission requirements include a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Most MBA programs also require GRE/GMAT test scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.
The MBA Admission Process
To be considered for entry into an MBA program, prospective students must submit an online application. Typical application materials include a CV or resume, written essay, video essay, transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE/GMAT scores, and a nonrefundable application fee. Some schools interview short-listed candidates.
At most schools, admission requires a bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and satisfactory GRE/GMAT scores. Some programs may waive the GRE/GMAT requirement. Professional experience, a bachelor's in business administration, or prior coursework in business-related areas may increase the chance of acceptance.
Degree and Concentration Options
Before applying to an MBA program, prospective students may want to consider whether an alternative graduate degree — such as a master's in accounting or an online mini-MBA — presents a better choice for them.
A master's in accounting offers more specialized skills than a general MBA. An accounting degree appeals to learners who strive to land a position in accounting or finance, such as financial examiner, financial statement analyst, or financial manager.
An MBA and an online mini-MBA provide comparable business skills, but the mini-MBA lacks the scope and depth of the regular MBA. The mini-MBA suits seasoned professionals looking to move into a managerial position.
Despite the reduced cost of an affordable online MBA, most affordable online MBA programs offer an array of concentration options. Popular concentrations include:
- Corporate strategy
- Healthcare administration
- Human resources
- Business psychology
- Energy and sustainability studies
Whether to pursue a general MBA or a specialized MBA depends on your current and long-term career goals. In today's competitive job market, a specialized MBA can give graduates an edge over applicants with a general MBA. A general MBA provides versatile skills that easily transfer to other occupations and industries — a highly attractive feature during economic downturns.
Popular MBA Courses
Most MBA programs require core courses in marketing, management, and business law. Elective and concentration courses often include investment strategies, IT, and healthcare management. Many programs also require a capstone or a thesis, enabling students to apply theory to address a real-life business problem.
- Marketing and Consumer Behavior: In this course, students learn how to apply social science research techniques to analyze and predict consumer purchasing and decision-making patterns. Participants explore management problems in pricing, promotion, and advertising.
- Labor Law: This course provides an in-depth understanding of labor law, including hiring processes, employer best practices, and at-will employment. Topics include employment agreements, arbitration of employment disputes, workplace privacy, and social media.
- Principles of Management: This course introduces management theory and its application to real-world business problems. Learners apply management principles to practice, assess managerial practices in light of ethical norms, and determine effective ways to address moral dilemmas in global business contexts.
- Investment Management: This course covers basic concepts of investment management, such as capital markets, equity, and initial public offerings. Attendees also learn the analytical tools and skills needed to manage a portfolio and make rational decisions in a highly intense and stressful investment environment.
- Capstone Seminar: Most MBA programs culminate in a capstone seminar, which provides an opportunity to apply acquired skills to a real or simulated business problem. For example, a capstone project might focus on explaining dismal sales figures for high-end wearables like the Apple Watch. Students present the problems and proposed solutions in the form of a written paper, a poster, and/or oral presentation.
How Much Will an MBA Cost?
The cost of tuition for an affordable online MBA degree varies by school type (public or private), tuition category (in-state, out-of-state, or flat), and program format (online, on campus, or hybrid).
Many schools charge steep prices for MBA programs, with some of the most prestigious business schools charging more than $100,000 for tuition per academic year. Tuition is only one component of the total cost of a degree. To determine the true cost of an MBA, prospective students should also factor in room and board, health insurance, technology fees, textbooks, and loss of income while studying.
Few MBA students can easily fund expensive degrees out of pocket, so many learners prioritize affordable online MBA programs. Many affordable online MBA programs offer a top-notch graduate education and a well-regarded MBA.
Affordable online MBA programs charge only a few hundred dollars per credit, while some of the most expensive programs may cost thousands per credit. With a remote learning format, students can also save on living expenses, transportation, and parking. Exceptionally motivated learners may continue working full time while earning their MBA.
Aspiring MBAs may also cut costs by financing their degree through scholarships, student loans, fellowships, or grants.
Making Cheap Online MBA Programs Even Cheaper
Choosing an affordable MBA program and taking advantage of funding options are good first steps to cut costs. But students can save in other ways. The following list provides some ideas to help you make additional money-saving choices.
- Accelerated Track: An accelerated MBA degree could potentially cut costs, depending on whether the school charges yearly tuition, flat tuition, or per-course tuition. Motivated students choosing to attend a school that charges yearly tuition may save up to 50% by completing their MBA degree in one year rather than two.
- Summer Classes: Taking courses at cheaper universities during the summer may help learners cut costs, provided that their school allows them to transfer courses taken elsewhere.
- Distance Learning: Many schools offer a discount on their online-only programs. Online degrees can also help students cut costs on living expenses, transportation, and parking.
- Cheaper Course Materials: At many schools, attendees can save money by renting textbooks instead of purchasing them. If renting is not an option, Kindle editions typically sell at a reduced cost.
- Paid Internship: Some programs offer paid internships, which can help offset some of the cost of tuition. However, students should watch out for hidden costs of internships billed as regular courses or seminars.
Choosing the Right Affordable MBA Program
Choosing the right affordable online MBA program requires weighing a number of factors in addition to a school's ranking and prestige. The most important is regional accreditation from the respective regional accrediting commission. Only universities and colleges can earn this type of accreditation. Attending a university with regional accreditation increases the likelihood that students can transfer earned credits to other institutions.
A second type of accreditation is program/school-specific accreditation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) sets the industry standard for business schools. Earning an MBA from a business school that carries the AACSB seal of approval signals to future employers that the school meets the highest professional standards.
A third factor to consider is the program's alumni network. Alumni credentials provide another way to gauge a program's quality. Most reputable schools host alumni events, even for distance learners. These events provide excellent opportunities for building professional relationships with successful alumni whose career goals align with your own.
Why You Should Get Your Degree Online
Aside from affordability, a cheap online MBA program provides convenience and flexibility. How much pliancy this type of degree offers depends on the instructional style.
Synchronous online learning delivers lectures, class discussions, and networking events in real time. Asynchronous learning allows enrollees to listen to pre-recorded lectures, contribute to online message boards, and complete assignments at their own pace, as long as they meet certain set deadlines.
As synchronous distance learning simulates on-campus learning, this format may appeal to students who thrive in face-to-face social settings. An asynchronous format requires no set login times, making this format particularly suitable for working professionals who aim to complete their degree while working full time. But aspiring MBAs should keep in mind that an asynchronous format requires a lot of willpower to avoid falling behind.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to get an online MBA?
The cost of tuition for an MBA varies by school type, tuition rate, and program format. Tuition for affordable MBAs often costs around $300 per credit, while the most prestigious programs charge as much as $2,000 per credit.
Is an online MBA taken seriously?
Most employers take an online MBA from a reputable program seriously. Keep in mind that most schools don't label their online courses or degrees as "online" on student transcripts. Most employers will never know the MBA degree format unless it comes up during the job interview.
What can I do with an MBA?
An MBA can lead to a variety of lucrative and challenging careers across virtually all occupations and industries. Potential careers include sales manager, marketing manager, and human resource manager.
Is an MBA worth it?
An average MBA tends to yield a positive ROI within a few years of graduating. The Princeton Review reports that many graduates see an ROI of around 300% within 10 years of completing their MBA. An affordable online MBA degree may yield a positive ROI even faster.