There’s little doubt that advanced degrees can be expensive; but, the benefits of many online graduate degree programs in terms of cost can help with sticker shock. Students are able to continue to work and study for their degree at their convenience without the additional costs of commuting or on-campus costs.
Make no mistake, college is costly, but employees with an advanced degree make more money. The New York Times, in a 2014 article, estimated that Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree. Within medical careers, the higher the degree level, the higher the salary (i.e., 50 Best Paying Nursing Specialities).
Financing Your Degree
There are several ways to finance your college degree and help reduce your total cost.
Federal Student Aid
The U.S. government provides financial assistance to students entering or returning to college. There are various forms of financial aid available to students that includes grants (money that does not have to be repaid) or student loans (typically, loans at a lower interest rate). You can learn more about whether you qualify for federal, educational financial aid by talking with your high school guidance counselor or college/university financial aid office. Additional information may be found on the Department of Education website Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Nurses Educational Funds Organization
As part of the nationwide effort to attract more nursing faculty and nurse educators, the Nurses Educational Funds Organization offers educational funding for nurses advancing their education. This link will take you to the organization’s webpage where you can learn more: Nurses Educational Funds Organization.
Employer Supported Tuition Assistance
Many hospital systems, recognizing the need for a skilled and qualified workforce, offer tuition assistance to employees advancing their educational careers in healthcare. You may want to check with your Human Resource department to see whether your employer offers tuition assistance and how to qualify.
Veterans, Spouses and Dependents
Often, schools will offer reduced tuition rates for active military personnel, their spouse and dependents. Many schools also offer tuition reduction benefits for veterans. Be certain to check with your school of choice to see if you qualify for this special rate.
Educational Degrees and Accreditation Requirements
Depending on the career path, students should be aware of requirements for specific healthcare positions. For instance, students may obtain a Registered Nurse (RN) degree at a two-year community college or a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN), a Master of Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practices (DNP) at a four year school. Not all careers require graduate education; but, salaries will, naturally, be higher for more advanced degrees. Best Medical Degree
Many medical careers stipulate students attend an accredited institution. Referring again to nursing as an example, most states recognize the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) educational standards. Depending on the career, be certain your school of choice is properly accredited for your field.
Additionally, most of the higher paying healthcare careers require either certification, licensure or both. It’s important you determine that your online program of choice meets your state’s specific licensure requirements.
Researching information from U.S. News and World Report and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), Best Medical Degrees has identified ten online MSN programs with program tuition costs under $15,000. Typically, tuition costs are lower for in-state students than out-of-state, but some schools have equal tuition costs for residents and non-residents. This listing provides base tuition costs and some programs may have additional distance or e-learning education fees (normally $100 or less). Not all schools are allowed to enroll non resident students due to state licensing requirement, so be certain your program is available for your state.
1. University of North Carolina Greensboro
Part of the North Carolina university system, the University of North Carolina traces its roots back to 1795 when the first college opened in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The university system added the University Of North Carolina Greensboro in 1931. Ranked #49th in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Nursing Programs, UNC-Greensboro School of Nursing offers two MSN concentrations in Nursing Administration and Nursing Education and also has a MSN/MBA degree program.
This online degree is a particularly great value for residents of North Carolina (tuition costs are higher for non-residents) at a low $250 per credit hour and the MSN program requires 37 credit hours of coursework for completion. The school holds accreditation by both the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The School of Nursing will soon launch a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.
Length of Program:37 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $9,250 (In-State); $33,670 (Out-of-State)
2. University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas is home to the University of Kansas, founded in 1865. This public institution enrolls approximately 20,000 students and has been nationally ranked as #115 by U.S. News and World Report. The School of Nursing was formed in 1906 with just four students and, in 1974, became the core academic program for the medical education institute, which is now known as the University of Kansas Medical Center. From the last century, the University of Kansas School of Nursing has been designated a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing. It is the only school in the region to be recognized by the NLN for its commitment to innovation and excellence in the education of nurses.
It’s online Graduate Nursing Program is rated at #31 and offers four MSN concentrations in: Clinical Research Management, Nursing Informatics, Organizational Leadership and Public Health Nursing. With modest tuition rates of $244.10 (including $100 e-learning fee) the curricula for these concentrations average 37-41 semester hours. Not only recognized by the National League for Nursing, the MSN program is accredited by Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and has a midwifery program accredited by Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). Details on these concentrations and the School of Nursing may be found at University of Kansas School of Nursing.
Length of Program: 37-41 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $10,008.10
3. East Carolina University
Part of the University of North Carolina educational system, this Greenville, North Carolina based school, was founded in 1907 and offers more than 100 undergraduate and 75 masters degree programs. A public university, East Carolina University’s Distance Education Division offers over 80 online degree programs ranging from undergraduate degrees in Business, Communications, Health Administration and a RN to BSN degree. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report, East Carolina University has a ranking in the 2016 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities at #194 and its graduate nursing degree comes in at #23 in the Best Online Nursing programs.
The school provides several concentrations for the student seeking a MSN, in Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP); and Nursing Leadership, Nursing Education, Nurse Midwifery, Adult/Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (MSN). The nursing school is introducing a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Option in the MSN program targeted to begin enrolling students for Fall 2017. Accredited by CCNE, this online program is a value with in-state tuition averaging $233.82 and out-of-state at $851.57 per semester hour. There is a tuition differential assessed for clinical practicum. Details may be found at East Carolina University
Program Length: 45 credit hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $10,521.90 (In-State); $38,320.65 (Out-Of-State)
4. Missouri State University
Missouri State University received the #95 ranking by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Best Online Nursing Programs. The university was founded in 1905 as the Fourth District Normal School and during its early years, its primary purpose was preparing teachers for the public school systems in the southwest region of Missouri. Today, the school has an enrollment of over 24,000 and campuses Springfield, West Plains and Mountain Grove, Missouri and a partnership campus in Dalian, China.
The School of Nursing at Missouri State University is fully accredited by CCNE and offers a MSN with a concentration in Nurse Educator. Requiring approximately 38 semester hours for completion, this degree has an attractive, tuition cost of $315 per credit hour for both resident and non-resident students. The program is 100% online, requires two practicum and can be completed in less than two years of full time study. U.S. News and World Report cites Missouri State University as one of the Best Colleges for Veterans and it rates #16 in the Top Public Schools ranking. More information is available at Missouri State University.
Length of Program: 38 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $11,970
5. University of Nevada Las Vegas
Starting as a small branch college in 1957, the University of Nevada Las Vegas has grown to an impressive urban research institution. Since its humble beginnings, the university now has an enrollment of over 28,000 students and 2,900 faculty. Holding a #13 ranking by U.S. News and World Report for its Best Online Nursing program, UNLV has three MSN concentrations available for online study in Nurse Educator, Nurse Practitioner in Pediatric or Family Nurse disciplines.
Accredited by CCNE, the UNLV nursing program has a base tuition cost of $299 for Nevada residents and $588 for non residents. This program, requiring some on-campus attendance for a two to three day-long orientation sessions are held on campus before the beginning of each fall semester. Due to state regulations, the University does not currently provide fully online education in the following states: California, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin. More information on this program is found at University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Nursing.
Length of Program:46 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $13,754 (In-State); $27,048 (Out-of-State)
6. Lamar University
Located in Beaumont, Texas, Lamar University is named for Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas and the “Father of Education” in Texas. Founded in 1923, the school joined The Texas State University System in 1995. Currently, the school has an enrollment of more than 15,000 students and provides a robust online degree option. The school offers both an accelerated and traditional distance education opportunities. The accelerated programs allow students to receive credit for life experiences. Lamar University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degree; and, its nursing degrees are accredited by Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
The school offers two MSN degrees in Nursing Administration and Nursing Education, both of which may be completed in 24 months. Tuition costs are a low $358 per credit hour, which also includes the distance learning fee. Lamar University also offers a RN to BSN degree. Additional information on the distance education programs of Lamar University may be found at Lamar University.
Length of Program: 37 credit hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $13,246
7. University of Southern Indiana
This public institution, located in Evansville, Indiana, was founded in 1965 and offers over 80 degrees and has an enrollment of over 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students. USI offers programs through the College of Liberal Arts, the Romain College of Business, College of Nursing and Health Professions, and the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education.
The Master of Science in Nursing of the College of Nursing and Health Professions has seven concentrations for a MSN in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP, Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist, Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Education, and Nursing Management and Leadership. The programs, ranging in credit hours from 42 to 44 hours, has one tuition rate for resident and non-resident students. The program is ranked #36th nationally by U.S. News and World Report and is accredited by CCNE. At this time, due to state regulations, the program is not recognized in all states and it’s important to verify that your state is a qualifying region.
Length of Program: 42-44 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $14,868.48
8. Ball State University
Ranked #23 by U.S. News and World Report for its Online Graduate Nursing program, Ball State University is located in Muncie, Indiana and offers a MSN degree with a Nurse Educator, Nurse Administrator or Nurse Practitioner concentration. Founded in 1918, the school has also ranked #168 in the 2016 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities published by U.S. News and World Report; and, has been recognized as one of the top 10 as one of the best colleges for veterans.
Tuition costs for the graduate nursing program are a very reasonable $394 per credit hour with an estimated 36 credit hours for degree completion. There are no campus visits required for this online program. The online program also offers an RN to MSN degree for those with a diploma or associates degree (an additional 16 credit hours are required for this discipline in addition to the core MSN courses). Ball State University online nursing programs are accredited by CCNE. More information on these programs is available at Ball State University.
Length of Program: 36 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $14,184
9. University of Alabama
Dating to 1831, the University of Alabama was the state’s first public college when in opened in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The flagship institution of the Alabama state university system, the University of Alabama consistently ranks among the top 50 public universities in the nation in U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings and ranked 43rd among public universities in the 2016 rankings. Nicknamed “Bama By Distance,” the online nursing program offers MSN degrees in Nursing Case Management, Clinical Nurse Leadership and Nurse Practitioner.
Online students, regardless of state residence pays in-state tuition and receive the same degree as on campus students. However, because of different state regulations, nurses in all states may not qualify to attend. It’s important that you verify that your state is eligible. The program is accredited by CCNE. Graduates of the Clinical Nurse Leadership program are required to take the CNL certification examination offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Program information is available at University of Alabama-Bama By Distance.
Program Length: 41 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $14,760
10. Georgia College and State University
Ranked #8 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Online Nursing Programs, Georgia College and State University is located in Milledgeville, Georgia and has an enrollment of 6,600 students. Founded as a woman’s college in 1889, this school is a public, liberal arts college with 37 undergraduate and 25 graduate programs. This is a fully online program which allows students to complete their practicum experience in their home communities.
Students may attend this CCNE program full-time or part-time and choose from either the family practitioner, nurse educator or psychiatric mental health nurse role. The curriculum incorporates a wide range of disciplines such as humanities, social, natural and behavioral sciences. More details for this program may be found at Georgia College and State University.
Length of Program: 40 Credit Hours
Estimated Tuition Cost: $14,920