Affordable Associate Degrees

Where can you earn the most affordable associate degree online? Discover the cheapest two-year colleges and learn how to boost the ROI of your degree.
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Updated September 5, 2023

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Did you know that you can get an associate degree for less than $50 per credit in tuition? The most affordable online associate degree programs are less expensive than you think.

Getting an affordable associate degree online can boost your earning potential and lead to new job opportunities. And by spending less on your degree, you'll see a higher return on investment. Check out our resources on the most affordable online associate degrees.

Popular Associate Degrees

The Most Affordable Online Associate Degree Programs

Methodology

How did we determine the most affordable online associate degree programs? Our methodology evaluated colleges with the least expensive in-state tuition rates for distance learners. We only considered accredited colleges that offer a variety of online programs.

Our list also includes colleges located across the country because, in most cases, the most affordable associate degree will be at a school in your state.

#1 Affordable Associate Degrees

Coffeyville Community College

  • Coffeyville, KS
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $39
Out-of-State | $49-$88

Located in Coffeyville, Kansas, Coffeyville Community College offers some of the most affordable associate degrees in the country. Kansas residents pay under $40 per credit in tuition, while residents of counties bordering Kansas also benefit from a tuition discount. 

You can earn an AA, AS, or associate of general studies degree online at this public, two-year institution. Learners work with academic advisors to customize their course of study.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,248
Out-of-state
$2,816
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
52%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,368
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Affordable Associate Degrees

Saddleback College

  • Mission Viejo, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $46
Out-of-State | $395

A public community college with over 25,000 students, Saddleback College also offers over 85 online programs from its Mission Viejo, California campus. You can earn a degree in creative writing, history, accounting, business management, or other popular fields at Saddleback.

On top of low tuition rates, the Promise Program covers the total cost of tuition and fees for full-time and part-time students. You'll need to be a California resident and a first-time college student to qualify. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,288
Out-of-state
$9,352
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
75%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
18,984
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#3 Affordable Associate Degrees

American River College

  • Sacramento, CA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $46
Out-of-State | $395

California community colleges boast some of the lowest tuition rates in the country. American River College, part of the state's community college system, offers online classes and degrees from its Sacramento campus. Through ARC, you can enroll in the California Virtual Campus to access online programs offered at community colleges across the state. 

As ARC notes, for every dollar California community college students invest in their education, they earn an additional $5 in higher earnings across their careers. In addition, full-time, first-year California residents receive a year of tuition-free education at ARC. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
$8,472
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
64%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
25,422
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
62% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
No

#4 Affordable Associate Degrees

Clovis Community College

  • Clovis, NM
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-District | $48
In-State | $59
Out-of-State | $121

One of the most affordable options for an associate degree, Clovis Community College is a public, two-year school in Clovis, New Mexico. In-district New Mexico residents pay a low per-credit rate of under $50. 

Choose from online associate degrees in behavioral science, business administration, criminal justice, liberal arts, and computer information systems. Or study for your paralegal credential at CCC.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,296
Out-of-state
$2,664
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
61%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,321
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
63% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 Affordable Associate Degrees

Allen County Community College

  • Iola, KS
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-District | $75
In-State | $85
Out-of-State | $95

A public community college located in Iola and Burlingame, Kansas, Allen offers affordable associate degrees online. You can take over 100 online courses that cover the same content as in-person classes. And Allen charges affordable tuition rates of under $100 for in-state and out-of-state distance learners.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,800
Out-of-state
$1,800
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
54%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,113
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
76% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 Affordable Associate Degrees

Pitt Community College

  • Winterville, NC
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $76
Out-of-State | $268

From its Winterville, North Carolina Campus, Pitt Community College enrolls over 9,000 students. The public, two-year institution offers online degrees in business administration, marketing, early childhood education, healthcare management technology, and medical office administration. You can also earn a programming or web design degree at Pitt. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$1,824
Out-of-state
$6,432
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
63%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
7,688
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
91% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#7 Affordable Associate Degrees

Cochise County Community College

  • Sierra Vista, AZ
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $93
Out-of-State | $250

A public, two-year college located in Arizona, Cochise College offers affordable associate degrees through its online programs. You can study business administration, elementary education, or intelligence operations studies at Cochise. Or earn a general studies degree.

Graduates can transfer into Arizona's public universities seamlessly. Cochise also encourages learners to gain hands-on experience with its local internship partners.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$2,184
Out-of-state
$6,240
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
62%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
3,327
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
76% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 Affordable Associate Degrees

Georgia Northwestern Technical College

  • Rome, GA
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $100
Out-of-State | $200

With its six campuses, Georgia Northwestern Technical College has locations in nine northwestern Georgia counties. At GNTC, you can earn an online degree in accounting, cybersecurity, early childhood education, healthcare management, or many other in-demand fields. And the public technical college offers cheap tuition rates for Georgia residents. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$2,400
Out-of-state
$4,800
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
65%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
6,608
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
71% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 Affordable Associate Degrees

Carroll Community College

  • Westminster, MD
  • 2 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-District | $136
In-State | $238
Out-of-State | $319

A two-year public college in Maryland, Carroll Community College offers affordable online associate degrees. You can earn a 100% online degree at Carroll in popular majors like business administration, management, social work, or sociology. Carroll also offers arts and sciences degrees online.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$5,232
Out-of-state
$6,672
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
68%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
3,060
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#10 Affordable Associate Degrees

Central Wyoming College

  • Riverton, WY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Cost per Credit:
In-State | $156
Out-of-State | $209-366

From its main campus in Riverton, Central Wyoming College offers affordable associate degrees. You can also earn your degree online. The public institution offers 100% online programs in business, criminal justice, psychology, entrepreneurship, and early childhood education. 

In addition to a low tuition rate for Wyoming residents, residents of Western Undergraduate Exchange program states also receive a tuition discount. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$2,970
Out-of-state
$8,910
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,755
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

The ROI of an Online Associate Degree

What's the return on investment for getting a cheap associate degree online? Choosing an affordable college can pay off.

An associate degree can boost your earning potential. Those with an associate degree report a median wage of $1,005 per week, according to 2022 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That's more than $150 a week higher than those with a high school diploma. Over the course of a year, that translates into a difference of nearly $8,000.

Many of the most affordable online associate degree programs cost less than $8,000 in tuition to earn a degree. By prioritizing cost, you can increase the ROI of your degree.

On top of earning potential, workers with an associate degree benefit from a lower unemployment rate. While those with a high school diploma faced a 4% unemployment rate in 2022, people with an associate degree had a significantly lower 2.7% unemployment rate.

Choosing an online format can also help you save money. Distance learners can often cut their commuting and transportation costs, and a flexible schedule makes it easier to work while in college.

Highest-Paying Careers With an Associate Degree

How much can you earn with an associate degree? It depends on the degree and industry. However, several degrees lead to careers with above-average salaries.

In May 2021, the median wage for all occupations reached $45,760, according to BLS data. Career paths with an associate degree in allied health, engineering, tech, and other fields all report higher median wages. Air traffic controllers, the highest-paid professionals with an associate degree, reported a median pay of nearly $130,000 in 2021.

When calculating the return on investment for an associate degree, make sure to research the earning potential for your chosen career path. Whether you're interested in a high-paying career or one with a lower earning potential, choosing an affordable associate degree is a good idea. A cheaper degree can mean lower student loan payments or no debt at all after graduation.

Highest-Paying Careers With an Associate Degree
Career 2021 Median Salary
Air Traffic Controller $129,750
Nuclear Technician $99,340
Radiation Therapist $82,790
Dental Hygienist $77,810
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer $75,380
Aerospace Engineering Technologist $73,580
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technologist $63,640
Computer Support Specialist $57,910
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose Your Associate Degree

There are more than 1,000 community colleges in the U.S., according to the American Association of Community Colleges – and that's only counting public two-year colleges. How can you find the best school to earn your degree?

Factors like cost, degree type, and program requirements can help you narrow your choices. It's also a good idea for online learners to research support services. And regardless of your major, you should always choose an accredited college.

The Cost of an Online Associate Degree

Cost is the top concern for many college students. So how much should you expect to spend on an associate degree?

In general, public community colleges offer the most affordable online associate degree programs. Private colleges, including technical and vocational schools, typically charge higher tuition rates. Your cheapest bet is likely a community college in your state, thanks to in-state tuition discounts.

Public two-year colleges cost an average of $3,500 per year in tuition and fees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. For a two-year degree, that adds up to $7,000. But costs vary widely depending on the state.

The most affordable states include California, New Mexico, and Arizona. In California, in-state tuition averages $1,285. New Mexico costs around $1,770, while Arizona community colleges charge $2,160. Other affordable states include North Carolina, at around $2,470; Florida, at $2,500, and Texas, at $2,830.

What about the most expensive states? Community colleges in South Dakota top the list at an average annual cost of $7,330. New Hampshire charges around $7,120 per year, while Vermont costs $6,920. Residents of these states might find lower tuition rates at out-of-state colleges.

Types of Associate Degrees

You can earn an associate of arts (AA), associate of science (AS), associate of applied science (AAS), or one of the other several kinds of two-year associate degrees. When evaluating affordable two-year colleges, make sure to look into the type of degree. Some programs prepare graduates for specific career paths directly after graduation. These career-focused programs are often in allied health, the trades, and other vocational areas.

The most common vocation-focused associate degree is an AAS, or associate of applied science degree.

Other programs offer transfer degrees. These majors transfer into four-year bachelor's programs. The coursework during a transfer degree will include general education classes that meet the requirements for a bachelor's degree. You'll likely take humanities, social science, communication, math, and natural science classes as part of your degree.

Most transfer degrees are either an AA or AS. However, credits from an AAS degree may also transfer into a four-year institution. If you're planning to transfer and earn a bachelor's degree, make sure you choose a transfer-focused program.

Associate Degree Program Requirements

Every college sets different program requirements to earn an associate degree. In general, you'll need a minimum of 60 credits to graduate. However, some majors may require more credits. That can affect the total cost and length of the program, so make sure to check the credit requirements.

Colleges also offer different enrollment options, including hybrid, fully online, and on-campus programs. It's a good idea to ask about part-time enrollment options if you've got work or personal responsibilities outside of college.

Depending on your major, there might also be hands-on requirements. Distance learners may complete simulations, internships, practicums, or other forms of experiential learning. Contact online programs to learn about any in-person requirements to graduate.

Distance Learner Support Services

The best online associate programs offer support services for distance learners. That can include access to library services, academic advising, and online tutoring. You might also complete an online student orientation or participate in mentorship programs.

Support services can make a big difference in your college experience. The ability to join student organizations, participate in school events, and receive support from your school can help you reach your educational goals.

When researching your options, ask about writing centers, career centers, and counseling services. Some colleges make these services available to distance learners.

College Accreditation

You should always choose an accredited school to earn your associate degree. The best two-year colleges hold regional accreditation. These schools meet high standards for academic quality. That's why we only included regionally accredited colleges in our list of affordable online associate degrees.

You should also check whether the college is public or private. In general, public colleges charge the cheapest tuition rates. If you choose a private trade school or vocational college, make sure to research its accreditation status.

Frequently Asked Questions About Affordable Online Associate’s Degrees

Is an associate degree respected?

Yes, an associate degree is a respected college degree. Two-year associate programs provide career-focused training and prepare graduates for bachelor's degrees. When researching schools for your associate degree, make sure to choose an accredited institution. Accredited degrees meet high academic standards, and students qualify for federal financial aid.

Where is the cheapest place to get an associate’s degree?

The cheapest place to earn an associate degree is likely at a community college in your state. On average, community colleges cost $3,500 per year in tuition and fees for in-state learners, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. If you want to earn an affordable associate degree online, check tuition rates for community colleges in your state. You may also qualify for tuition discounts at out-of-state schools.

What is the easiest associate’s degree to get online?

Earning an associate degree online in business, education, the liberal arts, or STEM is the easiest because these programs can seamlessly shift into an online format. Earning an allied health or vocational degree online can also be easy, but it typically requires some in-person requirements.


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