We use data to empower people to make better decisions about careers and education.

2021 Most Affordable Online Colleges

2021 Most Affordable Colleges Badge

In order to provide accurate, updated tuition costs for online students, the OnlineU team manually researches over 40,000 online tuition rates for degree programs annually. We used this data to formulate our 2021 Most Affordable Online college rankings at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral level. OnlineU is also releasing its first-ever Best Affordable College rankings, which incorporates Salary Score, highlighting affordable options that also have particularly high post-graduate salaries across programs. By providing this data that is easy to use but hard to find elsewhere, OnlineU hopes to empower more people to pursue an education without burdening them with insurmountable debt.

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We have collected over 85,000 ratings and reviews from students. Learn which schools are improving graduate outcomes at GradReports.


We independently research thousands of colleges to identify the ones offering the best quality and price. View our rankings at OnlineU.


Since 2010, we've given away over $915,000 of our profit in needs-based scholarships. Visit our scholarships page to learn more and see our recent winners.

Optimal helps prospective students make informed, data-driven decisions to improve their collegiate experience and their post-college careers. We provide over 85,000 in-depth student reviews and college rankings for every major based on alumni salaries and manually researched tuitions. Our tools provide accessible and transparent data regarding cost and earning potential, allowing students to choose educational paths to success without the burden of insurmountable debt.

Optimal Board Advisor

Distinguished higher education change advocate, Richard Vedder, has joined the Optimal team as an advisor and op-ed author.

Views and opinions expressed in board advisor's writing are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Optimal.

Dr. Richard Vedder
Professor Emeritus at Ohio University, Author, & Higher Education Change Advocate
Athens, OH

Vedder is an esteemed figure in the higher education sector, writing frequently for numerous notable outlets including Forbes, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Opinion, and Inside Higher Ed. He has also authored several books regarding issues within the higher education sector, including "Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much" and "Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America."

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Thought Leadership

Pay over Prestige: College Rankings that Focus on What Actually Matters to Graduates

A degree is a significant financial investment, and the choices students make about their education will likely have a lasting impact on their future careers and salaries. The rising tide of student debt and a lack....

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From MOOCs to College Degrees: Which Education Options are Worth It?

Over the last decade, the growing need for technical skills and a rapidly-changing workplace has left employers struggling to find skilled candidates and a workforce continually seeking new skills to....

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Which Majors do People Feel Prepare them Most for Their Careers?

When choosing a major, one of the biggest things to consider is how it will impact your career. This question is driving a growing number of students toward “hard skills” majors, such as computer science and engineering...

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The Online Student Perspective: What are the top-rated online colleges, and what are they doing right?

Countless surveys done in late spring found students were significantly less satisfied with their learning experience when COVID-19...

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As part of our mission to make college more accessible, Optimal has given away over $915,000 of our profit in need-based scholarships since 2010.

Community College Scholarship

ELIGIBILITY: Students enrolled at a public community college, junior college, technical college, or city college, and working towards a certificate, diploma, or degree at the associate’s level or a first-time bachelor’s level.

AWARD: $2,000
DEADLINE: 12/30/21

Undergraduate Scholarship

ELIGIBILITY: Undergraduate students enrolled at a private or public educational institution, and working towards a certificate, diploma, or degree at the associate’s level or a first-time bachelor’s level.

AWARD: $2,000
DEADLINE: 12/30/21

Online Degree Scholarship

ELIGIBILITY: Students enrolled at a private or public educational institution, and working towards a certificate, diploma, or degree at the associate’s, bachelor’s or post-bachelor’s level. The academic program must be pursued online - all classes require little to no attendance on campus.

AWARD: $2,000
DEADLINE: 12/30/21


Three Optimal team members take part in a planning meeting.


At Optimal, we embrace a culture of growth, experimentation, and creativity. Our small and agile team allows all members to exercise great responsibility and freedom, leading each person to have a measurable impact on our business. We also offer unique benefits like tuition reimbursement and charitable donation matching. We enjoy solving hard problems just as much as we enjoy our wine and cheese parties and snuggling with our troop of quirky office dogs.