Most Affordable Online PhD Programs Ranked for Students in 2023


Earning a PhD will typically place you at the highest academic tier in your field. The doctoral degree will qualify you as an expert in your chosen subject and give you access to opportunities like professorship, research leadership, and more. But earning the PhD is also a very lengthy and potentially costly undertaking. Fortunately, there are affordable online doctorate programs that make it possible to reach this elite academic status while still working directly in your field.

Top 10 Most Affordable Online PhD Degrees

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  1. Liberty University
  2. Arkansas State University
  3. Troy University
  4. Regent University
  5. Northern Kentucky University
  6. Grand Canyon University
  7. Jacksonville State University
  8. University of West Georgia
  9. Saint Leo University
  10. Valdosta State University
  1. Liberty University 99%
  2. Troy University 95%
  3. Nebraska Methodist College 84%
  4. Grand Canyon University 83%
  5. Northern Kentucky University 80%
  6. Columbus State University 79%
  7. Carson–Newman University 79%
  8. Valdosta State University 76%
  9. Jacksonville State University 76%
  10. University of West Alabama 74%
  1. Purdue Global 28 to 1
  2. Jacksonville State University 21 to 1
  3. Grand Canyon University 21 to 1
  4. Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University 20 to 1
  5. Valdosta State University 20 to 1
  6. Regent University 19 to 1
  7. University of West Georgia 19 to 1
  8. Troy University 18 to 1
  9. Northern Kentucky University 18 to 1
  10. Southern Arkansas University 18 to 1
  1. Carson–Newman University $31,320
  2. Capitol Technology University $26,934
  3. Saint Leo University $26,050
  4. Columbia International University $25,590
  5. Liberty University $22,713
  6. Regent University $18,820
  7. Grand Canyon University $17,800
  8. Nebraska Methodist College $16,207
  9. Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University $10,748
  10. Purdue Global $10,080
  1. Regent University $15,590
  2. Saint Leo University $15,218
  3. Nebraska Methodist College $11,758
  4. Capitol Technology University $11,340
  5. Columbia International University $10,710
  6. Grand Canyon University $10,621
  7. Northern Kentucky University $9,900
  8. Jacksonville State University $9,600
  9. Carson–Newman University $9,432
  10. Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University $8,916
  1. Nebraska Methodist College
  2. Columbia International University
  3. University of West Alabama
  4. Carson–Newman University
  5. Columbus State University
  6. Capitol Technology University
  7. Southern Arkansas University
  8. Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University
  9. Purdue Global
  10. Aspen University
  1. Regent University 41%
  2. Columbia International University 46%
  3. Capitol Technology University 47%
  4. Southern Arkansas University 63%
  5. Arkansas State University 63%
  6. Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University 70%
  7. University of West Georgia 70%
  8. Saint Leo University 71%
  9. University of West Alabama 74%
  10. Jacksonville State University 76%
  1. Aspen University 8 to 1
  2. Nebraska Methodist College 13 to 1
  3. Arkansas State University 14 to 1
  4. University of West Alabama 14 to 1
  5. Carson–Newman University 14 to 1
  6. Columbia International University 15 to 1
  7. Capitol Technology University 15 to 1
  8. Liberty University 17 to 1
  9. Columbus State University 17 to 1
  10. Saint Leo University 17 to 1
  1. Valdosta State University $4,371
  2. Columbus State University $4,371
  3. University of West Georgia $4,371
  4. Aspen University $5,110
  5. Arkansas State University $5,232
  6. Southern Arkansas University $6,750
  7. University of West Alabama $9,100
  8. Troy University $9,312
  9. Jacksonville State University $9,720
  10. Northern Kentucky University $10,008
  1. Aspen University $3,900
  2. University of West Georgia $4,338
  3. Valdosta State University $4,572
  4. Arkansas State University $4,986
  5. Southern Arkansas University $5,274
  6. Columbus State University $6,300
  7. University of West Alabama $6,678
  8. Liberty University $7,847
  9. Troy University $8,550
  10. Purdue Global $8,730

Key Takeaways

  • The PhD is a terminal degree in most fields, and can provide access to high-ranking leadership opportunities as well as professorship and research roles. The online doctoral program may offer an affordable alternative to the traditional brick-and-mortar experience.

  • The cost of a PhD can vary widely depending on school and length of time to completion. Annual tuition can range from $30,000 for in-state public universities to $100,000 a year at a private graduate school.

  • A growing number of highly respected graduate schools are offering access to affordable online doctoral programs, which can help to reduce costs like housing, transportation, and certain campus fees.

Featured Programs

An Overview of the Doctorate Degree

Why get an online doctorate degree?

Many doctoral candidates have already reached more advanced stages in their career. The online doctorate is a great way to continue in your education while remaining active in your career. Online doctoral degree programs are often tailored to the scheduling needs of working professionals. This means that you may be able to complete your online doctorate while still earning a living. This can help offset your dependence on financial aid options and, ultimately, reduce your student loan debt.

What kinds of online doctoral degree programs are there?

Online doctoral degree programs are offered in a variety of disciplines including business administration, health sciences, computer science, and more. Some doctoral degree programs do not naturally lend themselves to online learning, but for those that do, it may be possible to choose from a variety of affordable online doctorate degrees.

What can you do with a doctoral degree?

Earning a doctorate qualifies you to work at the highest levels in your field including executive leadership business, consultation in public affairs, work as a university professor, or a career spent in research. Depending on your area of concentration, your online doctoral program could allow you to contribute to important economic research, participate in major long-term public health surveys, or provide R&D leadership to a major consumer brand.

What are the admission requirements for an online doctorate degree program?

The admission requirements for online doctoral degree programs are the same as those for a traditional doctorate degree. The bachelor’s degree is typically the basic threshold for entry into a doctoral program. Most reputable online doctoral degree programs will also require a strong academic track record and a minimum undergraduate GPA. You are not required to earn a master’s degree before gaining entry into a doctoral degree program. However, some doctoral programs may recognize these graduate credits. Starting with some credits earned could reduce the time and money you’ll spend on your PhD. In other words, if you already have a master’s degree, you could choose from an array of more affordable online doctorate degree programs.

How much does a doctoral degree cost?

The cost of a doctoral degree is extremely variant. Most online doctoral programs fall on the higher end of the cost spectrum and can range from roughly $30-$40K per year for in-state students to upwards of $60,000 to $100,000 per year for out of state students. That said, the most affordable online doctoral programs actually offer online learning opportunities for as little as $5,000 to $9,000 per year.

Can I get an affordable online doctorate degree?

Yes, you can absolutely get an affordable online doctorate degree. A growing number of highly reputable universities now provide partially or fully online doctoral programs. For many doctoral students, one of the biggest challenges is balancing the enormous commitment of time spent on research and coursework with work, family and home-life demands.

Earning an online doctorate makes it possible to save money on expenses like housing, transportation, and certain campus fees. Online doctoral programs also make it possible to continue working in your field, which means you can complete your degree program while still earning a living. This can ultimately reduce your dependence on student loan debt.

An affordable, quality education from an accredited online doctorate program is within your reach. Our in-depth, comprehensive guide to affordable degree programs will give you even more tips on making a doctorate degree as affordable as possible.

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How We Rank the Most Affordable Online PhD Programs

In most cases, the most affordable online doctoral degree programs will be those offered by universities in your state. Online students who attend public universities enjoy access to in-state tuition rates just like traditional on-campus doctoral candidates.

That’s why we’ve ranked these online doctorate programs by placing the highest weight on in-state tuition rates. The tuition price listed below may not reflect the lower rate extended to in-state residents. Click on each school to learn more about in state tuition discounts. Other factors included in our ranking are Influence–the measure of a school’s excellence based on the real-world impact of its professors, students, and alumni; and the percentage of full-time students enrolled in online degree programs at each institution.

Below is a mix of both public and private universities offering the most affordable online doctoral degree programs on the higher education landscape.

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Most Affordable Online PhD Programs for In-State Students

  1. #3

    Purdue Global

    West Lafayette , IN
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  2. #4

    Liberty University

    Lynchburg , VA
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  3. #10

    Saint Leo University

    Saint Leo , FL
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  4. #16

    Regent University

    Virginia Beach , VA
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  5. #18

    Troy University

    Troy , AL
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More on the Cost of a PhD

How much does an online doctoral degree cost on average?

The average cost of a year in an online doctoral degree program is somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per year for both private and public grad schools. However, you can pay as much as $100,000 per year to attend some of the nation’s most prestigious private schools. The most affordable online doctorate degree programs may cost as little as $5,000 to $9,000 per year of tuition and fees.

How can I lower the cost of my online doctoral degree?

Financial aid, scholarships, and geographical considerations all offer ways to offset the sticker price of an online doctoral degree. Financial aid and scholarships are both central considerations as you look for ways to cut your PhD program costs. Finding a grad school in state can also offer various opportunities for state-specific financial aid and tuition discounts.

Why get a doctoral degree online?

You may also be able to offset some of the expenses of the doctoral degree by earning your PhD online. While tuition for online doctoral degree programs is generally in line with tuition for the traditional PhD experience, you may be able to saving on housing, transportation, and certain campus fees.

For more tips on getting an affordable online education, check out our Guide to Financial Aid in Higher Education