The 5 Most Affordable Online MBA Programs 2021

Are you ready to discover your MBA program?

Students looking to pursue MBAs may worry about student debt and salary potential for prospective careers. Professionals who typically hold MBAs, like medical and health services managers, can earn salaries exceeding $100,000.

Fortunately, opportunities abound for prospective students seeking affordable online MBA programs and/or cheap in-person degrees. However, some applicants associate “affordable” with “low-quality,” which may deter them from pursuing these opportunities.

To that end, we have compiled a list of some of the best affordable MBA programs to help students in their search. We designate an MBA program as “affordable” if it offers low tuition, excellent financial aid resources, and/or cheap online options.

Read the Core Topics: What to Expect | Making MBAs Cheaper | Will My MBA Pay Off? | FAQs | Most Affordable Online MBAs

Why Get an Affordable Online MBA?

Online MBAs grew in popularity even before the COVID-19 pandemic triggered rapid growth in online education. In 2018, Forbes reported a year-over-year increase of nearly 50% in the number of online MBA programs ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Forbes also found that online MBA grads saw their salaries increase by an average of 29% in their post-business school careers.

While the traditional classroom experience still offers strong value, online learning delivers far more flexibility and convenience. Most affordable online MBA programs use asynchronous delivery formats, allowing you to engage with learning on your own schedule. Busy professionals who want to keep their current jobs while upgrading their education can pursue these degrees.

Data supports this notion, as 91% of respondents to a 2017 U.S. News & World Report survey indicated they worked full time while pursuing online MBAs. Online learners also tend to be older than their campus-based counterparts, suggesting that many turn to the virtual classroom to earn a career-boosting edge without putting their professional lives on pause.

Choosing an affordable online MBA maximizes the return on your educational investment while delivering many other benefits, including:

Access to More Options
Before the online age, students who wanted to continue working while studying could mostly only pursue nearby programs. The internet has eliminated this limitation, opening access to a full array of schools, concentrations, and specializations.
Graduating with Less Debt
Business schools often possess a reputation for their high tuition rates. Affordable online MBA programs reduce costs, enabling students to graduate with lower debt and reap the benefits of their increased salaries.
Engaging with Emerging Technology
Business schools use cutting-edge technologies to deliver lectures and course materials to online students. Companies use many of the same resources when engaging with clients and stakeholders remotely.
Viewpoint Diversity
Online MBA programs tend to draw students with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, bringing a deeper, more enriched pool of ideas to the virtual classroom.
International Opportunity
As affordable online MBA programs become more popular and prestigious, they draw more interest from the international student and business communities. Enrollees can use their online MBA programs to network on a global scale.

Evaluating the Cheapest Online MBA Programs

The following table offers a starting point for students seeking affordable MBA programs, detailing the average prices of in-state, out-of-state, international, and distance learning options. Program prices vary significantly, but online degrees generally cost less.

Many top MBA programs share similar characteristics. Students can find similar curricula, concentrations, and university resources among the cheapest MBA programs.

Full-time MBA Tuition (Reflecting the Full Cost of the Program from Start to Finish)

Mean Price



Mean Price



Mean Price



Mean Price



Source: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business

  • Accreditation: Students seeking affordable online MBA programs should ensure each school’s accreditation status. Regional accreditation represents the highest standard of excellence. National accreditation typically applies to for-profit and vocational institutions. Prospective students can also seek programs boasting programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
  • Affordability: Top programs ensure that students can graduate without incurring overwhelming debt or personal hardship. They may offer low tuition rates or reduced rates for online students. Some schools bridge the affordability gap by offering financial aid to online MBA students. At Creighton University, for example, 100% of online MBA students receive some amount of financial aid.
  • Post-Graduation Success: MBA programs often advertise their graduates’ success by detailing alumni salaries, promotions, employment rates, and impressive employers and/or job titles. Prospective students should research each program’s graduation rate. Schools with graduation rates of 70% or higher tend to reflect a positive student experience.
  • Online Resources: The best affordable online MBA programs ensure that distance learners benefit from access to university resources, like career centers, libraries, tutoring, and networking opportunities. Programs with large percentages of online students often prioritize distance learners and devote significant resources to their experience.
  • Robust Curricula: Prospective students should seek programs offering rigorous curricula and ample opportunities for program and community involvement. Whether pursuing affordable online MBA programs or on-campus experiences, learners should compare degree offerings to ensure they can graduate with the expertise to succeed in the job market. Course offerings vary, but the best MBA programs provide foundational business knowledge and in-depth coverage of any concentration topics.

Prospective students should consider their individual situations, including their educational background and career goals. Some factors, like accreditation, always matter. Learners aiming for high-level executive positions in major companies may focus more on student outcome data and alumni networks. Those with business backgrounds might look for curricula focusing more on specializations than on MBA core courses.

Choosing a Quality MBA Program

Online MBA Programs for You

Grow your career, leadership, and business acumen with an accredited online MBA program.

What to Expect From Affordable Online MBA Programs

Most MBA degrees take 1-2 years of full-time study to complete. With professional and personal obligations, enrollees may take longer to complete their programs, often extending to 3-5 years. Schools understand that many online MBA degree-seekers work full time while studying. Institutions tailor their curricula to accommodate the practical realities of students’ needs.

Course load also varies, depending on the program’s intensity and how the school structures its credit system. General MBAs can comprise as few as 10 courses. More diversified and concentrated study paths may require up to 24 courses or more.

Schools also set distinct admission policies. Most require GMAT and/or GRE scores, academic transcripts, personal statements and/or recommendations, and relevant professional experience. The number of supported concentrations and specializations also continues to grow, giving online MBA students access to more study options than ever before.

Specialized MBAs

Many of the most affordable online MBAs offer concentrations. Degree-seekers often choose these paths when they have specific career objectives in mind. Professionals with specialized MBAs often command higher salaries, as their targeted credentials give them a competitive edge for relevant job openings.

Business schools collectively host dozens of different MBA specializations, but individual institutions typically offer about 5-8 options. Examples include common and traditional concentrations, along with innovative specializations reflecting emerging trends in modern commerce.

Professionals with specialized MBAs often command higher salaries, as their targeted credentials give them a competitive edge for relevant job openings.

Traditional specializations cover finance, international business, accounting, and supply chain management. More modern options explore technology management, big data and business analytics, and digital marketing, among others.

Popular Online MBA Courses

The specific courses included in a given MBA program depend on the school and the degree’s orientation. For example, concentrated programs typically cover specialized content beyond the scope of a general MBA. The following examples represent courses commonly offered in general MBA programs:

  • Marketing Theory and Practice: Executive and management roles often demand a thorough grounding in the theoretical and applied aspects of marketing. This course, usually taken in the early stages of an MBA, provides an introduction to the four interrelated principles of marketing product, price, place, and promotion.
  • Principles of Management: Graduates often earn leadership positions that require strong proficiencies in resource management and decision-making. This course examines crucial managerial principles, including management theory, motivational strategies, and the qualitative and quantitative factors that drive decision-oriented analysis.
  • Business Ethics: In the age of social media and mass instant communication, businesses need to pay closer attention than ever to the ethical soundness of their practices. This course uses practical examples and dilemmas to examine theories of business ethics in real-world settings. Students learn how to balance and manage ethical concerns against the business’s bottom line.
  • Quantitative Analysis: Business managers and executives analyze data to minimize costs and maximize profitability. This fundamental course applies data analysis to inventory management, scheduling, project management, and other key operational aspects.

The MBA Capstone or Thesis

Affordable online MBA programs typically culminate with comprehensive projects that demonstrate students’ mastery and synthesis of critical concepts learned throughout the degree. Most programs present this academic requirement as a capstone or thesis.

Capstone or thesis projects usually cover the credit equivalent of two full-length courses. Enrollees normally complete these projects under the supervision of senior faculty members during the final year or semester of their program.

Both formats require extensive research and a thorough analysis of specific issues that professionals commonly encounter in their careers. Thesis projects usually apply theory to an academic hypothesis, while capstones maintain a more practical and pragmatic orientation. For instance, capstones often prompt students to formulate and articulate solutions to actual challenges faced by real businesses.

Check out our guide on MBA capstone and thesis projects.

Making Affordable MBA Programs Even Cheaper

Prospective students can potentially decrease MBA program costs by considering weighing the following factors against their personal goals.

  • Required Travel: Whether considering on-campus learning or online studies, learners may need to account for travel expenses. Some online programs require participants to visit campus for orientation, immersion events, or residencies. These options provide excellent networking opportunities, but degree-seekers should weigh travel costs against potential gains.
  • Class Size: Smaller class sizes can offer personalized attention and direct access to faculty, though programs with low student-to-faculty ratios tend to be more expensive. Candidates should consider their own learning styles and whether they thrive in larger classes.
  • Institutional Prestige: Some employers prioritize candidates with degrees from prestigious institutions, making school reputation an important consideration. These schools may charge higher tuition rates as a result. Prospective students should carefully consider whether paying higher rates for prestigious institutions would help them achieve their goals.
  • Online vs. On-Campus: Affordable online MBA programs commonly offer reduced tuition rates to distance learners, including opportunities for out-of-state learners to pay resident rates. With the flexibility of online programs, learners can study from home and potentially continue working while earning their degrees.

Cheap Online MBA Programs That Do Not Require the GMAT

Online MBA schools use the GMAT as a benchmark to select prospective students. The GMAT acts as a great tool for the admissions process, but many students do not feel comfortable taking such a high-pressure test. Luckily, many online MBA programs have no GMAT requirements.

This relieves some stress from the application process and saves applicants some money. Graduate school entrance exams, such as the GMAT, can create an extra financial hurdle due to the expense of preparation and the test fee itself.

GMAT preparation books often cost around $50, and practice tests typically charge around $30. It costs $250 to sit for the GMAT exam, and some students may need to take it more than once.

Affordable MBAs That Do Not Require the GMAT

Financial Aid Options for an Online MBA Program

Even the cheapest MBA programs can make for a significant financial investment, and many students may seek additional financial aid to help fund their degrees. The following articles describe various funding sources, tips on accessing financial aid, and an in-depth guide on the FAFSA.

Financing Your MBA Degree

How to Save Even More Money on Your Affordable MBA

After choosing an affordable MBA program and taking advantage of financial aid options, learners can continue making money-saving choices. The list below describes the advantages of accelerating a degree through overloading credits, choosing textbook alternates, and making loan payments during school to lower overall interest.

  • Credit Overload: Many schools let online MBA enrollees take more courses in a semester than typically allowed. Learners can submit credit overload requests to complete their degrees more quickly and save money.
  • Summer Classes: Using the summer term to complete coursework also helps students save money and complete their degrees in less time.
  • Cheaper Textbooks: Instead of purchasing new physical textbooks, consider renting the required materials or buying digital copies.
  • Loan Payments: Learners who make loan payments while in school accrue less interest.

Will Getting My MBA Pay Off?

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAG) reports strong demand for MBA graduates in the U.S. and overseas. Worldwide, 91% of recruiters reported that they planned to hire MBAs in 2021. This indicates that MBA graduates can expect a strong job market around the world.

In addition to job security, students should research potential salaries to calculate how long it would take to see a return on their MBA investment. GMAC projected that new MBA hires would earn a median annual wage of $115,000 in 2021. Students should consider their salary-to-debt ratio and their school’s graduate employment records when estimating their return on investment.

Worldwide, 91% of recruiters reported that they planned to hire MBAs in 2021.

MBA graduates qualify for lucrative career opportunities in health management, technology, sales, and executive management. The following table includes median annual salary data related to common roles for individuals with MBAs.

Career Median Annual Salary
Administrative Services Managers $96,940
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers $135,900
Computer and Information Research Scientist $122,840
Computer and Information Systems Managers $146,360
Financial Analysts $81,590
Financial Managers $129,890
Management Analysts $85,260
Medical and Health Services Managers $100,980
Sales Managers $126,640
Top Executives $104,690
Source: BLS

Discover MBA Careers

Affordable Online MBA FAQs

  • Is an MBA online worth it?

    Yes. Graduates with accredited online MBAs can qualify for lucrative job opportunities, which typically pay well above the median annual income for their states of choice.

  • How are online MBA programs accredited?

    Accredited online MBA programs meet the same standards as in-person programs. Regional, national, and programmatic accrediting bodies set these standards. Regional accreditation typically ensures the most rigorous academic expectations.

  • How long does it take to complete an online MBA?

    Students can complete most online MBA programs in two years. Some programs offer expedited options, which allow students to graduate in one year of full-time enrollment.

  • How does accreditation affect affordability?

    Accreditation indicates a quality MBA program. Unaccredited schools may provide cheap online MBAs, but their degrees carry less value. By that same token, accredited programs may cost more at the outset, but their benefits outweigh the cost.

  • Are online MBAs cheaper?

    Online programs offer more affordable MBA options, as many schools allow online enrollees to pay in-state tuition or even lower prices. Some schools make no distinction, however, so students should always research tuition expectations before enrolling.

The Best Affordable Online MBA Programs

If you plan to attend business school in 2021, our ranking of the most affordable online MBA programs offers a great place to begin your research. Keep an eye out for programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE), and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). For more information on our ranking methodology, click the link below.

Our Ranking Methodology

  1. John Brown University

    Siloam Springs, AR

    Founded in 1919, JBU serves more than 2,600 students and offers 16 graduate programs in business, education, counseling, and cybersecurity. The school encapsulates an interdenominational Christian identity in its motto, "Christ over all."

    Soderquist College of Business

    JBU offers a distinctively Christian approach to the study of leadership, management, and business. The school's MBA program combines training in practical business skills with an academic exploration of ethics, leadership, and global business.

    All students take the same 24 credits of core courses, including Christian foundations of business and designing and executing strategies. Learners then take another 12 credits of electives, which can form a concentration in one of several areas.

    Each course lasts either seven or eight weeks, and most students take one class at a time. JBU offers evening classes, which students may choose to complement the fully online MBA program.

    JBU's Affordability

    JBU does not charge fees on top of tuition, and the school provides scholarships and assistantships. In addition, Arkansans enjoy the second-lowest cost of living in the U.S., helping keep overall expenses low for residents in school.

    JBU's MBA Specializations

    Cybersecurity | Design Thinking and Innovation | Healthcare Administration | International Business | Leadership | Market Research and Consumer Insights

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, ACBSP
    • Tuition: $600/credit
    • Required Credits: 36-45 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: Online
    • Admissions
      • Process: Submit the application, the fee, and a 200-word essay on professional interests; send all higher education transcripts; send three references; respond to any request for additional information
      • GPA: 2.75 minimum preferred
      • Standardized Tests: GRE for applicants with GPA below 2.75
      • Cost: $35
  2. Florida Institute of Technology

    Melbourne, FL

    Originally an engineering school, Florida Tech now serves more than 6,400 students in a variety of academic fields. The school emphasizes technology and supports research in human-centered design, software evolution, and robotics.

    Bisk College of Business

    Florida Tech's MBA combines studies in leadership, business foundations, and the soft skills critical to successful professional life. The 36-credit program includes courses in four content pillars: essentials of business development, advanced business topics, leadership and management, and industry-specific concepts.

    In addition to eight core courses, learners choose four electives, which can form a concentration. Courses run eight weeks each, and a new course begins six times each year. The school provides new students with extensive training in its educational technology platform along with support throughout the degree.

    Graduates join 60,000 alumni in 120 countries, many active on social media and through regional events.

    Florida Tech's Affordability

    Florida Tech offers substantial tuition discounts to military, public safety, and law enforcement officials. In addition, the school provides a scholarship to its own undergraduate alumni and assists other enrollees with locating financial support.

    Florida Tech's MBA Specializations

    Accounting | Accounting and Finance | Cybersecurity | Finance | Healthcare Management | Information Technology Management | Management | Marketing | Project Management | Project Management in Information Technology

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, IACBE
    • Tuition: $896/credit
    • Required Credits: 36 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: Online
    • Admissions
      • Process: Complete the online application, send transcripts
      • Cost: None
  3. Milwaukee School of Engineering

    Milwaukee, WI

    A private university of almost 3,000 students, MSOE began as an educational training ground for engineers. Today, the school's curriculum still focuses on STEM fields, and its business degrees emphasize a commitment to technology and engineering.

    Rader School of Business

    Students in MSOE's online MBA learn to solve business and technical problems in the real world. This 45-credit program prepares engineers and technical professionals to assume leadership and management roles.

    Coursework consists of 30 credits of core classes along with 15 credits of a specialization. As part of their program, students take a three-part capstone project. Courses include operations and systems management; economic analysis decision-making; and strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

    In addition to its own academic specializations, MSOE allows learners to hone their skills in healthcare management through a creative partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin.

    MSOE's Affordability

    MSOE helps MBA students find scholarships, grants, and other forms of aid through state, federal, and private systems. The school also offers benefits to veterans, their spouses, and current members of the U.S. military.

    MSOE's MBA Specializations

    Leadership | Business Analytics | Construction Management

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
    • Tuition: $891/credit
    • Required Credits: 45 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: Online
    • Admissions
      • Process: Complete the application, submit supporting documentation, pay enrollment fee upon acceptance
      • GPA: 2.8 minimum preferred
      • Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT if applicant does not hold a 2.8 GPA or above
      • Cost: None
  4. West Virginia University

    Morgantown, WV

    During its longer than 150-year history, WVU has built an extensive academic network that now offers more than 350 educational programs. The school enrolls about 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at its main campus in Morgantown, its satellite campuses, and online.

    John Chambers College of Business and Economics

    Students in WVU's hybrid MBA program prepare to enter fast-growing, high-paying careers in business and leadership. The 37-credit program requires learners to attend two residencies of three days each in order to network, study face to face, and engage in experiential education.

    Courses available through the business school include statistical decision making, marketing and business research, and supply chain design and innovation. Students can also take service learning, case studies, or independent study projects.

    In the hybrid MBA program, enrollees take eight credits in the fall and spring semesters and 4-7 credits during the summer sessions. Qualifying students can also take advantage of one of three "bolt-on certificates" listed under the specializations section below.

    WVU's Affordability

    Students from outside West Virginia pay the same tuition rate as in-state learners for WVU's online MBA program. Current and former members of the U.S. military can receive substantial discounts on tuition, along with federal support.

    WVU's MBA Specializations

    Business Data Analytics | Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination | Business Cybersecurity Management

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, AACSB
    • Tuition: $1,063/credit
    • Required Credits: 37 credits
    • Program Length: 21 months
    • Delivery Format: Hybrid
    • Admissions
      • Process: Complete the application and include a resume and letter of recommendation, send a purpose statement, pay the application fee, send transcripts
      • Standardized Tests: GMAT; waived for applicants with five years of experience and a minimum 3.0 GPA
      • Cost: $60
  5. Cedarville University

    Cedarville, OH

    An independent Baptist school located in Cedarville, Ohio, Cedarville University enrolls more than 4,000 students across 130 graduate and undergraduate programs. The institution combines a biblical worldview with practical instruction in its academic courses.

    School of Business Administration

    Cedarville MBA students explore a distinctly Christian approach to business education, learning professional skills and leadership.

    Learners take nine core courses, three specialization courses, and a three-credit Bible course, which the school does not require of enrollees minoring in biblical studies. Core courses include strategic marketing planning, executive financial management, and information technology for competitive advantage. Students also complete a capstone project. Each course takes seven weeks.

    In addition to classroom-style learning, degree-seekers can enjoy hands-on education experiences such as case studies, simulation games, and personal projects. Graduates may pursue careers in compliance, business operations, and healthcare management.

    Cedarville's Affordability

    Military members and veterans can take advantage of many programs to reduce their overall costs. Cedarville also partners with ministries, businesses, and other schools to provide a 15% discount to their employees.

    Cedarville's MBA Specializations

    Business Analytics | Cybersecurity Management | Healthcare Administration | Innovation and Entrepreneurship | Operations Management

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, ACBSP
    • Tuition: $623/credit
    • Required Credits: 36 credits
    • Program Length: 1-2 years
    • Delivery Format: Online
    • Admissions
      • Process: Complete the application; send official transcripts; send recommendations from one Christian leader and one professional leader; complete all prerequisite courses
      • GPA: 2.75 minimum preferred
      • Cost: None

Feature Image: damircudic / E+ / Getty Images

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