Cheapest Online MBA Programs of 2022

Updated June 3, 2022 | Holland Webb

Cheapest Online MBA Programs of 2022

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.

Online MBA Programs for You

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

Why Get an Affordable Online MBA?

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered rapid growth in online education, including MBAs. The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) reported a growth in graduate business school applications from 2019-2020. Likewise, the National Association of Colleges and Employers projects the average starting salary for winter 2021 MBA grads to increase 11% over winter 2020 graduates — from $79,040 to $87,970.

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.

The Cost of Online MBA Programs

Overall, MBA program costs are on the rise. According to a 2021 report from BusinessBecause, the cost of an MBA has increased by 4.7% from 2020-2021. Cost of tuition alone increased by 7.6%. An MBA from a top-ranked school now costs $176,000 on average, BusinessBecause reports.

According to BusinessBecause's report, non-U.S. MBA prices are growing at the fastest rates. Even so, U.S. MBAs are still the most expensive, with tuition averaging $148,978. That said, online MBAs may be cheaper than in-person MBAs, cutting out commuting and housing expenses.

Prospective learners seeking cheap online MBAs should consider the following factors before they apply:

  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

Online MBA Programs for You

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

Will Getting My MBA Pay Off?

The GMAC reports strong demand for MBA graduates in the U.S. and overseas. Worldwide, 91% of recruiters reported that they planned to hire MBAs. 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 and Facilities Managers $98,890
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers $141,490
Computer and Information Research Scientist $122,840
Computer and Information Systems Managers $126,830
Financial Analysts $83,660
Financial Managers $134,180
Management Analysts $87,660
Medical and Health Services Managers $104,280
Sales Managers $132,290
Top Executives $107,680
Source: BLS

Affordable Online MBA FAQ

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 may offer more affordable MBA options. 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, 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.

  1. California Institute of Advanced Management
    Location

    Alhambra, CA

    CIAM's MBA in executive management teaches responsible business management principles. Learners discover how to create social impact and change. Enrollees can specialize in business analytics or project management.

    One of the most affordable MBA programs, CIAM provides free textbooks to enrollees. The 36-credit curriculum covers topics such as global business concepts and ethical leadership. Students gain hands-on experience by building six live business projects. Learners can include these projects in their professional portfolio.

    CIAM's MBA program uses a hybrid format featuring 16-week terms. Students complete online classes with weekend campus meetings every 6-8 weeks. Applicants need a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. They also need at least one year of professional experience.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission; Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
    • Tuition: $667 per credit
    • Required Credits: 36
    • Program Length: 24 months
    • Delivery Format: Hybrid
    • Admission Requirements: Transcripts and resume; a statement of purpose (300-500 words); interviews
  2. Rice University
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Established in 1912 , Rice serves over 7,000 students online and at its campus in Houston, Texas. The school's 11% acceptance rate makes it one of the nation's most selective institutions. Rice's online MBA trains enrollees in areas such as financial accounting and data analysis. Learners develop interpersonal skills in areas such as managerial leadership and negotiation.

    The 54-credit program operates with a quadmester schedule. Students take almost all classes online. However, they must complete two in-person intensive learning experiences.

    Learners can specialize in areas such as corporate finance, energy, and healthcare. Like other affordable online MBA programs, Rice allows students to use grants and loans to pay for their degree.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
    • Tuition: $2,036 per credit
    • Required Credits: 54
    • Program Length: 24 months
    • Delivery Format: Online except for two intensive learning experiences
    • Admission Requirements: A resume; three recommendation letters; an essay; GMAT, GRE, or executive assessment from the past five years
  3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $10085

    UNC-Chapel Hill began enrolling students in 1795, making it the nation's first public university. Applicants to the school's online MBA program need a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. They also need at least two years of professional experience. The program includes scheduled virtual classes and multimedia courses that students complete asynchronously.

    Enrollees complete two on-campus summit experiences. These summits focus on areas like leadership development and consulting. One of the most affordable online MBA programs, UNC-Chapel Hill covers summit costs as part of tuition. However, students must pay for their travel expenses.

    Learners can specialize in topics such as finance, marketing, and entrepreneurship. UNC-Chapel Hill automatically considers MBA degree-seekers for any fellowships.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
    • Tuition: $2,670 per credit for North Carolina residents; $3,541 per credit for out-of-state students
    • Required Credits: 62
    • Program Length: 24 months
    • Delivery Format: Online except for two in-person summits
    • Admission Requirements: Two recommendation letters; two essays; GMAT or GRE scores for applicants with less than five years of work experience; a virtual interview
  4. Western Governors University
    Location

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Established in 1997, WGU offers an accelerated online MBA. Unlike other affordable online MBA programs, enrollees progress through the program by demonstrating mastery of skills. They do not complete a set of required courses or credits. Instead, learners demonstrate their mastery of concepts in a specific area before moving on to the next competency area.

    WGU's MBA is designed for working students. The curriculum emphasizes the roles and functions of management and leadership styles. Students explore topics such as self-awareness and self-assessment.

    Learners complete 11 courses, including a capstone. Each course counts for 3-4 competency units. Online learners must complete at least eight units each six-month term. MBA specialization options include healthcare management and information technology management. Students pay a flat-rate tuition that covers up to eight units per term.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
    • Tuition: $4,530 per six-month term
    • Required Credits: 34-35 competency units, depending on specialization
    • Program Length: 12 months
    • Delivery Format: Online
    • Admission Requirements: Transcripts; an interview
  5. Parker University
    Location

    Dallas, TX

    Founded in 1982, Parker offers certificate, undergraduate, and graduate programs through multiple delivery formats. The school's online MBA program applies healthcare perspectives to business principles. Learners take 24 credits in core MBA areas and 12 credits in one of four specialized healthcare management concentrations.

    One of the nation's most affordable online MBA programs, this program provides learners access to financial aid coordinators. Parker offers start dates every eight weeks. Students enroll in one class each eight-week session. They can complete the entire degree in six terms. Specialization options include healthcare management and practice management.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
    • Tuition: $740 per credit
    • Required Credits: 36
    • Program Length: 24 months
    • Delivery Format: Online
    • Admission Requirements: Resume; GMAT, GRE, or MAT scores; transcripts; a 3.0 GPA or a 2.7 GPA with at least two years of documented professional work experience

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