2021 Best Online Colleges With Low Monthly Payments

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If you want to continue your education but are on a budget, then you might be looking for online colleges with low monthly payments. Fortunately, there are affordable online colleges with payment plans so that finances don’t have to hold you back.

Online Colleges With Low Monthly Payments

Student aid is an option for many students, of course, but it’s not sufficient for everyone’s tuition needs.

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If you need extra help with school costs, you might consider whether low monthly payments can help you achieve your goals.

Online Colleges with Low Monthly Payments

Colleges with Low Monthly Payments

Forking over an entire semester’s tuition costs at once can be a daunting prospect for many would-be students. Tuition plans provide a workaround for that issue by dividing your total costs into smaller monthly payments.

What Is a College Tuition Payment Plan?

A tuition installment plan allows students to pay their college costs over time. The total tuition bill is broken up into even monthly installments.

A tuition plan can be useful for students whose full costs aren’t covered by grants and scholarships. A payment plan could mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out because you’re short a few thousand dollars at the beginning of the semester.

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A payment plan can also be a financially savvy alternative to student loans since it won’t accrue interest. It would be necessary, though, to keep up with the monthly payments.

How Do Payment Plans for Tuition Work?

Payment Plans for college Tuition

Perhaps you’re a few thousand dollars short of the tuition amount you owe for this semester. You simply won’t have enough in your bank account by the due date. Over the next several months, though, you’ll earn enough to cover the amount.

A tuition payment plan could be just what you need. There’s typically an enrollment fee for installment plans. It’s usually $100 or less, but rates vary. The fee may change depending on when you sign up in the semester. A down payment might be required as well.

Once you sign up, your outstanding balance will be divided into equal portions. Typically, it’s one portion for every month of the semester or the school year, depending on whether you’re paying for one term or the entire year. Each month, you’ll submit your payment by the due date to keep your account in good standing.

What Do Tuition Payment Plans Cover?

college Tuition Payment Plans

The coverage options will depend on your specific plan. Often, these plans are limited to tuition and fees. Some payment services will let you lump in other college expenses, too, such as textbook or equipment costs.

While this may not be an issue if you go to school online, many students do need to consider room and board. Dividing up your housing costs may require enrolling in a separate payment plan.

When to Start Checking into Payment Plans

Pros and Cons of College Tuition Payment Plans

It can be strategic to start thinking about payment plans early in the process of selecting a school. As you learn about the financial aid packages at each college you’re accepted to, you can also look into the payment plan options.

You may want to keep in mind, though, that payment plans are often most helpful for students who are within close reach of affording a particular college. If a school is well beyond your budget—even after factoring in student aid—a payment plan may not be enough to make up the difference.

Pros and Cons of College Tuition Payment Plans

While a college payment plan might help you afford an online degree, it’s not the right choice for everyone. It’s beneficial to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of college tuition payment plans before choosing to commit.

Pros Cons
  • Can spread your tuition payments out over the semester
  • Won’t incur interest that could take years to pay off
  • Not based on a credit check
  • May offer a recurring charge option so you don’t have to remember each month
  • May help you stay in school
  • Requires payments while in school instead of waiting until after graduation
  • Won’t be eligible for potential student-loan forgiveness programs
  • Risk of not earning enough money during the semester to make the payments
  • May require additional charges if you pay by credit or debit card
  • May not offer sufficient help if you’re at a school that’s well beyond your budget

Some schools offer several different payment plan options. That may allow you to select the plan that offers the most pros for your situation and the fewest cons.

Types of Tuition Payment Plans

Some colleges offer their own payment programs to help students afford school or spread out their payments. There are also third-party companies that provide such programs.

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You may discover that your college partners with a third-party company to administer its official school payment plans.

Offered through the Online School

If you’re concerned about the cost of college, the financial aid office might suggest that you take advantage of the school’s in-house tuition plan.

  • Standard Plans: The basic concept behind a standard payment plan is that it keeps you from having to pay a hefty tuition bill right at the start of the semester. Instead, the payments are evenly spread out over the semester. An enrollment fee is usually required for this type of plan.
  • Deferred Plans: At some colleges, “deferred plan” is synonymous with “payment plan.” Other schools run their deferred plans differently. They ask you to pay a significant down payment at the beginning of the semester, pay a second installment partway through, and turn in the remaining portion at the end of the semester. Enrollment fees are common, and there may be interest charged for late payments.
  • Tuition Stabilization Plans: Rather than spreading out your payments, this system is designed to prevent price hikes from rocking your budget. You’ll need to be able to pay a significant chunk of money at once in order to take advantage of this system, though. It involves prepaying for 4 to 8 semesters in order to lock in the current tuition rate.
  • Direct Bill Plans: Your employer may cover part of your tuition costs. With a direct bill plan, you can have the school’s billing department send the bill directly to the person or organization who will be paying it. The final payment may not be due until partway through the semester.

To learn more about a college’s payment plan options, you can contact the financial aid or business office.

Common Tuition Installment Plan Providers

Types of Tuition Payment Plans

Colleges and individual students often rely on the services of third-party installment plan providers.

Some payment services work with colleges to establish an official school payment plan. In that case, students may sign up for installment plans through the college’s payment portal. Other payment companies allow students to skip the school’s involvement and register with them directly.

  • Higher One: Now known as TuitionPay from Diamond Mind, this platform allows schools to handle payment plans and other financial matters in-house. The service allows students or parents to set up payment plans online without having to involve the school’s financial aid office. Payment options include credit cards, electronic checks, and automatic withdrawals.
  • Nelnet Business Solutions: Nelnet partners with colleges to help them manage student payment needs. This includes offering installment plans with options like automatic withdrawal, online monitoring, and strategies for catching up after a late payment.
  • University Accounting Service: UAS helps schools set up tuition payment plans. The company prides itself in offering state-of-the-art online technology as well as outstanding customer service. Schools that partner with UAS can choose which service features they’d like to use.
  • Tuition Management Systems: TMS partners with Nelnet Campus Commerce to offer payment plans directly to students and their families. Enrollees can also choose to combine a payment plan and a student loan into one monthly payment. An online payment portal simplifies the process of dealing with finances.

Even if your college doesn’t partner with a third-party service, you might be able to ask the financial aid department to recommend one.

How to Choose a College Payment Plan Program

Choose a College Payment Plan Program

If you have options for which payment plan to choose, you may want to consider various factors like the ones listed below:

  • Convenience features. Some programs offer automatic bank withdrawals or recurring charges so you don’t have to worry about missing a payment. Others have online portals or mobile apps so that you can always have your account information at your fingertips.
  • Credit card surcharge. You may have to pay an extra 2% or 3% each month if you want to pay with a debit or credit card. Some plans don’t accept credit card payments at all.
  • Included costs. Plans typically cover tuition and fees. There are some, though, that will also provide coverage for housing, food, textbooks, or equipment.
  • Late penalties. It’s common for plans to impose a late fee if you miss a payment deadline. Plus, you may not be able to enroll for the next semester until you get caught up on your bill.
  • Setup fee. The cost to get started with a payment plan could be as low as $30 or as high as $100 or more. Some plans charge more if you wait until the last minute to sign up.

You may not need to spend much time debating which company to use, though. It’s common for colleges to partner with one specific payment company or offer in-house deferment programs.

What’s the Difference Between Student Loans vs. Monthly Payment Plans?

Both student loans and payment plans are options that could help make college more affordable for you. Each approaches online college tuition assistance in a different way, though.

Student Loans Monthly Payment Plans
  • May require good credit
  • Accrue interest
  • Obtained from government loan programs or private sources
  • May not need to be repaid until after college
  • Can accumulate late fees
  • Don’t depend on a credit check
  • Charge an enrollment fee
  • Often arranged through the school
  • Must be paid during the school year
  • Can accumulate late fees

Loans and payment plans are not mutually exclusive. You may find that a mix of the two is the best fit for you.

How Much Does an Online College Cost?

Online College Cost

College courses online often cost between $300 and $700 per credit. Some are more expensive, of course.

Graduate degrees often involve higher per-credit costs than undergraduate degrees. Your online college tuition will be the cost per credit hour multiplied by the number of credit hours that you take. There will probably be additional fees as well.

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State schools often provide discounted rates for residents. Military personnel sometimes receive special discounts as well. Grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid can also lower your overall costs.

When Do You Pay College Tuition?

When Do You Pay College Tuition

Each school sets its own payment deadline for the semester. You’ll probably need to turn in your money before the term begins or within a few weeks of its start.

Not making your payment in time can jeopardize your future as a student. If you miss the deadline, you may be dropped from your classes. Falling behind on your account may also keep you from registering for the next term. Fortunately, payment plans often give you extra time to cover the cost of your online courses.

Online Colleges with Monthly Payment Plans

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited, offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format, and offer a monthly payment plan to students.

University Name Online Degrees Offered
Academy of Art University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate
American College of Education Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Arkansas State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, Ed Specialist, and Certificate
Athens State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate
Bellevue College Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Certificate
Boise State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
California Southern University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
California State University – Northridge Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Central Michigan University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Chadron State College Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Clarion University of Pennsylvania Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Clayton State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate
Clemson University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Colorado Christian University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate and Certificate
Colorado State University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Concordia University – Irvine Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Cornerstone University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Dallas Baptist University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Delta State University Master’s, Doctoral, and Education Specialist
Doane University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Eastern Florida State College Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Certificate
Edinboro University Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Endicott College Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate
Ferris State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate
Fisher College Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Florida Institute of Technology Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Florida State College at Jacksonville Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Certificate
Fitchburg State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Fort Hays State University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ed Specialist, and Doctoral
Franklin University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral
Fresno Pacific University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Georgia Southern University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Governors State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Great Basin College Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Certificate
Huntington University Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Certificate
Jacksonville State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, Ed Specialist, and Certificate
Kansas State University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
King University Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s
Lesley University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Liberty University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Lindenwood University Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate
Medaille College Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Marshall University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Metropolitan State University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Middle Georgia State University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Minot State University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Missouri Valley College Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Moody Bible Institute Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
National Louis University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Nicholls State University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
North Carolina Central University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Northcentral University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Northern Arizona University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Nova Southeastern University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, Ed Specialist, and Certificate
Oakland University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Old Dominion University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Peninsula College Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Certificate
Pennsylvania State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Point Park University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Portland State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Post University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Prescott College Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Sam Houston State University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
South Texas College Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Certificate
Southern Arkansas University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
St. Petersburg College Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Certificate
Texas A&M University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral
Thomas Edison State University Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Trident University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral
University at Buffalo Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
University of Akron Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
University of Arkansas – Little Rock Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
University of Illinois – Springfield Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
University of Kansas Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
University of Louisiana – Lafayette Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
University of Louisville Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
University of Massachusetts – Boston Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, Ed Specialist, and Certificate
University of Massachusetts – Lowell Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, Ed Specialist, and Certificate
University of Michigan – Flint Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
University of Minnesota Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
University of Nevada – Las Vegas Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral
University of Nevada – Reno Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
University of North Carolina – Greensboro Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
University of North Dakota Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
University of Phoenix Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
University of Southern Mississippi Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
University of Tennessee – Martin Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate
University of Texas – Permian Basin Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Certificate
University of the Cumberlands Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, Ed Specialist, and Certificate
University of West Florida Master’s, Doctoral, and Education Specialist
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate’s
University of Wyoming Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral, and Certificate
Utah State University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Virginia Commonwealth University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate and Certificate
Walden University Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and Certificate
Webster University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
West Virginia University at Parkersburg Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Certificate
Western Governors University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Western Michigan University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Certificate
Wright State University Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral

Getting Your Degree Online

Getting Your Degree Online

College costs money, but there are affordable programs out there. Looking for low-cost online schools may be the first step on your educational journey toward a college degree.

The option for online classes may be another asset that helps make college a reality for you. With online study, you have the chance to earn a quality education in a format that meets your needs. Online college can be especially convenient for working adults.

You can start exploring accredited online schools with low tuition today. Once you find the affordable college that’s right for you, a monthly installment plan may help you make the payments.

Ready to start your journey?
Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.