The State of Higher Education 2022 Report reveals that 54% of students who dropped out of college cite cost as the most significant factor. The cost of getting a degree is considered a major barrier for the never-enrolled, as well as the previously enrolled (Gallup, 2022). Getting a college degree is expensive. Fortunately, there are ways to get around these types of barriers, such as finding the most affordable online accounting degree programs.
If there is one positive gain from the pandemic, it is the wide acceptance of online degree programs. Today, online degrees are at par with on-campus programs. Both are now perceived as having the same quality and rigor, and employers also agree. Aside from increasing access to quality education, online degrees facilitated the fast completion of degrees by individuals who otherwise would not have secured a degree due to various competing responsibilities. For instance, more graduates are now able to practice psychology as top psychology degree offerings online have made it possible for them to earn a degree and pursue further studies.
This article provides the result of research conducted by the Research.com team on the most affordable accounting degree programs. Using all available data from top-notch institutions offering online accounting degrees, we have put together in this single guide information on costs, the types of financial aid and scholarships that you can avail of, as well as the methods that you can adopt to lower the overall cost of getting your accounting degree.
Typically, the first discussion focuses on what is a bachelor's degree? But since this article is about cost, we will give you right away the most important factors that influence the cost of an accounting degree. The cost of an accounting bachelor's degree can vary greatly depending on factors such as the location of the college or university, whether the school is public or private, and whether the student is attending full-time or part-time.
According to data from The College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for a full-time undergraduate student at a public four-year institution for the 2022-2023 academic year was $10,940 for in-state students and $28,240 for out-of-state students. The average cost of tuition and fees for a full-time undergraduate student at a private nonprofit four-year institution was $39,400. On the other hand, the most affordable online accounting bachelor's degree program costs $6,990 for in-state students and $8,730 for out-of-state students.
Other expenses, such as room and board, textbooks, and transportation, can add several thousand dollars to the overall cost of the degree. Additionally, the cost of an on-campus or online bachelors degree in accounting may also vary depending on the specific program and any additional fees or requirements associated with it.
Source: The College Board
Several factors can impact the identification of the most affordable online accounting degree, including the matriculation status of the student, whether full-time or part-time, and also whether a student is taking the maximum load for the semester. Other factors that affect overall costs are the financial aid packages and scholarships available to a student, the course delivery format, the duration of the program, the type of institution, whether public or private, and the location of the university or institution.
Student matriculation or enrollment status can impact the overall cost of an accounting degree. Typically, full-time students pay more in tuition and fees than part-time students since they are taking more courses and credits each semester. However, full-time students often complete the degree program in less time than part-time students, which can result in lower overall costs.
For example, a full-time student may be able to complete a four-year accounting bachelor's degree program in exactly four years, while a part-time student may take six years to complete the same program. The part-time student may pay less in tuition and fees each semester, but the overall cost of the degree may be higher due to the additional time and expenses required to complete the program. This applies to any type of degree, even to a bachelor's in biology.
Additionally, some institutions offer discounted tuition rates for full-time students who take a "full load" of courses each semester. A full load typically refers to the maximum number of credits that a student can take in a semester. These discounts can help to make the degree more affordable for students. In October 2021, 42.7% of all enrolled college students were full-time, while 83.6% were part-time (BLS, 2022).
The cost of living can vary widely depending on the location of the school. For example, living expenses in urban areas are typically higher than those in rural areas. Students who live off-campus may be able to find more affordable housing options in areas with lower costs of living, which can help to reduce the overall cost of the degree. In academic 2022-2023, the average room and board charge was $12,310 (The College Board, 2023). Even if you find the cheapest online college for accounting, there are still other costs that you need to take into account.
Whether you will incur additional costs on transportation also depends on where the school is located. The cost of transportation can also impact the overall cost of the degree. Students who live on campus may not need to spend as much on transportation since they can walk or bike to class. However, students who live off-campus may need to factor in transportation costs to get to and from school.
The tuition for online courses may be lower than for on-campus courses. This is because online courses do not require the same level of resources as on-campus courses, such as classroom space, utilities, and maintenance. For example, a business degree online may not require the same fees for technology, laboratory materials, or campus services.
If we compare the tuition and cost of attendance for public four-year colleges between an online degree and an in-person degree, the online degree is $36,595 cheaper. Also, for an online degree, private institutions, on average, charge $60,593 vs $129,800 for an in-person degree (Hanson, 2022).
Online courses do not require transportation to and from campus, which can save students money on gas, parking, or public transportation. Additionally, online courses may not require students to live on-campus or close to campus, which can save students money on housing costs. Online courses, such as nursing online programs, may allow students to complete the degree program faster than on-campus courses. This is because online courses may offer more flexible schedules and allow students to complete coursework at their own pace. This can reduce the overall cost of the degree program by reducing the number of semesters or years that students need to be enrolled.
Financial aid can have a significant impact on the overall cost of an accounting degree. It can be used to pay for educational expenses, including tuition, fees, books, and living expenses. Financial aid comes in various forms, such as grants, loans, or work-study programs. If you want to know how much does it cost to get a doctorate degree, you can also factor in the available financial aid for doctorate students.
The Federal Pell Grant is a need-based grant that does not need to be repaid. It is available to undergraduate students that are qualified for financial assistance. The Federal Work-Study Program provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate financial need. Students can work on or off campus to earn money to help pay for their educational expenses.
Between 2001-02 and 2021-22, the average grant aid per full-time equivalent (FTE) undergraduate student doubled, from $5,190 to $10,590 in 2021 dollars (The College Board, 2023). A study that documented the effects of financial aid on student outcomes long after they have completed their undergraduate education by Bettinger et al (2019) found that, "Grant eligibility raises bachelor’s degree attainment by 3.0 to 4.6 percentage points, with estimates based on award utilization over twice as large."
Published in The American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, the authors of "The Long-Run Impacts of Financial Aid: Evidence from California's Cal Grant" established that, "Large increases in degree completion occur primarily from increased persistence among students who begin in four-year institutions, rather than through changes in postsecondary sector. In fact, aid eligibility produces significant shifts from public to private universities for some students, but does not appear to drive any significant degree increases for this group above and beyond what is observed for other students."
Federal Direct Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate financial need. Subsidized loans do not accrue interest while the student is enrolled in school, while unsubsidized loans accrue interest from the time they are disbursed. The Federal Direct PLUS Loan is available to graduate students or parents of undergraduate students who need to borrow money to pay for educational expenses.
There are several ways to make the cheapest online accounting degree even more affordable. You may look for scholarships, consider community colleges, take advantage of transfer credits, opt for a part-time program, or look for discounts. To minimize your out-of-pocket expenses, you may consider applying for scholarships instead of taking out loans.
In 2021-2022, the average aid per full-time equivalent undergraduate student was $10,590 (The College Board, 2023). While loans can be a useful tool for financing higher education, scholarships offer several advantages that can help to minimize debt. Scholarships are generally considered a better option than loans because they do not have to be repaid, are based on merit or need, can reduce or eliminate tuition costs, and can improve career prospects.
Unlike loans, scholarships are typically awarded as a gift, meaning that the recipient does not have to pay them back. This can be a significant advantage for students who are trying to minimize their debt burden. Scholarships are often awarded based on merit or financial need, which means that students who have demonstrated academic or other achievements or who come from disadvantaged backgrounds may be eligible for scholarships.
Source: The College Board 2023
The median annual salary of accountants and auditors, including CPA salaries, in 2021 was around $77,250, with the lowest 10% earning less than 47,970 and the highest 10% earning more than $128,970. Online accounting programs offer several benefits over traditional on-campus programs, including flexibility, affordability, and accessibility. Students can complete coursework on their own schedules, often at a lower cost than on-campus programs, and without the need to relocate or commute.
In addition, many employers now recognize the value of online degrees. They are willing to hire candidates with online degrees as long as the program is accredited and meets the same standards as on-campus programs. Corporate recruiters today value graduates of online and in-person programs equally, as reflected in a 2022 survey (GMAC, 2022).
Online degree completion ultimately depends on the effort and commitment of the student. Like on-campus programs, online programs require hard work to succeed. Students must also ensure that the program they choose is accredited and meets the educational requirements for the accounting profession, two important factors that can be present in the most affordable online accounting degree. Compare an accounting program to a bachelor's degree in finance online program.
Accounting degrees can provide a positive return on investment (ROI). There are several online tools available that can help you calculate the potential ROI even of the least expensive online accounting degree. These tools typically take into account factors such as the cost of the degree program, your expected starting salary, and your future earning potential. You may use an online ROI tool to perform your own analysis and compare program costs to your expected salary.
One such tool is the College ROI Calculator by Payscale, which allows you to compare the costs and expected returns of different colleges and degree programs. The tool factors in various costs such as tuition, fees, and living expenses, as well as your future earnings potential based on your chosen major and career path.
The CFPB Your Money Your Goals Debt and Income Calculation Tool is a financial planning tool created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to help individuals assess their debt and income situation. It includes a debt-to-income ratio calculator and a budgeting worksheet, which can help individuals identify areas where they can cut back on expenses and increase their income.
To further evaluate your ROI, it would also help to check the employment outcomes for accounting graduates of the schools you are considering. As a point of reference, you may also check data on the average income of professionals that have similarities with your current qualifications against those with the educational credential that you plan to pursue.
The job outlook for accounting graduates is generally positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 6% from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by a number of factors, including the continued globalization of business, the need for businesses to comply with financial regulations, and the increasing complexity of tax laws.
In addition to overall job growth, there is also demand for specialized areas of accounting, such as forensic accounting, environmental accounting, and international accounting. A survey by the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance found that sustainable investment assets reached $35.3 trillion globally in 2020, up from $22.8 trillion in 2016 (GSIA, 2020). This trend suggests that there may be increasing demand for accounting professionals with knowledge of environmental accounting and sustainable finance. With the rise of technology and big data, there is also a need for accountants who are skilled in data analysis and information systems.
So, what does a CPA do? Our research team has compiled the most common jobs that accounting graduates and CPAs have. The list below includes job titles, their descriptions, and the estimated average yearly salaries.
Staff accountants typically work under the supervision of a senior accountant or accounting manager and are responsible for preparing financial statements, maintaining financial records, and analyzing financial data. According to PayScale, the average salary for a staff accountant is $51,373 per year.
Internal auditors review an organization's financial statements and processes to identify potential risks and areas for improvement. According to PayScale, the average salary for an internal auditor is $62,857 per year.
While financial analyst roles can also be considered mid-level, there are some entry-level opportunities available. Financial analysts help organizations make investment and financial decisions by analyzing financial data and market trends. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for financial analysts is $83,660.
Tax associates work under the supervision of a tax manager or senior tax accountant, and are responsible for preparing tax returns and conducting research on tax laws and regulations. According to PayScale, the average salary for a tax associate is $58,657 per year.
Cost accountants are responsible for analyzing and managing the costs of an organization's products or services. According to PayScale, the average salary for a cost accountant is $57,734 per year.
The top online accounting programs prepare students to excel in their accounting careers. For many students interested in accounting, getting a certified public accountant (CPA) license is the ultimate goal. From the smallest startup to the largest government agency, every business or organization requires the skills of a CPA. The CPA credential is highly regarded. To a potential employer, it means high ethical standards as well as measurable experience, education, and skills. In 2020, CPA firms in the U.S. hired new accounting graduates, of which 66% were assigned to the auditing function, 24% to the taxation function, and 3.6% to the information management and technology assurance function (AICPA, 2021).
The Research.com team ranked the top online accounting programs based on cost, variety of courses and specializations offered, and the career outcomes of graduates. The following institutions offer the best online accounting degree programs that are flexible and provide extensive accounting training to students.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Bachelor's in Accounting program is designed for students who want to pursue a career in accounting and offers courses in various areas of accounting, such as financial accounting, taxation, auditing, and cost accounting. The program is fully online and can be completed in as little as 12 months. Graduates of the program are prepared for careers in public accounting, corporate accounting, and government accounting, among other fields.
The tuition cost for the Online Accounting Degree program is $429 per credit hour.
The online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree program offered by Penn State World Campus is designed for students who want to pursue a career in accounting and offers courses in various areas of accounting, such as financial accounting, taxation, auditing, and managerial accounting. The program is fully online and can be completed in as little as two years. Students are prepared for careers in public accounting, corporate accounting, and government accounting, among other fields. This program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
The tuition cost for the Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting Degree program is $576 per credit for Pennsylvania residents and $617 per credit for non-Pennsylvania residents.
The online Manufacturing Management program offered by the University of Minnesota Crookston's Business Department is designed for students who want to pursue a career in manufacturing management and covers topics such as supply chain management, quality control, inventory management, and project management. The program is fully online and can be completed in as little as 16 months. Students enrolled in this program are prepared for careers in manufacturing industries, logistics companies, and other related fields. The program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
The tuition cost for the Online Manufacturing Management Program is $436.61 per credit for both in-state and out-of-state students.
The online Accounting and Finance degree program offered by the University of London is designed for students who want to pursue a career in accounting and finance and covers topics such as financial accounting, management accounting, corporate finance, and financial management. The program is fully online and can be completed in as little as three years. Graduates are prepared for careers in accounting firms, financial institutions, and other related fields. The program is accredited by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
For the academic year 2022-2023, the tuition cost for the entire Online Accounting and Finance Degree program is £9,600.
The online Accounting and Finance Top-up degree program offered by the University of Derby is designed for students who have already completed a foundation degree or equivalent qualification in accounting and finance and wish to further their studies to obtain a Bachelor of Arts (BA) Honours degree. The program covers topics such as financial accounting, management accounting, taxation, auditing, and financial management. This fully online program can be completed in as little as one year. Students are prepared for careers in accounting firms, financial institutions, and other related fields. The program is accredited by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
For the academic year 2021-2022, the tuition cost for the entire Online Accounting and Finance Top-up Degree program is £6,500.
Source: AICPA 2021 Trends Report
In this guide, we highlighted the different ways to earn an accounting degree without getting trapped in huge student debt. We discussed how financial aid works and how it can help you lower your overall costs as you earn your online accounting degree. We also provided a list of possible scholarships and the top five online accounting programs that can help you jumpstart your career in accounting.
Online degree offerings have become a feasible alternative for individuals that want to pursue postsecondary education. It is even an option for the journey on how to become bookkeeper. Students are provided with a variety of options with a degree of flexibility, such as this discussion on getting a psychology degree with all possible career options.
But are online degrees worth it? Yes, we can say it is since employees recognize it especially if the program is duly accredited and offered by a reputable institution.
In choosing the least expensive way to earn your accounting degree, always do your research so you can effectively evaluate all your options. Aside from checking the quality and reputation of the online accounting program, look for the financial aid or scholarships offered by the institution. Pursuing your dream career in accounting need not be a burden so long as you know how to find the most affordable programs.