If you are looking for the best nursing degree program out there, in fact, if you google best nursing degree program, you are likely to get a link to the U.S. News rankings of the best colleges and universities in the U.S. These rankings take into account such factors as student-to-faculty ratio or student engagement to come up with these rankings, but they often leave out one of the most important decision factors that students face: cost.

online nursing degreeYou want to know how good a school is, but you also want to know how much it will cost.

Take, for instance, the tuition at Ferris State University, the number-one school on the *2012-2013 U.S. News rankings for online nursing programs. This school scores high in student engagement and student-to-teacher ratios, but the tuition per semester is a whopping $10,466. Just to put that into perspective, the number two school, according to U.S. News’ ranking, Lamar University, will charge you only $3,120 per semester in tuition. That’s a huge difference!

To bring a little balance to the process, we’ve taken the top 20 online nursing degree programs according to the U.S. News rankings and dug up their tuition rates (for residents, just in case you were wondering). Then, with a little spreadsheet magic, we determined which of those 20 schools presented the best mix of quality and affordability. The result is our list of the Most Affordable Highly Ranked Online Nursing Degree Programs in the U.S.:

1. Lamar University

U.S. News score: 74.5
Tuition/semester: $3,120

This program is number two on the U.S. News list and number one on ours, making it quite a catch. The Dishman Department of Nursing at Lamar University offers the optimal balance between quality and cost. Its online RN to BSN program requires 120 credit hours and prepares students not only to serve the practical functions of nursing, but also to solve problems critically and continue into post-graduate education, if so desired. As with most credible nursing degree programs, graduates are required to pass the NCLEX-RN examination before becoming licensed to practice professional nursing.

2. Stony Brook University–SUNY

U.S. News score: 71.8
Tuition/semester: $2,785

With a high score and low tuition, Stony Brook is sure to catch your eye. After earning two years of general education credits, and with a minimum GPA of 2.8, students can apply to this online nursing program. The basic program takes the normal two years to complete. If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree and are coming back to get a baccalaureate toward a RN, you apply for Stony Brook’s Accelerated Baccalaureate Program, which takes only twelve months to complete.

3. University of Nevada at Las Vegas

U.S. News score: 67.4
Tuition/semester: $2,872

The score for the nursing program at UNLV might not be as impressive, but the tuition is sure to keep some money in your pocket. Designed specifically for prospective or working nurses who can’t bring their career to a halt to get more education, the online programs, mostly for master’s or doctorate students, are designed to bring the learning to them.

4. University of Michigan–Flint

U.S. News score: 74.4
Tuition/semester: $4,551

The higher cost of tuition at this online nursing program knocked it down to our number four spot, but the quality is undeniable, as evidenced by its high score. This regionally accredited program offers 100 percent of its required courses online, making it a truly online program. But that doesn’t mean they’ve skimped on the quality. Out of the hundreds of schools that U.S. News surveyed, University of Michigan–Flint’s Accelerated Nursing MSN program ranked a soaring number three. With this program, students can complete their program in 16 short months.

5. University of Missouri–Kansas City

U.S. News score: 68.2
Tuition/semester: $3,984

University of Missouri–Kansas City offers a variety of online programs for nurses at all stages of their careers: RN to BSN, MSN, PhD, and DNP. And the price just might be worth it. The University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Nursing has been honing their online programs since 1989.

6. University of Alabama–Huntsville

U.S. News score: 70
Tuition/semester: $4,397

The nursing program at University of Alabama–Huntsville has options for undergraduate students, graduate students, and doctoral students. Their traditional BSN for ADN program requires 37 credit hours once students have completed general courses, prerequisities, and electives. This video, produced by the school, explains more:

7. East Carolina University

U.S. News score: 71.1
Tuition/semester: $5,869

The price tag at East Carolina University College of Nursing is noticeably higher but you can’t ignore the U.S. News score. If it’s online options you’re looking for, look no further. The university offers the following online nursing programs: RN to BSN; RN to MSN; Doctor of Nursing Practice; and MSN programs that emphasize in Adult-Gerontology, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nursing Leadership, Neonatal, Family Nurse, Midwifery, Anesthesia, and Nurse Education.

8. Clarkson College

U.S. News score: 74.2
Tuition/semester: $6,555

With one of the higher scores on our list, the nursing programs at Clarkson College also come with a sizable cost. The BSN program at Clarkson is your traditional four-year degree program, whereas the the LPN to BSN or RN to BSN programs are built especially for those who already work as nurses but want to complete their bachelor’s degree. A MSN option is available for those who have already earned their BSN and even a post-master’s certificate program.

9. University of Massachusetts–Amherst

U.S. News score: 70.1
Tuition/semester: $6,615

This program is number 12 on the U.S. News rankings, but they score lower on our list because of their high tuition. Still, just the fact that they are on this list means they have a pretty good balance of cost and quality. In fact, this school offers six different programs for nurses in various phases of their careers. Whether you have no nursing experience or have been doing it for twenty years, UMass–Amherst has an online nursing program to help advance your career.

10. Arizona State University

U.S. News score: 67.7
Tuition/semester: $6,630

Finally, at number ten on our list, Arizona State University offers a pretty solid online nursing education, albeit at a fairly high price. Their RN to BSN program is perfect for RNs looking to finally grab that bachelor’s degree, and their graduate program.

Are you interested in finding an online nursing program to meet your specific career needs? You can look at a whole host of programs on our Nursing Degrees page.

*http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/nursing/rankings, March 20, 2013.

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