If you are a healthcare worker who is ready to uplevel your career, a leadership role might be the right next step for you. Management positions in healthcare typically require at least a Bachelor’s degree plus several years of experience in your area of specialization, but to be a competitive candidate for the highest-level positions, you should consider getting a master’s degree. One of the most popular graduate degree for healthcare professionals is the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA). Thankfully, accessibility to online MHA programs is growing, making it easier than ever to advance your education while working full-time.
We surveyed dozens of online MHA programs, and highlighted some of the most affordable schools in this guide. You’ll also find advice on choosing the right program for you, learning how online MHA programs work, and how to fund your degree.
3 Affordable Online MHA Programs
When looking at MHAs, you want to find a program that balances affordability with high quality education, not a program which sacrifices one for the other. To help you find a program that offers both, we reviewed programs across the United States in terms of tuition costs, program fees, and financial aid. We also explored other important elements, like curriculum quality, study convenience and flexibility, and the availability of student support services. The three online MHA programs spotlight below stood a cut above the rest. Learn more about how these ratings were calculated by clicking on the “About the Ranking” button below.
What Makes an Online MHA Program Affordable?
When it comes to online MHA programs, affordability means more than just a low tuition rate. Various other elements also impact your total program cost. Below is a look at seven of the most common factors impacting the affordability of an online MHA program.
Financial Aid, Grants, and Scholarships
To help offset the cost of tuition, online MHA programs can access various forms of financial aid. The most common include scholarships, grants, and student loans like those available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid program. Other potential funding sources include assistantships, work-study, employer tuition reimbursement programs, and VA benefits. Except for student loans, most funding opportunities are essentially “free money” that doesn’t need to be paid back.
Location, Location, Location
Some public colleges and universities charge a higher, sometimes substantially higher, tuition rate to students who reside outside their own state’s borders. While some universities are trending away from such differences in costs with some schools offering the same affordable in-state rates to all online students regardless of where they live. These residency-based differences in tuition typically only apply to students in public school programs, not private ones.
Private or Public School
Attending a public MHA program, even an online one, can be substantially more expensive for out-of-state students. That doesn’t mean you should eliminate public school programs in other states from your potential program list, though, since public school programs usually charge a lower tuition rate than private colleges. Carefully review the tuition rates and fees of all online MHA programs you’re considering before making your final program decision.
Online vs. In-Person Coursework
With some exceptions, most online MHA programs charge the same tuition rate for both online and traditional campus-based courses. So, your total program cost will likely not be significantly affected if you attend some of your courses in person, at least in terms of tuition costs. However, the more courses you take in person the more you’ll pay in travel costs to and from campus.
Software and Other Equipment Purchases
All programs provide a list of technology requirements, which include items like minimum computer requirements for your processor, operating system, RAM, HD or SSD memory, etc. You’ll also likely need up-to-date versions of browser or application software like MS Office. You may already have the software and equipment you need, and you may be able to obtain it at a discount or even free of charge through your program if you don’t.
The number of transfer credits allowed into your online MHA program depends on the specific program, and not all programs allow them. If you’re hoping to apply any previously-earned credits, confirm that it’s allowed by any program you’re considering before you apply.
Part-time or Full-time
Since tuition costs are typically charged per credit, your total program cost will likely be the same, at least in terms of tuition, whether you opt for full-time or part-time study. Some online MHA programs come with additional fees that are charged per semester or per term, which means you’ll pay more in fees the more semesters you take to complete your studies. These additional fees are usually negligible, but they can add up and should be considered when pricing a program.
How Can You Lower the Cost of Your Online MHA Degree?
A low tuition rate is a foundational factor in the affordability equation for an online MHA degree program. It’s not the only factor, though, and you’ll need to consider a variety of elements when making your program choice. Below are three of the most common ways to lower the cost of your online MHA degree.
1. Scholarships, Grants, and Other Financial Aid Designed Specifically for MHA Students
Many online MHA programs offer financial aid opportunities specifically designated for their online students. These opportunities most often take the form of in-house scholarships and grants. A prime example is the MHA Online Program at the University of Utah, which offers several program-specific scholarships and tuition discounts. Contact the financial aid office at each program you’re considering to find out if you’re eligible for MHA-specific financial aid opportunities.
2. Employer Tuition Reimbursement Programs
Many online MHA programs offer financial aid opportunities specifically designated for their students. These opportunities most A lot of employers today appreciate the value of retaining their best employees. One way they do so is by offering an employer tuition reimbursement program. These plans reimburse employees for all or a portion of the cost of education programs like online MHA programs in exchange for a commitment to remain with the company for a stated period after studies are complete. If you like the healthcare organization you work for and want to continue working there once you’ve earned your MHA, ask about the availability of an employer tuition reimbursement program.
3. Work Study or Assistantships
Assistantships and work-study opportunities are two other funding options common to master’s degree programs. Given the nature of online study, finding an assistantship or work-study position can be difficult, especially for students in fully-online programs. It’s not impossible, though, so check with the programs on your MHA list to see if assistantship or work-study opportunities are available.
FAQs About Affordable Online MHA Programs
What is the ROI of an online MHA degree?
Return on investment (ROI) measures the value of a monetary investment over a given period. There are innumerable equations used to determine a degree’s ROI, each accounting for a range of variables (e.g., annual median income, inflation rates, professional working lifespan, etc.), and many of which are difficult to measure in any meaningful way.
You can be sure that your online MHA will provide you with a healthy ROI throughout your professional career. According to recent salary figures from Payscale, the median annual base salary for individuals with an MHA degree is $82,000. That’s just over 26% greater than the $65,000 current median annual base salary for workers with only a bachelor’s in healthcare administration. After subtracting an estimated $15,000 for the cost of an affordable online MHA program, that’s an additional income of nearly two-thirds of a million throughout a 40-year career for professionals with an MHA.
How can I ensure that an affordable MHA program is high-quality?
There are a few factors to consider as measurements of a program’s quality. One example is the availability of networking opportunities and the percentage of graduates who find employment in the healthcare administration field.
A fundamental measure of an online MHA program’s quality is accreditation. There are two primary forms of accreditation for MHA programs. Institutional accreditation refers to the overall quality of the school offering the program and is administered by several U.S. Department of Education recognized regional and national accreditation agencies. Some MHA programs are also programmatically accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).
Is an online MHA more affordable than an in-person MHA?
This depends on the MHA program. Some online programs charge additional remote access fees for online courses, while others offer program discounts for students studying online. While there’s also an additional cost for computer and internet access fees, you probably pay for those either way. Online students typically save enough money through the absence of transportation costs (e.g., fuel costs for travel to and from campus, parking fees, etc.) to make their online MHA program more affordable than an on-campus one.
Can job experience count towards a master’s degree and help cut costs?
While this depends on the specific program, it’s unlikely. Job experience in healthcare and administration or management is sometimes a requirement for admission into an online MHA program, particularly ones titled “Executive MHA” programs. When it comes to receiving program credits for that experience, though, most programs do not award it.
How can I know if an affordable master’s degree program is right for me?
To help you know if an affordable master’s degree program is right for you, consider your answers to the following questions:
- What are my goals, both academic and professional?
- Is an MHA the best educational choice to help me reach my goals?
- Is an online program the right approach for me?
If you’ve decided to move forward with an online MHA after answering these questions, move on to figuring out which program features you want most. Options to consider include:
- Fully online or partially-online
- Program cost
- Completion time
- School location
- Available support services
- Networking opportunities
Then, compare your preferred features list to your list of potential online MHA programs to find the one that appears to be the best fit.