Most Affordable RN to MSN Online Programs for 2021

Find low-cost, high-quality online RN to MSN programs that can help you take the next step in your nursing career and learn about other ways to keep college costs down.

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Last Updated: 10/04/2021
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Earning an online RN to MSN degree opens doors to higher-level positions, increases earning potential, and provides the opportunity to specialize. And while going back to college to get your bachelor’s and master’s may seem financially out-of-reach, there are many accredited, affordable online RN to MSN programs that can help minimize costs and allow you to keep working.

This guide will point you toward quality, budget-friendly online RN to MSN programs that can help you achieve your career goals without overpaying. You’ll also find tips on how to limit student debt and obtain financial aid and discounts to keep more cash in your pocket as you make your way toward graduation.

12 Most Affordable Online RN to MSN Programs in 2021

Paying for college can seem daunting, and affordability is often a top consideration. This rankings list can help you locate the most affordable online RN to MSN programs. Using the latest information from IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System), we chose schools based on several key educational quality and cost metrics. For more information on our ranking methodology, click the “About the ranking” button below.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Most Affordable Rankings

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

 

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Affordability

  • Cost Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement Existence of this service on campus or online.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

 

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Stevenson UniversityStevenson, MD Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1

In Stevenson’s RN to MSN online nursing program, students first earn a bachelor's degree and can then choose to continue to the master's program. After completing the RN to BSN portion of the program, distance students complete a three-credit master's course that bridges them into the MSN program. Stevenson's MSN program requires 36 credits and features concentrations in forensic nursing, nursing education, nursing leadership and management, and population-based care coordination.

Stevenson faculty teach this asynchronous curriculum entirely online, and classes follow either an eight-week or 16-week schedule. The only in-person requirement is 45 clinical hours in an outpatient care setting, which you can complete in your local area. Required courses include physical assessment and pathophysiology, nursing research, health in the community, and information technology in nursing and healthcare.

Prospective RN to MSN students need current RN licenses. Applications for Stevenson must include a personal statement and official college transcripts reflecting the successful completion of a college-level English course and an overall cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher. Stevenson does not charge an application fee.

Program Highlights:

RN to MSN

  • Credits: 123 (36 for MSN portion)
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $495/credit
  • Mode: Fully-Online or Partially-Online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
2 Ferris State UniversityBig Rapids, MI Public $$ 1

FSU’s accelerated RN to MSN online offers concentrations in nursing education, nursing administration, and nursing informatics. Most FSU RN to MSN online nursing students work full-time jobs and take 1-2 classes at a time. Students complete all course requirements remotely except for two, 120-hour practicum experiences. Students must also submit portfolios of work pertaining to their chosen concentration area for their final capstone requirement.

Prospective MSN students first apply to the BSN program and complete required course bridgework that includes courses in statistics and healthcare, population-based health promotion, and evidence-based healthcare. FSU recommends that incoming MSN students have two years of full-time clinical nursing experience, though this is not required. Applicants for the master's program need a 3.0 or higher GPA and an RN license.

Program Highlights:

Accelerated RN to MSN

  • Credits: 58
  • Length: 2-3 years
  • Cost: $686/credit
  • Mode: Fully-Online or Partially-Online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
74%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
3 Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1

In Liberty University’s RN to MSN online program, all didactic learning may be completed remotely, and hands-on practicum hours can be completed at an approved facility near students' residences. For a hybrid learning experience, LU also offers some nursing courses on its campus in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Students at LU choose from specializations in community health, health policy, nurse educator, nursing administrator, and nursing informatics. Required courses include organizational design and structure, post-licensure health assessment, leadership in nursing, and strategies for community healthcare.

Incoming students receive an automatic 39 credits or more for their RN licensure. LU also allows students to transfer up to 50% of the credits needed for the program. The MSN degree requires 36 graduate-level credits and can be completed in about two years.

Program Highlights:

RN to MSN

  • Credits: 153 (36 in MSN portion)
  • Length: 2-5 years (depending on previous education and transferable credits)
  • Cost: $330/credit
  • Mode: Fully-Online or Partially-Online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE(program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
89%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
4 The University of West FloridaPensacola, FL Public $$ 1

Established in 1963, UWF is a public institution in Pensacola. Its affordable online RN to MSN program is completable in 3-4 years depending on experience and previous education.

The 59-credit curriculum features training in essential topic areas that include evidence-based nursing practice and health systems leadership. In addition to 20 credits of bachelor's-level classes, students also complete master's courses in project evaluation and dissemination, population health promotion and management, and foundations of nursing science.

Prospective RN to MSN students need 3.25 or higher GPAs, an associate degree in nursing, and an unencumbered RN license. Learners who have already completed their bachelor's-level coursework from an accredited institution move directly into the MSN program. The school charges a $30 application fee.

Program Highlights:

RN to MSN

  • Credits: 59
  • Length: 3-4 years
  • Cost: $282/credit (BSN-level classes), $425/credit (MSN-level classes)
  • Mode: Fully-Online or Partially-Online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
5 Spring Arbor UniversitySpring Arbor, MI Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1

SAU’s online RN to MSN program offers four specialization tracks: psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner.

SAU prides itself in offering a flexible, part-time learning structure to accommodate students who also work full-time. Students can take one asynchronous, seven-week class at a time and are given a one-week break between course sessions. Required classes include moral and ethical decision making, theoretical perspectives for advanced practice, and role development and leadership. Students also complete at least 500 clinical practicum hours, with the total amount depending on their concentration, and a capstone project.

Prospective RN to MSN students need associate degrees or diplomas in nursing with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Applications must also include two letters of recommendation, a two-page statement of personal goals, and proof of an unencumbered RN license.

Program Highlights:

RN to MSN

  • Credits: Approximately 80 but varies with concentration
  • Length: 3-4 years
  • Cost: $598/credit (BSN-level courses) $739/credit (MSN-level courses)
  • Mode: Fully-Online (except clinicals)
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
100%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
6 Lamar UniversityBeaumont, TX Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
20%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
7 University of ArizonaTucson, AZ Public $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
8 The University of Texas at ArlingtonArlington, TX Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
54%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
9 Jacksonville UniversityJacksonville, FL Private, Not-for-Profit $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
94%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
10 University of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbia, MO Public $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
65%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
11 Capella UniversityMinneapolis, MN Private, For-Profit $$$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
50%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
12 Western Governors UniversitySalt Lake City, UT Private, Not-for-Profit $$ 1
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationDistance Education Accrediting Commission

What Makes an Online RN to MSN Program Affordable?

Many factors affect the overall cost of your RN to MSN program. Understanding what makes an RN to MSN program affordable can help keep your tuition and college expenses in check.

How much financial aid you can secure for your online RN to MSN program

Financial aid, especially grants and scholarships, can go a long way in offsetting the cost of your RN to MSN program. Apply for any available awards through your graduate school but also at the local, regional, and national levels. Apply for as many scholarships for which you qualify. Remember that you can apply for scholarships and grants even after you enter a program, and many sources offer awards for both new and continuing nursing students.

Whether you live in-state or-out-of-state

Some programs offer online learners the same tuition rates as in-state students no matter where they live. In most cases, however, out-of-state students pay more than in-state students. For example, the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s tuition rates for out-of-state learners are more than double than those for Tennessee residents. For exclusively online learners, however, out-of-state students pay only about $55 more per credit than in-state online students.

How much it costs to apply

RN to MSN programs usually require an application fee of $30 to $75. If you apply to several programs, those fees can add up to quite a bit. Save some money by narrowing your search and applying to fewer schools overall. Pick those nursing programs where you’re a strong competitor and those with low or no application fees.

If the RN to MSN program has a class schedule that allows you to continue working

Many RN to MSN programs offer part-time and flexible options for professional RNs who want to work while they’re in school. These options may not be available for all RN to MSN programs, however, so check out those scheduling details before applying.

How much of the RN to MSN program coursework is offered online

In general, you’ll probably spend less on commuting costs and incidentals if you earn your RN to MSN mostly or entirely online. You’ll also spend less on day-to-day necessities and indulgences like coffee or eating at cafes and restaurants. Keep an eye out for programs that have some in-person requirements and what that might entail in terms of costs.

If the nursing grad school is private or public

Tuition rates for nursing programs at private institutions are typically higher than at public colleges and universities. During the 2018-2019 school year, the average tuition at private schools for full-time learners was about $35,700. In-state learners attending public institutions paid an average of $9,700, while out-of-state students at public institutions paid about $21,600.

How to Lower the Cost of Your Online RN to MSN Degree

Make your online RN to MSN degree more affordable often comes down to pooling your resources and exhausting all potential avenues for financial aid. Keep these cost-saving strategies in mind to help you lower the cost of your online RN to MSN degree.

  1. Search for scholarships and grants designed specifically for nursing students and your specific demographic.

There are many local, regional, and national scholarships reserved specifically for nursing students. Some organizations even have scholarships for MSN degree-seekers specifically. You can also find scholarships for BIPOC students or learners who live in a particular county or state. Take time to locate and research all of your options, including those detailed in EduMed’s nursing scholarship guide.

  1. Ask about RN to MSN tuition reimbursement programs

Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities have tuition reimbursement programs that cover a solid amount of an RN to MSN program’s tuition. It’s in their best interest to retain top talent and up-level current nurses to higher level positions, even if it means footing the bill for their employee’s education. Great examples include Vanderbilt Hospital which covers up to $8k per year in tuition costs and Los Angeles County Hospital (up to $3K per year). Talk to your current employer to see what they offer.

  1. Look for nursing student discounts

Discounts and perks abound for nursing students at all stages of education. Take advantage of these discounts and other benefits to help make your RN to MSN program more affordable. From hotel and travel insurance discounts to discounts on certification courses and nursing supplies, many organizations thank nursing students and professionals for their critical roles in healthcare with excellent discounts.