Inside Today’s Most Affordable Online RN to MSN Programs

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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Timon Kaple

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Timon Kaple, Ph.D., is a full-time writer and researcher. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, small-group folklore, the anthropology of sound, higher education, and student support services. He has experience as an ethnographer and enjoys conducting fieldwork and archival research.

last updated

09/15/2022

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.

Most Affordable Online RN to MSN Programs for 2023

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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Base Methodology for EduMed’s 2023 Online College 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. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

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

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.

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 2022

# 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 Kentucky Christian UniversityGrayson, KY Private not-for-profit $ 1

Based in Grayson, Kentucky, Kentucky Christian University is home to an RN to MSN nursing program that working nurses can complete entirely online. This program could be an ideal option for nurses wanting to complete the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners certification exam. Students complete a 48-credit curriculum, with classes on topics such as bioethics, improving nursing practice with technology, advanced pharmacology, and advanced nursing care of women and children. Before graduation, students also tackle extensive clinical training through required internships.

Prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing and an unrestricted RN license. Applicants must include a professional resume, official transcripts, two reference letters, and a writing sample. Some applicants may need to complete an admission interview.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing

  • Credits: 48
  • Cost: $690/credit
  • Length: varies
  • Mode: online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Implied no
Student/
Faculty Ratio
12/1
AccreditationSACSCOC
2 American College of EducationIndianapolis, IN Private for-profit $$ 1

The American College of Education is an Indiana-based for-profit institution that primarily offers healthcare degrees. Throughout this 55-credit program, working RNs build upon their associate degree coursework and complete the requirements to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While bachelor’s coursework builds upon foundational nursing skills, master’s coursework focuses on leadership, education, and management.

During this online degree-completion program, students complete classes such as community health and vulnerable populations, leadership and management in healthcare, nursing informatics, and health promotion. Before graduation, nursing students tackle a 10-week hands-on capstone experience.

Program Highlights:

Online RN to MSN

  • Credits: 55
  • Cost: $355/credit
  • Length: 31 months
  • Mode: online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Implied no
Student/
Faculty Ratio
10/1
AccreditationHLC
3 University of Southern MainePortland, ME Public $$ 2

The University of Southern Maine is a public institution that offers a flexible and affordable online RN to MSN program that allows working nurses the opportunity to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in about two years. In addition to furthering clinical knowledge, this online track allows students to expand career options through nursing education coursework, including foundations of nursing education, methods of education in nursing, and evaluation and measurement in nursing education.

Prospective RN to MSN students must hold an active and unencumbered nursing license. Applications are submitted online and must include official transcripts and a statement of purpose. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA from associate degree coursework.

Program Highlights:

RN to MSN in Nursing

  • Credits: 60
  • Cost: $300/credit
  • Length: 24 months
  • Mode: Online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
12/1
AccreditationNECHE
4 The University of Texas at ArlingtonArlington, TX Public $$ 1

The University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) offers a practical academic pathway allowing registered nurses the opportunity to complete their BSN and MSN degrees. BSN courses build upon RN degree requirements, and students complete classes including nursing research, nursing leadership and management, and holistic care of older adults. For graduate-level MSN coursework, students can choose between specializations in nursing administration or nursing education.

Registered nurses interested in this flexible degree-completion program can apply online and must hold an active and unencumbered RN license. Additionally, applicants must have two years of professional experience as a registered nurse and have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA from prior college-level coursework.

Program Highlights:

RN to MSN Online Program

  • Credits: 65
  • Cost: $362/credit
  • Length: 36 months
  • Mode: online
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
24/1
AccreditationSACSCOC

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.