Best Affordable Online MSN Programs Of 2023

Dec 7, 2023

In many states, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) like nurse practitioners (NPs) can deliver a similar level of care as physicians and doctors, including diagnosing illnesses, performing physical exams and creating treatment plans. These healthcare professionals can help fill gaps amid physician shortages in areas of critical need.

Registered nurses (RNs) can qualify to become APRNs by completing a master of science in nursing (MSN) and a certification. As schools have expanded to the virtual learning space, online MSN programs have become more popular. These degrees typically feature online coursework and in-person clinical requirements.

Even though an MSN can pay off in the long run, it’s still a large upfront investment. If you want to advance your nursing career without breaking the bank, you’re in the right place. To provide you with a slate of affordable, high-quality options, we’ve ranked some of the best U.S. colleges offering some of the cheapest online MSN programs. Read on to learn more.

Why You Can Trust Forbes Advisor Education

The Forbes Advisor Education team is committed to bringing our readers unbiased rankings and trustworthy, informative articles covering higher learning institutions, individual degree programs, bootcamps, professional credentials and various career paths.

Our team sources data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also pull information from reputable professional organizations and education providers’ direct websites. Our rankings use a strict methodology to determine the best schools, programs or bootcamps for each category.

Moreover, an expert advisory board of experienced professionals and educators reviews and verifies Forbes Advisor Education content to ensure accuracy and completeness.

Our Methodology

We ranked nine accredited, nonprofit colleges offering affordable online MSN degree programs in the U.S. using 16 data points in the categories of affordability, credibility, student outcomes, student experience and application process. We pulled data for these categories from reliable resources such as the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System; private, third-party data sources; and individual school and program websites. Data is accurate as of June 2023.

We scored schools based on the following metrics:


In-state graduate student tuition
In-state graduate student fees
Alternative tuition plans offered
Median federal student loan debt
Percentage of students in federal student loan deferment

Student Outcomes:

Overall graduation rate
Median earnings 10 years after graduation

Student Experience:

Student-to-faculty ratio
Socioeconomic diversity
Availability of online coursework
Total number of graduate assistants
More than 50% of graduate students enrolled in at least some distance education


Fully accredited
Programmatic accreditation status
Nonprofit status

Application Process:

Acceptance rate

We listed all nine schools in the U.S. that met our ranking criteria.

Find our full list of methodologies here.