Grad school can be expensive and it’s well known that social work is an underpaid field of work. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that a Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree is affordable. Where you’re a resident and the type of school play a role in finding the cheapest MSW programs.
Keep this in mind as you review the list of the top 10 most affordable MSW programs:
Top 10 Most Affordable MSW programs
These programs are ranked first by residents’ overall tuition costs for one academic year, then include tuition and fees for non-residents. Note this doesn’t include the average cost of living. According to Cost Helper, the average MSW program at a public university is $13,800 per year. All of the schools on this list come in under that total cost.
10. Texas State University
Tuition and fees, resident: $12,547.30
Tuition and fees, non-resident: $25,207.30
9. University of North Dakota
Tuition and fees resident: $12,234.24
Tuition and fees non-resident: $17,589.36
8. Georgia State University
Tuition and fees resident: $11,680
Tuition and fees non-resident: $32,344
7. St. Cloud State University
Tuition and fees resident: $8,570
Tuition and fees non-resident: $12,444
6. California State University, Los Angeles
Tuition and fees resident: $8,198
Tuition and fees non-resident: $17,702
5. Metropolitan State University of Denver
Tuition and fees resident: $8,095.77
Tuition and fees non-resident: $10,965.27
4. University of Utah
Tuition and fees resident: $7,610.22
Tuition and fees non-resident: $20,165.02
3. New Mexico State University
Tuition and fees resident: $5,753
Tuition and fees non-resident: $17,743
2. Appalachian State University
Tuition and fees for a resident: $4,003.50
Tuition and fees for a non-resident: $10,719.50
1. University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Tuition and fees resident: $3,810.50
Tuition and fees non-resident: $10,527.50
You may have noticed that resident tuition is always significantly less than non-resident tuition. If you don’t see your state on the list or simply don’t have time for the traditional classroom, you might find a better match looking at online MSW programs.
Most affordable online MSW programs
Your life is busy. Maybe you need to work and go to school at the same time. If this is the case, then an online MSW program is worth looking into. Online programs are becoming increasingly popular and are typically trusted by employers as long as they are accredited.
Here is the yearly tuition and fees for five affordable online MSW degree options:
5. Arizona State University
Tuition and fees for residents: $13,384
Tuition and fees for non-residents: $13,384
4. Tennessee State University
Tuition and fees for residents: $11,078.00
Tuition and fees for non-residents: $23,878.00
3. Marshall University
Tuition and fees for residents: $8,728.00
Tuition and fees for non-residents: $21,062.00
2. Metropolitan State University of Denver
Tuition and fees for residents: $7,650.50
Tuition and fees for non-residents: $10,520.00
1. University of South Florida
Tuition and fees for residents: $7,235.70
Tuition and fees for non-residents: $18,150.30
Online programs tend to be the most affordable option for an MSW degree, especially if you choose to go out of state. You can also consider private schools that have a set price. In general, however, they are the most expensive option.
Private school MSW programs you can actually afford
Private schools are known for carrying a higher price tag. Cost Helper estimates that the average cost of an MSW program at a private university is $36,300 per year. You should be certain that you can afford to pay more before choosing a private school. Even if the school is considered one of the best around, that doesn’t mean it’s the best decision for your finances.
That said, here are 5 of the most affordable MSW programs at private schools, that come in well below average for one year of tuition (broken up by tuition per credit hour and tuition for one academic year):
5. George Fox University
Tuition per credit hour: $712
Total tuition one academic year in advanced standing program: $22,027
4. Spalding University
Tuition per credit hour: $730
Approximate tuition for a full academic year: $21,900
3. Aurora University
Tuition per credit hour: $600
Approximate tuition for the full academic year: $18,000
2. Campbellsville University
Tuition per credit hour: $559
Approximate tuition for one academic year: $16,770
1. Brigham Young University
LDS Business College student tuition and fees: $7,474.00
Non-LDS student tuition and fees: $14,764
All of these schools come in well under the average for a private university. However, private schools tend to list by credit hour, and nailing down an exact ticket price for the program has to be done by requesting more information from the school.
How to pay for a Master’s of Social Work
No matter which school you choose, you’re going to be paying. If you choose a school that is less expensive, you might want to consider taking out a private student loan instead of a federal student loan.
Unsubsidized federal student loans have a fixed interest rate of 6.08% and Grad PLUS loans have a fixed interest rate of 7.08%. That’s pretty high. If you have good credit, you can qualify for a lower interest rate with a private student loan.
You could pay as little as $7,621 if you attend the University of North Carolina. But let’s assume you’ll need to take out about $10,000 for some wiggle room. With the average MSW salary and assuming you’re single, you’ll pay less with a private student loan if you can get a 4.5% interest rate. The chart below looks at it from a 10-year pay-off standpoint. You could expedite this process with a shorter loan term too.
When you’re shopping for private student loans, be sure to look at all your options. Some lenders have perks like a cash bonus or flexible payment plans. You can start by reviewing our list of top lenders.
There is one case where it doesn’t make sense to take out a private student loan. If you have a large amount of debt from your undergrad degree, then you can pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) in most social work jobs. If this is your situation, then you could take out an unsubsidized student loan and enter PSLF.
If making all of these decisions about grad school is feeling overwhelming, we’re here to help. Student Loan Planner® offers a predebt consultation for this very thing. You can talk through your loan options, the school you want to attend and how much debt you already have. We will help make a plan that keeps your financial health a priority.
All programs on this list are accredited by the Council of Social Work in Education. There are currently 301 MSW programs accredited by CSWE. Using this as the basis for schools that are credible, tuition was then cross-referenced with the data on Socialworklicensure.org and SocialWorkDegreeGuide.com. As a last measure, the tuition data was compared to the College Score Card data on average debt provided by the Department of Education.
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