Attending a Christian college is a smart investment for faithful students who wish to follow a competitive academic curriculum within a close-knit, spiritual environment with like-minded peers. Christian universities are typically private, non-profit institutions that build upon biblical principles in a certain denomination to promote God-centered values in their students. Across the United States, numerous Christian colleges are giving both undergraduate and graduate students the chance to nurture growth in both mind, body, and soul. In a recent study by Christianity Today, researchers found that more than 52 percent of college students enrolling in a secular school will experience a decline in religious values. Therefore, it’s clear that Christian colleges excel at helping young men and women thrive spiritually to become compassionate servants of God’s will in today’s global society.
Around 65,000 high school seniors make the wise decision to attend a Christian college each year, but it’s important that these students also do their homework to find the best values in Christian education to avoid breaking the bank. In America, the average tuition cost for attending a four-year private non-profit university is $23,698 each academic year. Even with financial aid, these costs can add up quickly and leave students scrambling with leftover student loan debt upon graduation. Luckily, there’s many privately funded Christian colleges who are dedicated to keeping tuition costs well below this average. These schools will help students realize their fullest intellectual, professional, and spiritual growth even on a tight budget.
Ranking the Most Affordable Christian Colleges
In forming our picks for the most affordable Christian universities in the United States, we began by searching through the data made publicly available through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Using the College Affordability and Transparency Center tool, the list was narrowed down to private non-profit, four-year universities and sorted based on the lowest average tuition rates. Focus was then placed on the colleges that were affiliated with a church from one of the Christian denominations. For making the following program ranking as helpful and limitless as possible, we determined to only include Christian colleges that had a total student population of at least 1,000.
From there, every Christian university boasting a low tuition rate was checked through the directory maintained by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to ensure approval by a certified accrediting body and high-quality academics. Since we believe that getting a good value in higher education requires stellar educational experiences, preference was given to affordable Christian colleges with U.S. News and World Report rankings as well as other special recognitions. Student-faculty ratio, financial aid availability, graduation rates, spiritual growth opportunities, military assistance benefits, and range of academic majors were also considered. Below is the finalized list for the top 10 most affordable Christian colleges ranked from the lowest full-time, in-state undergraduate tuition rate to the highest.
Annual Tuition Price: $5,000
As the largest and most affordable private non-profit religious university in the United States, Brigham Young University serves more than 29,600 students from its main 560-acre suburban campus in Provo, Utah along the Wasatch Front. BYU is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which is a Christian restorationist church based in Salt Lake City. Around 99 percent of the university’s student body includes members of the LDS Church and takes a two-year hiatus in their studies to serve as missionaries. Since the university is funded by the church’s tithing, tuition costs are extremely below average at just $5,000 a year for LDS members.
BYU proves that high-quality, faith-based education can come at a fair price. According to the U.S. News and World Report, Brigham Young is ranked as the 62nd best national university and 14th top value school with the 12th lowest student-incurred debt rate in America for 2015. Due to the university’s emphasis on research, BYU was also named #10 nationally for producing the largest number of graduates who eventually earn PhDs. Within the Wall Street Journal, BYU was acclaimed for being the #11 best educational institutions whose graduates are top-rated by business recruiters. Brigham Young University is also distinguished by the Princeton Review for having one of the nation’s top 10 libraries.
Fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), Brigham Young is separated into 11 distinctive colleges holding their own discipline-specific accreditations. Although BYU focuses on undergraduate education from a liberal arts perspective, there’s also 68 master’s and 25 doctoral degree programs to choose from. Studying abroad at BYU is simple because the university operates centers in London, Jerusalem, Paris, and 20 other global cities for international learning. Students at BYU will must follow an honor code created by the Church of Latter-day Saints, which includes meeting grooming standards, abstaining from extramarital sex, and not consuming alcohol or drugs.
Annual Tuition Price: $6,080
Initially founded in 1962 by Robert Gee Witty and five other pastors, Luther Rice College & Seminary is an accredited comprehensive degree-granting private Christian institution based in the city of Lithonia within the Metro Atlanta area. Enrolling around 1,500 students, Luther Rice is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention to provide predominantly distance education in Christian studies from a theologically conservative approach. With the most affordable tuition rate in the United States offered by any on-campus or online seminary, Luther Rice ranks in the lowest 10 percent of all tuition costs nationwide at just $6,080 each year.
Luther Rice has gained a leading reputation for being a non-traditional Christian school that delivers degrees professionally, academically, and honestly. Luther Rice College & Seminary was listed among the “Best Alternative Programs” in a guide published by the American Council for University Planning and Academic Excellence (ACUPAE). Due to the flexible availability of its online learning, Luther Rice earned a spot as a “Top Military Friendly School” within GI Jobs magazine. OnlineU.org also recognized Luther Rice for having the most affordable online religious studies degrees in the United States. In fact, an exit survey found that over 96 percent of Luther Rice graduates reported satisfaction with their learning experience.
For over a decade, Luther Rice has been offering fully online degree programs with no residency required in Atlanta. With a focus on affordable, sound biblical training, Luther Rice College & Seminary makes it possible for students to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Religion, Master of Arts in Apologetics, Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling, Master of Arts in Christian Studies, Master of Arts in Leadership, Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Divinity, or Doctor of Ministry online. All of these programs are accredited for excellence by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). Faculty at Luther Rice are dedicated to biblical-based, student-focused education.
Annual Tuition Price: $7,465
Since making history as the first women’s college west of the Mississippi in 1851, Columbia College has evolved dramatically to become a comprehensive private four-year institution serving more than 29,000 men and women nationwide. In addition to its main headquarters in the vibrant city of Columbia in Missouri, Columbia has extended campuses in 13 states, abroad in Guantanamo Bay of Cuba, and online from anywhere. Columbia College maintains a covenant with the Christian Church (Disciplines of Christ) to deliver faith-based liberal arts education. Named in all of the top 10 “Best Buys” from GetEducated.com, Columbia is proud to offer quality degree programs in small class sizes at the low annual price of $7,465.
Consistently named a “Best in the Midwest” college by the Princeton Review, Columbia has created an esteemed reputation for allowing students to engage in honest, thought-provoking dialogue inside and outside of the classroom for new discoveries. Along with being named a “College of Distinction” by Student Horizons, Columbia was honored as one of the “Best for Vets” schools in Military Times magazine for 2015. The U.S. News and World Report has also recognized Columbia for hosting the 98th best online bachelor’s degrees, 87th best online MBA program, 8th top online graduate criminal justice programs, and 112nd best online graduate education programs in America.
Columbia College has been formally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (NCA) for nearly a century. Students from all regions are welcome to apply to its wide array of programs scattered across 12 unique academic divisions. Columbia offers 10 associate’s degrees, 62 bachelor’s degrees, and five master’s degrees. With over 800 accredited classes offered online, students can also choose from 32 fully online degrees ranging from biology and psychology to English and mathematics. Columbia courses are conveniently delivered in accelerated eight-week sessions starting in January, March, June, August, and October for earning a quick, affordable degree.
Annual Tuition Price: $11,400
Named in honor of the 18th century Englishman regarded as the “Father of Modern Missions,” William Carey University is a comprehensive senior private Christian liberal arts institution affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention since 1892. With a headcount of over 4,100 students, WCU is based on a main 120-acre urban campus in Hattiesburg with satellite locations in Gulfport and Biloxi along Mississippi’s coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In its close-knit Christian community, WCU students embrace the motto of “Expect Great Things from God; Attempt Great Things for God.” William Carey has the mission of preparing students to fulfill their diverse vocational callings by offering quality faith-based programs for $11,400 per year.
Despite its below-average tuition rate, William Carey University is consistently recognized among the top schools in its region for excellent learning experiences. The U.S. News and World Report has ranked WCU as the 37th best college and 3rd top value school in the South for 2015. WCU was distinguished for hosting the country’s 142nd best online graduate education programs for new teachers too. Honored with an A+ safety score for low campus crime, WCU was named among the “Colleges of Distinction” from Student Horizons. William Carey also has been placed among the top 15 percent of military-friendly universities in Victory Media for six consecutive years.
Every 10 years, William Carey University is re-accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Discipline-specific accreditations from the NCATE, NASM, CCNE, and COCA are given to certain programs as well. Across its seven academic divisions, WCU offers bachelor’s, master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral degrees ranging from business to behavioral science and beyond. The College of Osteopathic Medicine was recently opened in 2008 to become Mississippi’s first osteopathic medical school. Students at WCU are encouraged to study abroad in England to explore London, Oxford, Ludlow Castle, and the town where William Carey lived.
Annual Tuition Price: $12,050
With the distinction of being the second oldest continuing Bible college in America, Johnson University is a private co-educational Christian institution in operation since 1893. In addition to its main headquarters on a 175-acre rural campus in Kimberlin Heights just six miles southeast of Knoxville, Tennessee along the French Broad River, Johnson operates a second campus in central Florida in Kissimmee near Disney World and an online division from anywhere. Johnson is known for being a leader in Christian higher education by equipping more than 1,350 students for ministry work every academic year. Thanks to the support of donors, Johnson keeps tuition prices affordable and below-average at $12,050 with financial aid options.
Featuring an acceptance rate of 95 percent, Johnson University has created a positive image for its academic rigor, religious commitment, and affordability. Often recognized as one of the finest Christian universities online, Johnson boasts a low student-faculty ratio of 21:1 for the personalized attention students need to thrive. With an overall grade of A, Johnson University was named among the 100 most financially fit private colleges in America in Forbes magazine. Johnson also ranks 10th in delivering a quality, affordable college education among all 807 schools accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
In addition to its formal accreditation, Johnson has been approved by the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). The university confers degrees at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. All undergraduate students at Johnson major in Bible, but graduate students can choose from a larger variety of degrees in education, preaching, marriage and family therapy, leadership studies, and New Testament. An honors program for high-achieving undergraduates allows double majors in history, English, and apologetics too. Johnson is well-known for preparing students to lead church-related vocations as ministers, pastors, teachers, counselors, chaplains, non-profit leaders, clergy, and mission directors.
Annual Tuition Price: $14,280
Affiliated with the evangelical Church of God since its inception in 1918, Lee University is an elite comprehensive private faith-based institution that enrolls more than 4,900 students. Standing proudly on a 107-acre urban campus in Cleveland, Tennessee at the foothills of the majestic Appalachian Mountains, Lee is the fifth largest undergraduate college with membership to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). As a rather selective liberal arts university with a 64 percent acceptance rate, Lee is committed to providing a high caliber of education to students representing diverse faiths. Not only is the tuition price $14,280, but 72 percent of undergraduates also receive need-based scholarships that average $8,186 apiece.
With enrollment more than quadrupling over the past two decades, it’s clear that Lee is a top up-and-coming school with exceptional learning opportunities. The U.S. News and World Report has ranked Lee as the 57th best regional college in the South with the 131st best online bachelor’s program in the entire United States. Along with being named among USA Today’s “20 Colleges Most Committed to Community Service,” Lee was honored with a spot on the prestigious President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Lee University has also been named a “Best in the Southeast” school by the Princeton Review for 15 straight years and recognized among the top 20 baccalaureate institutions for enrolling international students.
Lee University is formally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), but certain programs are also approved by the NCATE, NASM, ACBSP, CAATE, and CEPR. After completing the religion-focused core, students at Lee can choose from 50 different majors at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. After its choir appeared on the hit show The Sing-Off, Lee has quickly developed one of the finest music schools in the Southeast. In order to graduate, all Lee students will need to attend chapel services twice a week, complete 80 total hours of community service, and study abroad.
Annual Tuition Price: $14,570
Established in 1906 by a group of churches affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention to deliver religious-based education, Louisiana College is a comprehensive senior private degree-granting higher learning institution. Serving around 1,400 students of all denominations, LC is nestled on an intimate 81-acre rural campus in the town of Pineville near Alexandria in the geographic center of Louisiana. As a predominantly baccalaureate-level school, LC offers full-time undergraduate students an affordable learning pathway at $14,570 per year. Over the past decade, Louisiana College has experienced great enrollment growth of 50 percent among students seeking select professional programs from a liberal arts and Baptist perspective.
Unlike large research universities, Louisiana College focuses on classroom teaching and has been recognized by The Templeton Guide as a top college for student character development. Students from LC have extraordinary success after graduation with 100 percent of education majors passing the Praxis exam and 96 percent of nursing students passing the NCLEX exam their first time. Nearly 95 percent of the college’s pre-law graduates are accepted into an accredited law school, which is more than double the national average. The U.S. News and World Report has ranked LC as the 74th best regional college in the South for 2015. Washington Monthly magazine also named LC as the 106th best baccalaureate institution in the entire United States.
Along with specialized accreditations from the ACBSP, CCNE, CSWE, NCATE, and CAATE, Louisiana College is proud to maintain full approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Across its 10 academic divisions, LC mostly confers Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Social Work, Bachelor of General Studies, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. Teachers can also further their education by earning the college’s sole graduate program, the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). Louisiana College follows the mission of blending challenging academics with a supportive faculty, strong Christian foundation, and professional mentoring.
Annual Tuition Price: $15,458
As another of the leading Christian universities in our program ranking with an affordable tuition rate below average at $15,458, Mississippi College is located on a 320-acre suburban campus in the town of Clinton just west of the state’s capital hub in Jackson. Since its founding in 1826, MC has been highly regarded as both the oldest and largest private comprehensive college in Mississippi with over 4,900 students. In fact, MC is the second oldest university in the United States with affiliations to the Baptist Church. Mississippi College also delivers more flexible degree offerings in evening hours at its Flowood Center in the heart of Rankin County.
MC has educated several notable alumni, including governor Phil Bryant, football star Fred McAfee, physician E.M. Toler, and professional wrestler Ted DiBiase Jr. Therefore, it’s safe to say that Mississippi College excels at preparing students for success with quality, religious-based education. The U.S. News and World Report currently ranks MC as the 29th best regional college, 4th top value school, and 7th best university for veterans in the South. In particular, the physician assistant program is acclaimed for being the 57th best degree of its kind nationwide. Forbes magazine also recognized MC for its high graduation rate and affordability by naming it among the country’s top 25 “Best College Buys.”
Fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Mississippi College has been approved by 16 unique discipline-specific professional associations for excellence. MC students studying on-campus or at a distance have their fair share of opportunity in more than 80 undergraduate and 15 graduate degrees. MC is well-known for hosting a unique Doctor of Professional Counseling (DPC) program that can be earned fully online too. Mississippi College has the goal of building on the teachings of Christ Jesus to promote the application of Christian values in several vocations.
Annual Tuition Price: $15,510
Situated on a spacious 380-acre rural campus in the small town of Tigerville at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains just minutes outside of Greenville, South Carolina, North Greenville University is a comprehensive private Christian institution first opened in 1891. Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, NGU enrolls more than 2,200 students of diverse faiths to develop quality educational experiences in a biblical, Christ-centered community. Along with having an affordable annual tuition cost of $15,510, NGU offers the Crusader Fellows Scholarship to cover full tuition for select South Carolina residents who carry a minimum overall GPA of 3.5 and score at least 1200 on the SAT.
North Greenville University stands out among national liberal arts institutions for having the 10th highest yield percentage of accepted students actually enrolling in its programs. The U.S. News and World Report has ranked NGU as the 25th best regional college in the South for 2015. In Forbes magazine, NGU was acclaimed for being the 309 best private college in the United States and the 106th top school in the South with a financial grade of B. Featuring a low student-faculty ratio of 14:1, NGU was listed fifth in the country for best professor credentials by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) too.
As a member of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities (IABCU), NGU has earned full accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) as well as six discipline-specific associations. Building on the foundation of the liberal arts and the Word of God, NGU confers degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level in eight academic departments. Online learning options are available through the College of Adult Professional Studies in majors like business, Christian ministries, criminal justice, legal studies, early childhood education, psychology, and music education. NGU students earn credit for chapel events every semester because truths found in the Holy Scriptures can be applied to every aspect of reality.
Annual Tuition Price: $18,530
Referred to as “Hard Work U,” the College of the Ozarks is a major comprehensive private non-profit Christian liberal arts institution enrolling more than 1,500 students. Atop a hill overlooking Lake Taneycomo, C of O is located on a sprawling 1,000-acre rural campus in Point Lookout near Branson, Missouri within just an hour’s drive south of Springfield. Though it has the highest tuition rate on our program ranking at $18,530, the College of the Ozarks remains affordable thanks to its unique work-study program. Students at C of O are required to work 15 hours on-campus per week and two 40-hour work weeks during campus breaks to cover all tuition costs.
The College of the Ozarks is consistently recognized for its high-level of academic quality and its emphasis on character education. In fact, the Templeton Honor Roll for Excellence in Free Enterprise Teaching has named C of O among its list of the country’s top “Character Building Colleges.” The U.S. News and World Report has ranked C of O as the #4 best regional college and the #1 top value school in the Midwest with the #1 best undergraduate teaching. The College of the Ozarks has also received notable recognition within Money Magazine’s “Best Buys,” the Forbes’s “Top Colleges,” and Princeton Review’s “Stone Cold Sober Schools.”
From a liberal arts perspective, the College of the Ozarks has the mission of encouraging academic, spiritual, patriotic, cultural, and professional growth in students. C of O maintains full accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (NCA). With a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, the College confers both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in more than 40 different academic fields. Pre-professional programs in dietetics, medical technology, engineering, law, pharmacy, veterinary, and medicine are also available. Graduates from the College of Ozarks step off of campus with educational experiences that have developed their head, heart, and hands for a life of good citizenship.
For young people of faith, attending Christian colleges is an excellent higher education option that will offer a wide array of benefits that simply aren’t possible in a larger, secular university. Not only can students attending a Christian university prepare for a career while fostering the development of key faith-based values, but they can also reap a great monetary value for their education. Although some Christian colleges have high tuition costs, most apply their ideals of inclusion to their admissions process to prevent barring future leaders from an education simply due to finances. When looking for quality faith-based education from a worldview, consider attending one of these top 10 most affordable Christian colleges for freedom from loan debt.