The Real Cost of Using ‘Free’ Online Master’s Degree Program Rankings

There are a lot of websites that offer rankings of online programs based on a wide range of characteristics. But, just who benefits from these published rankings?  Presumably, it’s valuable to you, if you are looking for an affordable online degree.

But rankings like the “Affordability Ranking of Online Master of Accounting Programs”, for example, when looked at more closely, are only marketing tactics, and shouldn’t be confused with accurate information that will help you make a good decision on what online programs to shop.

Let’s take a closer look.

The data used to calculate the ‘affordability’ ranking referenced above came from out-of-state tuition reported to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).  Universities are required to report data to this federal office on a wide range of education characteristics.  Much of this information is reported for the university as a whole; and these data are not consistently reported at the program or degree level from one university to another.

The Online Degree Database painstakingly collects the actual online Master of Accounting tuition data from university program websites.

Here’s what we found when we ranked our online Master of Accounting programs by affordability, using total program tuition:

  • Four of the universities promoted as offering
    affordable online Master of Accounting programs are actually online MBA degrees
    with Accounting concentrations, not Master of Accounting programs
  • Only 10 of the universities listed in this
    ranking are in the actual top 25 lowest out-of-state or online total tuition
  • None of the top 25 lowest priced online Master
    of Accounting programs in our database are priced at over $20,000; yet two of
    the universities listed on the promoted list publish total tuition at over
    $27,000 on their websites.

Let’s do the math:  4 of the 25 on the published list are not online Master of Accounting programs + 15
are not in the actual top 25 most affordable programs + 2 are actually priced well above the actual top 25 most affordable programs.  Who benefits from online degree program rankings like these?  Not you.

The universities whose names get published on this list benefit, as do the marketing firms that sell them student information.

If you use this ‘free’ list to start your search for an online program, you would overlook many great, truly affordable, online Master of Accounting degrees.  It’s hard to measure just how much a mistake like this can cost you, but as our break-down shows above, it could easily cost you thousands of dollars.

You can develop an accurate, personalized list of online master’s degree programs using the criteria that are most important to you.  Visit for more information.

Universities, work with the Online Degree Database directly to access unique and relevant intelligence about the online degree market. Contact Michelle at for more information.

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