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Most Affordable Online Social Work (BSW) Degrees for 2024

Author: Ellery Weil
Editor: STEPS Staff

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A seated group therapy session is taking place. A BSW facilitator rests a reassuring hand on the shoulder of a participant with green hair. Other participants sit in a circle, actively listening. The setting is an affordable, well-lit room with blinds, plants, and office equipment.

Social workers dedicate their careers to helping some of the most vulnerable people in the country. With this type of passionate work for the public, it’s easy to see why many social workers believe their career is a vocation. Being able to also shape the policy for a social work organization and help mentor other people in this important profession are great reasons to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW).

There is a key difference in social work than in some other professions in public service – it’s not considered a high-salary one. The average social worker was earning $55,350 in 2023, but those in management will find more potential with $77,000 as the average.

This is one reason why you need to factor in educational cost when you’re applying for your BSW. You want to ensure a return on investment that doesn’t potentially leave you struggling with student debt. Whether you’re looking to study on a campus or online (or in a hybrid program with both), there are plenty of affordable options for your BSW. Let’s look at some of the most affordable ways to earn your social work degree in 2024.

Spotlight on Affordable Online Social Work (BSW) Degree Programs

While everyone’s definition of affordability differs depending on your personal financial circumstances, studying for your BSW in a full or partial online program can be an effective way to save money. You’ll be spared the expenses of relocating to campus and living in student housing, plus you have the advantage of a flexible schedule that allows you to work while you study. To help you make a list of affordable BSW programs from which to choose, here are some high-quality online programs with affordable tuition rates to get your research started.

This is a public university in Texas with a strong history of online and hybrid learning. Angelo State offers the option of earning your BSW online or at their San Angelo campus. This highly-regarded BSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and has been heralded by several higher education resource guides as one of the top online-forward BSW programs in the nation. Angelo State also offers BSW students the opportunity to enroll in summer study programs in Czechia, Romania, and the Netherlands.

Angelo State offers particularly affordable social work program tuition for Texas residents, in addition to their financial aid program. Upon graduating, you’ll also be eligible to sit for the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners Licensing Exam.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Specialization Options:

  • International Social Work

The BSW program at Northern Arizona University (NAU) has been accredited by the CSWE since 1988. Studying here is an excellent option for transfer students, as you can enroll in the program as a sophomore or higher once you’ve been admitted. You also need to have a GPA of 2.25 or higher and show that you’ve completed English and mathematics requirements. NAU also strives to keep in-state tuition for its BSW affordable, even before you receive any financial aid.

This program is offered online or in-person, and 450 hours of fieldwork are required to graduate. Your BSW advisor can help you find the right placements for that work. Students can attend NAU’s Flagstaff or Yuma campuses if they choose an in-person degree.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

Specialization Options:

  • Child Welfare Training Project (competitive field placement)

The BSW program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Thompson School of Social Work and Public Health is a two-year program which begins in your junior year of college. You can either be a continuing UHM student or a transfer student with an associate’s degree or something similar. This BSW program blends traditional coursework and mandatory fieldwork placements to prepare you for a future career as a social worker. Hawaii residents are eligible for demonstrably low in-state tuition.

The BSW program at UHM is offered through its Distance Education (DE) option, and is also available as a traditional on-campus degree. However, students wishing to earn their degree through DE must be physically based in Hawaii to complete their fieldwork.

Delivery:

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Part-Time
  • Full-Time

What Impacts Affordability of a BSW Degree Program?

Once you’ve found the most affordable online bachelor’s degree in social work program, there may be some other factors that impact the costs. As an example, it’s crucial to choose an accredited program so your degree will be recognized as legitimate by employers and postgraduate institutions. Here are some other things to consider that may affect what you pay for a BSW.

Out-of-State vs. In-state Status

If you are choosing to study at a university where you’re a state resident, you should be eligible for in-state tuition. At many universities, in-state tuition is substantially lower than out-of-state tuition that can be more expensive, sometimes double or even triple the cost. Ensuring you get in-state status and tuition will have a major positive impact on your overall cost burden.

Online or On-campus

Studying online is more than just the more convenient option, as for many students it’s a cheaper one. Studying online means you won’t have to pay to physically relocate to campus, which can require moving into on-site housing or signing an apartment lease, purchasing clothes for a new climate, or paying shipping expenses for your possessions.

Transfer Credit Acceptance

If you already have some college credits, either from earning an associate’s degree or with credits earned at a different school, acceptance of credits from a BSW program can seriously cut your costs. Starting your BSW with transfer credits at the ready means you’ll be paying for fewer overall credit hours.

Fees

Many schools discuss tuition and fees on their website, and it’s important not to ignore the “fees” part of that equation. Some schools include fees like equipment rental, mandatory health insurance, and technology use. Comparing these costs is a notable part of figuring out the total financial burden for different BSW programs, whether online or on-campus.

Funding Your Online Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Degree

Even more affordable online BSW programs need to be carefully weighed by two big factors: what your degree costs and how you’re going to pay for it. While you may have savings ready to help pay for your degree, you will likely need (or at least appreciate) some outside funding sources.

Remember: many funding options are time-sensitive, so work on getting your applications in order as early as possible. Here are a few options to consider, either on their own or in some combination, to fund your BSW degree:

Low-Interest Student Loans

Federal student loans are subsidized by the government and have low interest rates and a variety of repayment plans after graduation. Federal student loans are generally more borrower-friendly than loans from private institutions such as banks. Even students at more affordable online social work programs will need to take out loans, so don’t hesitate to fill out your student aid forms as soon as possible.

Social Work Scholarships

Since social workers are in high demand, many schools offer BSW-specific scholarships for students that may be eligible. Be sure to look online for private foundations that also offer scholarships for a BSW or other degrees for social work students. Often, scholarships are offered for any student from a specific region or state, for people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, or for LGBTQ students who want a career in social work.

Grants

Grants, much like scholarships, are one-off awards given to help pay for educational expenses. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form will determine if you are eligible for certain federal grants, but also do some research to see if you are eligible for others, such as state grants or ones from a private charitable foundation. It’s also crucial to apply for any relevant grants before the application deadline.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Programs

Since social workers are considered a public service occupation, you may become eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF) once you begin your career. PSLF is a government program that forgives all federal student debt after making 120 of the minimum income-based payments while working in a public service occupation.