Top 100 Affordable Mental Health Counseling Schools

Top Affordable Mental Health Programs

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Affordable mental health degrees are widely available in all regions of the country and all sizes of higher learning institutions. Classes are offered in-person, as a hybrid option, or even online. These degrees are also available in many different levels and specializations.

While COVID-19 catapulted mental health conditions and issues to unprecedented levels, the fragile state of people’s mental health has been in decline for decades in the US. Today, mental health professionals have never been more in demand. In fact, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), at least one in five adults suffers from a mental illness and, of these illnesses, 20% suffer from anxiety. Those who are of multiracial backgrounds and those part of the LGBTQ+ community suffer at the highest rates.

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Top 100 Affordable Mental Health Counseling College Rankings

Affordability is far from the only factor University HQ considered when compiling this list of affordable mental health schools, but is one of the most important for this list. This ranking is compiled of several factors essential to a quality education that will lead to a successful and long-term career. All aspects are based on facts without influence from outside sources.

One of the most important considerations is that of the college or university’s accreditation. Regional accreditation has far more weight in the ranking system than other types of accreditation. This helps to ensure that the quality of an affordable mental health degree is not compromised by its lower cost. The team at University HQ also considers program accreditation as they can also influence employer hiring decisions.

Graduation rates and admission rates are also taken into consideration. Many studies reveal that these two factors are directly related. When a school has a low admission rate it often also has a high graduation rate. In turn, those schools that accept a large percentage of applicants typically have substantially lower graduation rates. These are merely a handful of the factors considered by University HQ during the ranking process.


CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,462
    • Out-of-state: $15,412
  • Net Price: $3,897
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Total Enrollment: 18,679
  • Undergrad Students: 15,482
  • Graduate Students: 3,197
  • Graduation Rate: 70%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 12
  • CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $8,917
    • Out-of-state: $18,733
  • Net Price: $4,419
  • Retention Rate: 76%
  • Total Enrollment: 29,113
  • Undergrad Students: 24,965
  • Graduate Students: 4,148
  • Graduation Rate: 46%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 5
  • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

CUNY City College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,340
    • Out-of-state: $15,290
  • Net Price: $4,546
  • Retention Rate: 84%
  • Total Enrollment: 15,816
  • Undergrad Students: 13,030
  • Graduate Students: 2,786
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 14
  • CUNY City College

CUNY Brooklyn College

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,440
    • Out-of-state: $15,390
  • Net Price: $4,736
  • Retention Rate: 80%
  • Total Enrollment: 17,811
  • Undergrad Students: 14,970
  • Graduate Students: 2,841
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 31
  • CUNY Brooklyn College

California State University-Fresno

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,643
    • Out-of-state: $18,523
  • Net Price: $6,906
  • Retention Rate: 83%
  • Total Enrollment: 24,298
  • Undergrad Students: 21,541
  • Graduate Students: 2,757
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 101
  • California State University-Fresno

Utah Valley University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $5,906
    • Out-of-state: $16,806
  • Net Price: $8,184
  • Retention Rate: 65%
  • Total Enrollment: 41,728
  • Undergrad Students: 41,186
  • Graduate Students: 542
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Diplomas Awarded: N/A
  • Utah Valley University

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,750
    • Out-of-state: $15,390
  • Net Price: $8,276
  • Retention Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 5,049
  • Undergrad Students: 3,168
  • Graduate Students: 1,881
  • Graduation Rate: 35%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 83
  • Southeastern Oklahoma State University

California State University-Fullerton

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,953
    • Out-of-state: $18,833
  • Net Price: $8,322
  • Retention Rate: 89%
  • Total Enrollment: 40,445
  • Undergrad Students: 35,335
  • Graduate Students: 5,110
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 36
  • California State University-Fullerton

Marshall University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $8,512
    • Out-of-state: $19,366
  • Net Price: $8,387
  • Retention Rate: 73%
  • Total Enrollment: 12,852
  • Undergrad Students: 9,415
  • Graduate Students: 3,437
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 49
  • Marshall University

University of North Texas at Dallas

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $8,143
    • Out-of-state: $21,787
  • Net Price: $8,491
  • Retention Rate: 70%
  • Total Enrollment: 4,209
  • Undergrad Students: 3,419
  • Graduate Students: 790
  • Graduation Rate: 17%
  • Diplomas Awarded: 1
  • University of North Texas at Dallas
Full Ranking Report

Why a Degree from an Affordable Mental Health Counseling Program?

Debt is one of the biggest factors in choosing an affordable mental health degree. It can take up to 30 years to repay any student loan for many people. As such, the price tag on many mental health degrees is too expensive for the average person. Rather than putting yourself into debt from which you may never recover, you can consider more affordable mental health degrees. With the money one saves, it will be possible to take more vacations, buy a house sooner, save for the future, support kids or parents, and much more.

Another reason people prefer mental health degrees that are affordable is for the flexibility of these programs. Many affordable mental health programs are tailored to the needs of individuals with full-time jobs or full-time responsibilities outside of the classroom. Students at affordable colleges and universities can select between any type of learning platform, from online to in-person.

And a lower price tag can also equate to greater educational opportunities in the long run. If one selects a more affordable degree, it will be easier to pursue higher degrees in the future. Many mental health careers require at least a master’s degree. By choosing less expensive degrees, it will make it more affordable to continue one’s education after an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree.

Choosing an Affordable Counseling College

Today, exceptional education is available at both expensive and affordable higher education institutions. It’s important to note that the cost of a mental health degree is not necessarily reflective of the quality of education one will receive. Many less expensive colleges and universities offer quality education equal to, or better than, more expensive schools. However, other affordable programs may have lower standards. As such, it’s essential to consider a number of additional factors.

The accreditation of a college or university with mental health counseling degrees should be one of the most critical components in the decision-making process. Be sure to select an affordable mental health program from a regionally accredited college or university whenever possible. This type of accreditation is held in the highest regard by employers throughout the country. A regional accreditation demonstrates to others that the level of education requirements those colleges or universities are held to a higher standard than those with national accreditation or no accreditation.

If someone is truly interested in saving money on tuition, be sure to consider in-state, public schools over out-of-state or private school alternatives. Out-of-state and private colleges and universities can cost more than $40,000 a year. The general differences in educational offerings are typically not seen as enough to make up for the inflated price tags. For the best savings, choose a community college to complete prerequisite courses and then transfer to a four-year school if you’re looking for a degree from a well-known institution.

When choosing a four-year higher learning institution, don’t forget to consider affordable online mental health degrees. Many colleges and universities are eager to expand their student body base. As a result, they offer highly competitive online degree rates. Keep in mind, however, that other schools are charging more for online degrees. These colleges and universities might even charge out-of-state tuition to students choosing online degree programs who are not considered to be local residents. Be careful of these more expensive online degree tactics.

Online Options

With the help of advancements in telehealth and telehealth legislation, online mental health degrees are rapidly growing in popularity. It’s possible to find affordable online mental health associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and even PhDs or doctorates. And, because most careers in this type of medical field do not require hands-on medical practice, many students are choosing to complete relevant mental health work experience while completing degrees online.

At the associate degree level, students learn the core fundamentals relating to all future mental health careers. Students can choose to gain work experience while completing an online degree. One might consider working as a counselor’s assistant, looking for basic internships in mental health fields or just start working with people in any area possible.

An affordable online bachelor’s degree or master’s degree is often the minimum requirement for full careers and licensure in mental health. These higher degree levels prepare students for dealing with more serious crises in any number of areas such as marriage, sobriety, addiction, grief, and many others. While online doctorates and PhDs are also available, these degrees may require at least some work experience hours to be completed in-person with actual patients.

Online mental health programs are becoming more important with the ever-expanding area of telehealth. As the general population has a greater interest in completing mental health treatment in the comfort and privacy of their own home, the more essential it will be for mental health professionals to be able to effectively perform through a digital platform.

For those who are resistant to online learning, or for those who are simply more comfortable with in-person classes, many online mental health degrees also offer the option of hybrid learning or in-person courses to meet the needs of everyone. These offerings change regularly, so be sure to check each semester.

Are Mental Health Counseling Programs in High Demand?

Both mental health programs and mental health professionals are in high demand. The areas in which people can become employed with a mental health degree and the employers in search of mental health professionals expand each year. The overall field is expected to grow by up to 30% through 2029, as per the Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS). However, each specialization and each state will have different growth rate projections.

The fields of behavioral disorder, mental health, and substance abuse counseling are expected to experience a growth rate of 25%. This growth can be directly linked to an increasing number of states that are seeking counseling services and treatment options as alternatives to serving jail sentences. These areas also experience growth as more military veterans seek out assistance with substance misuse and mental health challenges.

Another reason these fields are growing is for the simple fact that mental health services are now more widely available through telehealth. This online form of mental health assistance allows people in rural areas to seek treatment when it was previously unavailable. It also allows people who have busy schedules to seek help from home, and it allows for individuals who might be too anxious or embarrassed to meet with someone in person to reach out for assistance.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Mental Health Counseling?

The fields and areas in which one is able to work as a mental health professional are quite extensive. With a mental health degree, it’s possible to work in a number of areas throughout a community, both in-person and remotely. Many people choose to work in home health or home care as these areas increase in demand due to a rapidly aging population in the US. Another wildly growing area is that of health and wellness. Each year, more and more people want to live healthier lives and become better versions of themselves. It’s also possible to work in community health or public health and many people pursue jobs in occupational health and others.

Employer types will often depend greatly on the area of mental health one pursues and the level of degree one completes. Many people will choose to work within the medical field in one way or another for various employers such as community mental health centers, residential mental health facilities, outpatient mental health therapists, private mental health offices, or residential substance misuse facilities. You could also work for public employers in a number of areas, such as social work. Retirement communities also offer on-site mental health professionals at a growing rate. The same is true for corporations. The employer options today are nearly endless as the country embraces the need for better mental health care in every aspect of one’s life.

Some people prefer to work with specific ages or mental health conditions. For instance, you could choose to work exclusively with children, teens, adults, the LGBTQ+ community, married couples, individuals with sexual concerns, addicts, people with ADHD, and others. Whether a person chooses to become a therapist, counselor, clinician, technician, or general mental health worker, the options grow with each passing day.

Counseling Graduates Earn More After College

Salary expectations for mental health professionals will be different for everyone and be influenced by a number of varying factors. For individuals who seek out counseling careers in mental health, behavioral disorders and substance abuse, the median pay was just over $47,500 in 2020. Professionals could expect to earn closer to $30,500 for those with less experience, lower degrees, and in more rural or less affluent areas of the country. Individuals with higher degrees, more experience, and those working for top employers can expect to earn closer to $80,000 a year.

Employer type will have a tremendous influence on salary, as well. Substance abuse and residential mental health facilities typically pay a bit less than other employers, with a median salary of over $40,500 in 2020. Outpatient mental health providers, substance abuse centers, and individual and family services pay a bit more at a rate between $46,00 and $47,500. For those looking to make the most in this field, consider working for any type of hospital, the government, corporations, or private practice. These employers pay around $50,500 and well beyond.


  • What are the admission requirements for mental health degree students?
    The admission requirements for mental health degrees will depend on the level of degree. Associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs will often have a minimum GPA threshold for admittance. For transfer students and master’s degree applicants, specific courses might be required. And for a master’s, PhD, or a doctorate, it will likely be necessary to meet a GPA standard and to successfully complete a graduate school exam.
  • What are the requirements of mental health programs?
    Mental health programs may also have specific requirements to graduate. The core courses typically cover the subject matter most relevant to one’s future in mental health. As such, a program may require that a student completes each of these courses with a specific letter grade. For some programs, this might be a C or the equivalent. Other programs may have higher standards or incorporate a weighted average system.
  • What kinds of supervised hours can you expect to need in a mental health degree program?
    Supervised hour requirements will vary by degree, specialization, and, most importantly, state laws. If a person is interested in becoming a mental health counselor, one is required to complete thousands of supervised hours, usually 2,000 to 3,000. Each state has a unique set of requirements, and the state may also incorporate a specific time frame during which the hours must be completed.
  • What type of accreditation should mental health degree students be looking for?
    Regional accreditation is essential for mental health degrees. Most states may not include nationally accredited schools on their list of approved mental health degree programs. This type of accreditation will also influence the type of employer for which one can work and the amount of money one can earn over a lifetime. And a degree from a nationally accredited college or university may not be permitted if one wishes to complete a graduate program from a regionally accredited higher learning institution. Once again, each situation will vary.
  • How long will it take to complete a mental health degree?
    The time it takes to complete a mental health degree will be different for each degree level, each school, and each person. Someone who is able to complete courses on a full-time basis might finish an associate degree in two years, a bachelor’s degree in five years, a master’s degree in two years, and a PhD or doctorate in five years. Each person and circumstance will be unique. Some people will complete degrees in less time while others will take longer.

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