Top Low-Cost Online Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership

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online edd

A doctorate in educational leadership prepares graduates for top-level positions in the education field, shaping policy and practices. Graduates often work in managerial and research positions at K-12 schools, colleges, and education agencies. These jobs feature high salaries and strong growth prospects. Postsecondary education administrators earn an annual median salary of $97,500, while school principals earn $98,490. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects both positions to keep pace with national job growth from 2019-2029.

A college degree has become a necessity in an increasingly competitive job market. Compared to high school graduates, degree-holders earn a higher weekly salary and experience lower unemployment rates. Even among college graduates, higher education levels translate to stronger professional outcomes. Master’s graduates earn higher salaries than bachelor’s graduates, while doctoral graduates earn the highest average salaries and experience the lowest unemployment rates.

An online Ed.D. in educational leadership gives working professionals the flexibility to maintain full-time employment while earning an advanced degree. Online programs may enable students to complete their degree with few or no campus visits. Many programs encourage candidates to connect their education to their own work experience, building a bridge between theory and practice.

Methodology

To develop this ranking of the most affordable online doctorate of educational leadership programs, we began with an initial pool of 44 accredited colleges and universities offering this degree. We then applied a tuition filter, eliminating any program with a tuition cost of more than $20,000 per year. The remaining schools were ranked by affordability using tuition data from College Navigator.


Affordable Online Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership

#1 — Texas Tech University

Lubbock, Texas

  • Tuition: $25,448/year in-state, $33,628/out-of-state
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

Texas Tech offers a top-ranked online doctoral program in educational leadership. The degree prepares school leaders to adapt research-based solutions for K-12 school districts. Candidates complete up to 96 credits, and Texas Tech accepts up to 30 post-master’s transfer credits.

The three-year program emphasizes instructional change and education interventions. All candidates complete either an internship or a proficiency demonstration in educational program evaluation. The curriculum also includes preparation for superintendent professional certification.

While all course content occurs online, candidates can also meet in-person during Texas Tech’s doctoral summer institutes. These summer sessions offer opportunities to collaborate with peers and faculty.

#2 — Trident University International

Cypress, California

  • Tuition: $761.25/credit
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

Trident’s fully online doctoral program in educational leadership gives candidates the flexibility to complete their studies while maintaining a full-time job. This post-master’s program prepares graduates for leadership positions at colleges, non-traditional K-12 education settings, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.

The Ed.D. in educational leadership includes 52 credits total. The program offers concentration options in K-12 leadership, higher education, and instructional design. Regardless of concentration, candidates complete a 16-credit program core, a 12-credit research section, and a 12-credit dissertation. Trident also offers a degree completion program for candidates who have completed previous doctoral work at another institution.

#3 — Lamar University

Beaumont, Texas

  • Tuition: $1,554/three credits
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

LU’s online Ed.D in educational leadership enables candidates to complete courses entirely online, with no in-person requirements. The program begins in the summer and typically takes eight semesters to complete. LU caters to working professionals, and many students work full-time while completing their degree.

The program includes 60 credits, divided among core courses, concentration courses, and a dissertation. Candidates select from two concentrations: educational technology innovation or global educational leadership. Regardless of concentration, all students complete core courses such as leadership in higher education administration, strategic planning and educational leadership, and fundamentals of program evaluation.

#4 — University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Lincoln, Nebraska

  • Tuition: $357/credit in-state, $750/credit out-of-state
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

UNL’s online Ed.D in educational leadership draws from its Department of Educational Administration and Department of Teaching, Learning, and Teaching Administration. The program serves working educators who already hold a master’s in education or a similar degree. Candidates complete the degree in about four years on average.

UNL offers three specialization options, including teaching and curriculum, higher education, and innovative learning technologies. Candidates complete a minimum of 96 credits, including at least 18 concentration credits. UNL hosts many courses online, but the program also requires occasional campus visits for in-person class sessions.

#5 — University of Arkansas

Fayetteville, Arkansas

  • Tuition: $437.54/credit
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

U of A hosts a top-ranked online doctoral program in educational leadership. The school’s Ed.D. in educational leadership serves experienced educators who already hold a valid teaching license and an Ed.S. degree or equivalent. The program takes three years to complete.

U of A offers most coursework online, but candidates must attend intensive campus weekend sessions once per semester. Each campus session focuses on a central program theme. These weekend gatherings include lectures, discussions, and other group activities. At the program’s end, all candidates attend a final weekend session to share their dissertations.

#6 — Union University

Jackson, Tennessee

  • Tuition: N/A; Contact school for more details
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

A private Christian college, Union University hosts a top-rated online doctoral program in educational leadership. The degree features a faith-based approach to educational administration and practice. Students gain the skills to oversee curriculum formation, perform in-depth educational research, and develop educational policy. The program uses a cohort format in which students complete the curriculum together as a cohesive group.

The program offers two concentration options in P-12 school administration and higher education. The P-12 concentration offers additional specialization options in instructional leadership, teacher leadership, and leadership in school reform. The instructional leadership track leads to professional licensure.

#7 — Liberty University

Lynchburg, Virginia

  • Tuition: $595/credit full-time, $650/credit part-time
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

One of the country’s largest Christian colleges, Liberty also ranks among the largest providers of online education, enrolling more than 100,000 students total. The school’s online Ed.D in educational leadership builds advanced research and educational management skills. The program uses a 100% online format that requires no campus visits.

Degree candidates complete a minimum of 54 credits, with courses offered in condensed eight-week blocks. Typical courses include advanced learning theory and research, theories of educational leadership, and conflict resolution. Candidates graduate in about three years on average, though Liberty also offers flexible part-time enrollment options.

#8 — East Tennessee State University

Johnson City, Tennessee

  • Tuition: $5,279.50/semester in-state, $16,626.50/semester out-of-state
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

Home to Tennessee’s top-ranked online doctoral program in educational leadership, ETSU trains educators to lead and manage colleges. The school’s Ed.D. in higher education leadership uses a cohort format, enabling students to move through the course sequence as a group. The program operates mainly online but includes in-person internship and educational practicum requirements.

Most doctoral candidates complete a minimum of 66 credits. ETSU divides the curriculum among core courses, concentration courses, additional courses, cognate courses, and dissertation requirements. Candidates who hold a valid education specialist degree complete 42 credits, skipping over the cognate and additional course requirements.

#9 — William Carey University

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

  • Tuition: $490/trimester credit
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

A Christian liberal arts college associated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention, William Carey University hosts a fully online doctoral program in educational leadership. The degree emphasizes strategic planning, resource utilization, management skills, and research applications. The program operates entirely online, though students can attend optional campus meetings held during later semesters.

The degree curriculum includes up to 63 credits, divided among an advanced leadership core, research courses, and a dissertation. Applicants who hold an education specialist degree may apply up to 33 credits toward the doctorate. These candidates must meet prerequisites including professional writing, data analysis, and an inquiry research/field project requirement.

#10 — University of Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky

  • Tuition: $8,295/semester
  • Delivery Format: Synchronous

Kentucky’s flagship public university, UK offers an executive Ed.D. in educational leadership. The program serves educational professionals who already work in leadership positions. Students use their current career as the basis for their research. UK’s online doctoral program in educational leadership uses a cohort format and takes four years to complete.

Candidates complete a minimum of 46 credits, including a leadership core, research methods core, writing core, electives, and a dissertation. All courses include live class sessions conducted via Zoom. Courses may occur in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate traditional work schedules.

#11 — Central Michigan University

Mount Pleasant, Michigan

  • Tuition: $726/credit
  • Delivery Format: Synchronous

One of Michigan’s major public colleges, CMU offers an online Ed.D. in educational leadership. The program offers four concentration areas: K-12 leadership, K-12 curriculum, higher education leadership, and educational technology. Candidates in the K-12 concentration qualify for the Praxis SSA, which leads to the Michigan Central Office certificate.

CMU’s online doctoral program in educational leadership includes live video meetings held every other Saturday. Along with online coursework, candidates attend two in-person meetings each summer. These campus residency sessions last week one each, giving students the opportunity to attend lectures, class sessions, and meetings with peers and faculty.

#12 — Rowan University

Glassboro, New Jersey

  • Tuition: $886/credit
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

Rowan’s online doctoral program in educational leadership covers topics including leadership theory, changing organizations, and student development theory. Graduates often enter leadership roles in colleges and educational associations. Candidates can enter the program in either the fall or summer.

Rowan offers both hybrid and fully online enrollment options. The hybrid program includes 60% online content and 40% campus content. The fully online program includes three required campus residencies. These in-person sessions occur at the beginning, middle, and end of the program. Campus residencies include workshops and meetings with peers and faculty members.

#13 — University of Massachusetts-Lowell

Lowell, Massachusetts

  • Tuition: $470/credit
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

UMass Lowell’s online Ed.D. in educational leadership trains scholar practitioners for K-12 and higher education settings. The program uses a cohort format and begins in May each year. Program applicants must hold either a master’s or education specialist degree.

The degree curriculum includes 42 credits, divided between 33 course credits and nine dissertation credits. Typical courses include applied research design, organizational learning, and developing inclusive school contexts. The applied dissertation may focus on a local issue related to students’ own professional experience. UMass Lowell offers all course content online. However, students must visit campus for weeklong residency sessions held each summer.

#14 — City University of Seattle

Seattle, Washington

  • Tuition: $742/credit
  • Delivery Format: Asynchronous, synchronous

CityU’s online Ed.D. in educational leadership offers a primarily online format, with in-person residencies hosted in both Seattle and San Diego. Qualified candidates may transfer up to 12 master’s quarter credits toward their doctorate. Students with relevant professional experience may also skip over up to 12 quarter credits, completing the degree faster.

Candidates choose from three concentration options: organizational leadership, higher education leadership, and specialized study. The specialized track enables students to customize their degree to meet professional goals and interests. Common specialization areas include inspired teacher leadership, strategic innovation and decision making, and global leadership.


Frequently Asked Questions About Affordable Educational Leadership Doctoral Programs Online

Q: What are the requirements for an affordable online doctorate degree in educational leadership?

A: Requirements for an affordable online doctorate in educational leadership will vary from program to program, but in general, degrees of this kind require advanced coursework in educational leadership topics as well as research methods in the field. They also typically require a doctoral dissertation. Campus visits are sometimes required for the purposes of networking, instructional workshops and seminars, and dissertation defense.

Q: How much does an affordable online EdD educational leadership cost?

Tuition costs for these programs can vary quite a bit from program to program. In this ranking, for example, you’ll find degrees with tuition costs less than $4,000 and those over $20,000. Keep in mind too that many of these programs offer financial aid and even scholarship options to help fund your education.

Q: Can I complete an affordable online doctorate in educational leadership online, or are campus visits required?

A: Most of the affordable online doctorates in educational leadership programs in our ranking require some visits to campus, whether for a single weekend or for annual week-long seminars. It is possible, though, to find such a program that can be completed entirely online. Before opting for 100% online programs, be sure to weigh the convenience against any benefits of these campus immersions, such as increased engagement and networking opportunities. If such advantages are particularly attractive to you, you might consider a partially online, hybrid, or blended program.

Affordable Online Educational Leadership Doctoral Degree Programs: Available Concentrations

Some low-cost online doctor of educational leadership programs allow students to concentrate their studies in a sub-area of educational leadership. In this section, we’ll discuss some of these specialization options.

Organizational Leadership

Affordable online educational leadership doctorate degree programs with concentrations in organizational leadership prepare students to lead educational initiatives outside of academia such as within government agencies, business, and nonprofits. To give you an idea of what you would learn in such a program, we’ve listed some sample course titles below:

  • Leading In a Global Environment
  • Organizational Design and Culture
  • Managing Complexity in Organizations
  • Collaborative Coaching

Higher Education Leadership

Students who opt to enroll in a low-cost online doctor of educational leadership with a concentration in higher education leadership learn to lead within postsecondary institutions such as community colleges and universities, for example. The curricula for these programs typically feature courses like the ones listed below.

  • The Future of Higher Education
  • Student Populations and Experiences
  • The Adult Learner
  • Higher Education Finance

K-12 Education

An affordable doctor of educational leadership online program with a concentration in K-12 education prepares students for advanced leadership positions within the elementary and secondary school environment. These positions may include school principals, assistant principals, superintendents, school board members, and more. Courses typical of these programs include the following:

  • Curriculum Design and Administration
  • Supervision and Staff Development Training
  • History and Politics of K-12 Education
  • Building a K-12 Community

Special Education

Low-cost online doctoral programs in educational leadership with concentrations in special education prepare students for supervisory, management, and leadership roles within the area of special education. These positions may include director of special education, special education consultant, director of therapeutic recreation, disabilities and mental health services manager, and special education coordinator, for example. Students pursuing this concentration can expect to take classes like those listed below:

  • Financing Special Education
  • Supervision in Special Education
  • Designing Intervention and Measuring Outcomes in Special Education
  • History of Education Reform

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