By Iris Stone
Are you thinking about earning a master's degree in healthcare administration? If so, we don't blame you. The healthcare industry earns more revenue in the United States than any other field, and is also the second largest national employer. Healthcare organizations collectively provide more than 11 million job opportunities around the country, and that number continues to grow. As with any booming industry (and really any industry, period) the organizations within it would likely fail miserably without quality leadership. This realization has caused a sharp spike in the number of graduate programs in HCA in the U.S., as students scramble to earn the credentials required to make them marketable in top administrative positions.
Most people in the field are interested in hearing about the best master's degrees in healthcare administration available, but aspiring students typically also have an interest in saving money. This demand is what inspired our ranking, where we sought out the most affordable programs in the nation.
Beginning with a compilation of all accredited schools offering healthcare degrees, we slowly paired down the list by eliminating those without graduate programs and those whose courses are primarily online (although we have another list of the best online programs). We then sorted the remaining candidates to identify the 20 cheapest schools, which we've listed below. We organized them from most to least expensive, assigning public universities an approximate value by taking into consideration both their in-state and out-of-state rates.
Editor's Note: We recently reviewed this article and made some changes based on feedback that not all tuition prices were accurate. Please keep in mind that we use College Navigator (CN) to gather all tuition data, and so the numbers we report are based on the feedback the National Center for Education Statistics (which runs CN) receives from schools. The following ranking was adjusted to include the recently updated 2014-2015 tuition rates which are specific to graduate programs. In most cases, we combined the "tuition" and "fees" costs listed for each school on CN, as we believe this offers a more accurate reflection of the total cost to the student. This adjustment was especially important given that, at least as far as CN displays the information, many universities charge almost as much in fees as tuition. We also did our best to corroborate these findings with the cost-per-credit indicated on each school's program website. However, as not all schools openly share such financial information, this was not always possible. Furthermore, schools vary widely on the way they assign credits, the number of credits required for a student to be considered "full time," and the number of credits students are expected to take per school year. Thus, the annual assessments below are just that – assessments – and not indicative of an exact figure. If you are an administrator at one of the schools listed below and feel that cost of attendance has been reflected inaccurately, we encourage you to contact CN and offer them more contemporary information.
20. University of Massachusetts Lowell
Master of Science in Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship: Healthcare Option
The University of Massachusetts Lowell deviates significantly from the norm in an impressive way. Instead of offering a traditional master's degree in healthcare administration, the public institution has formed a graduate program in "Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship." Paired with a specialty in healthcare, the degree provides a unique amalgam of coursework that addresses pertinent issues in leadership, technology, finance, product development, market research, and corporate entrepreneurship. UM Lowell indicates that the target audience for the program is current healthcare practitioners and administrators looking to give themselves a career boost. Notably, in 2013 Business Insider named this school "the most underrated college in America."
Tuition: $12,899/yr (In-state) $19,587/yr (Out-of-state)
19. University of Louisiana at Lafayette
MBA Healthcare Administration
This professional program provides an effective healthcare management education grounded in the foundations of traditional MBA training. The rigorous program requires students to develop a keen analytical mind capable of making quick, sound decisions. These skills will help graduates be successful in a complex, sometimes stressful field. Students seeking an affordable master's degree in healthcare administration will get more than they bargained for, benefitting from flexible scheduling and a thesis-free curriculum in addition to low tuition rates. UL at Lafayette has earned multiple distinctions for its academic caliber, and most recently it made Princeton Review's list of top 296 business schools.
Tuition: $7,346/yr (In-state) $19,746/yr (Out-of-state)
18. Texas A&M Health Science Center
Master of Health Administration
Round Rock, TX
Out of all the agricultural and mechanical campuses in Texas, the Health Science Center perhaps provides the best environment for aspiring healthcare professionals. Targeted specifically to people in this growing industry, Texas A&M HSC offers a top master's degree in healthcare administration within its Health Policy and Management department. U.S. News & World Report ranks the MHA program one of the best in the nation, and also partnered with the National Center for Healthcare Leadership to develop a strong graduate curriculum. Students complete 57 credit hours in relevant topics, in addition to completing a summer internship. Although the program is relatively new (2002), it earned a distinguished CAHME accreditation in near record time.
Tuition: $8,554/yr (In-state) $17,242/yr (Out-of-state)
17. Framingham State University
Master of Healthcare Administration
Massachusetts residents can turn to Framingham State University for all their healthcare administration education needs. Ideally, applicants to this master's degree in healthcare administration are current medical professionals looking to move into management positions, or administrators who seek didactic training to further enhance their abilities. FSU faculty understands that healthcare organizations are prone to challenges and crises, and thus works to overly prepare students in a way that will keep them calm and confident in the face of such events. Classes include Healthcare Marketing, Managing Operations, Quantitative Analysis, and a final seminar. "Start Class" gives FSU an above average 72 smart ranking, and also places it in the top 500 of all research universities.
Tuition: $9,025/yr (In-state) $14,400/yr (Out-of-state)
16. Winston-Salem State University
Master of Healthcare Administration
Winston-Salem State offers an affordable master's degree in healthcare administration that focuses intently on the increasing complexity and dynamism of the healthcare industry. The field requires executives to be incredibility flexible, able to excel equally in hospitals, managed care organizations, long-term care facilities, federal programs, insurance companies, community programs, and many other settings. WSSU students can take advantage of a number of unique opportunities, including the university's "virtual hospital." This facility gives healthcare students the chance to gain real world, hands-on experience and gain confidence in a no-risk environment. As of 2015, Winston Salem State garnered the 25th spot on U.S. News' list of top public schools, and also holds the #15 ranking on its list of best historically black colleges.
Tuition: $6,160/yr (In-state) $16,019/yr (Out-of-state)
15. University of North Texas
Master's in Management with an M.B.A. Concentration in Health Services Management
The University of North Texas is just one of many schools on this list that hail from the Lone Star state. This program features a unique design, allowing students to earn an "M.B.A. Concentration" in healthcare management while pursuing a general master's in management. Situated in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, UNT has created a business program that will make locals competitive after graduation. Specifically, the health services management specialization gives students the tools they need to find work in pharmaceutical firms, surgical care centers, consulting firms, hospitals, and many other organizations attractive to those wielding master's degrees in healthcare administration. Forbes currently lists UNT as the 155th best university in the South.
Tuition: $7,165/yr (In-state) $13,711/yr (Out-of-state)
14. Pfeiffer University
Master of Health Administration
Pfeiffer University's comprehensive master's degree in healthcare administration program offers middle and lower level managers the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly competitive industry. Students learn about many of the subjects typical of a business administration program – finance, law, and ethical considerations – but also have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in healthcare-specific situations. Small, diverse classes are available at two campuses as well as online, and program members can even study abroad in Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Liberia. U.S. News rates PU as one of the 25 best programs for veterans in the country, and as one the top 65 universities in the south.
13. Armstrong State University
Master of Health Services Administration
Armstrong University, located in Savannah, Georgia, holds a prestigious "Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education" (CAHME) accreditation for its MHA program. Graduate students learn about all the foundations of healthcare management, including financial and legal aspects. ASU boasts impressive statistics for its program, including an 88% two-year graduation rate and a 100% three-month postgrad employment rate. Previous graduates have earned coveted positions at the Healthcare Corporation of America, Bon Secours Health System, Lewis Cancer and Research Pavilion, Alliant Insurance Services, and with many other organizations. As a school that values educational integrity, diversity, community engagement, and student-centered programming, Armstrong has developed one of the top master's degrees in healthcare administration in the region.
Tuition: $5,182/yr (In-state) $15,212/yr (Out-of-state)
12. Governors State University
Master of Health Administration
University Park, IL
Governors State University joins other elite universities on this list, boasting a CAHME accreditation for its MHA program. Governors State describes its master's degree in health administration as "comprehensive," displaying a buffet of classes that cover strategic planning, community health, informatics, economics, human resources, policy, research methods, and even quantitative decision-making. The rigorous program demands a strict application process, and students must have at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit multiple letters of recommendation and a personal statement to be eligible for admission. "College Factual" has collected data on GSU that reveals the school's excellent educational resources; student expenditures, employee compensation, and the student-to-faculty ratio are all above average.
Tuition: $6,696/yr (In-state) $13,392/yr (Out-of-state)
11. Indiana Wesleyan University
MBA in Healthcare Administration
Students in Indiana Wesleyan University's Health Administration MBA program enjoy the best of both worlds, studying the essential business principles that will serve them well in the dynamic world of medicine and patient health. With classes that push them to examine complex business problems and pitch innovative solutions, the IWU curriculum uniquely prepares learners for success in the real world. Students supplement theoretical learning with the practical study of economic growth, personnel management, communication strategies, decision making, and more. Religious students often choose Indiana Wesleyan for its biblical foundations, and many MBA classes feature an emphasis on ethical standards and spirituality. College Prowler awards IWU a notable above-average overall ranking, and an overwhelming number of students praise the knowledgeable professors and low-stress course load.
10. Texas Southern University
Master of Science in Healthcare Administration
Rounding out the list of Texas universities on this list, Texas Southern University offers a graduate program that rivals some of the best master's degrees in healthcare administration in the nation. Aside from academics, College Prowler reports that students at TSU love the knowledgeable professors and stellar career services. Students starting the program in 2015 and later will enjoy a newly updated curriculum. The changes give participants more class options, while retaining the basic structure that allows for both thesis and non-thesis tracks. Courses include Healthcare Economics, Information Systems, Managerial Finance, Health Policy Analysis, and of course much more. U.S. News awards TSU the 49th spot on its ranking of top historically black colleges.
Tuition: $7,330/yr (In-state) $12,022/yr (Out-of-state)
9. Texas State University
Master's of Healthcare Administration
San Marcos, TX
Texas State University touts another CAHME-accredited program in healthcare management. The school has held this distinction since the early 1990s, signaling its long-standing commitment to providing quality curriculum. TXST works hard to ensure that accepted applicants experience an education that will best challenge them, and so provides options based on a student's work history. Those new to the industry are required to complete a field experience, while those whose resumes already include a list of healthcare administration positions can spend that time writing a thesis. In order to give as many students as possible access to HCA classes, Texas State also offers an MBA concentration, minor, and special cognate in healthcare management topics. Military Times EDGE magazine ranks TXST as the 13th best school for veterans.
Tuition: $5,744/yr (In-state) $13,014/yr (Out-of-state)
8. University of Evansville
Master of Science in Health Services Administration
The University of Evansville is another great choice for current healthcare professionals who aspire to management positions in the field. Full-time faculty members use a multidisciplinary approach to instruct students in the essential skills that lie at the intersection of business and healthcare. Students may enroll in this accredited master's degree in healthcare administration full- or part-time, and many choose the latter option in order to continue their work in the community. Most classes are available in the evenings, although those with extra time can also participate in a 10-day study abroad program! In fact, its study abroad trips currently hold the #1 ranking on BestCollegeReviews.org's list of best programs in America.
7. Salve Regina University
M.S. in Health Care Administration and Management
Students with either a business background, experience in healthcare, or both are eligible to apply to Salve Regina University's master's degree in healthcare administration and management. The program features IACBE accreditation and focuses on churning out graduates who will be fiscally responsible, attentive to patients, and focused on clinical outcomes. Like any quality program, SRU blends theory and practical application to help aspiring healthcare managers launch their careers. Students can take courses at multiple locations, including the Newport Campus, the adult education center in Warwick, and an online classroom. Those interested in a less-intensive program might opt for the HCAM certificate instead.
6. University of Nebraska Omaha
Master of Business Administration: Concentration in Health Care Management
The University of Nebraska's Omaha location provides an MBA degree with an optional concentration in healthcare management. The program distinguishes itself through its interdisciplinary approach, drawing from a wealth of resources across multiple departments and the university medical center. Even within this concentration, students have the opportunity to focus more specifically on management, research, or public policy, thus offering greater customization options than the typical master's degree in healthcare administration. Faculty members find it imperative that students understand key topics in the industry, and classes cover everything from health economics to public health advocacy. College Prowler notes UN's high quality professors and highly satisfied students as top reasons to attend.
Tuition: $4,415/yr (In-state) $12,330/yr (Out-of-state)
5. Wichita State University
Master of Business Administration: Healthcare Administration
Kansas state residents might want to consider Wichita State University for their healthcare education needs. The accredited master's degree in healthcare administration operates as a concentration within the MBA program, allowing students to access a broad spectrum of both health- and business-related courses. Required classes include Health Economics, Healthcare Policy, Operations Management, Information Systems, and Social and Behavioral Aspects of Health. Because of its relationship with the business school, the HCA program gives participants unique international opportunities, including the "Berlin Experience." This semester-long course sends students to Germany, where they work on real consulting projects and gain unparalleled management experience. Forbes lists WSU as the #135 university in the Midwest.
Tuition: $4,755/yr (In-state) $11,679/yr (Out-of-state)
4. Wilmington University
Master of Science with a Concentration in Health Care Administration
New Castle, DE
Wilmington University's MSM in Healthcare Administration focuses on two essential program outcomes: teach students how to 1) conduct analysis and make sound decisions related to healthcare, and 2) demonstrate proficiency in policy, reimbursement, and insurance. Traditional classes are available at three separate regional locations, but program members can also enroll in distance education courses. Affordable Colleges Online named Wilmington the #1 most affordable college in Delaware, and this cheap master's degree in healthcare administration is available for a mere $7,600 per full time year. Between 18 credits of business management core classes, 12 concentration courses, and six credits of electives, full-time students could easily complete the program in less than two years.
3. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
M.A. in Health and Human Services Administration
Who says a private school education has to cost an arm and a leg? Saint Mary's University of Minnesota offers a quality, spiritually focused academic experience for less than $7,500 a year. Curriculum facilitators design classes around an understanding of the biggest challenges facing the industry. For example, classes in finance and human resources help graduates address the personnel shortages and complicated revenue streams currently affecting hospitals and large clinics. Graduates of the master's degree in healthcare administration program also earn leadership positions in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, nonprofit agencies, and behavioral health institutions. SMU holds the #181 spot on U.S. News' 2015 list of top national colleges, as well as the #63 spot on the same publication's "Best for Vets" ranking.
2. Texas Woman's University
Master's of Healthcare Administration
Texas Woman's University marks the fourth school on this list to reside in the Southwestern state. The master's degree in healthcare administration at TWU serves full-time workers already employed in the surrounding community. The program works to keep students engaged through a variety of teaching styles, even bringing in guest lecturers and helping near-graduates prepare a personal portfolio. The extensive curriculum requires students to complete six foundation courses, another 15 core classes, and two electives. A 2012 report indicated that TWU is one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare workers.
Tuition: $4,200/yr (In-state) $10,716/yr (Out-of-state)
1. Worcester State University
Master of Science Healthcare Administration
Worcester State University caps this ranking with its M.S. in healthcare administration, which is available for less than $3,000 in yearly tuition. For that price, WSU's classes are within reach of even the most budget-conscious students. Core courses include Healthcare Systems, Marketing the Healthcare Organization, Financial Management, Accounting and Budgeting, Ethical Issues in Healthcare, and much more. Electives help students broaden their horizons and gain an understanding of less common topics, from politics and policy to epidemiology. Princeton Review includes Worcester State on its selection of America's "Best Value" colleges, giving students seeking a master's degree in healthcare administration yet another motivation to attend.
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