10 Cheapest Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Programs in 2024

Discover the cheapest Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs available in 2024, along with their prerequisites, requirements, and salary expectations. Programs

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Are you ready to fulfill your dream of working as a registered nurse (RN) in healthcare? The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is the quickest educational path to obtaining the RN license without costing you a lot in tuition fees. 

We've compiled the 10 cheapest ADN programs available in 2024. We've also provided information on the coursework, prerequisites, requirements, and salary expectations.

What Is an ADN?

An ADN is a two-year nursing degree program. Some students pursue it to advance their careers after completing a licensed practical nurse (LPN) program, often called the LPN-RN bridge, while other students start an ADN right after high school.

Students can achieve this degree through full-time or part-time studies and will start their higher education with courses like anatomy and chemistry. After covering the general education courses, students experience classroom and hands-on experience in more specific nursing courses.

When earned from an accredited college or university, this degree fulfills the requirements needed to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. After completing an ADN program, nurses receive training to work in entry-level positions across various healthcare settings:

  • Hospital
  • Medical Office
  • Long-term Care Facility
  • Medical Office/Clinic
  • Home Care/Hospice
  • Research
  • School Nurse
  • Public Health

ADN Program Prerequisites and Requirements

Before applying to an ADN program, you must have a high school diploma or GED and obtain transcripts from previous college coursework. Most programs require a minimum GPA, varying depending on the school. Other prerequisites for starting an ADN program include an entrance exam, basic life support (BLS) certification, criminal background check, drug screening, and a health exam, including immunizations.

Most ADN students must complete a core group of classes before progressing to nursing courses. Some schools combine these general courses within the nursing program. They include the following:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing Principles

After the general courses, nursing students will move to more specific nursing classes. These courses include classroom and clinical experiences in areas like the following:

  • Medical-Surgical Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Maternal Nursing
  • Nursing Care of the Older Adult
  • Critical Care Nursing

Often, ADN-prepared nurses will further their education by returning to school to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, or even a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in nursing.

Cheapest ADN Programs in 2024

Tuition costs vary significantly among colleges and universities, with in-state university costs being lower than out-of-state tuition. Some schools charge per semester and others per credit hour, and most ADN programs have financial aid and scholarship options to assist with the fees.

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most while selecting schools with the addition of NCLEX pass rates, graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. Cayuga Community College

With campuses in Auburn and Fulton, New York, Cayuga Community College offers an in-person ADN program that can be completed in four semesters. This program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), ensuring a high standard of education.

To qualify for admission, you must have a GED or high school diploma, and you should have completed high school or college-level biology and chemistry with at least a grade of C (or 70%). Additionally, you must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

  • Price: In-state tuition is $2,568, out-of-state is $5,136 per semester
  • Length: 24 months

2. Howard College

Howard College provides students with a solid foundation in nursing education and clinical skills. By the second year, students can opt for online learning to allow flexibility, accommodating students with different schedules, including those who work or have other commitments. Their program in Big Spring, TX has received official approval from both the Texas Board of Nursing, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the ACEN. 

  • The tuition fees are structured as follows: In-district residents pay a base amount of $150, plus $72 per semester hour, while out-of-district residents pay a base amount of $180, plus $132 per semester hour.
  • Length: 24 months

3. University of Charleston

Located at the Charleston and Blakely campuses in West Virginia, this ADN program has a hybrid option for online courses and in-class learning. Students need a passing grade of 60% on the TEAS exam. The program holds accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the ACEN. 

  • Price: $380 per credit hour with an approximate total program tuition of $22,800
  • Length: 61 credit hours; 16 months

4. Rasmussen University

With 19 different campuses in five states, there are many options on where to complete the Rasmussen University ADN program. This hybrid program has multiple start dates every year. Unlike most colleges or universities, this program is dual-accredited with the HLC and ACEN (in MN, FL, WI, KS). 

  • Price: $409 per credit hour
  • Length: 102 credit hours; 21 months

5. Galen College of Nursing

The Galen College of Nursing is available on 19 different campuses across nine states; CO, FL, KS, KY, NV, N C, OH, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA. This hybrid of online learning and classroom learning offers no prerequisites needed, as the nursing curriculum includes all general classes. Accreditation for this program is by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) as well as ACEN accrediation at all campuses offering their associate in nursing program. 

  • Price: $435 per credit hour
  • Length: 24 months

6. Chabot College

Located in the Bay Area in southern California, Chabot College's ADN program enrolls only 40 applicants yearly with a fall start date. Chabot College has reported a 100% NCLEX pass rate for the past seven years. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and the California Board of Nursing have accredited the program.

  • Price: $7,000 per semester
  • Length: 24 months

7. Excelsior College

Students can complete this fully online learning nursing program in New York in 24 months. Some previous college coursework may transfer, lowering the program's total cost. They require a passing score of 58.7% on the TEAS exam. Accreditation is by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the NYS Board of Regents. 

  • Price: $550 per credit hour
  • Length: 66 credit hours; 24 months

8. Essex County College

This very competitive ADN program is in Newark, New Jersey. Graduating from Essex County College offers credit transfers to a bachelor's degree program at local universities. The ACEN has accredited this program.

  • Price: $9,141 per semester
  • Length: 89 credit hours; 16 months

9. ECPI University

ECPI University's ADN program offers various campuses located across four states. Credit hours range from 71-72 credits students complete for graduation, depending on the state. Students need a passing score of 60% on the TEAS exam before admission to the nursing program. Accreditation is by the ACEN.

  • Price: $9,900 per semester
  • Length: 71-72 credit hours; 20 months

10. Midway University

Located in the heart of Kentucky, students can complete Midway University's ADN program offers on-campus day and evening classes. Students can also further their nursing studies with Midway's RN to BSN program. The ACEN has accredited this program.

  • Price: $849.33 per credit hour for full-time, $950 per credit hour for part-time, and $395 per credit hour for Summer
  • Length: 64 credit hours; 18 months

Cheapest ADN Program Costs

The costs of the cheapest ADN programs will vary based on numerous factors including:

  • Tuition: While the cheapest ADN programs above vary in tuition costs from $2,500 to $10,000 per semester, considerations include in-state vs out-of-state, public vs private institutions, program duration, and more.
  • Books and Supplies: Allocate funds for essential items like books, supplies, and uniforms, which can still be a notable expense.
  • Technology Requirements: Budget for necessary technology, such as a laptop or tablet, with the possibility of more budget-friendly options.
  • Housing and Living Expenses: Consider affordable housing (on-campus or off-campus) and factor in living expenses like food and transportation.
  • Clinical Rotations: Plan for potential travel and transportation costs associated with clinical rotations, which may vary depending on location.
  • Licensing Exam Fees: Include the standard fees for the NCLEX-RN exam in your overall budgeting for nursing education.

Financial Aid Insights for ADN Programs:

  • Financial Support Avenues: To mitigate the costs of ADN programs, students frequently seek financial aid. This can come in the form of federal and state grants, loans, work-study arrangements, and scholarships targeted toward nursing students. It's critical to explore all financial aid avenues and apply early to improve the likelihood of obtaining funding.
  • Scholarships and Grants: Scholarships and grants represent important financial resources for ADN students. Various entities, including healthcare organizations, professional bodies, and community groups, offer scholarships for nursing students. Proactively researching and applying for these financial aids can significantly reduce educational expenses.
  • Loan Details: For those considering loans, understanding the borrowing terms is paramount. Federal loans generally offer more favorable interest rates and repayment terms compared to private loans. Students should borrow judiciously and fully comprehend repayment plans before committing to loans.

By meticulously evaluating these financial factors and preparing in advance, students can navigate the economic aspects of their ADN education and adequately plan for the associated costs. To further reduce your overall costs, consider checking out the Best Ways to Pay for Nursing School for more tips and insights. 

ADN Nursing Salary Expectations & Career Outlook in 2024

RNs are in high demand in many healthcare settings, and these job opportunities will continue to rise. Due to aging nurses retiring, declining nursing school enrollment, and a growing aging population, the nursing shortage has left many RN job openings needing to be filled. This increase in job openings contributes to a competitive market, potentially driving up salaries.

In this evolving landscape of nursing salaries, the income disparity between ADN-prepared and BSN-prepared registered nurses is notable. Although BSN RNs generally earn higher salaries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not distinguish between these qualifications in its salary data.

National RN Salary Average:

  • Mean Hourly Wage: $45.42
  • Mean Annual Wage: $94,480.00

The highest paying states for RN's are:

  • California: $137,690.00
  • Hawaii: $119,710.00
  • Massachusetts: $113,440.00
  • Oregon: $111,030.00
  • Alaska: $109,210.00

While the BLS does not provide data to compare ADN RN to BSN RN salary, ZipRecrutier's reports identify a difference in salary. 

Average ADN RN Salary:

  • Hourly Wage: $39.00
  • Annual Wage: $80,321.00

Average BSN RN Salary:

  • Hourly Wage: $46.00
  • Annual Wage: $96,546.00

U.S Cities with the highest ADN RN salary are: 

  • Santa Clara, CA: $100,597.00
  • Washington D.C.: $99,301.00
  • San Francisco, CA: $96,438.00
  • Marysville, WA: $94,872.00
  • Green River, WY: $94,857.00

Nursing salaries are influenced by several factors, including specialty, experience, and employer. Aspiring nurses should take these elements into account when planning their educational and professional paths. It's important to note that salaries can vary significantly based on geographic location, workplace, urban vs. rural settings, and years of experience. While some employers offer higher pay for BSN degrees, many provide excellent tuition reimbursement to help fund advanced degrees. 

2024 ADN RN Career Outlook

In 2022, the United States had 3,172,500 working nurses. The BLS forecasts a 6% faster-than-average growth rate in nursing jobs, with an additional 177,400 positions expected by 2032, increasing the total number of nurses to 3,349,900.

This projected increase presents significant opportunities for those pursuing a nursing career. The rise is driven by a current nursing shortage, decreased enrollment in nursing schools, and a large number of anticipated retirements among RNs over the next 15-20 years. Despite the challenges following the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for skilled nursing professionals remains high, particularly due to the aging population with greater healthcare needs.

As an aspiring nurse, you have the potential to play a crucial role in shaping the future of healthcare, given the continued high demand for nursing professionals.

Are the Cheapest ADN Programs Worth It?

ADN RNs are essential in healthcare, making an ADN a practical choice amid the growing demand for nurses. A 2-year ADN program offers a swift entry into the profession.

Aligning this choice with your career goals is crucial. While an ADN opens doors to a nursing career, a BSN may provide more specialized opportunities. According to the AACN, 28% of employers require a BSN, and 72% prefer it. Researching your target hospitals' educational preferences can guide your decision.

Starting with an ADN allows for flexible growth and tailored educational paths as your career evolves. To make the best decision for your future, consider some of the pros and cons of beginning with an ADN.

Pros of Cheapest ADN Programs

  • Affordability: The most obvious advantage is the lower financial burden. These programs are more accessible to a wider range of students due to their affordability.
  • Eligibility for RN Licensure: Graduates from these programs are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, just like graduates from more expensive programs.
  • Basic Nursing Skills and Knowledge: These programs provide the essential skills and knowledge required to start a career in nursing.
  • Opportunities for Advancement: With an ADN, you can begin working as a nurse and potentially pursue further education in the future, often with employer support.
  • Respect in the Nursing Community: Graduates from accredited and state-approved programs are generally respected as competent entry-level nurses, regardless of the cost of the program.

Cons of Cheapest ADN Programs

  • Limited Resources and Facilities: Lower-cost programs may not have access to the same level of resources, facilities, or cutting-edge technology as more expensive programs.
  • Potential Perception Issues: Some employers and peers might perceive cheaper programs as less rigorous, which could impact job opportunities or professional networking.
  • Restricted Access to Specialized Training: These programs might offer fewer opportunities for specialized training or electives that are available in more comprehensive or expensive programs.
  • Competitive Job Market: Graduates might face a more competitive job market, especially in areas where employers prefer nurses with a BSN degree.
  • Need for Further Education: To advance in certain nursing roles or specialties, additional education beyond the ADN level may be required, leading to more educational expenses in the future.

How to Choose a Nursing School

The reasons for choosing a nursing school vary among students based on their specific needs and priorities. Some students prioritize the cost of education, while others may focus more on NCLEX pass rates, academic reputation, or other factors.

Although individual preferences differ, a survey by allnurses identified the top 11 reasons nursing students chose their programs:

  1. Cost
  2. High NCLEX Pass Rate
  3. Location
  4. Academic Reputation
  5. Availability of Financial Aid and Scholarships
  6. Length of Time to Obtain Degree
  7. Flexibility of Schedule
  8. Curriculum
  9. Campus and Surroundings
  10. Nursing Clinicals Location
  11. Availability of Online Courses

Ultimately, prospective students should evaluate their personal needs and select schools that best align with their priorities.

Importance of Choosing an Accredited ADN RN Program

Another important factor to consider when choosing an ADN program is accreditation. The significance of accreditation in ADN RN programs cannot be overstated. Here's why it is crucial:

  • Educational Standards: Accredited programs uphold rigorous standards in curriculum, faculty qualifications, resources, and clinical training, validated through regular evaluations.
  • NCLEX-RN Exam Preparation: Accreditation enhances preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam, increasing the likelihood of passing on the first attempt.
  • Licensing Flexibility: Many states require graduation from an accredited program to obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse.
  • Career Opportunities: Employers prefer graduates from accredited programs, providing more career options and flexibility for relocation to states that mandate accreditation.
  • Credit Transfer: Credits from accredited ADN programs are more likely to be recognized by other institutions, facilitating further education.
  • Professional Credibility: An accredited degree enhances professional credibility by aligning with national standards and advancing nursing practices.
  • Financial Aid: Accreditation is essential for eligibility for federal financial aid, which is crucial for many students.

Aspiring nurses must ensure their selected programs are accredited by recognized bodies such as the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the National League for Nursing's Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA). While the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is reputable, it does not accredit ADN programs.

FAQs and Additional Readings

Q: What if I can't afford to get my ADN degree?

A: Most students need assistance with the cost of tuition. Financial aid can come from scholarships, grants, and loans. Meet with the financial advisor at the college or university you have been accepted to and discuss options.

Q: Can I work if I am in nursing school?

A: Nursing school can be challenging with classroom, laboratory, and clinical work. Many nursing students do work while in school. Some students even start jobs in the hospital as nursing assistants to gain healthcare experience while in school.

Q: What if I don't want to work in a hospital as a nurse?

A: Hospitals are only one area where nurses work. There are many other opportunities for nurses in healthcare outside of a hospital. Your clinicals in nursing school will be in areas other than the hospital, such as health departments, schools, and extended care facilities, giving you the experience to help find your passion. 

AD DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links. These links are designed for allnurses to generate revenue at no cost to you. The websites you visit are operated by third parties and have no influence in our recommendations, which are grounded in research.

Editorial Team / Admin

Sarah Beattie has 21 years experience as a DNP, APRN and specializes in Critical Care, Endocrinology.

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