Are you a people person who’s good at juggling tasks? Do you love keeping up with the latest cultural, culinary, and eco-conscious travel trends? This may be the field for you. Even the cheapest hospitality degree can unlock a number of exciting careers including:
- Wedding and Event Planner
- Trade Show Organizer
- Restaurant or Hotel Manager
- Executive Chef
- Resort Manager
- Travel and Ecotourism Organizer
Although you can get certificates in various hospitality concentrations, we have limited our list to associate degrees or better. While studying for your degree, you’ll take a number of classes that discuss marketing, management strategies, local and national laws over hospitality and food service, eco-friendly and sustainable policies, and more.
Some of these programs let you choose a concentration, such as Hotel Management or Spa Administration. Certain programs will also include an internship in the final semester. This lets you get real-world experience as you bridge from school to your career.
What Can You Do With a Hospitality Degree?
This is a field with entry points for everything from certificates to PhDs. It’s outside of the scope of this article to provide a snapshot of every job your hospitality degree might get you. However, here are a few facts from the Occupational Outlook Handbook on two different careers under the hospitality umbrella:
Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners have a median pay of $50,600 per year. Their job outlook is quite good, growing at an expected 8% employment growth in the next ten years. This is twice the national average for all occupations (4%). Meanwhile, Lodging Managers can expect a higher median pay of $54,430 per year. However, their overall employment is expected to shrink by 12% in the next ten years. This means that competition for these jobs will be fairly high.
What Makes the Cheapest Hospitality Degree Program?
When you’re considering a budget-friendly program, the tuition per credit hour is probably the first number that comes to mind. We’ve included these colleges’ in-state rates in these listings. However, tuition is only one part of the final picture. The final yearly net price includes expenses like:
- parking passes
- apartment or dorm rent
- meal plans
- health insurance
- textbook rental or purchase
- lab fees
- student government taxes
These expenses can vary wildly even between colleges in the same state. Some areas also have a generally high cost of living, which is reflected in the net price. If you are living with family in the area, your net price may be much lower.
All of these expenses can be reduced by a wide variety of scholarships, grants, assistantships, and work-study programs. Scholarships and grants tend to be available throughout the state or country. However, one college may offer a number of assistantship options, while the next may have only a few positions available per year. Once you narrow down university candidates, you’ll want to take a close look for opportunities to trim expenses or bring in more funds.
|1||MiraCosta College||Oceanside, California|
|2||College of the Redwoods||Eureka, California|
|3||Western Carolina University||Cullowhee, North Carolina|
|4||Albany Technical College||Albany, Georgia|
|5||Palm Beach State College||Lake Worth, Florida|
The 30 Cheapest Hospitality Degrees
You know a little more about what’s involved in getting a hospitality degree and what these careers offer. Now let’s take a look at the top 30 inexpensive hospitality degrees.
Sunny northern San Diego County is home to MiraCosta College, a large public community college. MiraCosta offers its students panoramic views of the coastline and nearby mountains. It runs a number of community enrichment programs. These include a Child Development Center and a Community Learning Center. Students at MiraCosta can study for an A.S. in Hospitality Management or an A.S. in Restaurant Management, among multiple other degrees.
College of the Redwoods
The College of the Redwoods in located in the forested northwestern part of the state, near Humboldt Bay on the coast. The entire town is designated a California Historic Landmark and relics of the Gold Rush and lumber industry are everywhere. Although tuition is affordable, this is an area with a fairly high cost of living. Students who don’t live nearby may need to be creative when budgeting. The institution offers an A.S. in Restaurant & Hospitality Management.
Western Carolina University
Since its establishment in 1888, Western Carolina University has offered an afforable education in the western mountains of North Carolina. This is an NC Promise Campus, which is a state program that defrays some university costs. Tuition has been reduced to an afforabel sum, but the university adds numerous other fees. You’ll want to look carefully at the final costs of a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management. For the tenth year in a row, WCU has made the Princeton Review’s list of designated Green Colleges.
Albany Technical College
Albany Technical College is a public community college is located on the banks of the Flint River in Albany, Georgia. The town itself is well-known for its tree-lined streets, numerous parks, garden clubs, and local trails. At Albany Tech, you can earn an A.A.S. degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management.
Palm Beach State College
As the first public junior college in the state, Palm Beach State College was founded in 1933. It has relocated several times in its long, varied history. These locations included a deactivated Army Air Force base and a local town hall. The college offers over 100 programs for certificates, associate degrees including an A.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management, and bachelor’s programs. Burt Reynolds is perhaps the most famous alumni from this institution.
Gulf Coast State College
Gulf Coast State College was founded in 1957. True to its name, this college is just a quick drive from the coastline. It has a comparatively smaller student body and a more compact campus than many of the other Florida institutions in this list. Gulf Coast State College offers a variety of associate and bachelor’s degrees such as an A.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management.
Oakland Community College
Oakland Community College is one of the largest in the state. Students attending can choose among 57 different associate degrees including an A.A.S. in Hotel Management and an A.A.S. in Culinary Arts. The college is quite active in varsity sports including basketball, cross-country, and golf. It’s speech and performance team regularly makes the National championships.
Mt. San Antonio College
Over 260 certificates and degree programs (including an A.S. in Hospitality and Restaurant Management) are offered at Mt. San Antonio College. However, academics are only one part of life in this public community college. Its diverse population of enrolled students are active in volunteering groups, dozens of student clubs, and athletics. Mt. San Antonio College occupies 420 acres. The large campus houses a 250 acre farm, a working veterinary hospital, a planetarium, and a 15 acre wildlife sanctuary.
East Carolina University
East Carolina University is the fourth largest such institution in North Carolina and offers a competitive tuition for the area. It has six campuses including an overseas branch in Certaldo Alto, Italy. This public research university offers students a B.S. in Hospitality Management. If you want to get a more advanced degree in this field, ECU also offers an M.S. in Sustainable Tourism and Hospitality. The student body is diverse and socially active, with 27 social organizations including historically black and Native American sororities and fraternities.
Spokane Community College
Spokane Community College is in the eastern part of Washington, sandwiched between the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Columbia River. The campus is fairly large and includes multiple academic and support buildings, an Apprentice and Journeyman Training Center, and even an aviation hangar. It supports a robust athletics program that includes multiple sports like basketball, soccer, track and field, and golf. You can earn an A.A.S. in Culinary Arts here.
University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee
There are over forty degrees available at the University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee in a variety of subjects in Science and Math, Liberal Arts, and the Social Sciences. You can earn a B.S. in Hospitality Management or go for the more advanced M.S. in Hospitality Management. This university offers over 400 internship and research positions to students. These positions let you get a head start on networking and applying what you’ve learned in the real world.
Pensacola State College
Pensacola State College was opened in 1948 but expanded quickly over the coming decades, opening multiple campuses in the surrounding counties. It’s mini-campus on Naval Air Station Pensacola was sadly destroyed in 2004 by hurricane Ivan. Pensacola State College offers over 120 majors and concentrations including an A.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management. It is also closely partnered with the University of West Florida in Pensacola and the University of Florida in Milton.
Ogeechee Technical College
Ogeechee Technical College, created in 1987, is one of the newer institutions on this list. It has slowly grown from offering a credited program in practical nursing to a variety of other programs. Many of these are in the medical field including Dental Assisting, Radiologic Technology, Veterinary Technology, and more. The college offers an A.A.S. in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management.
South Seattle College
Despite its name, South Seattle College is actually in West Seattle. This is a group of neighborhoods between the Duwamish River and the ocean. West Seattle offers all of the culture and excitement of a big city while still being in view of the Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range. The area’s also well known for the West Duwamish Greenbelt, a long connected area of green space and urban forest. You can earn a B.A.S. in Hospitality Management at South Seattle College.
Coahoma Community College
As a historically black college and university, Coahoma Community College has a diverse student body and deep roots in the area. It was established in 1920. The campus is located amid peaceful farms a few miles outside of Clarksdale, MS. Coahoma Community College offers an A.S. in Hotel & Restaurant Management Technology with a possible concentration in Culinary Arts Technology.
The Olympic Mountains, Pacific Ocean, and nearby National Park make Peninsula College’s area particularly beautiful. This college offers an A.A.S degree in Hospitality and Ecotourism. Its program has multiple courses exploring ecologically sustainable practices that preserve the natural environments tourists have traveled to enjoy. Peninsula College also works closely with other institutions in the area to create transfer-friendly courses of study.
Valencia College is one of the largest in the area, with eight campuses scattered across Orlando, Kissimmee, and Winter Park. It’s also a prestigious one, having won the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Valencia offers a wide array of programs including an A.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management. Through the college, you can also get on a career path to a B.S. in Hospitality Administration/Management.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College
Copiah-Lincoln Community College offers students a varied and flexible academic program. In addition to degrees including an A.S. in Hospitality and Tourism, attending students can also earn affordable college credits that can be transferred to the four-year program of their choice. Copiah-Lincoln Community College has three main campuses serving Wesson, Natchez, and Mendenhall. The college sponsors six men’s sports and four women’s sport and has an award-winning cheerleading team.
Mississippi Delta Community College
Although this is one of the smaller campuses on this list, Mississippi Delta Community College offers a lot for sports fans. It has a Coliseum, a Baseball Complex, and a Women’s Softball Field. Mississippi Delta Community College supports students from seven local counties, excluding nearby Coahoma. That one area is served by number 15 on our list. You can earn an A.A.S. in Hospitality & Tourism with a possible Culinary Arts Technology concentration.
Indian River State College
Indian River State College used to be housed in a former public school building. However, in 1963 the city of Fort Pierce donated the current campus site and the college moved. Although it offers a variety of bachelor’s degree programs, hospitality isn’t one of them. However, you can get an A.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management. This is available with concentrations in Guest Services, Event Planning Management, and Rooms Division Management.
St. Petersburg College
Students who enroll in bustling St. Petersburg College can enjoy a solid educational program as they work on an A.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management. It’s a big college, as you can tell by the enrollment figure, but the individual campuses themselves are fairly small and accessible. The town itself is located in a historic and attractive part of Florida. In fact, St. Petersburg actually won the Conde Nast Traveler 2020 Reader’s Choice Awards as a great getaway.
Northern Arizona University
Here’s good news for students living in western states: Northern Arizona University participates in the Western Undergraduate Exchange Program. This institution offers lower tuition for students in western states even if they aren’t residents of Arizona itself. Northern Arizona University opened in 1899 with just 23 students and its first graduation class included four women, unusual for that era. As you can see, the university has grown significantly since then. You can earn a B.S. in Hotel & Restaurant Management here.
Lincoln Land Community College
Lincoln Land Community College is located in the state capitol. However, this institution has branches in multiple smaller towns in the area. You have a choice of practical, hands-on degrees here. The college offers both an A.A.S. in Hospitality Management and Services and an A.A.S. in Culinary Arts. Lincoln Land Community College is also very active in sports. It has seven teams including baseball, soccer, volleyball, and more. Their baseball team has won two NJCAA national titles.
SUNY Cayuga Community College
It’s tricky to find a budget degree in New York, but Cayuga Community College is a solid option in the area. As part of the SUNY system of public colleges and universities, this institution offers an A.A.S. degree in Culinary Arts and Event and an A.A.S. in Tourism Management. In 2020, its faculty and staff members received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, recognizing the quality education that they provide to the rapidly growing student body.
Arkansas Tech University
Established in 1909, Arkansas Tech University began as an agricultural school. It has since then expanded its programs to cover Business, Natural & Health Sciences, Arts & Humanities, and more. You can earn a B.S. in Hospitality Administration with majors in Event Management, Foodservice Management, and Lodging Management. When not studying, students can take in the area’s natural beauty. This includes Lake Dardanelle, Ouachita National Forest, and the Ozark Mountains.
City Colleges of Chicago-Harold Washington College
The City Colleges of Chicago is composed of six satellite sites and seven community colleges including Harold Washington College. This institution offers a wide variety of associate degrees and transfer-friendly programs for students who want to go on to a four-year degree. The City Colleges of Chicago runs a College to Careers program that helps match graduating students with businesses in high-growth fields. Harold Washington College offers an A.A.S. in Hospitality Management.
Southeast Missouri State University
Southeast Missouri State University is a public university in eastern Missouri. It offers over 200 areas of study at both undergraduate and graduate levels. This university was founded in 1873 and underwent some dramatic changes after burning down in 1920. It now has a large campus that includes multiple halls, a stadium, a winery turned President’s house, and a dedicated power plant. You can get a B.S. in Hospitality Management here.
University of Nevada Las Vegas
The University of Nevada Las Vegas, located just east of the Las Vegas Strip, is a well respected doctoral university. It offers overs 350 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across its 24 schools and departments. If you’re interested in a higher level hospitality degree, this is an affordable option. The University of Nevada Las Vegas awards a B.S. in Hospitality Management, an M.S. in Hotel Administration, and a Ph.D. in Hospitality Administration
SUNY Orange County Community College
Orange County Community College is relatively more expensive than many other institutions here, but it offers something special: the largest number of program concentrations in the list. If you are interested in niche specialties instead of a general Hospitality Management degree, take a look at the SUNY Orange program catalog. It includes a variety of degrees like an A.S. in Advanced Baking and Pastry and an A.S. in Spa Management. As another bonus, this college has an open enrollment policy for anyone with a high school or equivalency diploma.
San Jose State University
As the oldest public university on the west coast, San Jose State University is a large and well respected institution. The college has one of the most diverse student bodies of the nation. Although the San Jose State University is best known for connecting alumni to Silicon Valley tech companies, it offers a wide variety of other programs. These including a B.S. in Hospitality, Tourism, and Event Management.
We searched colleges in several .gov sites including the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Departement of Education. Our search was limited to schools that:
- were located in the United States
- were public or private non-profit
- offered an associate degree or bachelor’s in the one of the hospitality field concentrations
- had a student body of at least 1000 (undergraduate students taking for-credit classes)
- offered tuition of under $250 per credit hour (in-state tuition rates)
The resulting list was then filtered to exclude online-only colleges and colleges that were no longer accepting applicants for a hospitality degree. We also filtered for location. This let us represent multiple areas of the country in the list. What if you’re interested in online colleges in a specific state? Take a look at our helpful list of state-by-state guides here.
After filtering, we ended up with a list of thirty colleges. These were ranked by two main factors based on information taken from the college’s websites. Points were assigned for tuition cost per credit hour (cheapest is best) and average annual cost (cheapest is best). We added the points with a weighed formula. Tuition made up two-thirds (67%) of the final score weight. Our list was then ranked from the highest to the lowest final weighed score.
We have tried to offer accurate and honest information on every school. Our data is taken from the university website itself and from reputable .gov sources. These rankings will never be influenced by schools offering to pay for a higher sponsored position. Any sponsored school listings will have a clear “SPONSORED” tag to distinguish them from editorially ranked schools.
However, we do not guarantee the accuracy of our rankings. If you work for a school on this list and notice an error, please let us know. We are happy to correct the information and update the ranking as necessary.
Hopefully, this list has given you some great ideas for where you may want to get your hospitality degree. Are you ready to take a closer look at your favorite colleges? Do you need more help finding the right place to get your hospitality degree? We offer a wide range of resources to guide you.