In the following ranking, we examine the 15 best affordable colleges for a hospitality degree. The industry of tourism and hospitality is a large enterprise in the U.S., and now is a fantastic time to consider pursuing a Bachelor’s in Hospitality degree. When one thinks about the number of times he or she has attended a wine tasting, visited a famous attraction, stayed in a hotel, or eaten in a restaurant, it is easy to see the need for highly trained event planners, amusement park operators, hotel managers, and restaurant owners. As you can see, there are many career options for students considering working in this dynamic and growing field, and while entry-level positions do not typically require an undergraduate degree, a bachelor’s is generally required for candidates looking to move into positions of leadership and management. Below, we have compiled a list of the 15 best affordable colleges for a hospitality degree that includes everything from small community colleges to large state universities.
We understand how time-consuming it can be to narrow down schools, research majors, look at internship options, and compare costs. To help prospective students, we compiled the following list and awarded points based on two features that most students look for in a program: tuition and student-to-faculty ratios. We searched the National Center for Education Statistics (NCS) College Navigator tool for schools offering bachelor’s degrees in hospitality. We narrowed down the initial pool of 20 colleges and universities into the top 15 based on the following methodology.
Average Cost of Attendance
As you begin your search for affordable colleges for a hospitality degree, it goes without saying that the cost of attendance will likely be the first thing you look for in a program. Although tempting, try to avoid selecting the cheapest hospitality degree just for the sake of saving money. Instead, look at everything that school has to offer, including majors, extracurriculars, and internships, before making your decision. Below, we ranked tuition based on the cost of one academic year of study using costs provided by the NCES. We also included out-of-state rates for your reference as well.
Under $7,500: 3 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 2 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
Student-to-faculty ratios provide insight into the learning environment at each institution. For example, colleges and universities that report low student-to-faculty ratios may be more likely to provide opportunities for individualized studies, close relationships between students and faculty, and the academic support students need to succeed. When researching these ratios, keep your own needs and preferences in mind, and think about whether you are looking to interact closely with others in an intimate environment or whether you prefer to blend into the background of a larger school. Below, we awarded the most points to institutions that reported the lowest student-to-faculty ratios from NCES.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
Ranking Top 15 Best Affordable Colleges for a Hospitality Degree
15. Ferris State University
Big Rapids, Michigan
Located in Big Rapids, Michigan, Ferris State University is a public institution of higher education. Established as Big Rapids Industrial School in 1884, it is the ninth-largest university in the state. The school’s College of Business offers a low-cost Bachelor of Science in Business degree with a concentration in hospitality management that can be completed at either the FSU main campus or its locations in Grand Rapids. The program’s curriculum combines practice with theory by supplementing coursework with hands-on experiences such as service-learning projects, industry site visits, and curriculum-focused internships. Core classes include topics such as hospitality law, sanitation and safety, and guest service management. Within this affordable degree in hospitality, students may then select a focus from one of four concentrations: specialized management, food and beverage, lodging, or event. Students have opportunities to connect with professionals across the field through partnerships with industry leaders and national associations. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers in a variety of hospitality-related businesses in areas such as event management, food and beverage operations, and lodging. The field also includes positions in guest services, ski management, spa management, and country club management.
Bachelor of Science in Business Degree in Hospitality Management
In-State Tuition: $11,788
Out-of-State Tuition: $11,788
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
14. National Louis University
Established in 1886, National Louis University is a private university that operates a main campus in Chicago, Illinois as well as additional locations near Chicago and in Florida and Poland. In 2018, NLU acquired the assets of Kendall College and transferred several programs, including its economical Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management degree. Students looking for an affordable hospitality degree can pursue a top-value Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Management comprised of both real-world experiences and classroom learning. All students completing the 180-credit-hour program are required to complete the same core hospitality-focused courses and choose from one of four concentrations: food and beverage management, hotel and lodging management, tourism, or event planning. Students also gain real-world experience in state-of-the-art facilities, including hosting and serving meals in the school’s fine dining restaurant, learning the intricacies of housekeeping in a hotel suite, practicing guest relations and customer service at a reception desk in the school’s lobby. A hospitality professional experience via an internship is also required before graduating. Upon completing the program requirements, graduates are prepared for careers such as wine sommeliers, hotel managers, and hospitality consultants in finance.
B.A. in Hospitality Management
In-State Tuition: $10,710
Out-of-State Tuition: $10,710
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
13. North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota
Recognized as an affordable university for a hospitality degree, the North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied Sciences is a public research university located in Fargo, North Dakota. Founded as the state’s research land-grant institution of higher education in 1890, the school confers either an inexpensive Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management degree that is the only four-year program of its kind in the state accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA). All students complete core courses centered around the management of resources such as time, technology, money, materials, and people in a hospitality and tourism setting. Upper-division coursework concentrates on critical, project-based evaluations as well as the production of quality services in hospitality and tourism operations. Students may focus their degree through electives in areas such as convention and meeting planning, resorts, professional club management, casino operations, and food and beverage. The program also requires a 24-credit minor in business administration that provides a solid background on which students can build knowledge about management and marketing in the hospitality industry.
Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality and Tourism Management
Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management
In-State Tuition: $9,414
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,393
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
12. Youngstown State University
Established in 1908, Youngstown State University is a public research university that is affiliated with the University System of Ohio. Students looking for a low-cost hospitality degree can pursue a cheap Bachelor of Science in Applied Science in Hospitality Management and prepare to succeed in a career in a fast-growing field both globally and nationally. The curriculum focuses on management concepts and best practices in five main areas: sales management, travel and tourism, food and beverage, marketing, and lodging. The 120-credit-hour inexpensive degree program is comprised of 40 hours of general education classes as well as 48 credits of core coursework in food and nutrition, hospitality management, and support courses in business. Students taking 16 credits per semester may graduate with their degree in four years. Graduates are prepared for careers in customer management, travel or facility, human resources, event coordination, and hotel management, to name a few.
Bachelor of Science in Applied Science in Hospitality Management
In-State Tuition: $8,967
Out-of-State Tuition: $9,327
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
11. University of New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
Students looking for an accredited university for a low-cost hospitality degree may consider attending the University of New Orleans, a metropolitan, public research university situated on the New Orleans lakefront in New Orleans, Louisiana. A member-school of the University of Louisiana System, UNO confers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Administration degree that prepares students for careers in resorts, casinos, cruise lines, managed services, convention centers, country clubs, restaurants, and hotels. Through the 120-credit-hour curriculum, students not only develop skills in marketing and finance but also in management and human resources. Concentrations are available in tourism, food and beverage management, convention and event management, and hotel and lodging. Students are required to complete 600 hours of work experience in the industry in which they apply their skills in a real-world setting. UNO is home to state-of-the-art classrooms as well as a cutting-edge food lab facility which houses an outdoor courtyard, property management system lab, demonstration lab, dining room, and production kitchen.
Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Administration
In-State Tuition: $8,771
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,607
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 22:1
10. South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota
South Dakota State University is a public institution of higher education and an affordable accredited university for a hospitality degree. Founded in 1881, SDSU is the oldest continually operating university in the state as well as its most comprehensive and largest institution. Students looking for a top-value hospitality degree can pursue a cheap Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management that focuses on service, research, skill development, student-centered education, and collaboration with global tourism and hospitality industries. The 120-hour economical degree program is comprised of core classes in hospitality management in areas such as food production and service, events and facilities administration, sanitation, hospitality industry law, lodging management, marketing, purchasing management, and more. The curriculum also consists of business-focused core classes in human resource management, finance, organization and management, and accounting. Students are required to complete two practicum experiences that provide supervisory- and introductory-level industry experience.
Hospitality Management (B.S.)
In-State Tuition: $8,764
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,128
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
9. SUNY at Delhi
Delhi, New York
The State University of New York (SUNY) at Delhi is one of several technical colleges that make up the State University of New York System. Located in Delhi, New York, SUNY Delhi confers an affordable Bachelor of Business Administration in which students may focus on hotel and restaurant management. The curriculum includes coursework in food service management, lodging, law, finance, and leadership and prepares students for the management duties and fiscal responsibilities that entrepreneurs and leaders in the industry face daily. This economical hospitality degree also covers critical subjects such as hospitality law, advanced human resource management, purchasing, and hospitality financial management. Classes are kept small, so students can receive personal guidance and one-on-one interactions with faculty. SUNY Delhi students may also choose to participate in the Walt Disney College Program and work in Orlando, Florida at Walt Disney World for six months while earning credit for their courses. Classes in this program include Disney experiential learning, Disney marketing, human resource management, hospitality management, leadership, and communications. Graduates are prepared for careers as hotel sales directors, sales and marketing coordinators, food and beverage professionals, and banquet, purchasing, and human resource managers.
Hotel & Restaurant Management (BBA)
In-State Tuition: $8,360
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,330
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
8. Western Illinois University
Located in Macomb, Illinois, Western Illinois University was founded as Western Illinois State Normal School in 1899. Students seeking a cheap hospitality degree may pursue a best-value Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management from WIU and complete coursework in food production and service, bar and beverage management, wedding planning, front office management, and hospitality facilities management. Other areas of study include legal aspects, hospitality promotions, catering, wine, and lodging systems management. Students may choose to complete an independent study in hospitality management, and a 60-hour internship is required for the degree. The cost-effective hospitality degree also features hands-on learning in a state-of-the-art cafe and food laboratory as well as opportunities with business partners and in business simulations. The school also boasts a placement rate of nearly 100 percent in a continuously growing economy. Instructors lead students in career-building and networking in the academic settings through internships, practicum experiences, and field trips.
Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management
In-State Tuition: $12,951
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,951
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
7. Southwest Minnesota State University
Students looking for the most affordable university for a hospitality degree may wish to consider Southwest Minnesota State University. A public institution of higher education located in Marshall, Minnesota, SMSU confers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management that includes a concentration in event planning and management, hotel administration, or culinary management as part of the degree. All three concentrations provide students with opportunities to build upon their management and leadership abilities, problem-solving techniques, critical thinking skills, customer awareness, and financial analysis skills. Students gain hands-on experience in SMSU’s state-of-the-art, newly renovated kitchen laboratories while catering on- and off-campus events. SMSU also encourages students to participate in collaborative activities such as attending the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago and the International Hotel, Motel, and Restaurant Show in New York City. Professional and student associations provide additional learning opportunities outside of the classroom such as SMSU’s Student Hospitality Opportunities Club. The low-cost four-year degree program prepares students for careers in resorts, restaurants, hotels, and other recreational and hospitality facilities.
Bachelor of Science: Hospitality Management
In-State Tuition: $8,612
Out-of-State Tuition: $8,612
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
6. Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
The Harrison College of Business and Computing at SEMO offers a cheap Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management degree that introduces students to the directing, organizing, and planning of material and human resources within the meeting and convention planning, recreational management, travel and tourism, restaurant, and lodging industries. Students at this affordable college for hospitality degrees can expect to study areas such as the principles of marketing, human resource management, quantity food production, and hospitality sales and marketing. In addition to completing the required coursework, students gain experiential learning through a 12-credit-hour internship that develops their understanding of and exposure to actual operations within the industry. Students benefit from personal curriculum advisement from their professors and benefit from faculty members’ experiences in different areas of hospitality management, including catering and event planning, culinary arts, and lodging management. Students are eligible to become ServSafe-certified and have access to scholarships from the Missouri Restaurant Association as well as to internship locations across the country and abroad. Internships and career opportunities are available at Walt Disney World, the St. Louis Zoo, Texas Roadhouse, Marriott Hotel Company, and more. Upon completion of the major requirements and internship, students are prepared for management-level careers in the hospitality and tourism industry.
In-State Tuition: $7,418
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,155
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 20:1
5. Arkansas Tech University
Located on a 516-acre campus in Russellville, Arkansas, Arkansas Tech University is a public institution of higher education that was established in 1909. ATU’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Hospitality Administration confers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Administration that concentrates on computer science, law, accounting, marketing, finance, management, general business, and specific courses as they relate to hospitality management. Students may choose to further focus their degree by selecting one of three concentrations: lodging management, food service management, or event management. Throughout this best-value hospitality degree, students have numerous opportunities to apply what they have learned in a real-world setting. This affordable degree program prepares students for management positions in travel- and tourism-related operations, theme parks, contract services, restaurants, convention and visitor centers, conference halls, resorts, and lodging facilities.
Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Administration
In-State Tuition: $7,254
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,678
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
4. CUNY New York City College of Technology
New York, New York
The CUNY New York City College of Technology is a public college located in New York City, New York and recognized among the top affordable colleges for a hospitality degree. Established as the New York State Institute for Applied Arts and Sciences in 1946, City Tech offers cost-effective hospitality degree in the form of a cheap Bachelor of Technology in Hospitality Management. The 120- to 125-credit-hour program is comprised of 21 credits in general education and flexible common core classes, 12 credits in program-specific elective courses, nine credits in free electives, and 18 credits in program-specific degree requirements. Areas of study include marketing and management, accounting and finance, legal environment, workforce management in a global marketplace, a hospitality management research seminar, and a hospitality management internship. This affordable degree program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA) and teaches students how to analyze and evaluate hospitality concerns by incorporating diverse global and local perspectives to aid in decision-making. Students will also be able to demonstrate team-building, communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills while practicing socially responsible and ethical behavior.
Hospitality Management – BTECH
In-State Tuition: $7,120
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,790
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
3. Brigham Young University-Hawaii
With one of the cheapest tuition rates on our list, Brigham Young University-Hawaii is a top affordable university for a hospitality degree. Located in Laie, Hawaii, this private university is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it offers the only degree in hospitality and tourism management in the LDS Church Educational System. Core courses are provided in tourism- and hospitality-focused areas such as law and ethics, marketing, accounting and finance, management and leadership, destination management and marketing, property management and the guest experience, tourism geography and travel, and the global economics of tourism. The flexible and innovative curriculum is based on a solid business foundation as well as career-focused electives, and students complete a practicum course consisting of rotational experiences at local partners such as the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Marriott Courtyard Hotel. Students may also choose to enjoy lecture series with industry leaders, join the student-led Ho’okipa Society, which sponsors trips, social activities, and networking experiences, or attend regular field trips to Waikiki restaurants, attractions, and hotels.
B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management
In-State Tuition: $5,560
Out-of-State Tuition: $5,560
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
2. South Seattle College
Recognized as one of the most affordable colleges for a hospitality degree in the country, South Seattle College is a public community college located in Seattle, Washington. Established in 1970, it is one of three institutions of higher education that make up the Seattle Colleges District. SSC confers a cheap Bachelor of Applied Science in Hospitality Management that provides students with the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to leverage their associate degree in culinary studies, business information technology, accounting, or other related areas. Within the 120-credit program, students complete 60 credits in core courses that cover topics in human resource management, entrepreneurship, marketing and management, computer applications, legal issues, services operations, accounting, cost controls, and professional career development. A hospitality management capstone is required for graduation. Graduates are prepared to enter positions in managed services, casino operations, cruise ship operations, catering, restaurant management, hotel operations, tourism, and more.
Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Hospitality Management
In-State Tuition: $4,717
Out-of-State Tuition: $4,717
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
1. Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, North Carolina
Topping our list of the most affordable colleges for a hospitality degree, Western Carolina University is a public university located in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Established in 1889 as Cullowhee Academy, it is the fifth-oldest institution of the 16 four-year schools that make up the University of North Carolina System. The College of Business at WCU offers one of the cheapest Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Tourism Management that includes hospitality and tourism courses as well as classes from the disciplines of quantitative analysis, mathematics, management, marketing, law, computer information systems, finance, economics, and accounting. Hospitality- and tourism-focused coursework consists of international studies in the industry, bar and beverage operations, hospitality facilities management, and the hospitality and tourism services industry as a whole. All students must complete a hands-on internship experience before earning their degree. Graduates of this low-cost degree program are prepared for management-level careers in numerous hospitality and tourism settings, including fast-food operations, cruise ships, casinos, convention centers, resorts, hotels, and restaurants.
Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Tourism Management
In-State Tuition: $3,926
Out-of-State Tuition: $7,926
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for a Bachelor’s in Hospitality Degree?
Students who earn a Bachelor’s in Hospitality degree are prepared for several entry- and mid-level positions as well as managerial jobs typically reserved for those with a college degree. Four of the most common career options for undergraduates with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality or hospitality and tourism management include:
- Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners: These individuals focus on coordinating wedding receptions, corporate gatherings, business retreats, conferences, and other types of private parties. Professionals in this occupation must ensure that every logistic detail, including music and decorations to drink and food service, is running smoothly and as planned. They may also need to work with lodging managers to arrange for accommodations for overnight guests or events.
- Food Service Managers: Food service managers are tasked with overseeing the day-to-day operations and functions at bars, restaurants, and other establishments that serve beverages and food. These professionals may also be employed by catering or food delivery organizations. This position requires candidates to have significant knowledge of food preparation techniques and food safety as well as a solid understanding of human resources, communication, and logistics.
- Lodging Managers: Lodging managers are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day functions and operations at spas, resorts, hotels, and other tourist retreats. This position usually requires candidates to have extensive knowledge of customer service, human resources, logistics and supply chain management, finance, and business.
- Destination Marketing Managers: Like other types of marketing managers found in different sectors, destination marketing managers aim to produce a positive image for the organization in which they work — in this case, typically tourist accommodations and destinations. They are generally responsible for creating and writing press releases regarding notable upcoming events as well as launching promotional campaigns through social media, online, and traditional forms of communication.
What is the Salary Potential for a Hospitality Degree?
Since the field of hospitality and tourism is vast, it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to pinpoint one specific salary that a graduate can expect to earn with a Bachelor’s in Hospitality degree. However, we can break this industry down into several popular careers to get a better understanding of employment outlooks and average annual wages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the leisure and hospitality supersector is broken down into two groups: accommodation and food services and arts, entertainment, and recreation.
Within the former, lodging managers reported annual earnings of $53,390 per year as of May 2018, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent earned more than $102,410, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,860. The two highest-paying industries for lodging managers include traveler accommodation and recreational vehicle parks and camps, which reportedly paid lodging managers $52,780 and $45,440, respectively. Another occupation within this sector, food service managers, reported similar earnings of $54,240 per year as of May 2018, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $92,410 and the lowest 10 percent bringing in less than $31,580. The top-paying industries for food service managers include accommodation and special food services, which paid food service managers $63,780 and $61,530, respectively, and restaurants and other eating places, which provided a salary of around $51,430.
Outside of the food and lodging industry but still within the sector of hospitality and tourism, the BLS reports that meeting, convention, and event planners earned $49,370 per year as of May 2018. The highest 10 percent of professionals in this occupation earned more than $84,900, while the lowest 10 percent saw salaries of less than $27,560. The median annual wages for meeting, convention, and event planners in the top industries in which they worked were:
- Administrative and support services: $52,370
- Religious, grantmaking, professional, civic, and similar organizations: $50,990
- Accommodation and food services: $45,140
- Recreation, entertainment, and the arts: $42,500
What Courses Will You Take in a Bachelor’s in Hospitality Degree?
As is the case with many programs, hospitality bachelor’s degrees vary depending on the college or university. Programs may include an emphasis in tourism or hospitality management, or students may have the opportunity to specialize in a subfield such as casino management, restaurant management, or club management. Just as concentrations differ, so does the coursework one can expect to find in an undergraduate hospitality degree. However, there are a few core courses typically offered such as:
- Event Planning
- Beverage Management
- Hospitality Business Management
- Gaming Management
- Food Production and Service
- Hospitality Industry Law
- Human Resource Management
- Lodging Management
- Events and Facilities Administration
By the same token, major requirements and the time to completion will also vary by school. In most cases, however, an undergraduate can earn a Bachelor’s in Hospitality degree by completing 120 credits within four years of full-time study. Some schools may offer accelerated programs in which students may graduate within a shorter period. However, due to the nature of the industry, keep in mind that internships, practicum experiences, and experiential learning are often required and thus can extend the time needed to graduate. Regardless of the specific program you choose, we hope that the above list of the best affordable colleges for a hospitality degree provides a helpful starting point as you begin the search for a college or university.
This concludes our ranking of the top 15 best affordable colleges for a hospitality degree in 2019.
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