Popular Schools

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Post University

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Pacific Oaks College

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Colorado State University Global

Bachelor Degrees
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Strayer University

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Columbia Southern University

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Grand Canyon University

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Capella University

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Colorado Christian University

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Purdue University Global

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Touro University

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Best Online Colleges & Universities

Online programs are increasing in popularity because of their flexibility and convenience. Explore 50 of the best schools that offer a large variety of online programs to both graduate and undergraduate students.

Top 50 Colleges with Online Programs

When selecting the best schools with online options, you should consider the specific programs available, flexibility, cost and any applicable residency requirements. Fifty of the best schools that offer a large number of programs online are listed below.

1. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
University Park, PA $13,988 72%

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus offers nearly 200 programs for distance students, many of which require no campus visits. The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and has been offering distance education programs since 1892, so that students could earn degrees without being required to go to the campus. Most courses include asynchronous learning, and some include online group assignments. Undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $6,994 per semester (12 or more credit hours), and full-time graduate students can have a semester tuition rate of about $11,000, depending on the program. Online program options include undergraduate and graduate degrees in areas such as accounting, business, criminal justice and nursing.

2. Liberty University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Lynchburg, VA $22,584 97%

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and offers educational programs with a Christian foundation. Full-time undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $390 per credit, and most graduate students have a tuition rate of $565 per credit hour; military students pay $250 to $275 per credit hour. Undergraduate students can earn a number of bachelor's degrees in fields such as history, aviation, psychology and business. Online master's degree programs are available in dozens of areas including leadership, business, criminal justice and public health. Doctoral degree programs are also available online, including programs in theology, communication, psychology and business administration.

3. University of Arizona

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Tucson, AZ $12,467 92%

The University of Arizona offers dozens of online program options at the undergraduate and graduate level, with 7.5-week terms offered 6 times per year. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has per-credit tuition rates as low as $500 for undergraduate students and $650 for graduate students. Undergraduate students can choose from majors such as business administration, environmental science, engineering, law, psychology and public health. Graduate students can also choose from a wide variety of programs including nursing, accounting, public health, teaching and business.

4. Eastern Washington University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Cheney, WA $7,323 94%

Eastern Washington University has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities since 1919 and also has more than 20 programs with specialized accreditation. Online programs have varying tuition rates, but most students pay between $245 to $382 per credit hour. Undergraduate students can choose between five online degree programs, including health sciences and addiction studies, as well as four online certificate programs. Online graduate students can choose from six degree programs and three certificate programs, including programs for Master of Business Administration and Master of Education. In addition, students can add one of sixteen minors to many programs, including economics, psychology and geography.

5. Southern New Hampshire University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Manchester, NH $31,136 75%

Southern New Hampshire University has over 150 online bachelor's degree programs and more than 100 online master's degree programs. Students can pursue a variety of programs in areas such as health, education, data analytics, psychology, engineering and counseling. The school is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, and many online programs are also accredited by various organizations. Undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $320 per credit hour ($225 for military), and graduate students have a tuition rate of $627 per credit ($470 for military). Online students also have access to a variety of supplemental resources such as career services, online library services and online student groups.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL $30,900 100%
7 Kansas State University Manhattan, KS $10,383 89%
8 Regis University Denver, CO $36,810 99%
9 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA $53,244 100%
10 National University La Jolla, CA $13,320 0%
11 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA $18,380 97%
12 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, ND $8,695 90%
13 Missouri State University-Springfield Springfield, MO $7,376 91%
14 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO $11,707 80%
15 East Carolina University Greenville, NC $7,188 81%
16 Arizona State University-Skysong Scottsdale, AZ $10,317 82%
17 New England College Henniker, NH $37,914 95%
18 George Washington University Washington, DC $55,230 81%
19 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ $11,564 94%
20 University of Florida Gainesville, FL $6,381 93%
21 Purdue University Global Indianapolis, IN $14,343 N/A
22 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, MS $8,624 94%
23 Florida International University Miami, FL $6,546 89%
24 Webster University Saint Louis, MO $27,900 98%
25 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX $11,870 76%
26 Siena Heights University Adrian, MI $27,124 100%
27 Ball State University Muncie, IN $9,896 90%
28 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, OH $11,000 83%
29 Davenport University Grand Rapids, MI $18,414 97%
30 University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MO $9,972 85%
31 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN $9,090 93%
32 Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla, MO $9,440 97%
33 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA $10,560 93%
34 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR $11,166 86%
35 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA $9,267 92%
36 Eastern Kentucky University Richmond, KY $9,666 99%
37 Oklahoma State University-Main Campus Stillwater, OK $9,019 91%
38 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX $9,080 78%
39 University of Kansas Lawrence, KS $11,148 86%
40 Washington State University Pullman, WA $11,584 90%
41 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX $8,296 89%
42 Oral Roberts University Tulsa, OK $27,728 90%
43 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, KY $10,512 96%
44 Santa Fe College Gainesville, GA $2,563 68%
45 Northwestern State University of Louisiana Natchitoches, LA $7,922 97%
46 Champlain College Burlington, VT $41,010 100%
47 Central Michigan University Mount Pleasant, MI $12,960 95%
48 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL $23,020 100%
49 University of Memphis Memphis, TN $9,317 98%
50 Troy University Troy, AL $8,908 94%

All table data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition rate reflects undergraduate tuition for the 2018-2019 school year.

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

How to Choose a School for an Online Degree Program

If you're considering an online program there are a few factors that you should keep in mind, many of which are discussed below.

Residency Requirements

Although many degree programs are available without any on-campus or practicum requirements, some programs do require some face-to-face components. Programs may require practice hours for practice-intensive careers, such as programs in education, nursing and counseling. In addition, some schools might require students to attend an on-campus orientation at the beginning of their program, one or two-day learning sessions during their program, or another type of on-campus educational session. When choosing your program, ask about any residency or on-site components to decide if they will work with your schedule and location.

Programs Available

While reviewing schools, make sure to ask if the program that you're interested in is offered online. For example, a school may offer a Master of Science in Nursing online with some concentration options, but the concentration that you're interested in is actually offered on campus. In addition, some schools may have different admissions requirements for a program that is online. An on-campus nursing program, as an example, could be open to nurses with an associate's degree, but the online program is only open to those who have a bachelor's degree.

Cost

The cost of an online program varies drastically by student, school and degree program. When comparing program costs, make sure to compare all program costs, rather than just tuition. Although the cost of a program is important, keep in mind that there are several financial aid options available to online students.

Flexibility

Depending on your time commitments, you may prefer a full-time or part-time program. Schools may have both options, even letting students choose their own pace of study, or programs may be offered only in one format. Part-time programs may allow you to complete your degree at a set pace or your own pace, and some full-time programs might allow you to study at an accelerated speed. Consider the time you can commit to your program and how long you'd like to spend earning your degree. You can discuss these factors with your advisor to make sure that your chosen program fits your needs.

Faculty

Having an experienced and available faculty for your program can be a key factor in your success. If faculty information is not available on your program page, ask the school about its credentials. Faculty with experience may be able to provide you with more helpful answers and support during your program. In addition, find out what the standard time is for faculty responses. Will your teachers respond to your inquiries within a few hours or a few days?

Why Accreditation Matters for Online Programs

There are two types of accreditation that you may need to check for: institutional and specialized/programmatic. Both types of accreditation and their importance are discussed below.

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation is awarded to an entire school by a neutral third-party organization. Schools must meet various quality and academic criteria in order to earn accreditation. In addition, students must attend an accredited school to qualify for federal aid; financial aid will not be awarded to students who attend non-accredited schools.

Schools can have regional accreditation or national accreditation. Both types show that a school has met the required standards, but regional accreditation has a few more benefits. Regional accreditation usually has a strict criteria, meaning students should have a better experience, and credits earned at a regionally accredited school can typically transfer to any other school (credits from a nationally accredited school typically only transfer to other nationally accredited schools).

Programmatic Accreditation

Not all programs have or require accreditation, but certain programs do. Programmatic accreditation is awarded based on criteria like that of institutional accreditation, but is provided by different organizations. Students in certain programs (such as nursing and teaching) might need to graduate from an accredited program, while other students may find accredited programs (like business) helpful in finding a job after graduation.

What to Expect from an Online Program

Online programs offer significant flexibility to students, but also require students to have some discipline and self-motivation. Some of the key characteristics of online programs are discussed in the sections below.

Structure of Online Programs

Students of online programs may have one, two or three websites that they log into regularly. Typically students log into their student portal for items such as registration, profile and links to resources (like their course pages). In addition to their student portal, students will usually use a third-party website (such as Blackboard or Moodle) for their actual classes, often called a learning portal. While some courses may maintain all class resources and activities in the learning portal, some require students to use another website as an online lab. Within the online lab students may complete specific types of assignments. For example, an accounting student might use an online lab to access their electronic textbook, complete homework and take exams.

Getting Started

At the beginning of an online program, students typically complete an online tutorial or introductory course. This provides an overview of the course portal navigation and may also show students how to communicate with their instructor. Students should become familiar with their learning portal prior to the beginning of classes to ensure they do not fall behind.

Course Supplies

Most online programs use textbooks and materials that are available in an electronic format. Students may purchase hardcopy versions of their textbooks if desired, but aren't typically required to. The electronic books might be available through a course webpage, through a third-party webpage or downloaded to a student's computer in a virtual bookshelf. Using electronic books is typically more cost effective than using physical textbooks.

Flexibility

While some online programs feature 16-week courses, many offer courses in an 8-week format. The shorter term length means that students have more flexibility and may be able to complete their programs sooner. The downside to a shorter term is that the material is accelerated. Students have twice as much work in an 8-week term than that of a 16-week term.

Online Lectures

The specific experience of learning through an online program varies by school, program, course and instructor. One course may feature timed live lectures and class discussions while another course features video lectures that are available anytime. Other courses may have no video lectures at all but rather a typed lesson that supplements the reading assignment.

Due Dates

Online programs usually have at least weekly due dates. Classes that are shorter (like the 8-week courses) might involve two due dates each week. For example, an 8-week course might require students to submit one item by Thursday and the rest of the items by Sunday.

Communication

Students in online programs usually are able to communicate with other students through online forums. Forums are often required in online classes to maintain student participation and interaction. Students usually answer specific questions asked about the material, and participate in professional and logical discussions about specific topics.

Assignments

Depending on the class, students may complete assignments in their learning portal, through another website, or through a desktop application (such as Microsoft Word). Tests are usually offered online, and may be available for an entire week or only a few hours.

Pros and Cons

Online programs are wonderful for the busy student, because most programs allow students to log in at any time of day to complete their assignments. Students can complete their homework in their pajamas, from anywhere, even if it is the middle of the night. Because many programs are asynchronous, students can potentially complete the entire week's work by Tuesday and enjoy the rest of the week without worry. Online programs also can be more cost effective, since there's no driving, school lunches or campus fees.

The downside to online learning is that students have to be able to manage their time. Students in standard asynchronous courses may lose track of time and not complete their assignments until the final day of the week. Additionally, because there isn't an in-class lecture and discussion (except for courses with live lectures), students don't have the same opportunities to ask their teachers questions. Students can email, or even call, their instructors, but sometimes it takes a day or two to receive a response.

How Much Does an Online Degree Program Cost?

The cost of an online program can vary from $20,000 to more than $60,000, due to a number of variables such as tuition and other costs. While some programs charge a flat rate that includes all program fees, most schools list expenses separately as tuition and other fees.

Tuition

The main cost associated with an online program is tuition. Each school sets its own tuition, typically with different rates for graduate and undergraduate students. Some schools offer discounted tuition for in-state students, although many online programs have a standard tuition for all students (regardless of residency). For most programs, the total tuition cost will vary based on how many credits are required. Some online programs have a tuition rate of around $200 per credit hour while other programs have a tuition rate of $1,500 per credit hour. The table below shows an estimated total tuition cost for different programs, based on an average amount of credit hours required for those programs.

Program Required Credits Tuition (example) Total Program Tuition
Associate's Degree 60 $320 $19,200
Bachelor's Degree 120 $390 $46,800
Master's Degree 36 $500 $18,000

Other Costs

In addition to tuition, students usually have other direct and indirect costs associated with their programs. Direct costs include itemized fees that may be associated directly with a program or with the school. These fees often include some of the following:

  • Technology fees
  • Course materials fees
  • Online learning fees
  • Registration fees
  • Late payment fees
  • Differential program fees
  • Student services fees

Over the course of a program, students could have an additional $2,000 to $10,000 added to their total cost as a result of these fees. Indirect program costs are those that students have outside of the school costs. These include a computer (which will have to meet the school's technology requirements), regular internet access and any additional materials or subscriptions (such as online labs) that are required for the program.

Ways to Save

There are several ways that students can decrease the overall cost of their program.

  • Transfer Credits - Students who have prior college coursework may be able to have some of those credits transferred in. The amount that students can transfer varies by school, but by transferring in courses students can save time and money on their program.
  • Associate's Degree (for undergraduate students) - Students interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree who have already earned an associate's degree can typically cut their program in half, as many schools will accept 60 credits from the associate's degree.
  • Flat-Rate Tuition - Some schools offer flat-rate tuition by semester for students who are studying full time. This allows students to take more courses for one flat rate. Students who are able to take more classes can save thousands on their overall program and also shorten their time to completion.

Guide to Financial Aid and Scholarships for Online Programs

There are several types of financial aid available to online students. The first step that students should take is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA shows what types of available financial aid. Students can also add one or more schools to the FAFSA, which notifies those schools of the students' results. This can save students time when they decide on which school and program they want and begin the admissions process.

Student Loans

Students can obtain loans through the government or through private lenders, although private lenders should only be used as a last resort. Government loans are income-based, have nationally set interest rates and offer several types of repayment options.

Loan Forgiveness

After graduation, students might be able to have their loans forgiven by the government or by their employers. Graduates who work in qualifying positions (such as those in public service or education) may qualify to have some or all of their loans forgiven by the government. In addition, some employers offer loan repayments as sign-on or duration bonuses to qualifying employees.

Work Study

Work study programs enable students to pay for part or all of their degree program by working part time during their studies. Students attending a participating school can work in various roles, often those that align with their degree program. In addition, some students may be able to participate in work study through their current employers.

Scholarships

There are multitudes of scholarships available to college students which can be obtained through schools and various organizations. Some of the scholarships available to online students are listed below.

  • College JumpStart Scholarship - $1,000 is awarded to students in high school and college as well as adult, non-traditional students. This scholarship is based on merit.
  • Bright Futures Scholarship for Early Childhood Teachers - Students who are studying early childhood education or a related field can qualify for up to $1,000 of aid.
  • AACE International Competitive Scholarships - $2,500 is awarded to students who have already completed at least one year of school, are enrolled full-time, and are studying one of several fields (including business and engineering).