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Best Online Colleges in Alabama

Explore the top 15 schools in Alabama that offer online programs for graduate and undergraduate students. Learn how much online programs cost and how to find financial aid to pay for your program.

Best Alabama Colleges for Online Programs

When determining the best colleges in Alabama for online programs, you should consider things like accreditation, flexibility, cost and programs offered. The top 15 Alabama colleges with online programs are listed below.

1. Troy University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Troy $8,908 94%

Troy University offers 71 online degree programs that are delivered via 9-week class terms. The school has been providing educational programs for over 130 years and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Online undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $338 per credit hour and can choose from dozens of programs including those in psychology, interpreter studies and nursing. Graduate students can select from programs such as those in education, business and criminal justice, and have a tuition rate of $494 per credit hour; undergraduate and graduate tuition rates include applicable fees.

2. Auburn University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Auburn $11,276 75%

Auburn University has been accredited by the SACSCOC since 1922 and has been offering college programs since 1856, although it was officially named Auburn University in 1960. The school employs over 1,300 full-time faculty, 90% of which have the highest degree in their fields. In-state undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $409 per credit hour or $4,908 for 12 or more credits; in-state graduate students have a tuition rate of $546 per credit hour or $4,914 for 9 or more credit hours. Undergraduate students can choose from 4 completely online degree programs and graduate students can select from over 30 certificate and degree programs offered as online and hybrid options.

3. Amridge University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Montgomery $6,900 100%

Amridge University was founded in 1967 and currently offers more than 30 online programs for graduate and undergraduate students. The school is a nonprofit, Christian institution and was among the first 15 colleges involved in the distance education pilot program managed by the U.S. Department of Education. Accredited by the SACSCOC, Amridge University offers all of their programs online, including programs in human resource leadership, web development, business administration, education and many more. Undergraduate students have tuition rates of $250 to $375 per credit hour while graduate students have tuition rates of $350 to $875 per credit hour.

4. Herzing University-Birmingham

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Birmingham $14,000 100%

Herzing University at Birmingham is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers more than 30 online undergraduate and graduate programs. The school focuses on the empowerment, support and education of students so that they can become engaged and productive members of society. Students can select from online programs in technology, public safety, nursing, healthcare, legal studies and business. Tuition rates vary by program, but can cost around $585 per credit for undergraduate students and $675 per credit for graduate students.

5. The University of Alabama

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Tuscaloosa $10,780 80%

The University of Alabama is the first public college of Alabama and is accredited by the SACSCOC. Founded in 1831, UA emphasizes excellence in service, teaching and research and promotes positive change in society. Undergraduate students have a tuition rate of $375 per credit for online courses and can select from over a dozen online programs, including computer sciences and business administration. Graduate students have an online program tuition rate of $420 per credit hour and can select from over 50 online programs, including those in business, education and social work.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
6 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham $8,568 94%
7 Samford University Birmingham $31,650 98%
8 University of North Alabama Florence $10,142 94%
9 Auburn University at Montgomery Montgomery $8,404 96%
10 University of South Alabama Mobile $8,396 95%
11 University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville $10,714 94%
12 Alabama State University Montgomery $11,068 93%
13 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville $8,760 93%
14 Faulkner University Montgomery $21,690 100%
15 University of West Alabama Livingston $10,040 96%

All table data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition represents the 2018-2019 undergraduate 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.

Choosing the Right Online Program and School in Alabama

When choosing what program and school to attend in Alabama, you should consider things like cost, flexibility and any applicable residency requirements.

Programs

The first factor that you should consider and narrow down is what type of program you're interested in. Ask your candidate schools about their online options in your field of interest. Some schools may offer your program completely online while other schools only offer your program as a hybrid or campus option.

Type of School

There are two major types of school: private and public. Private schools can be for-profit or nonprofit while public schools receive public funding. Attending a private school often means that tuition will be higher but you will have a more individualized experience from a smaller school. Public schools, on the other hand, are typically larger, less expensive and offer more online programs.

Residency Requirements

Some programs, such as nursing, require some hands-on practice as part of the curriculum while other programs can be completed completely online. Some schools require students to attend an orientation or other on-campus experiences at the beginning, end or even throughout their programs. Ask each of your school choices what on-site components are required for you program.

Cost and Tuition

When comparing the costs of your selected program at different schools, ask for a comprehensive list of all associated expenses. Also inquire about any cost savings (such as flat-rate tuition) and financial aid available through each of the schools.

Flexibility

You may need a part-time or full-time program, or perhaps you would like the ability to switch between the two as your schedule permits. Consider what type of course schedule would best fit your needs and check with your school choices to see if they offer that option. While many online programs enable you to take courses at your desired pace, some programs are only offered in specific formats.

Faculty

Online programs require a significant amount of self-drive and usually involve communication with faculty through email. You should ask your schools what the policy is for faculty response time. Having an instructor email you back within hours can be extremely more helpful than an instructor who emails you back two days later.

Why is Accreditation Important for Online Programs in Alabama?

You may need to look for both institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation, as each can be required for many students.

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation applies to a school as a whole and reflects that a school has met quality criteria, such as graduation rates and curriculum. Institutional accreditation is required for students applying for financial aid and is preferred, or required, by many employers. Institutional accreditation can either be regional or national. Although both types accredit a school and reflect quality criteria, regional is usually considered more prestigious because it involves higher quality standards. In addition, students who return to school at a later time can transfer credits from a regionally accredited school to any accredited school, but credits earned at nationally accredited schools can only be transferred to other nationally accredited school.

Programmatic Accreditation

Programmatic accreditation, like institutional accreditation, is awarded by a neutral third party when certain quality criteria have been met. This type of accreditation applies to programs, or academic units, rather than the school they are hosted by. There are many programs that don't have their own accreditation, but some programs do. Programs in technical fields and programs leading to licensure typically have their own accreditation, and students usually need to graduate from accredited programs in order to work in these fields (for example, nursing and teaching). There are also programs that have optional accreditation, meaning students can have better employment prospects if they do graduate from a program with applicable accreditation (such as programs in business and computer science).

Costs of Online Programs in Alabama

There are several factors included with most online programs in Alabama as well as ways to decrease some of those costs.

Tuition

Tuition is the biggest part of online program costs in Alabama. Tuition is typically charged per credit hour, so the more credits students need to complete the degree, the more expensive the tuition will be. Online students often have a specific tuition rate, regardless of their state of residence, but some schools do charge different rates for in-state and out-of-state students. In these situations, in-state students have a lower cost of tuition than out-of-state residents. Undergraduate tuition is cheaper than graduate tuition; a school may charge around $300 per credit hour for undergraduate students and $500 per credit hour for graduate students, for example.

Other Fees

In addition to tuition, online students have other fees associated with their school and selected program. These can include registration fees, distance learning or technology fees, course fees and more. Some of the applicable fees are charged per semester while other fees are charged per course or credit hour. Depending on fee amounts and frequency, online students may have $1,000 to more than $5,000 over the course of their programs.

Ways to Save

Students can save on the cost of their online programs in Alabama by using flat-rate costs and decreasing the credits needed for their program.

Flat-Rate Costs

Some schools have flat-rate tuition and cost options for students who take a specific number of courses during a semester. In many cases this applies to students taking around 12 to 18 credit hours. By utilizing the flat rate, students can take more courses for a standard rate and decrease the overall cost of their programs.

Decreasing the Required Credits

There are two ways to decrease the credits required for online programs: transferring credits and earning credits for life experience.

  • Transferring Credits: Students can typically transfer credits from previous programs into their online program as long as they meet the criteria (such as grade and subject). Students may be able to transfer in up to 75% of bachelor's degree curriculum and up to 50% of master's degree curriculum. Students with an associate's degree can usually cut the credits needed for a bachelor's degree in half, saving both time and money.
  • Credits for Life Experience: Although not available at all schools, students can earn credits for qualifying life experience for some online programs. To earn the credits, students may be required to compile a professional portfolio or pass relevant knowledge assessments. An example of earning these credits is a nursing student who has worked in a nursing assistant role for a qualifying number of years and gained the foundational understanding that would typically be obtained in introductory nursing courses.

Putting it All Together

Although tuition, fees and credit rules and limits vary from school to school, the table below shows an estimated breakdown of costs for online students in Alabama. In the table are example costs based on the degree program, credits required, credits waived and transferred, as well as how many classes are taken each semester. Based on the number of credits needed and course load each semester, the table also shows how long it takes to complete each program.

Program Credits Required Education/Experience Credits Waived Credits Needed Course Load Program Length Tuition Cost Total Tuition Other Fees Total Program Cost
Associate's Degree 60 *High school diploma/GED 0 60 12 credits 5 semesters $300/credit $18,000 $2,500 $20,500
Associate's Degree 60 *High school diploma/GED 0 60 18 credits <4 semesters $3,600/semester $14,400 $2,000 $16,400
Bachelor's Degree 120 *High school diploma/GED 0 120 12 credits 10 semesters $300/credit $36,000 $5,000 $41,000
Bachelor's Degree 120 *High school diploma/GED 0 120 18 credits <7 semesters $3,600/semester $25,200 $3,500 $28,700
Bachelor's Degree 120 *Associate's degree 60 60 12 credits 5 semesters $300/credit $18,000 $2,500 $20,500
Bachelor's Degree 120 *Associate's degree 60 60 18 credits <4 semesters $3,600/semester $14,400 $2,000 $16,400
Master's Degree 36 *Bachelor's degree 0 36 9 credits 4 semesters $500/credit $18,000 $2,000 $20,000
Master's Degree 36 *Bachelor's degree 0 36 12 credits 3 semesters $4,500/semester $13,500 $1,500 $15,000

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Online Programs in Alabama

There are a multitude of financial aid options for online students in Alabama. Interested students should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students can enter their candidate schools into the application (optional) to have their results sent directly to those schools upon completing the application. The FAFSA will show students the types of federal financial aid that they can qualify for, including loans. Students can also find scholarships and other aid through external resources, both government-provided and public.

Student Loans

Student loans can be obtained through government and private lenders, but students should only use private student loans as a last resort. Government loans have more regulated interest rates and offer flexible, long-term repayment options.

Loan Forgiveness

Graduates who work in qualifying public service positions can have a predetermined amount of their student loans forgiven by the U.S. government after a specific number of years.

Work Study

Work study is a program offered by participating schools and backed by the federal government. In this program, students work part time while completing their program in exchange for earning aid to fund their education.

Scholarships

There are thousands of scholarships that can be found through various resources, including the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Some scholarships that are available to online students in Alabama are listed below.

  • Two-Year College Academic Scholarship Program - This award is based on academic performance and is given to students enrolled at two-year institutions in Alabama.
  • Senior Adult Scholarship Program - Students over 60 years old enrolled in a two-year institution in Alabama may qualify for free tuition.
  • Alabama Student Grant Program - Up to $1,200 per year is awarded to students enrolled at approved Alabama institutions.
  • Alabama Student Assistance Program - This program awards $300 to $5,000 per year to students based on need; available to undergraduate students at approved institutions.

Career Outlook for Online Graduates in Alabama

Graduates of online programs in Alabama are prepared for a variety of careers, many of which are expected to grow in Alabama and across the United States. The table below summarizes some of the fastest-growing careers that are available to graduates of online programs in Alabama.

Job Title Mean Annual Salary (2018, Alabama) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028, national) Typical Education Needed
Nurse Practitioner $95,970 28% Master's degree
Occupational Therapist 83,810 18% Master's degree
Web Developer $67,250 13% Associate's degree
Management Analyst $94,020 14% Bachelor's degree
Computer and Information Systems Managers $126,300 11% Bachelor's degree
Software Developers, Systems Software $105,890 10% Bachelor's degree
Industrial Engineer $87,870 8% Bachelor's degree
Nurse Anesthetist $161,780 17% Master's degree
Mechanical Engineer $90,030 4% Bachelor's degree

All career data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics