Online Colleges in Alabama

Alabama colleges and universities offers a wide variety of online degree programs for people in the state and around the country who want access to the schools' faculty and degree programs but can't conveniently travel to a school campus to attend face-to-face classes. Use the data we've collected here on online colleges in Alabama to find a school that meets your needs.

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The Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus contains a database of online education offered by schools throughout the South. Students can search for courses or degrees by subject, program level, or institution. The site encompasses 15 schools in Alabama that, as of December 2012, offer 175 degrees online. The number of programs at each level is as follows:

  • Online Associate Degrees: 14
  • Online Bachelor's Degrees: 54
  • Online Master's Degrees: 88
  • Online Doctoral Degrees: 9

In addition, many national online schools offer degree programs to students in Alabama. These colleges typically feature a broader range of degree concentrations than their brick-and-mortar peers. Some, such as ITT Technical Institute and University of Phoenix, also have physical locations in Alabama where students can supplement their online learning with on-campus sessions.

Eighty-two percent of Alabama residents have earned a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Among those 18-24 years old, 44.7 percent have attended college or earned an Associate's degree, but just 7 percent in that age group have earned a Bachelor's degree. Among those 25 and older, one in five have some college experience, but only 7 percent have earned an Associate's degree and 14 percent have earned a Bachelor's degree. A little more than 8 percent of the state's residents have a graduate or professional degree.

There are 1.8 million employed people in Alabama, and these workers earn an average hourly wage of $19.35, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This translates into an average annual salary of $40,240.

There are 44 colleges or universities in Alabama where students can study for and earn a Bachelor's degree. Fourteen of those four-year schools are public institutions, and the rest are private for-profit schools or private nonprofit schools.

The Most Affordable Online Colleges in Alabama

The following list ranks the 10 schools in Alabama that offer online degrees at the lowest tuition costs. This ranking is based on a number of factors that are important to prospective students such as the actual degree programs that are taught online, and information on tuition fees, accreditation and notable alumni. Tuition figures are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics and reflect in-state tuition (when in-state tuition is available) for all students, including online students. See our Methodology section for more details on the ranking methodology.

#1 - Athens State University

  • Tuition: $5,010 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online degree programs: 13 online degree programs
  • Notable alumni: Author Chris Guillebeau and professional baseball player Gary Redus

Athens State University offers a great number of online courses, and 13 of its degree programs are fully online. The school only offers coursework at the junior and senior level. These programs include Bachelor's degrees in Science; Religion; Instructional Design; Military Instruction; Post-Secondary Instruction; Early Instruction; Accounting; Acquisition and Contract Management; Enterprise System Management; Human Resource Management; Information Assurance; Logistics and Supply Chain Management; Management; and Technology Management.

#2 - Amridge University

  • Tuition: $6,870 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online degree programs: 10 Bachelor's degree programs and 14 Master's degrees.

All of Amridge University's undergraduate degrees are offered fully online, and many graduate and post-graduate degree programs are, too. The school's Bachelor's degree programs include Biblical Studies; Business Administration (General Business); Business Administration (Information Communication); Business Administration (Information systems); Criminal Justice; Human Development; Human Resource Leadership; Liberal Studies; Management Communication; and Ministry/Bible. Its online graduate degree programs include Behavioral Leadership and Management; Biblical Studies; Marriage and Family Therapy; Practical Ministry; Professional Counseling; Human Services; Leadership and Management; Ministerial Leadership; Pastoral Counseling; Divinity; Marriage and Family Therapy; Ministerial Leadership; Pastoral Counseling; and Professional Counseling.

#3 - Jacksonville State University

  • In-State Tuition: $7,092 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online degree programs: 5 undergraduate degrees and 19 Master's degree programs.
  • Notable alumni: politicians Jim Folsom, Jr. and Harlan Mathews, writer Rick Bragg, professional football player Eric Davis; and professional basketball player Walker Russell, Jr.

Jacksonville State University boasts that it's the friendliest campus in the South, and it tries to bring that warmth to its diverse collection of online degree programs. There are more than 30 online degree and certificate programs offered at Jacksonville, including 5 undergraduate programs offered in Management; Emergency Management (with minors in either Homeland Security or Public Safety Telecommunications); Family and Consumer Sciences; and Liberal Studies. The 19 Master's degree programs offered online run the gamut from various degrees in Education to Computer Systems and Sports Management.

#4 - University of West Alabama

  • Tuition: $7,660 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online degree programs: 3 undergraduate and 24 postgraduate
  • Notable alumni: Professional baseball player Jeff Branson, professional football player Charles Martin, actor Stelio Savante

UWA offers 24 online graduate degree programs and three online undergraduate degree programs. Founded nearly 200 years ago, UWA has been a pioneer in online learning, launching its first online courses more than 12 years ago and steadily expanding them. Today, more than 2,500 students take online courses through the school. The sessions are offered in an eight-week format, which allows students to move through their programs at an accelerated pace. In addition to the vast selection of online graduate degree programs, UWA offers online undergraduate degrees in Accounting; Business Technology; and Business Administration.

#5 - University of Alabama

  • In-State Tuition: $9,450 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online programs: Alabama offers 11 undergraduate online degrees and nearly 30 online Master's degree programs.
  • Notable Alumni: Authors Gay Talese and Mark Childress; professional basketball players Gerald Wallace and Maurice Williams; professional football players Antwan Odom, Roman Harper and Cornelius Griffin; and broadcaster Mel Allen.

The Bachelor's degree programs at Bama include Commerce and Business Administration; Mechanical Engineering; Food and Nutrition; General Studies; Consumer Sciences; Early Childhood Education; Human Development and Family Studies; Restaurant, Hotel and Meetings Management; and Nursing. Master's programs, meanwhile, are offered through the University of Alabama School of Law; the Human Environmental Sciences College; the College of Engineering; the College of Education; the College of Communication and Information Services; and the College of Commerce and Business Administration.

#6 - Heritage Christian University

  • Tuition: $9,792 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online degree programs: 1 Associate's degree program, 1 Bachelor's degree programs and 2 Master's degree programs

Heritage Christian is located in Florence, Ala., but its specialized degree programs in Biblical Studies and Ministry are available to anyone online. The school offers an Associate's degree in Biblical Studies; a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies (either through an accelerated college education or through a traditional schedule); and Master's degrees in Arts and Ministry.

#7 - Auburn University

  • In-State Tuition: $9,852 (2013-2014)
  • Accredited: Y
  • # of online programs: 1 undergraduate and more than 30 graduate degree programs.
  • Notable Alumni: Author Anne Rivers Siddons, Singer Toni Tennille, author Selena Roberts, football player Tom Banks, Olympic swimmer Rowdy Gaines.

Auburn offers only one full undergraduate degree program online, a B.S.B.A. in Accountancy, but it does offer a wide variety of online courses through its various colleges, including the College of Agriculture, the College of Education, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and a few others. The one online degree program is offered through the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, and is offered to second-degree-seeking candidates who have already earned a Bachelor's or Master's of Business Administration. Auburn's online Master's degree programs are far more extensive, and include offerings from the College of Agriculture; the College of Architecture, Design and Construction; the College of Business; the College of Education; the College of Engineering; and the College of Human Sciences.

#8 - Virginia College-Mobile

  • Tuition: $11,883 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online degree programs: 10 Associate's, 9 Bachelor's and 5 Master's degree programs.

Virginia College, a national college, maintains a physical campus on the southern tip of Alabama in Mobile, a vibrant, modern city known for rivaling New Orleans in its celebration of life along the Gulf Coast. See above for a list of all the online degrees offered to students of all three Virginia College campuses located in Alabama.

#9 - Virginia College-Huntsville

  • Tuition: $12,333 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online degree programs: 10 Associate's, 9 Bachelor's and 5 Master's degree programs.

Virginia College is a national college with campuses throughout the country, including one in Huntsville, a historic community that sits on the northern boundary of Alabama. The school offers a wide variety of online Associate's, Bachelor's and Master's degree programs through its national network, and, for Alabama residents, the added convenience of in-state physical locations for those who want to visit campus. It offers online Associate's degree programs in Accounting; Business Administration; Criminal Justice; Culinary Arts; Healthcare Reimbursement; Human Resource Management; Medial Office Administration; Network Engineering; Office Administration; and Paralegal Studies. It's Bachelor degree programs include Business Administration; Criminal Justice; Golf Course Management; Health Services Management; Human Resource Management; Management Information Systems; Network Management; Private Sector Accounting; and Paralegal Studies. Its Master's programs including Business Administration in Health Care; Business Administration Management; Business Administration; Criminal Justice; and Cybersecurity.

#10 - Virginia College-Montgomery

  • Tuition: $13,600 (2013-2014)
  • Accreditation: Y
  • # of online degree programs: 10 Associate's, 9 Bachelor's and 5 Master's degree programs.

Virginia College, in addition to offering on-site classes and degree programs in office management, cosmetology and pharmacy at its Montgomery campus in central Alabama, is a gateway to a wealth of online degree programs offered by this national college. See above for a list of all the online degrees offered to students at all three Virginia College campuses.

Online Colleges: Expert Interview

Craig Edelbrock

Dr. Craig Edelbrock, Dean of the College of Continuing Studies at The University of Alabama

Can you tell us a little about the online programs offered at your school?

For nearly a century, Bama By Distance has enabled nontraditional adult students to earn a degree from The University of Alabama. The development of online programs over the course of many years has allowed more students to obtain the same high-quality instruction as our on-campus students receive from some of the same great faculty. Although online courses demand a high level of commitment, this option gives UA students the convenience of learning on their own time and the flexibility of earning a degree while balancing family, career and education. In order to offer them the best student experience, our distance students follow the same process as on-campus students, and are offered the same resources as campus students, such as IT Support, Academic Advising, access to UA's libraries, the Writing Center, and the University's Career Center. The University of Alabama offers 12 undergraduate degree programs online, 25 graduate degree programs online and 9 blended or distance programs.

What advice would you give to students interested in an online degree program?

Students interested in an online degree program are oftentimes intimidated by the many different types of colleges offering degrees by distance. The first thing students should know is that rankings and accreditation matter. The University of Alabama is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and has ranked among the top 50 public universities in the nation for more than a decade. According to U.S. News and World Report's 2014 edition of "Best Grad Schools," the UA School of Law ranked 21st, the School of Library and Information Studies ranked 18th, and the Manderson Online Business master's programs are 12th in the United States. But great education does not have to mean great expense. Once a student has determined that online is right for them, finding a quality academic program and affordable tuition is of upmost importance. The University of Alabama offers affordable tuition to our Distance Learning students regardless of where they live.

How do you anticipate online learning might evolve in the coming years?

As online learning evolves, it will be critical for universities to keep pace with new and emerging technologies while transforming the ways in which students learn. Students will want new formats and methods of learning that provide more dynamic, media-rich content. Programs will become more individualized and will put more focus on interaction and peer-to-peer learning while giving students the opportunity to delve into subject areas within a course that most interests them or is most applicable to their career. The University of Alabama seeks to make all students part of the UA family. As our programs continue to grow, we want to build lasting relationships with our distance-learning students and increase their sense of affiliation, regardless of whether they have ever set foot on campus.

Snapshot of Alabama Cities

The three main metropolitan areas of Alabama include the area around Birmingham, including Hoover and Talladega; Mobile, including the cities of Daphne and Fairhope; and the Huntsville metropolitan area, which includes Decatur, Ala., and Albertville. Birmingham, with a population of 1.3 million, is the largest area, and dominates the state economy. Huntsville, with 665,000 residents, is slightly larger than the Mobile-Daphne-Fairhope metro area, which has just over 600,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The following is a closer economic and demographic look at Alabama, with economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the 2014 Cost of Living Index published by The Council for Community and Economic Research. All demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau and the latest Labor Force Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data in the Facts for Online Learners section comes from the region's various tourism websites.

The Birmingham metropolitan area is located in the central-northern part of the state. It has a diversified economy, with many residents holding down jobs in the technology, industrial, healthcare and education fields. Alabama Power, the University of Alabama and AT&T are all major employers. There are nearly 500,000 workers in Greater Birmingham, and they earn an average wage of $20.73 per hour, which equates to an annual wage of $43,120. The Cost of Living Index is 92.5 and the average home price is $216,089.

The city of Birmingham alone is home to 1.1 million people, and there are seven counties intersecting this metropolitan area. The 500,000 workers in this area represent nearly a third of the state's entire workforce.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
Birmingham is rich in history, and offers visitors many museums and historical sites. Among the more popular destinations are the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum, the Birmingham Museum of Art and the 16th Street Baptist Church. Alabama is also crazy for football, and game days for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide are filled with parades, rituals and tailgating.

Huntsville only has a population of 180,000 people, but when it's combined with surrounding towns, including Decatur, the metropolitan area swells. There are more than 200,000 workers in the Huntsville metropolitan area, and they earn an average of $24.44 per hour, for an annual wage of $50,840. In nearby Decatur, the roughly 53,000 workers there earn $18.97 an hour on average, or $39,450 per year. Average home prices in the Huntsville area are $241,080, and the Cost of Living Index is 95.2.

Huntsville, when combined with nearby Decatur, has a population that exceeds 660,000, although only 417,500 live in the metropolitan area surrounding Huntsville proper. This statistical metropolitan area of Huntsville-Decatur provides about 14 percent of the state's workforce.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently named Huntsville on of the country's top 12 "distinctive destinations." One attraction for history buffs is the Alabama Constitution Village, an open-air museum where life from 1819 is re-enacted every day. Huntsville, located in the hill country of the extreme northern edge of the state, is also home to many outdoor activities, including the Madison County Nature Trail and Monte Sano State Park. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center and the United States Space Camp are both located in Huntsville.

Mobile is the only saltwater port in the state of Alabama, and shipping has always played a major role in the economic health of the city. There are 167,890 workers in the Mobile metropolitan area, and they earn an average of $19.34 per hour, for an annual wage of $40,230. The Cost of Living Index is 92.3 and home prices average $235,300.

Mobile has a population of 195,111, making it the third largest in the state, and when the populations of the nearby cities of Daphne and Fairhope are blended, the population just barely exceeds 600,000. The area provides about 10 percent of the state's workers.

Fun Facts for Online Learners
It's hot and humid in Mobile because of its location on the Gulf Coast, so a lot of people simply head to the beach during the warm months. Mobile also has its own Mardi Gras celebration to rival that of its neighbor in New Orleans, and it has a great number of museums and historic sites worth visiting.


  1. Amridge University, http://amridgeuniversity.edu/academics/programs/
  2. Athens State University, http://www.athens.edu/online/
  3. Auburn University, http://www.auburn.edu/online/graduate_programs.htm
  4. Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, http://birminghamal.org/seedo/attractions/full-list-of-attractions/
  5. Dr. Craig Edelbrock, Dean of the College of Continuing Studies at The University of Alabama, interview with the author May, 2015
  6. Heritage Christian University, http://www.hcu.edu/distance/degrees
  7. Huntsville Visitors Bureau, http://www.huntsville.org/visitors/play/
  8. Jacksonville State University, http://www.jsu.edu/edtech/online/index.html
  9. List of Athens State University people, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athens_State_University
  10. List of Auburn University People, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Auburn_University_people
  11. List of University of Alabama people, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Alabama_people
  12. List of University of Western Alabama people, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_West_Alabama
  13. Mobile City, http://www.cityofmobile.org/visiting.php
  14. National Center for Education Statistics: Alabama, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?s=AL&l=93&ct=1+2+3&ic=1
  15. Online Colleges: Alabama, http://www.onlinecolleges.com/top-colleges/affordable.html?sorttype=&tuition=inexpensive&institutiontype=All&campustype=yes&state=AL&scrolldiv=sliderCampus&frmsubmit=Update&pagenum=1&list=EVScore
  16. The University of Western Alabama, http://www.uwa.edu/online_education/
  17. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates Alabama, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm#00-0000
  18. U.S. Census Bureau: American Fact Finder statistics for Alabama, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml
  19. University of Alabama, http://bamabydistance.ua.edu/degrees/
  20. Virginia College, http://www.vc.edu/online/online-college.cfm
  21. Virginia College Montgomery, http://www.vc.edu/campus/montgomery-alabama-college.cfm

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