Whether you live in one of the state's larger cities, like Birmingham or Mobile, or in a more rural area, pursuing a degree at an online college in Alabama can give you the chance to better your future while allowing you to continue to work or tend to other obligations. You can take classes on a full- or part-time basis and complete an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree program from a location that's convenient for you.

Here's a closer look at online college opportunities in the Alabama.

  • While 25 schools offer associate degree programs, there are 29 with bachelor's degree programs, and 26 allow student to earn master's degrees.
  • 26 schools are public and 15 schools are private, including one sport-specific school, one all-female school, six faith-based schools, and three historically black colleges and universities.
  • The most online degree programs can be found at Columbia Southern University, Troy University, and University of West Alabama.
  • Many online colleges in Alabama offer programs focused on topics such as marketing, psychology, and elementary education.

Since Alabama is part of the Academic Common Market, students in Southern states including Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia can receive in-state tuition if they attend an online college in Alabama.

Read on to see the best online colleges in Alabama, as well as the most affordable ones. You can also learn about Alabama-specific scholarships and grants and other financial aid opportunities that may help you save money on your education.

What Makes a Good Online College in Alabama?

OnlineColleges.com has compiled multiple rankings on the best online schools in Alabama. The schools that appear in our rankings were chosen based on carefully selected criteria. All of these schools are accredited by bodies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). For more information on accreditation, see our page "What Is College Accreditation?" For more state-specific information, visit the Alabama Department of Education.

Our rankings are designed to assist students in finding the right online college for them by utilizing many different data points. Through our rankings, students can learn about the number of online programs offered, average in-state tuition and graduation rate of each school we have deemed the best in Alabama. Visit the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section on our "About Us" page to understand why we believe these factors are important for students pursuing an online degree.


Best Online Colleges in Alabama for 2019-20

With all the online schools in Alabama available to choose from, how is an online student to select the best choice? We're here to help shorten your search by ranking the best online colleges in Alabama, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) analyzed with our unique methodology.


University of Alabama at Birmingham

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is UAB like?

UAB is a public four-year research university that prides itself on its diversity, educating students from more than 80 countries. UAB is also Alabama's largest single employer; an estimated 1 in 31 jobs are directly or indirectly related to UAB.

Known primarily for its healthcare (making our Best Online Colleges for Health Care Administration ranking in 2018) and education programs, UAB subscribes to the Quality Matters program and Online Learning Consortium. These external resources offer tools and training that help the university continue to improve the quality of its online courses.

What online programs are at UAB?

UAB offers online certificates, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, minors, doctoral and professional degrees (earning a spot on our Best Online Colleges for Doctoral Degree Programs list) and continuing education courses in a variety of subject areas, including business, education and criminal justice.

There are four course delivery options for online students at UAB, ranging from 100 percent online options to blended or hybrid options.

What online resources does UAB offer?

UAB's online students receive the same level of support as on-campus students, including career and major exploration, Off-Campus Student Services and more.


Jacksonville State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
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What is JSU like?

JSUOnline jumped from last year's rank of No.9 to No.2 on our list, due in part to its large year-over-year increase in the number of online programs it offers.

What online programs are at JSU?

JSUOnline offers online bachelor's degrees in various subjects, including business, criminal justice and bridge programs for registered nurses and respiratory therapists. Its online master's degree offerings include computer science, a wide range of education and health care specialties and more.

One distinctive characteristic of JSUOnline is its specific concentrations and accompanying minors within broader subject areas -- for example, a B.S. in emergency management with a minor in public safety telecommunications.

What online resources does JSU offer?

Online students at JSU receive a number of student support services, including online student orientation, tutoring at no added cost, career services, counseling services and more.


University of North Alabama

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
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What is UNA like?

Founded in 1830, UNA is Alabama's oldest four-year public university. Its mission includes five tenets: innovation, inclusiveness, engagement, evolution and global reach. Moving from No.6 on our ranking last year to No.3 on our list this year, UNA has continued to add online programs in order to respond to students' needs, particularly those in more rural parts of Alabama who would have difficulty attending this university otherwise.

What online programs are at UNA?

Undergraduate programs at UNA cover majors such as business administration and sociology, as well as an online RN-to-BSN nursing program. There are also online master's degrees in subject areas such as math, history (earning the school a spot on our Best Online Colleges for History list in 2018) and education. Many online programs at the university are accelerated, taught in series of eight-week-long courses.

What online resources does UNA offer?

Online students at UNA benefit from such support resources as online math and writing consultation, as well as access to the Collier Library and the career center, both of which have a wealth of online resources available for students to utilize.


University of South Alabama

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Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is USA like?

The University of South Alabama -- a public, national research university in Mobile -- has a history of catalyzing change. Established in 1963, it was formed as a response to the need for improved access to higher education. Since then, it has grown to encompass a comprehensive health system, a cancer center and extensive health services.

What online programs are at USA?

Though USA offers customizable, online undergraduate degrees in interdisciplinary studies and an RN-to-BSN Pathway track for nurses, its graduate offerings -- online master's and professional degrees -- comprise the bulk of its online degree programs. These online programs are designed to meet the emerging need for flexible education options for adult learners.

What online resources does USA offer?

Online students at USA can benefit from resources such as:

  • Virtual meeting software
  • Academic advisement
  • Online tutoring services at the USA Writing Center
  • Online career services such as a resume builder
  • Access to the JagSuccess library of content videos

Troy University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is TU like?

Troy University's history of distance education dates back to the 1950s when it established its first branch campus. Its correspondence courses transitioned to courses delivered via VHS tape, then dial-up internet and eventually its e-campus, eTROY, in 2005.

What online programs are at TU?

Troy has been growing its number of fully online associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, professional and certificate programs in an impressive number of subjects, from anthropology to social work. Its offerings in international relations and political science are robust enough to have ranked on our respective "Best Of" lists.

The school also made our list of Featured Online Colleges for Adult Education in 2018 thanks in part to its flexibility, with nine-week courses and five program start dates throughout the academic year. Courses are delivered asynchronously, so students can log on at any time.

What online resources does TU offer?

Online students are given the PREPARE Assessment and a "Getting Started with Canvas" course to check whether or not they are ready to successfully utilize online learning. Once students get started, they can take advantage of other support resources, such as online tutoring, 24/7 Canvas support, online library services, career services and more.


The University of Alabama

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is UA like?

The University of Alabama is the state's first public college. It is also notable for having achieved Doctoral Universities - Very High Research Activity status in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

What online programs are at UA?

Bama By Distance, the school's online programs division, delivers education through several methods: fully online courses, video streaming, face-to-face courses at UA's off-campus program and hybrid programs.

UA offers online bachelor's degree programs in subjects including criminal justice and mechanical engineering, and online master's degree programs in areas such as business, communication, education and more. Online minors and non-degree programs are also available. In particular, the university's robust offerings in nutrition earned it a spot on our Best Online Colleges for Nutrition list.

What online resources does UA offer?

Bama By Distance students gain access to useful resources such as technical support, online library materials, consultations with the Writing Center and tutoring.

UA also offers LifeTrack for adults in need of flexible education options. In this program, personal advisors mentor each student and help them to design a customized curriculum for their studies.


Talladega College

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is TC like?

This historic, private four-year liberal arts college affiliated with the United Church of Christ was first founded by descendants of slaves. It eventually became the first institution in Alabama to admit qualified students of any race or origin.

What online programs are at TC?

TC's distance education offerings are limited but growing. Called FASTtrack, its degree-completion program serves adults ages 23 and up who wish to earn online bachelor's degrees. In order to qualify for FASTtrack, students must meet two requirements:

  • Have already completed at least 1.5 years of college
  • Have a GPA of 2.0 or higher

FASTtrack offers a handful of 120-credit online bachelor's degree completion programs in business, criminal justice, psychology and computer information systems. Courses in FASTtrack are accelerated and delivered synchronously or asynchronously, and modules are offered in a sequential format.

What online resources does TC offer?

Online students have access to career counseling and placement services, proctored exams, advisement, library support and technical support to aid in their success. Students may also have the option to earn credit for prior learning.


University of West Alabama

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is UWA like?

Originally founded in 1835 as a church-affiliated school to prepare girls for teaching, UWA is now a public co-ed university. Though traditional students are still a focus, UWA is also committed to lifelong learning and the needs of nontraditional students, which includes distance learning and a generous credit transfer policy. In fact, UWA earned a spot on our Featured Online Colleges for Adult Education list.

What online programs are at UWA?

UWA offers dozens of online degree and certificate programs at the bachelor's, master's and even doctoral level in business, psychology, certain science specializations and, of course, education.

What online resources does UWA offer?

In addition to a wealth of online guides and infographics, online students have access to career development and technical support. Eligible students may also be able to gain access to Student Support Services, a federally-funded program that includes academic counseling, tutoring, study help and more.


Auburn University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is AU like?

One of the largest and most reputable universities in the south, Auburn is designated as an R1 Carnegie research institution. It was originally a land-grant institution founded as an agricultural and mechanical college. Over time, Auburn has improved its ability to cater to a demographic of working adult students by offering flexible distance education options, intended to help expand personal knowledge and career skills.

What online programs are at AU?

Online students at AU can enroll in a variety of online undergraduate courses, as well as online certificate and bachelor's degree programs in certain business concentrations, computer science and nursing. Auburn's list of online graduate degree programs is more extensive, with options in agriculture, real estate development and business.

What online resources does AU offer?

While completing their studies off-campus, Auburn's online students still have access to important student support resources, including student health and mental health services, IT support, remote student academic advising and online writing consultation.


University of Mobile

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Number of Programs Offered
School Type

What is UM like?

Founded in 1961 by the Alabama Baptist State Convention, the University of Mobile is a private, four-year, Christian-centered institution with a portfolio of liberal arts and professional degree programs. Regardless of subject, courses at UM are presented with a biblical worldview.

What online programs are at UM?

UM began offering online degree programs in 2015, some in a fully online format and others in a hybrid format. Some of its distance learning programs feature an accelerated schedule that enables students to progress more quickly through the curriculum.

The university offers online associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in a wide array of subjects, including ministry, business, education, leadership and nursing.

What online resources does UM offer?

Online students at UM can receive support through peer mentorship and tutoring. They also have access to the same resources as on-campus students, including counseling, career development help and extensive online library resources.

Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Affordable Online Colleges in Alabama for 2019-20

Below are some of the most economical two- and four-year colleges in Alabama based on tuition costs. Tuition cost data was obtained from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, part of the National Center for Education Statistics.

Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

Financial Aid in Alabama

For the many thousands of students who choose to enroll in a program of study at an Alabama college or university, there are several opportunities for financial aid. That includes both need-based grants and merit-based scholarships.

For instance, in 2016, 42 percent of full-time undergraduates at the University of Alabama received some need-based financial aid, with an average award of $13,714 (U.S. News & World Report). That kind of impact is why it’s important to take advantage of as many financial aid opportunities as possible.

What grants and scholarships are available in Alabama?

Below are some of the many prominent scholarships and grants that may be available for students attending Alabama schools.

If you're looking for more information on how to apply for financial aid, check out our Ultimate Guide to Grants and our Ultimate Guide to Scholarships.

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Student Loans in Alabama

Alabama's financial aid support is mainly focused on scholarships and grants, and therefore, it does not offer any state-sponsored loan programs. However, students are encouraged to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for federal student loan programs.

Learn more about student loans with our Ultimate Guide to Student Loans.

Additional Resources for Financial Aid in Alabama

For more details on some of Alabama's financial aid options, learn more through these organizations' websites:

Costs for Out-of-State Students in Alabama

While tuition costs are often cheaper for in-state students, many colleges and universities in Alabama work hard to attract students from across the country.

The University of Alabama, for instance, has dozens of recruiters that it sends across the nation, and the school is reportedly generous in offering scholarship assistance to out-of-state students. As a result, nearly 60 percent of its undergraduate students in 2018 were from outside the state.

If you're relocating to Alabama for a job or live just across the state lines, you may be worried about having to pay out-of-state tuition rates. Typically, students are required to live in Alabama for 12 months before becoming eligible for the lower in-state rates. However, there are some exceptions. For example, Alabama schools might waive non-resident rates for:

  • Military members, their spouses and dependents
  • Certain students enrolled in programs through the Academic Common Market
  • Students who live out of state but reside within 50 miles of a campus

Some Alabama colleges and universities offer merit scholarships that more than close the gap between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates. At the University of Alabama, these scholarships range in value from $6,000 per year to full rides that cover $26,000 a year in tuition as well as room and board for one year and additional stipends.

Before assuming you can't afford the non-resident rates, talk to your preferred school's admissions office about possible financial aid. You can also check out these resources that may be helpful for out-of-state students.