Online learning, also known as distance education, has come a long way since its emergence in the 1990s. While at first there were skeptics concerned about online universities becoming diploma mills, today there are an abundance of distance learning programs and courses and online schools in which you can earn a high-quality education from accredited institutions and the best colleges in the US. Here are a few recently observed trends:

Online universities have become a mainstream option. Private and public colleges and the top universities in the USA of all sizes offer fully online and hybrid degree programs at the full range of degree levels. In fact, nowadays, finding the best online colleges isn't hard; it's choosing one that can be difficult.

At, you can use our state pages to find the best online online universities in your state, affordable online schools to consider, and state-specific financial aid information.


25 Best Online Colleges for 2020-21 is committed to helping you find reliable information about the best online colleges and degree programs from the top universities in the USA. We want to make our methods of choosing the best online colleges clear, so you can understand how we place these top online colleges in our rankings and feel confident about deciding which one might be right for you.

Our brief profiles of the selected colleges also include data on tuition and fees, the amount of students participating in the distance education, and the number of distance education programs the college offers. Learn more about our ranking criteria for this list by reviewing our methodology.


University of Florida

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Gainesville, FL
School Type

What is UF like?

The nationally acclaimed University of Florida makes an impact in research, engineering innovations, local and national economic growth and worldwide sustainability. In fact, as of January 2019, UF had twice the national average of 'inventions produced per research dollar invested,' demonstrating the school's commitment to the intellect and creativity of its students.

What online programs are at UF?

Their diverse catalog of fully online degree programs is part of what makes UF stand out among other accredited online universities. The faculty teaching these programs overflows with accomplishment; members have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Online programs at UF are available in these subjects and many more, from engineering to business to agriculture and life sciences.

What online resources does UF offer?

An online community center called the UF Online Plaza connects students with their peers as well as with advisors, faculty and staff. What's more, the Career Connections Center and Gator CareerLink can help online students find internships, co-ops and job opportunities that can be pursued while in school or after graduation.


Florida State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Tallahassee, FL
School Type

What is FSU like?

Florida is well - represented in our ranking of 25 best online colleges,and Florida State University is another shining example of why.The University 's Office of Distance Learning provides access to smaller classes that come with mentoring, engaging lectures and interactive learning.

What online programs are at FSU ?

FSU,one of our consistent best online universities,offers both undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs online.All of its undergraduate programs are "advanced standing degree programs,"intended for those who have at least 60 hours of college credit already completed.

What online resources does FSU offer ?

Distance learners at FSU work with an academic coordinator.They can be assigned mentors to serve as learning coaches and communicators.


University of Central Florida

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Orlando, FL
School Type

What is UCF like?

At the University of Central Florida,distance learners study through UCF Online,which has offered online degree programsfor more than 20 years.As an approved institution with the National Councilfor State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements,it can accept students from almost any state.

What online programs are at UCF ?

There are dozens of undergraduate,graduate and certificate programs offered online at UCF.As one of the best online universities,its most popular undergraduate majors include psychology, nursing and health services administration.

What online resources does UCF offer ?

UCF offers a broad range of student support services to its online learners.There is a writing center which provides real - time,online consultations with tutors,online academic advising and peer - assisted online learning.


Florida International University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Miami, FL
School Type

What is FIU like?

As Miami 's only public research institution, Florida International University is a top-ranked school that promotes innovation and collaboration among its diverse student body. FIU maintains both state partnerships and corporate partnerships to help students from across the country study in their chosen field.

What online programs are at FIU ?

FIU has earned accolades from OnlineColleges.comfor its international business, human resources and psychology degree programs. And those are just a few of the dozens of degree and certificate options available.

What online resources does FIU offer ?

Success coaches,tutoring and technical support are all provided online.What 's more, FIU distance learners can access the same resources as on-campus students, including academic advising, library services and financial aid assistance.


University of Iowa

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Iowa City, IA
School Type

What is UI like?

The University of Iowa takes pride in its diverse student population,wide array of concentrations of study and in their local community--with over 32,000 students from around the world.

What online programs are at UI ?

The University of Iowa is committed to its online learning community and offers over 30 distance learning,degree - granting programs.Conferred degrees include a bachelor 's in applied sciences, or B.A.S., as well as a bachelor's of liberal studies ,or B.L.S.UI offers over 600 distance and online courses,so there are plenty of options to choose from.

What online resources does UI offer ?

The University of Iowa offers a number of online resources including its distance and online learning options,as well as access to online databases through the university library 's website.


University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Norman, OK
School Type

What is UO like?

Online degree programs at the University of Oklahoma are offered through the UO Extended Campus.The campus has been educating distance learners since 1961. While technology has changed since then,the school 's commitment to excellence has not, propelling UO to become one of the top colleges in the USA.

What online programs are at UO ?

Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available through the UO Extended Campus .Many programs are available in an accelerated format,where courses run eight weeks in length.The school also offers self - paced coursesfor those who want more time to study or who want to earn their degree faster;these are openfor enrollment year - round.

What online resources does UO offer ?

UO maintains an Extended Campus Information Center that hosts support servicesfor distance learners.Online students also have full access to the on - campus amenities.


East Carolina University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Greenville, NC
School Type

What is ECU like?

East Carolina University has a long history of distance education,making it a leader among accredited online universities.It offered the first TV course for credit in the South in 1954 and became the first in the nation to offer an online master 's degree program in 1998.

What online programs are at ECU ?

ECU Online offers degree and certificate programs in popular fields such as business, technology and education . Classes are taught through platforms such as Blackboard and SabaMeeting, with students having 24-hour access to course materials.

What online resources does ECU offer ?

The university offers online students the same resources as on - campus students,including online library services,tutoring,a writing center,career services and more.ECU also has online tutorial videos to help students learn about Blackboard,Outlook,Pirate Port,Banner Self Service and other resources.


University of Illinois at Springfield

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Springfield, IL
School Type

What is UIS like?

The University of Illinois at Springfield is geared towards research with over $7 million available annually in research funds.

What online programs are at UIS ?

The University of Illinois at Springfield is committed to providing the same quality of learning to its online students as it is to its on - campus students.The public University of Illinois at Springfield offers over 52 degree - granting programs,helping to provide a flexible and affordable option to students across the country.

What online resources does UIS offer ?

The University of Illinois at Springfield offers students the opportunity to work with online program coordinators.These online program coordinators are can help students throughout every step of their educational journey.


Oklahoma State University-Main Campus

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Stillwater, OK
School Type

What is OSU like?

Oklahoma State University has been educating students since 1890,and its OSU Online division brings the same quality experience to distance learners across the country.As a land - grant university,Oklahoma 's first Truman Honor Institution and one of the top online schools in the country, OSU serves students from all 50 states and approximately 120 countries.

What online programs are at OSU ?

Online programs at OSU are available in subjects from five of the university 's colleges, as well as the school of business. Students may also be interested in the OSU Office of Individual Study, which once delivered correspondence courses across the U.S.

What online resources does OSU offer ?

OSU 's LASSO Center supplies online students with tutoring and success coaching at no additional cost. There is also support available from the OSU Writing Center, Math Learning Success Center and OSU Career Services.


Maryville University of Saint Louis

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Saint Louis, MO
School Type

What is MUSL like?

Maryville University,founded in 1877,began its commitment to adult learners with the launch of a Weekend College in the 1980 s.Since then,Maryville has expanded to meet the needs of distance learners and become one of the top accredited online colleges in the country.This university partners with industry leaders like Boeing and Edward Jones,aiming to create education that is relevant to the next generation of jobs.

What online programs are at MUSL ?

Maryville looks to the future with innovative degree programs such as communication sciences and disorders , data science and more. There are multiple start dates for each program, and 8-week courses are available. What's more, according to an analysis, Maryville is one of the best online colleges for nursing, offering online MSN and DNP programs in nursing specialties from pediatrics to gerontology.

What online resources does MUSL offer ?

MUSL offers 24 / 7 research help where you can live chat with a librarian and access substantial databases which contain thousands of articles.


University of South Florida-Main Campus

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Tampa, FL
School Type

What is USF like?

The University of South Florida is committed to helping students from all walks of life succeed through its versatile Innovative Education(InEd) initiative.Its strategies including distance education,degree completion,corporate training,workforce development,pre - college and lifelong learning programs,have made it one of the best online schools.

What online programs are at USF ?

USF has hundreds of online courses available.Students can also choose from several partially or fully online undergraduate and graduate degree programs,including highly ranked information technology programs . USF uses the Canvas system to manage its online courses, and it also connects students to higher education and opportunities across the South through its Electronic Campus and the Florida Virtual Campus.

What online resources does USF offer ?

InEd offers students a variety of support services.The Learning Commons Online offers access to tutorials and online tutoring services,and technical support is available through the IT Help Desk.Distance learners are also welcome to use on - campus services such as the Academic Success Center,Writing Center and Career Center.


Sam Houston State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Huntsville, TX
School Type

What is SHSU like?

The quality of Sam Houston State University is undeniable,as the university has been classified as a "Doctoral Research University" by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education,placing it in the top 7 percent of American colleges and universities.

What online programs are at SHSU ?

SHSU Online offers dozens of fully online degree and certificate programs,including some of the best online criminal justice programs in the nation.Classes are offered in two 16-week semesters as well as two condensed summer sessions.

What online resources does SHSU offer ?

They host a dedicated help desk to provide technical support to its online learners,and the Newton Gresham Library offers distance learning services that can help with research and academic support.


Creighton University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Omaha, NE
School Type

What is Creighton like?

This Jesuit school is noted for offering a rigorous education and innovative undergraduate research opportunities.Its 11: 1 student faculty ratio means personalized instruction isn 't hard to find. That holds true for online students too. Creighton offers a bevy of resources to connect distance learners with classmates and faculty, so while students may be studying far away, they can still work closely with others in their program.

What online programs are at Creighton ?

The majority of Creighton 's online programs are at the graduate level. In a typical class, instructors give assignments and course materials in advance, and students can then review and study on their own self-paced schedule.

What online resources does Creighton offer ?

The Blueline system serves as Crieghton 's digital campus, and students use Office 365 to access email and complete assignments. Plus, there is digital access to library resources, an online writing center and help desk.


North Carolina State University at Raleigh

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Raleigh, NC
School Type

What is NC State like?

North Carolina State University drives economic growth and education in the region thanks to more than 70 public and private partnerships.NC State has more than 9,000 faculty members and staff who are considered leaders in their respective fields.

What online programs are at NC State ?

Most programs at NC State are taught in an asynchronous format,allowing students to log in to review course materials on a schedule that fits their lives.Lecture videos and activities may be assigned and accessed through the NC WolfWare website,and assignments are typically submitted electronically.

What online resources does NC State offer ?

Students can connect with a program coordinatorfor information about specific degree programs or online learning in general.After admission,a faculty mentor is assigned to help navigate the college experience,and technical support is offered through an online and in -person help desk.


Central Washington University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Ellensburg, WA
School Type

What is CWU like?

Central Washington University was founded in 1891 and maintains its commitments to hands - on learning and discovery with a special attention focused on its students.The residential campus sits on 380 acres and admits around 2,000 students per year.Central Washington University also offers over 135 majors with an average class size of 20 students.

What online programs are at CWU ?

Central Washington University offers a number of online optionsfor students who wish to earn a degree without having to be on campus,or for those completing a degree program they already started.CWU offers twelve undergraduate bachelor 's degree programs as well as ten graduate degree programs, all online!

What online resources does CWU offer ?

CWU offers online resources and informationfor campus clubs and organizations as well as ongoing events and deadlines.Students can also schedule meetings with both in -person and online advisors.


Trine University-Regional/Non-Traditional Campuses

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Fort Wayne, IN
School Type

What is TU like?

Since being founded in 1884,Trine University has grown into a student - centered college focused on student success.In fact,according to an internal study,99.7 percent of graduating students were either employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduating in 2018.

What online programs are at TU ?

Trine University offers various online degree - granting programs through TrineOnline.Students can earn their associate , bachelor's and even a master degree in a number of fields including business administration, engineering and technology and even justice and psychology.

What online resources does TU offer ?

TrineOnline gives its students 24/7 access to experienced,professional academic tutors.TrineOnline also provides its online students with the course materials and resources they need to succeed through their online portal called "Moodle".As an added bonus,Trine University offers Microsoft Office Software to registered students.


New Mexico State University-Main Campus

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Las Cruces, NM
School Type

What is NMSU like?

New Mexico State University has a long - standing commitment to diversity and is a Hispanic - Serving Institution.NMSU is dedicated to student - centered learning and providing the highest level of education and research available to all its students.

What online programs are at NMSU ?

New Mexico State University offers over 500 online courses,certificate and degree - granting programs.Students can work toward earning an associate,bachelor 's, or even master's degree with NMSU 's online programs. NMSU is dedicated to providing an exceptional online learning experience that's just as effective as in -person courses.

What online resources does NMSU offer ?

Their online website provides information about their extension facilities found in 33 counties across New Mexico,where students can complete hands - on training and in -person assignments in locations closer to their home.NMSU also has some of its own research publications and even learning games available online.


Fort Hays State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Hays, KS
School Type

What is FHSU like?

Founded in 1902,Fort Hays State University is dedicated to student success through a commitment to innovation and community with over 15,000 students currently enrolled.FHSU 's Hispanic College Institute focuses on preparing the state's Hispanic and Latino students to succeed in higher education.

What online programs are at FHSU ?

Fort Hays State University has close to 200 online certificate and degree - granting programs available to its students.FHSU provides individuals with flexible pathwaysfor associate,bachelor 's, master's,and even some doctoral degree programs through their online programs.This flexibility option is designed to help students who may be working full - time or have significant family responsibilities.

What online resources does FHSU offer ?

Students have the ability to schedule online tutoring and writing center appointments to help hone their academic talents.Students can also sign up to runfor seats on FHSU 's Virtual Student Senate and engage with their online university community.


University of Arizona

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Tucson, AZ
School Type

What is UA like?

The University of Arizona was established in 1885 and since then has grown into one of the most student - centric and widely recognized bachelor 's programs in the country. According to the National Science Foundation, UA is the leading research institution in the country. Their dedication to inclusion and diversity is written into their core values as an institution which reads, "We 're better together."

What online programs are at UA ?

UA has 100 percent online in over 100 different programs.Every Arizona Online program lets students pay per credit hour.Evenif they live out of state,they 'll pay the same tuition.

What online resources does UA offer ?

The University of Arizona offers its students online advising and enrollment support.The UA also helps provide online tutors and coaches,as well as alumni mentors.


Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Natchitoches, LA
School Type

What is NSUL like?

North Western State University of Louisiana boasts over 130 years of history as the longest continually occupied site for higher education in the state of Louisiana.NSUL is committed to creating excellence in their undergraduate and graduate programs both on campus and online.

What online programs are at NSUL ?

Northwestern State University of Louisiana also offers more than 40 online degree programs through their eNSU online campus.These programs can help out - of -state students save on tuition fees making it an affordable option for students looking to do their associate,bachelor 's, or master's degree programs online.eNSU also offers a number of hybrid degree programs and post - degree certificate programs.

What online resources does NSUL offer ?

Northwestern State University of Louisiana provides its students with online digital library access through the Louisiana Digital Library which holds over 400,000 digitized items from Louisiana archives,libraries and even museums.


Ohio University-Main Campus

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Athens, OH
School Type

What is OHIO like?

Established as Ohio's first university in 1804, Ohio University is steeped in tradition. This is not a school that is stuck in the past, however. The university continues to grow its student body and reputation, in no small part through its online eCampus, and it has received a "Doctoral University Higher Research Activity" classification from the Carnegie Foundation.

What online programs are at OHIO ?

If entering OHIO as an undergraduate,multiple associate degree programs or bachelor 's degree completion programs can be taken online. Partnerships with community colleges across Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia give OHIO students even more flexibility in their courses and schedules. Meanwhile, graduate students can benefit from a panoply of online degree, certificate and endorsement programs across eight different OHIO colleges.

What online resources does OHIO offer ?

OHIO 's Career and Leadership Development Center (CLDC), recognized by the National Association for Colleges and Employers, has a prominent online presence, networking between students and employers using the Handshake platform. OHIO features many other resources as well, including online tutoring, academic advising and library resources from one of the largest libraries in America.


Murray State University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Murray, KY
School Type

What is MSU like?

Murray State University seeks to provide opportunity - rich learning communities for its students both online and on campus.Among the pillars of the university is their commitment to providing intentional experiential pathways to the future for all their students.Murray State University also has a dedicated office of Institutional Diversity,Equality and Access(IDEA) that works to create an inclusive,non - discriminatory university environment for all.

What online programs are at MSU ?

Murray State University has on - demand 100 percent online courses that help accommodate busy work schedules.Among the many programs offered are online graduate degree programs in music education and nutrition as well as a Doctor of Arts in English Pedagogy.

What online resources does MSU offer ?

Murray State University provides its students with access to its online libraries and databases which can be accessed anywhere you have internet access.


Regis University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Denver, CO
School Type

What is Regis like?

Although a Roman Catholic institution grounded in the Jesuit tradition,Regis University welcomes students from all faiths for an education that develops the whole person.It is home to ten different centers including an Innovation Center,Institute on the Common Good and Recorder Music Center.For its online students,Regis offers flexible programs to meet the needs of working,adult learners.

What online programs are at Regis ?

Many of Regis 'online programs are offered on an accelerated schedule, and depending on the program, there may be as many as six start dates available. Through a partnership with the Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities, students can also access multiple online courses not offered directly by Regis.

What online resources does Regis offer ?

Online students may live far from the university 's Dayton Memorial Library, but they can still access more than 80,000 e-books through the facility, as well as e-journals and other library resources. In addition, Regis offers online job search tools and online tutoring and writing support services for distance learners.


Florida Atlantic University

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Boca Raton, FL
School Type

What is FAU like?

Established in 1961,Florida Atlantic University serves a population of over 29,000 students across its six Southeast Florida campuses.FAU boasts over 170 degree - granting programs a 24: 1 student to faculty ratio,providing a student - focused learning environment.FAU is a Hispanic - Serving Institution.

What online programs are at FAU ?

Florida Atlantic University offers a number of fully and partially online degree - granting programs.Students have the ability to earn their bachelor 's and or master's degree depending on their field of study.The College of Arts and Letters,Business,Design and Social Inquiry,Education,Engineering and Computer Science,Nursing and Science all offer online programs.

What online resources does FAU offer ?

Florida Atlantic University offers its students access to its Student Solutions network powered by Starfish Solutions.This online Student Solutions network makes it easy for students to connect with their advisors,faculty and even tutors and other support staff to help ensure their academic success.


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tuition & Fees
Distance Education Participation
Chapel Hill, NC
School Type

What is UNCCH like?

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill first opened its doors in 1795 and has remained dedicated to continuing its legacy of inquiry and public service.It focuses on helping students develop their critical thinking abilities and to preparing their diverse student population to become future innovators and leaders.

What online programs are at UNCCH ?

UNCCH offers two doctoral degree programs,as well as nine master 's degree and eight certificate programs through their online course options. By using the UNCCH online degree program, students can choose from thousands of classes across 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina at large.

What online resources does UNCCH offer ?

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gives their students access to one of the top 20 library systems in the country.You can also reserve study rooms,3 D printers,and even maker spaces using the UNCCH online library reservation system.UNCCH also offers access to online learning video tutorials through a partnership with LinkedIn and

Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics,

How to Choose an Online College

Rankings for the best online universities are a great place to start your research, as they can bring the best choices to your attention for you to compare and contrast. However, there's more to consider if you're serious about finding the right online school for your needs. Our OC Insights section has guides and articles that can help in selecting the best online colleges, such as:

Envision how you'd like your college experience to unfold and make sure the online school you select offers services and programs that meet your expectations and needs. What matters to you?

Frequently Asked Questions about Online Universities

1. Is the school accredited?
Diploma mills still exist and checking for accreditation is the easiest way to avoid them. Not all accreditation is created equal, though. Regional accreditation is considered the gold standard, and the best online colleges typically are recognized by one of six regional accrediting bodies. Our article on college accreditation can show you how to evaluate an online school's credentials.
2. Is the school transparent about costs, fees and performance statistics?
By law, schools that participate in the federal student assistance programs must disclose information such as their graduation rate, cost of attendance and job placement rate. If this data is not readily available on the school's website, it may be a red flag.
3. What kinds of financial aid does the online school offer?
If you need financial aid, make sure the online universities that your interested in participate in federal student assistance programs. Also, see if the online school hosts grants, scholarships or work-study programs for which you may be eligible. Check out our section on how to pay for college for more information and advice.
4. What kinds of academic, career and technical support do online universities offer students?
Top online colleges offer a variety of resources to their distance learners. Ask if an online orientation is offered to help new students navigate technology. Also check to see if online tutoring is available and whether distance learners can access on-campus support services such as career counselors or academic centers.
5. What are other students and alumni saying about the online school?
The best online colleges rankings are helpful, but it's always a good idea to get feedback from current and former students as well. While you can search for reviews or comments on social media or websites, remember that these may not be indicative of the typical experiences of online universities. It may be better to ask your friends and acquaintances to see if anyone has a connection with students or alumni. The top universities in the USA may not always be the best choices for you.
6. How do online courses work?
Courses at online universities allow you to negotiate your time spent learning with your daily schedule, rather than the other way around. While all courses in online universities may require certain deadlines to be met and mandatory classes to attend, for the most part these courses allow you to personalize how -- and where -- you spend your time completing them.
7. How are online course exams administered?
Some online school courses don't require an examination; however, if they do, exams are administered through a local testing site with an on-site proctor or through a virtually monitored exam online which is proctored via webcam or anti-cheating software.
8. How long does it take to earn a degree online?
It depends on whether the online college program is available in an accelerated, self-paced format or a more traditional one aligned with the school schedule. It also depends on the degree level you want to pursue. Similar to a traditional degree program, the duration of an online school program is determined by the amount of credits and other requirements satisfied in your path towards completing required courses.

More Online School Options: Best Online Colleges in Your State

While it helps to know the best universities in the USA, you may also want to study closer to home. As an in-state student, you may eligible for lower tuition rates at the best online schools, and being near the best colleges in the US can make it easier to take advantage of college amenities while still allowing you to study on your own terms.