Online learning has come a long way since it first arrived on the scene in 1990s. At first, many people were skeptical of online schools -- online diploma mills quickly became notorious for offering worthless degrees at high prices. However, the online colleges emerging at the end of the last century were far different. They offered the opportunity to earn a genuine, high quality education from respectable, accredited institutions. What's more, the medium is continuing to evolve. Here are some of the trends being recently observed in online education:
- Enrollment growth. Online colleges aren't a passing fad. Enrollment in distance education has increased for 14 straight years from 2002 to 2016, according to a 2018 report from the Babson Survey Research Group. Enrollment data is only available through 2016, but in that year, more than 30 percent of students were enrolled in at least one distance education class. Hybrid programs are also widespread; many top online colleges are public schools that combine on-campus and online learning. In 2016, more than 50 percent of students enrolled in distance education also took an on-campus course.
- More robust technologies. In the early days, online courses relied on downloaded documents and message board discussions. Current technology makes it easy to deliver lessons via video conferencing and host group chats among classmates. The next wave of technology is planned to employ virtual reality and gamification to offer an immersive learning experience. This may eventually make it possible to gain hands-on training in vocational programs or nursing specialties from a distance! There are even artificial intelligences being developed in the form of chat bots that can act as teaching assistants when professors are not available.
- Increased program options. In the early years, online students were limited to only a few fields of study, often in in the liberal arts. However, program offerings have increased dramatically and are projected to continue to do so. Schools are offering online degree programs that were once considered impossible, such as fire science, nursing and fine arts. In addition, online degree programs are becoming more specialized. For example, students who want to focus their career on international business can find online degree programs for this specific concentration, rather than enrolling in general business administration degrees.
Today, online learning is a mainstream education choice. Students no longer have to search extensively to find colleges that offer online courses. Private and public colleges and universities of all sizes offer fully online and hybrid degree programs. In fact, nowadays, finding an online college isn't hard; it's choosing one that can be difficult.
25 Top Online Colleges in 2019-20
OnlineColleges.com is committed to helping you find reliable information about the top ranked online colleges and degrees in America. We want to make our methods of choosing an online college clear, so you can understand how we place these schools in our rankings and decide which one might be right for you.
How We Choose the Top Online Colleges
To create our ranking of the top online colleges, we started by compiling a list of all schools that offer online classes and degree programs, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Then, we analyzed those institutions based on their accreditation, degree availability and student outcomes.
- Accreditation: In developing these online college rankings, the first step we took was to weed out all the schools without accreditation. Completing the accreditation process is a key way colleges and universities prove they offer an effective education based on high standards. This not only helps students feel confident in their choice of a school, but also helps employers understand that job candidates who come from that school should have the necessary knowledge and skills.
- Online degree offerings: A school can provide an excellent online education, but if it only has one degree program available, it won't be able to meet the needs of many students. As such, we assess how many distance learning programs schools have when we put together our lists. A high number of online programs can also indicate robust investment in a school's online education department. Such institutions may have more resources and experience teaching online than a school with fewer online degree programs.
- School results: Student retention and graduation rates can tell you more than just the size of a school's graduating class. They're tied to continued accreditation, and state funding is often based on a school's performance as well. What's more, strong retention and graduation rates can indicate that a school is offering the resources and support its students need to succeed.
You can learn more about our criteria for this list by reading our methodology below, or the "What Makes a Good Online College?" section on our "About Us" page.
University of Florida
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.
University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus
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 ranked online colleges in the country.
What online programs are at UO?
Both undergraduate and graduate degrees are available through the UO Extended Campus. Many programs are available in an accelerated format, where courses run eight weeks in length. OU notes that the majority of their students can complete specific online bachelor's degree programs in 2-3 years. The school also offers self-paced courses for those who want more time to study; these are open for enrollment year-round.
What online resources does UO offer?
UO maintains an Extended Campus Information Center that hosts support services for distance learners. Online students also have access to the same amenities as on-campus students. They can visit UO libraries, join student organizations and walk in a convocation ceremony.
University of South Florida-Main Campus
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 include distance education, degree completion, corporate training, workforce development, pre-college and lifelong learning programs.
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 degrees, 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.
Florida State University
What is FSU like?
Florida is well-represented in our ranking of top online schools, 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 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. Courses are delivered through Canvas and follow a semester schedule. Many are asynchronous, although synchronous courses may also be taken.
What online resources does FSU offer?
Distance learners at FSU work with an academic coordinator to create a personalized education roadmap. Depending on their area of study, they may also be assigned mentors to serve as learning coaches and communicators. Each semester, students are asked to anonymously evaluate their courses and instructors; this feedback is not only delivered to instructors so they can improve, but is also available online so that other students can judge whether they want to take that class.
University of Central Florida
What is UCF like?
At the University of Central Florida, distance learners study through UCF Online. As one of the top-rated online colleges, the school has 200 full-time tenure-track faculty teaching its distance courses. It has been offering online degrees for more than 20 years, and as an approved institution with the National Council for 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. Its most popular undergraduate majors include psychology, nursing and health services administration. Students can track their courses, financial aid and progress toward graduation through the myUCF portal.
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. The Scholarships A2O program also lets students apply for multiple scholarships with a single application.
University of Mary
What is Mary like?
Not only is the University of Mary No.1 on our list of the best online colleges in North Dakota, it's also one of the top-ranked online schools in the country. This Catholic institution, which teaches in the Benedictine tradition, has offered distance education options for more than 25 years, and it specializes in meeting the needs of working adults.
What online programs are at Mary?
Flexibility is the hallmark of Mary's online programs, and courses run between 5-15 weeks. Students can begin at any time of the year and may be able to earn a degree in as little as 15 months. Degree programs are available at both the graduate and undergraduate level, in subjects such as marketing and nursing. The university also offers various online minors, including accounting, health care administration and Catholic studies.
What online resources does Mary offer?
Online students at Mary are assigned a personal success advisor to help them have a positive experience. The university has campus locations in five states as well as in Rome and Peru, and online students can access all of the same campus amenities offered to traditional students regardless of which campus is closest to them.
Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
What is OSU like?
Oklahoma State University has been educating students since Christmas Day of 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. A few programs require at least 9 hours during a summer session for completion, but many do not. Courses use the software Brightspace, by D2L. Students may also be interested in the OSU Office of Individual Study, which once delivered correspondence courses across the U.S. and now offers self-paced classes through other nontraditional means.
What online resources does OSU offer?
OSU's LASSO Center supplies 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.
Sam Houston State University
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. Online classes at this top ranked university are offered through SHSU Online and build upon the school's expertise as the third oldest university in Texas.
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. Courses are delivered through the Blackboard platform and may make use of videos, text, discussion boards, online lectures and more. Classes are offered in two 16-week semesters as well as two condensed summer sessions.
What online resources does SHSU offer?
This Texas university hosts 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. There is even a $1,000 scholarship available for new, 100 percent online students.
Apex School of Theology
What is ASOT like?
Apex School of Theology is a Christian school with a focus on the African-American religious experience. It is also one of only a handful of private, free-standing theological institutes to offer online degree programs. Its distance education program, known as ApexDE, has been serving students for more than ten years.
What online programs are at ASOT?
Students can choose from five different online degree programs at ASOT, all with a focus on religious studies. These range from an associate program in Christian education to a Master of Arts in Christian counseling degree program. Continuing education classes can be taken online as well. Courses may run for a semester or for eight-week sessions.
What online resources does ASOT offer?
Once a student submits an application for ApexDE, an online liaison contacts the applicant to answer any questions and explain next steps. After a student has started classes, online appointments can be made with the school's Writing Center if academic assistance is needed. The school also maintains articulation agreements with the Seminary Extension of the Southern Baptist Convention and certain other institutions, which can be helpful for transfer students.
East Carolina University
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 in 1998. As of 2019, it boasts the largest online learning community in North Carolina.
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. Students can often study at whatever time is convenient for them, although some classes may require participation in scheduled, real-time chats.
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 Nebraska at Kearney
What is UNK like?
Interactivity is prized at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Students are encouraged to communicate with peers and faculty through email, group chat, and discussion forums hosted through the Canvas software. Its programs feature small classes designed to help students experience personalized learning.
What online programs are at UNK?
There are more than 200 online courses available through UNK, helping students to pursue degrees, minors, certificates, endorsements or professional development opportunities. The university has an emphasis on education programs, with multiple specializations for subjects such as curriculum and instruction or educational administration. Many UNK courses use multimedia presentations and streaming video to enhance the learning experience for their students.
What online resources does UNK offer?
Like other schools in these online university rankings, UNK provides its online students with a collection of different support services. There are tutorials covering everything from how to navigate the Canvas class management system to how to write an APA research paper. There is also a help desk, online research resources and career services.
Maryville University of Saint Louis
What is Maryville like?
Maryville University prides itself on being a ground-breaking center of unique learning. Founded in 1877, the school began its commitment to adult learners with the launch of a Weekend College in the 1980s. Since then, Maryville has expanded to meet the needs of distance learners and become one of the top accredited online colleges in the country.
What online programs are at Maryville?
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 OnlineColleges.com 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 Maryville offer?
This university partners with industry leaders like Boeing and Edward Jones, aiming to create education that is relevant to the next generation of jobs. Maryville also maintains several guides for admissions and financial aid that can help transfer students and veterans apply for both admission and forms of financial aid, from federal grants to private scholarships.
SUNY College of Technology at Canton
What is SUNY Canton like?
SUNY Canton Online is approved by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements and accepts online students from across the nation. The goals and standards of SUNY Canton can be seen in their Institutional Student Learning Outcomes (ISLOs).
What online programs are at SUNY Canton?
Hundreds of courses, from general education to off-term offerings, are delivered through the Blackboard system at SUNY Canton. Courses are enhanced by video conferencing, discussion boards and social media. Many of SUNY Canton's online programs are at the undergraduate level, and some are 2+2 programs that help students who have earned an associate degree to complete a bachelor's-level education efficiently.
What online resources does SUNY Canton offer?
SUNY Canton offers a readiness assessment that gauges whether online learning is a good fit for someone. Once enrolled, students can chat with advisors online and utilize a range of career services, such as mock interviews conducted via Skype. SUNY Canton also offers students different financial aid applications to help them find aid that is available for the season.
Adams State University
What is ASU like?
Proud of their close-knit community, Adams State University brings together students from diverse backgrounds to work together in small classes. With a cozy 15:1 student-faculty ratio and federal Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) designation, ASU strives to "become the university community of choice for diverse, historically underserved groups."
What online programs are at ASU?
In addition to fully online degree programs, there are dozens of individual classes available at ASU for those who want to study for continuing education, personal enrichment or other reasons. Courses are delivered via the Blackboard system. The school has particularly rich resources for K-12 educators looking for professional development and recertification.
What online resources does ASU offer?
Online students at ASU may be able to access some library services remotely in addition to utilizing on-campus resources. The university offers tutoring, academic advising and a writing studio among other student services. K-12 educators can also find opportunities through ASU's educational partners, which include the American Museum of Natural History and the Professional Learning Board.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
What is UAB like?
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has worked to foster a reputation for being on the cutting edge of industries such as science, medicine and business. Its online and blended degree programs look to the standards from Quality Matters and the Online Learning Consortium, with the goal of giving distance learners the same quality experience as on-campus students.
What online programs are at UAB?
As one of the top online universities in America, UAB offers dozens of online degree programs, minors and certificate programs, with courses delivered through the Canvas system. Many of these are fully online, although some may have on-campus requirements. More than 95 percent of the classes offered through the Collat School of Business are available to distance learners.
What online resources does UAB offer?
In addition to 24/7 Canvas support, eLearning students at UAB have access to a number of online student services. These include the BlazerNET system for managing email and student account information and virtual consultations with library staff for assistance with research papers.
Ohio University-Main Campus
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) has been recognized by the National Association for Colleges and Employers (NACE). The CLDC 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.
University of Cincinnati-Main Campus
What is UC like?
Co-ops, internships and service learning opportunities give students at the University of Cincinnati a chance to take classroom lessons and apply them in the real world. These opportunities also help make UC a surprisingly affordable school, with a reputation for high student return on investment. In total, UC students earn approximately $57 million each year through co-op opportunities alone, helping to minimize student loan debt.
What online programs are at UC?
In our program rankings, UC is among the best online universities for literacy and reading and respiratory therapy. Furthermore, through the UC Forward program, students can be paired with faculty and external experts for a transdisciplinary learning experience that transcends a single major.
What online resources does UC offer?
UC students can apply for financial aid online as well as complete the application and registration process remotely. Once enrolled, online students can access tools such as tutorials through Lynda.com, technical support for the Blackboard system and digital access to many library resources.
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. Classes are taught by a mix of professors, associate professors and affiliate faculty members. 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 International University
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. The school's faculty have been creating online courses since 1998, so it's not surprising the university makes our list of top online schools. 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?
In addition to excelling overall, FIU has earned accolades from OnlineColleges.com for its international business, human resources and psychology degrees. And those are just a few of the dozens of degree and certificate programs available. The university's fully online programs may start in the fall, spring or summer, and they use the Canvas learning management system to deliver course content.
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.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
What is NC State like?
North Carolina State University's campus at Raleigh, also known as the Centennial Campus, drives economic growth and education in the region thanks to more than 70 public and private partnerships. If high-quality faculty is your criteria for a top online college, this might be the school for you. 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?
To help its online students succeed, NC State offers enrollment advice prior to admission. Students can connect with a program coordinator for 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.
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 assign assignments and course materials in advance, and students can then review and study on their own self-paced schedule. Some programs have 8-week terms, allowing students to complete their educational path at an accelerated pace.
What online resources does Creighton offer?
The Blueline system serves as a 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. Most importantly, through the Creighton Global Initiative, students can pursue internships, service-learning and research across the world.
University of Utah
What is the U like?
As a premier research institution, the University of Utah has been educating students since 1850. It prides itself on creating an Innovation Ecosystem that includes the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, Center for Medical Innovation and Office of Sponsored Projects, among other partnerships, to support start-ups, research and new technology.
What online programs are at the U?
The online offerings at the U are extensive, with literally hundreds of graduate and undergraduate programs at students' fingertips. Online classes run on the same schedule as on-campus courses and use a 16-week term, with multiple start dates throughout the year. However, students learning digitally don't have to log-in at specific times; they can complete classwork on their own schedule.
What online resources does the U offer?
If you're not sure online learning is right for you, the U offers a walkthrough of a sample online course. Once enrolled, students have access to a number of support services, including academic advising, a writing center, technical support and career coaches. When it comes time to take exams, online students with a webcam can opt for virtual proctoring.
University of Idaho
What is UI like?
The University of Idaho has been providing students with a transformative education since 1889. As a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, students in most states can enroll in UI distance education classes, and there's good reason to do so. UI spends nearly $110 million each year on research and is classified as a higher research activity university by the Carnegie Foundation.
What online programs are at UI?
Most online and hybrid classes at UI follow the standard university schedule, but there are also independent study options that give students up to a year to complete a class. Among its online degree programs, UI stands out as one of the best colleges for computer science, according to an OnlineColleges.com analysis.
What online resources does UI offer?
Online student services at the University of Idaho include technical support and assistance navigating the BbLearn system, which delivers UI course content. Academic advising and off-campus library services are also available. UI Outreach programs offer dozens of opportunities to participate in hands-on learning at sites across the state.
What is Champlain like?
Champlain College is a small, private school with a reputation for innovation. It launched its first online programs in the mid-1990s, making it one of the pioneers in the field. Through its online programs, the college works to meet the unique educational needs of working adults, and Fiske Guide to College 2019 named Champlain as one of the country's "best and most interesting schools."
What online programs are at Champlain?
Virtually all of Champlain's graduate degrees are offered online and taught by academically-qualified professors who also have professional experience in their field. Many degree programs feature 7-week courses and six different start dates throughout the year. Students can transfer up to 90 credits toward 100 percent online bachelor's degree programs, making it easy for working adults to pick up their education where they left off.
What online resources does Champlain offer?
In addition to technical support, online students at Champlain have access to 24/7 online tutoring, a digital library, online bookstore and web advisors. Thanks to its focus on interactive online learning, Champlain reports, "one of the most frequent comments we hear from our students and faculty is that you will get to know your instructor and classmates better than if you were sitting in a classroom.'
Kent State University at Kent
What is Kent State like?
Founded in 1910, Kent State is not only one of the best online universities; it's also a top ranked research institution. The university maintains 166 active U.S. patents for research, is the birthplace of the LCD and leads the nation with nine Portz Prizes for undergraduate honors research theses. For the past 15 years, Kent State has been offering its quality programs online, and the university even extends a reduced nonresident tuition rate to some students to make its programs more accessible.
What online programs are at Kent State?
Kent State's online learning options include programs that are unique to the university, such as a Master of Science in user experience design. Regardless of the degree or certificate program, all classes are taught by industry-leading instructors, with more than 70 percent of the school's faculty having earned the highest degree available in their field. Kent State uses Blackboard to deliver its online course content.
What online resources does Kent State offer?
When it comes to online student services, Kent State offers a 24/7 helpdesk and access to a FlashLine account that is a hub for university communications. Plus, the school offers library resources, advising and career resources that can be accessed by distance learners.
How to Choose an Online College
Everyone wants to know "what are the best online colleges?" However, no matter how many online college rankings you study, that question doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer. Rankings 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 school.
Envision how you'd like your college experience to unfold and make sure the school you select offers services and programs that meet your expectations. Some students want to be close to their college's campus so they can meet with professors or career counselors face-to-face. Some students are looking for asynchronous courses to fit their schedules, while some need synchronous courses to help them learn. Some students need their school to offer specific kinds of financial aid or tuition plans in order to afford school. What matters to you?
Five Questions to Ask about Online Colleges
Here are five questions to ask about a school you're considering, to help you decide whether or not it is right for you.
More Online Options: Best Online Colleges in Your State
While it helps to know the best accredited colleges nationwide, you may also want to study closer to home. As an in-state student, you may eligible for lower tuition rates, and being near campus can make it easier to take advantage of college amenities while still allowing you to study on your own terms.
At OnlineColleges.com, you can use our state pages to find the best online schools in your state, affordable colleges to consider, and state-specific financial aid information.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following criteria:
- Level of institution is either "Four or more years" or "At least 2 but less than 4 years"
- Data is reported for all 11 ranking variables listed in the Methodology section
- At least 1 percent of students are taking at least some of the classes via distance education
- "Number of programs offered via distance education" was an integer greater than 0
We ranked the resulting 1,813 colleges on 11 criteria, using provisional 2016-17 data from IPEDS:
- Number of programs offered via distance education
- Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
- Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
- Total electronic library collections, including digital books, databases, and media
- Graduation rate
- Retention rate
- The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Guaranteed, Other)
- Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
- Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
- Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.
NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.