Deciding to attend school online is a tough decision. Though it tends to be more convenient for you, the thousands of online programs offered can be quite overwhelming. How do you know which program you want to pursue? Which schools offer that, and how do you know which one is right for you? The sheer amount of information may seem too much at times, but we’re here to simplify the decision for you. Here is a list of 29 best online universities that offer a variety of bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral degrees and postgraduate certificates.
Top 5 Online Universities
|1||UMasss Online||Shrewsbury, Massachusetts|
|2||University of Florida Distance Learning||Gainesville, Florida|
|3||Florida State University||Tallahassee, Florida|
|4||New Mexico State University||Las Cruces, New Mexico|
|5||University of Missouri||Columbia, Missouri|
Earn your degree through one of the best colleges in the US, at your own pace, wherever you want. You control the when and where, making it far more realistic for you to complete your degree.
The Best Online Universities in 2021
UMass offers 113 online programs completely online and an additional 12 programs that can be completed by combining on-campus and online study. The University is known for its Master’s of Business Administration, Doctorate of Nursing, and Master’s of Public Health programs. Distance learners are enrolled in classes from the same prestigious professors who teach on-campus, they are also given the opportunity to walk at graduation on-campus, and are offered library resources and academic counseling.
University of Florida Distance Learning
The University of Florida offers more than 300 online programs, with its online MBA program ranked #1 in the state of Florida and online bachelor’s program ranked #13, according to U.S. News & World Report. The University offers over 16 different colleges leading to bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctoral degrees. Distance students have access to an online management system, library resources, career opportunity services, and an online registration program. UF is known for its large research program and is recognized by The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education for their scholarly research efforts.
Florida State University
FSU is proud to provide nationally renowned faculty members and academic programs. As an accredited university, FSU students, whether online or on campus, are given the maximum attention for success through high standards, quality assurance, and continuous improvement to make courses better and better. FSU offers multiple classes, and even complete degrees, that can be completed 100% online. So if you’ve been meaning to complete your degree, or even attain a master’s degree but have no way of reaching the FSU campus, be sure to check out their online programs.
New Mexico State University
NMSU’s distance education program is in place to help students that may not be able to gain an education the traditional way. NMSU enrolls more than 15,000 students and has received national recognition from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Programs include bachelor, master’s, and certification programs of many kinds.
University of Missouri
Missouri offers more than 90 online degrees and certificate programs including nine various bachelor degree programs such as Hospitality Management, Educational Studies, Health Sciences, and Radiography. Some programs require students to participate on campus for tests or hands-on learning. Online classes are taught by the same on-campus faculty. Semesters range from eight to sixteen weeks depending on the course offered, but all online classes are self-paced. Missouri uses three different course management systems including Blackboard, Moodle, and Sakai to allow students easy access to their classes.
Oregon State University
Oregon State University is a place of purpose; making a difference in the quality of life, natural resources, prosperity, and more! OSU offers over 90 study areas online to allow those that are unable to visit campus every day to still be a part of Oregon State University’s place of purpose attitude and learning. Oregon State University is a regionally accredited school with online courses taught through the same requirements for reading, research, and examinations as on-campus courses.
University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma offers several bachelor degrees including Administrative Leadership, Criminal Justice, Liberal Studies, Lifespan Care, and World Cultural Studies. Most programs are offered on an accelerated paced schedule. Upon admission, many students can meet with an assigned advisor who will help create a graduation plan so students can finish as soon as possible. At Oklahoma, all online programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and designed to accommodate working individuals.
Utah State University
Utah State University has been offering distance education for over 90 years; they now provide complete online degree programs, and individual classes for those not looking to earn a full degree. USU is ranked #2 as one of the highest ranked public universities in the West, #4 in the nation for lowest tuition in “America’s Top Colleges,” and 8th as one of the nation’s best public national universities for graduates with the least debt.
Mississippi State University
Mississippi State University is ideal for graduate students; they offer 25 varying masters and doctoral degrees. This online university also offers four undergraduate degrees including the only online Elementary Education program in the state. The University recognizes up to 61 credits for students transferring from another accredited university. The online courses are organized through Blackboard, an online systemization program.
University of Alabama
Alabama offers 14 different bachelor degree programs in the Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Human Environmental Sciences, Nursing and Social Work. The University also offers more than 40 master’s and doctoral degree programs, and many educational specialist and certificate programs among its 70-plus offerings. Alabama is one of the best online universities because students have access to the career resource center, the writing lab, and scholarships. Students are required to arrange a proctor at a UA approved testing location. Some courses are also offered through video conferencing.
Colorado State University
CSU offers twelve different undergraduate degrees including Accounting, Information Technology, and Marketing. Classes are offered every four weeks, and several specialization courses are offered to allow students to customize their learning. There are no set start times for classes, giving students plenty of flexibility in their schedule. The Higher Learning Commission accredits Colorado State as a top university. This online university also works with students to transfer as many credits from previous accredited universities as possible.
Old Dominion University
96% of online students at Old Dominion University are happy with their overall experience. At Old Dominion University, they create and provide classes for you, the student. It doesn’t matter where you are at; just beginning your higher education, half way through a degree, or wanting to get a master’s, Old Dominion University has an online program for you.
Universiy of Illinois Springfield
In 1995, the University of Illinois acquired SSU as its third campus; the initials became UIS. Now UIS alums comprise 28% of the college-educated workforce residing in Springfield, and its students and alumni add $176 million to the local economy annually. Discover what it’s like to be a UIS student by enrolling in one of the many online degrees and certification programs.
Liberty University is a private Christian school with classes taught through a Christian worldview. There are more than 250 online programs available through Liberty University including certificate, associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs. Liberty University began work with distance education in 1985; it is now the nation’s largest private, nonprofit online university. Over 95,000 students around the globe are able to delve into the education Liberty University and enjoy the same quality education as those that visit campus each day.
Penn State World Campus
Penn State is ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide and has offered an online program since 2000. They offer over 120 undergraduate and graduate online programs including 40 bachelor’s degrees in things like accounting, advertising, finance, and political science. Penn State’s on-campus faculty also teach the online classes offered, which means there are plenty of on-campus resources and faculty available to those in the area. If you cannot be on campus, however, online students receive the same perks of meeting with counselors, and other on-campus services, over the internet.
Northern Arizona University
NAU offers several bachelor degree programs including Business, Hospitality and Engineering, and several more. The school also offers over 20 master’s degree programs including Administration, Communications, and Nursing. The asynchronous online platform offers students great flexibility in their schedule at this online university. Students have access to online support and tutoring 24/7. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education recognizes the university for their high research activity and also holds accreditation from the Northern Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of Cincinnati
A member of the University System of Ohio, the University of Cincinnati offers more than 70 online degree and certificate programs. Several online undergraduate degrees include early childhood education, radiation science technology, criminal justice, and substance abuse counseling, among others. Online master’s degrees range from medical education to taxation to pharmaceutical sciences. Several general education courses and online certificate programs are also available. Online students have access to an online orientation, academic advising, library resources and tutoring.
Boston University Online
Boston University is a non-profit organization offering programs across 18 different colleges and schools. BU is known for its top online programs in Criminal Justice, Computer Information Technology, and Business. Students can pursue one of nine varying master’s degrees or one of a number of certificate programs. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits BU.
Drexel University Online
Drexel University prides itself in offering over 200 programs for its students ranging from bachelor’s and master’s degrees to professional degrees. This online university is known for having one of the largest cooperative programs that prepare students for careers post-graduation. This system provides students the opportunity to build a large network of colleagues and contacts. Some of the programs Drexel offers are designed on an accelerated platform to accommodate students’ future plans. Drexel also offers various study abroad opportunities that are available to online students.
Arizona State University Online
ASU offers over 50 bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and several certificates. Arizona State online university offers six different start dates for online students making it convenient for students to start when they are most available. Most classes have specific deadlines for assignments, and some require students to log in at designated times of the day or week. Online students are given the same opportunities that on-campus students have with access to enrollment counselors and academic advisors. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education recognizes ASU as a top research university.
University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota offers 17 different online undergraduate programs including Accounting, Management, and Communications. There are nine various master’s and doctoral degrees, and several post-baccalaureate programs offered to online students. These degrees can be completed entirely online, but the school also offers several hybrid programs where students can complete their education partially online and partially on-campus. Online students have access to academic advisors and several other resources offered through the Digital Campus online system. Assignments and test are organized through an online course management system called Moodle and some lectures can be accessed on the school’s iTunes account.
Central Michigan University
Discover why CMU online has been voted best in 2016 for online bachelor’s degrees, online MBA programs, and online graduate education. CMU is all about research for the future; from discovering new ways to treat diseases, to advanced ways to improve teaching and learning, and more! Central Michigan University has 20,000 students enrolled on campus and 7,000 online students. Get your bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree completely online with CMU’s many internet-based programs.
Pennsylvania State University
Penn State University online is Penn State, and Penn State is a nationally recognized university. There are over 125 online degree and certification programs available through Pennsylvania State University’s World Campus online program. Since 1892 students have had the opportunity to take part in the Penn State environment without having to travel to campus. As a pioneer to eLearning, Penn State has evolved to include many enhanced learning experiences to help improve the way students learn.
Washington State University
Washington State offers nine different undergraduate programs including Accounting, Psychology, Management, and Social Sciences. This online university also offers several master’s degrees, online certificate programs, and a few teaching endorsement programs. Online students have access to 24/7 technology support, free online tutors, and a writing lab. WSU is also recognized by The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education for their research efforts.
With degree programs in Alternative Medicine, Construction Management, Aviation Management and more, you can choose an online degree program that is best for you at Everglades University. All online courses are prepared by staff that creates an interesting, interactive learning environment that can be accessed anywhere through the world wide web. Both on campus and online courses are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which means students will be taught with their success in mind.
University of Louisiana at Monroe
ULM offers over 30 degree programs, resources, and a caring community to help get you through your college degree. ULM is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), which means that eLUM participates in the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) Electronic Campus. University of Louisiana at Monroe online is ranked 14 in the top 50 online schools in the country by GraduatePrograms.com.
Texas Tech University
Texas Tech is one of the top online universities because it offers six different bachelor’s degree programs including Human Sciences, Biology, and General Students. The school also offers 20 various master’s degree programs, four online doctoral programs, and many post-grad certificate programs including software engineering, soil management, and wind energy. Texas Tech uses Blackboard as the online management system to facilitate forums, file share, and curate live courses.
Rochester Institute of Technology
RIT online is staffed with a diverse group of experienced faculty, prepared to ensure a high-quality learning experience for everyone taking classes online. Whether you are completing a few courses, earning a certification, or doing a complete degree online, the RIT staff are ready to help you succeed. RIT online has been building programs based on real-time employer demand, and business needs for over 30 years. Discover programs available at RIT online today.
Northeastern is a nationally ranked private research university that offers rigorous courses online to help you get ahead. Northeastern provides over 60 degrees and programs completely online. Built in 1898, Northeastern University became a global, experiential, research university with a drive to engage the world and have students do the same.
Online College Ranking Guidelines
The making of this list was based on undergraduate tuition costs per credit hour (where possible) and are listed from the least tuition per credit hour to the most. For schools that don’t present tuition per credit hour, the semester amount was divided by 12 to get a general idea of the cost per credit hour for a full-time student. Please visit our methodology page for more information.
We are always looking to make our lists and rankings stronger, so we can provide our readers with the most accurate information. For more specific information on these programs, please visit the links provided in this article or feel free to contact us with any other concerns.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends about 34.4 hours each week working. That figure, however, doesn’t paint you the complete picture. People within 25 – 54 years of age spend about 40.5 hours a week working. That comes to about 8 hours every day on average.
Now add to that the number of hours spent on traffic, social visits, other obligations, and for about 7.8 million Americans…a second job. If you do the math, you will find that most adults don’t have the time for much anything else, let alone time to further their education by getting a bachelor’s degree.
That is one of the main reasons why online colleges and universities have become so popular: they give the busy, working adult an avenue to join an online degree program and get their certification while still maintaining their jobs and hectic lifestyle.
Which, to millions of potential under and postgraduate students, is excellent news. Imagine being able to choose the kind of degree program you want to undertake and being able to take it at your own pace and in your own time until completion?! That is exactly what most online universities offer you.
Most offer asynchronous courses that do not include any set class times and can be taken at the student’s convenience. In contrast, others offer synchronous classes that require the students to attend live online lectures at specified times. Either way, you look at it, distance learners can attend these classes from wherever they are without going too much out of their way to do so.
In this guide, we will look at online universities and all that they bring to the table. We will also look at some of the best online degree courses, how to choose the best online university for your needs, and why accreditation is so important throughout this process.
Best Online Colleges
There is a reason why Ivy League schools are so in demand, so difficult to get into, and just as equally expensive – they are worth it. You know that you are going to get a high-quality education when you join one. You know that you will interact with students and faculty from across the globe, all of which will open up your mind to previously unseen opportunities.
The same applies to online colleges. If you choose the best ones, not only will you get a top-quality education, but you will be introduced to a network of students, albeit distance learners, faculty, and culture, that will expose you to new opportunities to not only progress your career but maybe also your social life.
Unfortunately, not all online programs or universities are created equal. It’s up to you to choose the best one for your needs and one that will give you a high-quality online degree program at your preferred price point. They are there – it just takes a bit of researching and knowing what to look for when doing so.
How to Choose the Best Accredited Online College for You
With thousands of online colleges offering you degree programs 100% online, it can be very easy to simply go for the cheapest and most flexible ones. However, that isn’t always the best approach.
Just as you would take your time picking land-based colleges, researching them, maybe taking a campus tour, and meeting a few of the students before deciding to enroll, you should also take your time researching and choosing an online college.
Instead of campus tours, here are some factors that you should consider when choosing the best accredited online college for you:
1. How long the college has had an online program
Some of the best colleges and universities have earned their pedigree because they have been around for ages. Some are even more than a hundred years old. These kinds of institutions have a clear and respectable reputation.
While they might have all started as in-person learning institutions, most of them have gone the online way and started their own online bachelor’s program that has the same quality standards as their usual on-campus programs. Whenever you get an online degree from such institutions, you know that you are getting a degree that has proven value.
The issue comes in when you start considering the newer online colleges and universities that haven’t necessarily been around as long or long enough to garner an instantly recognizable authority in the educational community.
Not that all these newer institutions aren’t any good, no! Most of them are very good and offer an extremely valuable education at an affordable rate. You need to know which ones. Your best bet is to take a keen look at the institution’s short history, partnerships within the educational community, other institutions, faculty, and alumni.
The best part about most of the world going online is finding real-life reviews and opinions about any brand you want.
2. Is the institution accredited?
Think of accreditation as the quality control placed upon institutions of higher education. Before applying to any university or college, you absolutely must make sure that it is properly accredited.
Any school that has been accredited must follow extremely meticulous standards to maintain that accreditation, which means that anyone going or attending an online degree program offered by an accredited institution can rest assured that they are receiving a good quality education.
3. Is the degree program going to help you achieve your career goals?
Unfortunately, there are degree programs that look very good on the surface but offer many unnecessary credits. Most of these credits are akin to “fluff” designed to prop up the program and cost you a lot of money.
Thankfully, many high-quality institutions offer online programs that allow you to tailor-make, albeit to a limited degree, your entire course to cover all the necessary subjects that are in exact alignment with your career goals.
Do not allow yourself to be sucked into a degree program that sounds fancy yet offers very little educational and practical value as far as your career goals are concerned.
4. Whether or not the online degree programs accept transferred credits
Let’s face it. Most of us have done a few low-cost online courses to better our knowledge and qualifications for our careers.
There is a very good chance that by the time you get to the conclusion that you need to complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited online college, you have gone through one or two online schools and realized that a full-blown degree is what you need.
So, what exactly happens to these other little courses you have taken? Do they go to waste?
Not necessarily. If they are in line with your desired career path, you can incorporate them into your online degree program as transferred credits. There are online colleges that allow for this and make it much easier, cheaper, and faster for their students to graduate.
5. How much is the online course going to cost in totality?
There is a growing concern that some online schools are out to milk their students for all they can without necessarily providing value in terms of education. You have probably noticed some schools advertising entire online degree courses for as little as “$9,000” only for you to get slapped with a $17,000 bill thanks to a host of other hidden charges such as registration fees and so on.
Yes, institutions need to make money, and the students must pay for all the services they receive. Your duty is to find out all that your particular online program will cost in totality before committing. This involves talking to the school directly and asking for a thorough explanation of your invoice before making any payments.
6. Are your courses viable as online courses?
Some courses are simply not teachable online. This includes courses that require a lot of practical lab work and physical observation. If your career path leads you down this road, you need to be very careful when deciding to take your classes online.
Check with the online college to find out how they go about making sure that you get a quality education despite it being online.
Some online schools partner with excellent courseware providers who ensure that the information you need is adequately conveyed online and that your learning isn’t compromised because of that fact.
7. Does the school offer adequate academic, technical and career support for online students?
This ties into the previous point – the best online schools go above and beyond to provide their students with the best possible course outline (geared towards online viability) and all the necessary support they need.
Here’s the thing about online degree programs: most of them aren’t as structured as regular degree programs. This is especially true for asynchronous courses that don’t require you to log into a lecture at any specific time but allow you to complete the course work at your pace and leisure.
As an adult, you know that not only is procrastination going to come into play, but life, in general, is going to interfere with your course work. What would typically take a year or two to finish in “normal school” could very well take you over 3 or 4 years to finish simply because “things keep coming up.”
This is easier to avoid when the school has a well-staffed support team that is not only always ready to help you along the way but is also willing to hold you accountable should you request them to do so. Check to see if the school provides adequate academic, technical, and career support before enrolling.
Yes, going the “online degree program” way could help you save on money in many ways, including cutting down the number of years spent on your education. Every extra year you spend to complete your degree course is a year spent using money on that program.
Online programs allow you to accelerate this timeline, get your degree faster, and spend less money while at it. If you find the right school, you will set your career up on the right path at your convenience.
Why Prefer Regionally Accredited Schools to Nationally Accredited Online Colleges?
Indeed, the tuition fees and the school’s reputation (educational history) matter a lot when it comes to giving you a valuable degree. While some of these standards may be subjective depending on what the particular student is looking for in an institution, one specific standard is as objective as it gets: accreditation.
This is, by far, one of the most important factors you need to consider when choosing an online university or college to attend. Accreditation is crucial to the level of education the institution promises to deliver, tuition reimbursement, and employability. There are, however, some nuances to accreditation – is it regional or national?
We will take a quick look at why this matters but first, let’s look at accreditation itself.
What Is College/University Accreditation?
Accreditation is a voluntary process that seeks to ensure that higher learning institutions such as a college, a university or even a degree program meet a set of universal standards designed to ensure quality. This process is used to give an institution credibility that is then transferred to its graduates and acknowledged by employers.
Interestingly, this process isn’t administered by the U.S Department of Education; it is, however, overseen by it in conjunction with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Many different federally-recognized agencies are tasked with setting the accreditation standards.
Every institution of higher learning, whether or not they offer online classes, answer to the same set standards. A “regular” degree isn’t necessarily more valuable than an online degree of the same course in this aspect.
What’s the Difference Between National and Regional Accreditation?
National accreditation agencies such as the Distance Education & Training Council (DETC) and Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) are tasked with accrediting trade and vocational schools or any career programs that offer degrees and certifications.
Regional accreditation agencies such as Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and Higher Learning Commission (HLC), on the other hand, are tasked with overseeing that high standards are maintained by institutions that focus on academics. These institutions can either be non-profit or state-owned universities and colleges.
Why Choose Regional Accredited Schools Instead of National?
It should first be stated that both types of accreditations hold value in the educational world. That being said, regionally accredited schools tend to offer students more benefits than nationally accredited schools.
Here are some main differences between regionally accredited schools and their nationally accredited counterparts:
Characteristics and Benefits of Regionally Accredited Schools
- Their designated regional accreditation agencies periodically review regionally accredited schools.
- This accreditation is more widely-recognized and considered the most prestigious.
- These schools tend to be more expensive.
- These schools tend to be more selective during their student selection and admission process.
- They are mostly academic institutions that fund-raise and depend on legacy giving and federal grants to meet financial obligations.
- Unfortunately, regionally accredited schools don’t typically accept credit transfers from nationally accredited schools. They tend to favor other regionally accredited schools.
- When you attend a regionally accredited school, you are eligible for pretty much every corporate tuition reimbursement plan.
Characteristics and Benefits of Regionally Accredited Schools
- These schools tend to be less expensive than regionally accredited schools.
- They are institutions of trade and vocational training such as nursing schools, art and design, and so forth.
- Their selection and admission standards tend to be more relaxed than regionally accredited schools.
- These are predominantly for-profit schools that earn their revenue through enrollment and selling educational products.
- They tend to accept credit transfers from both regionally and nationally accredited schools alike.
- Graduates may or may not be eligible for corporate tuition reimbursements.
Both regionally and nationally accredited schools have their merits and demerits. The important factors are that you attend an accredited school as opposed to one that isn’t accredited.
Why School Accreditation is Important to Your Education and Career
If you decide to attend an institution that isn’t either nationally or regionally accredited, you could very well be wasting money. Here are some reasons why you need to make sure that the school you attend is accredited:
- Financial aid: You won’t receive federally funded financial aid if you don’t attend an accredited institution.
- Credit transfer: You won’t transfer your credits anywhere if you don’t attend an accredited school.
- Impact on employment: Almost every employer conducts a thorough background check. If you don’t have a degree or certification from an accredited school, it may negatively impact your chances of getting employed. This is mostly because accredited institutions are viewed as legitimate learning institutions, while non-accredited schools don’t hold the same reputation.
How to Find Out if an Online College/University is Accredited
Since attending an accredited institution of higher learning impacts the quality of education you get and your employability, it’s important to learn how to find out whether or not that online school you are considering joining is accredited. Here are some steps you can take to find out:
- Run a quick search in the U.S Department of Education database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs. Simply type in the school name in full. For example, typing in “University of California-Los Angeles” will most likely give you results instead of UCLA.
- Run a quick check on each of the six main regional accrediting agencies. You could focus on the one that oversees the region where your intended online school is based, but it’s often best to just run a search on all six just in case you have the region wrong.
- Simply contact the online university or college, ask them for proof of accreditation, and then counter-check that information.
As you can tell, a few things are extremely important when it comes to choosing the best online colleges for your consideration. For one thing, you need to find one that offers the kind of education you need to progress your career.
For another, you need to make sure that the college is accredited, and finally, you need to make sure that it is an affordable online college and in line with your hectic lifestyle.
Thankfully, all this information is easy enough to find online. However, suppose you find it difficult to afford the kind of college that meets all the parameters except that one. In that case, there are often quite a number of college grants offered by individual institutions and the federal government that can help you shoulder that financial burden. All you have to do is look up that information on the college’s website or call them up and ask.
As long as you attend an accredited online school, the education you get will be of the same value as campus-based students at the same institution.