Best Online Universities in 2024

    January 26, 2024 | Admin

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    Deciding to attend school online can be a tough decision. Though the benefits of online programs—convenience, flexibility, accessibility—are highly appealing, the thousands of online program options can be overwhelming. How do you know which program you want to pursue? Which schools offer the accreditation and modules you need, and how do you know which one is right for you?

    We’re here to simplify the decision for you. Explore this list of some of the best online colleges to find programs offering bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and postgraduate certificates.

    The Best Online Universities in 2023


    UMass Online

    • Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

    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.


    Tuition: $125-$1980/credit hour
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    University of Florida Distance Learning

    • Gainesville, Florida

    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.


    Tuition: $130/credit hour
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    Florida State University

    • Tallahassee, Florida

    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.


    Tuition: $215.55/credit hour
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    New Mexico State University

    • Las Cruces, New Mexico

    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.


    Tuition: $221.80/credit hour
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    University of Missouri

    • Columbia, 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.


    Tuition: $276/credit hour
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    Oregon State University

    • Corvallis, Oregon

    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.


    Tuition: $295/credit hour
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    University of Oklahoma

    • Norman, 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.


    Tuition: $325/credit hour
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    Utah State University

    • Logan, Utah

    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.


    Tuition: $325/credit hour
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    Mississippi State University

    • Starkville, Mississippi

    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.


    Tuition: $333/credit hour
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    University of Alabama

    • Tuscaloosa, 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.


    Undergraduate Tuition: $375/credit hour
    Graduate Tuition: $425/credit hour
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    Colorado State University

    • Aurora, Colorado

    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.


    Tuition: $350/credit hour
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    Old Dominion University

    • Norfolk, Virginia

    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.


    Tuition: $352/credit hour
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    Universiy of Illinois Springfield

    • Springfield, Illinois

    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.


    Tuition: $358.50/credit hour
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    Liberty University

    • Lynchburg, Virginia

    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.


    Tuition: $390/credit hour
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    Penn State World Campus University

    • Park, Pennsylvania

    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.


    Tuition: $400-$500/credit hour
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    Northern Arizona University

    • Flagstaff, Arizona

    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.


    Tuition: $425/credit hour
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    University of Cincinnati

    • Cincinnati, Ohio

    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.


    Tuition: $459/credit hour
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    Boston University Online

    • Boston, Massachusetts

    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.


    Tuition: $465/credit hour
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    Drexel University Online

    • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    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.


    Tuition: $489/credit hour
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    Arizona State University Online

    • Scottsdale, Arizona

    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.


    Tuition: $490/credit hour
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    University of Minnesota

    • Minneapolis, 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.


    Tuition: $492.31/credit hour
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    Central Michigan University

    • Mount Pleasant, Michigan

    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.


    Tuition: $6,255/semester (about $521.25 per credit hour)
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    Pennsylvania State University

    • State College, Pennsylvania

    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.


    Tuition: $524/credit hour
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    Washington State University

    • Pullman, Washington

    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.


    Tuition: $586/credit hour
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    Everglades University

    • Boca Raton, Florida

    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.


    Tuition: $650/credit hour
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    University of Louisiana at Monroe

    • Monroe, Louisiana

    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.


    Tuition: $684.53/credit hour
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    Texas Tech University

    • Lubbock, Texas

    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.


    Tuition: $9,866/semester (about $822.17/credit hour)
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    Rochester Institute of Technology

    • Rochester, New York

    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.


    Tuition: $1,463/credit hour
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    Northeastern University

    • Boston, Massachusetts

    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.


    Tuition: $1,518/credit hour
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    Auburn University

    • Auburn, Alabama

    Auburn University was named the top university in Alabama. This school has undergraduate, graduate and professional certificate programs available through their online distance learning platform. This school offers several fully online degrees in engineering, business and nursing, as well as undergraduate coursework that accompanies the on-campus learning. On the graduate level, fully online programs include business, agriculture, real estate development, forestry liberal arts and human sciences. The school was named to the Best Online Programs list from U.S. News for its graduate programs in business and engineering.


    Tuition: $433-$1,299 per credit hour
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    Ball State University

    • Muncie, Indiana

    Ball State University boasts a 95% placement rate for its graduates. It is named one of the top 100 public colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report, and it has a low faculty-to-student ratio. For online options, the school has over 100 degrees and certificates taught fully online. Online students have the same faculty that on-campus students have, so the quality of education remains consistent. This was the first institution in the country to earn Learner Support Program Certification for its online programs, showing the quality of support given to online students. The online programs have a lower cost than on-campus programs, and students have the flexibility to study part-time if they wish.


    Tuition: $326-$544 per credit hour
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    California Baptist University

    • Riverside, California

    This private Christian university is considered one of the top religious institutions in the nation. Affiliated with the California Southern Baptist Association, this school provides quality education combined with religious instruction. In 2021 U.S. News & World Report named it the Best Regional University. It also earned accolades for Best First Year Experience and Best Colleges for Social Mobility. Its online programs include over 40 bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree programs in in-demand fields. Students can cut their graduation time in half by studying through the online campus rather than a traditional on-campus program.


    Tuition $450-$613 per credit hour
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    George Mason University

    • Fairfax, Virginia

    Located in Fairfax, Virginia, George Mason University is a top-ranked school with a growing list of online learning options. Five of the school’s programs ranked in the Top 20 lists from U.S. News & World Report, and the school offers both hybrid and fully online courses, with over 50 to choose from in fields like education, engineering, health, science and math, social sciences and business. Online courses are taught by top-tier faculty, so students receive a quality education even when getting it from an online platform. The school offers a number of accelerated programs, including a Bachelor to Master accelerated program, to help students achieve their academic goals more quickly.


    Tuition: $408-$1,415 per credit hour
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    Indiana University Online

    • Indianapolis, Indiana

    Students at Indiana University Online can study anywhere they wish while receiving education from the same on-campus faculty as traditional students. The programs are flexible, allowing students to study when they can. This online university offers everything from certificates to doctorate degrees in a fully online environment. It offers over 200 fully online programs that consistently rank among the top 25 in the nation. Both degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students can benefit from the robust list of degree options from Indiana University Online. The programs are designed to be rigorous, but flexible.


    Tuition: $322-$2,185 per credit hour
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    Johns Hopkins University

    • Baltimore, Maryland

    Since 1876, Johns Hopkins University has been providing a high-quality education to a diverse student body. This school has grown because it has been able to adapt, and adapting to online learning is no different. This school has been the leading federal research and development institution every year since 1979, and online students can play a role in that. The school offers dozens of online programs, including full degree programs, in an online environment. It also offers hybrid learning options that give students the ability to participate in both on-campus and online programming.


    Tuition: $59,128 to $60,480 a year
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    Georgia Institute of Technology

    • Atlanta, Georgia

    Georgia Tech Online provides in-person courses that have been transitioned into a virtual environment. There are over 100 online courses covering 10 subject areas that are available to students. The school currently offers 10 online Master of Science degrees and three hybrid master’s programs. These programs consistently rank in the top 10 from U.S. News & World Report. In addition, the school offers a number of free open online courses that allow anyone to learn from the faculty at their own pace in subjects of interest to them. In addition, undergraduate students can take their summer courses online through the Summer Online Undergraduate Program.


    Tuition: $10,258-$31,370 per year
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    Regis University

    • Denver, Colorado

    Regis University is a Jesuit Catholic university in Denver offering over 120 degree programs. The school was a pioneer in online learning, jumping into this format long before it was standard, and today they have a robust list of programs including bachelor’s, master’s and certificate programs. Students benefit from the school’s diverse and well-equipped faculty and its history of academic success. Regis University has been providing quality education since 1877. The school has been named to the Colleges of Distinction list for 2022-2023. It also receives accolades for its career-readiness training and critical thinking focus.


    Tuition: $572-$948 per credit hour
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    Syracuse University

    • Syracuse, New York

    Syracuse University is a private research school that has been providing education in New York State since 1870. It has 13 schools and colleges with a wide range of degree programs. A long list of online programs includes associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree options. Online students are able to participate in research in the same way that on-campus students do. Many programs offer real-time classes that allow students to learn alongside on-campus students. This school is ranked number one in Best Graduate Schools for Public Affairs. It is also the top-ranked Online Joint J.D./M.B.A. in the nation.


    Tuition: $58,440 a year
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    University of Texas at Austin

    • Austin, Texas

    University of Texas at Austin is one of the top 40 universities in the World. Founded in 1883, this is an established school that reaches a diverse student body with 18 colleges and schools. U.S. News & World Report ranks it as one of the top ten public schools and national universities. The online education provides both live classes and self-paced classes, giving students the flexibility to design an education that fits their needs. The online Extended Campus also offers one-day courses for those looking to extend their skill sets. No matter the type of program, the quality of these programs remains consistent with the on-campus experience.


    Tuition: $11,752-$40,996 per year
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    University of Southern California

    • Los Angeles, California

    The University of Southern California is one of the top online schools with a rigorous curriculum and convenient scheduling. They offer master’s degree and doctorate degree programs fully online, giving working adults the ability to study at their own pace. The school has over 100 degrees available online. Students benefit from over 140 years of academic excellence. Courses of study include communication, gerontology, arts and sciences, social work, law, dentistry and business. USC is a private research university located in Los Angeles, and online students are able to participate in these research programs.


    Tuition: $350 per credit hour
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    How We Rank the Best Online Universities

    The making of this list of affordable online colleges was based on undergraduate tuition costs per credit hour (where possible) and are listed from the lowest 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 the complete picture. People between 25 and 54 years old spend about 40.5 hours a week working, or 8 hours a day.

    Now add to that the number of hours spent in traffic, on social visits, running errands, 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 of 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 busy, working adults the freedom to join an online degree program and get their certification while still maintaining their jobs and busy lifestyles.

    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, in your own time until completion. That is exactly what most online universities offer you.

    Most offer courses that do not include any set class times and can be taken at the student’s convenience. In contrast, others offer classes that require the students to attend live online lectures at specified times. Whichever 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.

    Comparing the Best Online Universities

    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 can be sure 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 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 Online University for You

    With thousands of online colleges offering you degree programs 100% online, it can be very easy to 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. Discover the history

    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.

    2. Insist on accreditation

    Think of accreditation as the quality control placed upon institutions of higher education. 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. Consider 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. Make sure the program will help you achieve your career goals, not offer unnecessary learning that sounds great but has no practical benefit.

    4. Look at transfer 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 reach 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. Many online programs will allow you to transfer these to your degree program.

    5. Consider the total cost

    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. Talk to the school directly to get an accurate idea of the cost.

    6. Discuss the viability of online learning

    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.

    7. Look at the 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 coursework at your pace and leisure. This opens the door to procrastination that can hurt your finish time. A well-staffed support team can help you overcome this challenge.

    Tips for Comparing Online College Degrees

    Not only do you need to choose a school, but you also need to look at the college degrees offered. To compare online college degrees, consider the following:

    • Delivery – Are you going to have the flexibility to study at your own pace, or will you need to log in at specific times? Does the program require in-person labs or clinical work?
    • Qualifications – What are the qualifications of the faculty who teach in the online environment? Do you get the same quality of instruction as an on-campus student? Does the school have any awards or accolades worth considering?
    • Accreditation – Does the program have accreditation? You will likely want accreditation to help with financial aid and future job opportunities. Look for not just regional accreditation but also degree-specific accreditation for programs like business.
    • Program offerings – Look at the specifics of the program you are considering. Make sure it meets your expectations and offers the learning you need. Consider concentrations and electives and the overall courses offered.

    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, answers to the same set standards. A “regular” degree isn’t necessarily more valuable than an online degree of the same course in this aspect.

    National vs. Regional Accredited Colleges

    When it comes to choosing a college, there’s plenty to consider. You can compare universities by tuition fees, school reputation, cost of living, and much more. But perhaps one of the most powerful factors to consider when looking for the best online universities is accreditation.
    Depending on your career goals and life ambitions, the type of accreditation you receive will determine how and where you can use your degree in the future.

    The two main differences in accreditation are national and regional. But what do these differences look like?

    National accreditation focuses on trade and vocational schools with a specialty in career-based programs offering certificates and degrees. National accreditation agencies include the Distance Education & Training Council (DETC) and Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).

    Regional accreditation is geared more toward institutions focusing on academics. Agencies such as Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and Higher Learning Commission (HLC), ensure these academic institutions hold themselves to a high standard, offering an exceptional level of academic learning. 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 Nationally 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.

    How to Apply to an Online College Program

    To apply for an online program, follow these steps:

    1. Choose the school that best fits your needs. Take time to research not only the school’s qualifications but also their online delivery formats.

    2. Gather your necessary documents. You will need official transcripts from your high school or any college you have attended previously. Your SAT and ACT test scores or the GMAT scores if you have taken these are also required. Poem schools require letters of reference and a summary of your extracurricular activities.

    3. Write a personal statement. This will outline your ambitions for college and showcase your writing skills, and it may be required for online admissions.

    4. Apply for your school through the school’s online application portal. Fill in all of the fields accurately. Make sure you apply by the application deadline for the school.

    5. Pay application fees, and wait to see if you are accepted.

    How to Pay for One of the Best Online Universities

    Online college offers similar scholarship and financial aid options as traditional college, especially if you choose an accredited program. If you need financial aid, start by filling out the FAFSA. This will tell you if you qualify for any federal aid programs.

    Then, reach out to your school’s financial aid department to learn of on-campus financial aid options that may be open to you. Apply for those.

    Finally, look for private scholarships and personal loans. Find organizations in your field of study, and ask about scholarship opportunities. If you are part of any minority group or special interest group, look for scholarships that apply to you. Apply to as many of these as possible to get the most financial aid.

    Feel Confident in Choosing the Best Online College for You

    Choosing the best online university for your educational journey is a decision that deserves careful consideration. It may feel overwhelming to begin with, but being clear about what you’re looking for will help you narrow down your search.

    Factors such as the type of accreditation offered, financial aid and future job opportunities are vital considerations when comparing online universities and making your decision. 

    It’s also important to thoroughly research school histories, program offerings, transfer credit policies and tuition costs to get a full picture of each university and help you make a more informed decision. You’ll also need to be sure that your institution offers sufficient learning opportunities for your career goals – either with a mix of online and in-person classes or clinical classes.

    As the scope of online education evolves and more institutions become available online, finding the best fit for your needs is crucial. It’s not just about choosing the cheapest or most flexible option; it’s about selecting an institution that aligns with your goals and offers a high-quality education.

    So, as you conduct your college research, remember that the best online universities are those that empower you to achieve your aspirations, provide the support you need, and offer a recognized and accredited path to success. Take the time to research, evaluate, and choose wisely, ensuring that your online education is a fulfilling and enriching experience.

    Online College FAQs

    • Can I only apply to one online college?

    If you are going to look at a degree program, you would be best served by focusing on one online college at a time. However, you can apply to more than one before choosing a course of study. If your schools are highly competitive, this is often a wise choice.

    • Is an online degree as respected as a traditional degree?

    An online degree is as accepted and respected as the school it comes from. If you choose a well-known, trusted school, your degree will be trusted as well.

    • Are online degrees with it?

    If you need flexibility and cannot attend courses on-campus, you will get the benefits of your chosen school in an online degree. These are absolutely worthwhile if you need the format.

    • What can I do with an online degree?

    You can do anything with an online degree that you could do with the same degree from a traditional program.

    • Are online colleges full or part-time?

    Most online colleges offer both full-time and part-time schedules to accommodate the needs of students. Each program is unique, so always check with yours to see what the options are.

    Find the program that’s right for you

    Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

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