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Top 30 Best Accredited Colleges Online 2019

best online collegesThe cost of higher education at best online colleges is a hot-button issue these days. There is a massive movement to make state-run higher education free to all people. This sounds great, but who knows when that’s going to happen? In the meantime, people looking for ways to gain a high quality bachelor’s degree at an affordable price have to think outside the box, and online education can help. Our ranking of the 30 high-value accredited best online colleges features some of the top colleges in the United States.

A sneak peak at the top 10 accredited online colleges (see the rest below):

  • #1 – Oregon State University
  • #2 – Arizona State University
  • #3 – Oregon Institute of Technology
  • #4 – Penn State World Campus
  • #5 – Washington State University
  • #6 – CSU Global
  • #7 – Cardinal Stritch University
  • #8 – George Mason University
  • #9 – University of Arizona
  • #10 – Florida International University

Here you will find multiple schools that rank among the top 100 in the United States offering full bachelor’s degrees at incredible prices. Indeed, many state schools offer their online degrees at in-state prices, which is a steep discount on out-of-state tuition. Our ranking methodology considers return on investment, the online bachelor’s degree ranking by U.S. News, tuition, and graduation rate. We’ll explain more about how you can get the most out of your online bachelor’s degree, and our ranking methodology, at the bottom of the article.

Top 30 Ranking of Accredited Best Online Colleges

#1. Oregon State University

OSU-Accredited Best Online CollegesScore: 24

Oregon State University is our number one option for accredited best online colleges because it had incredible scores in every category. It’s all around the strongest option as long as it has the degree you’re looking for, and the degree selection is very strong among best online schools. Students can major in anthropology, agricultural sciences, economics, environmental economics and policy, computer science, political science, public policy, French, German, and history. Students can also choose between 25 different minors and certificates.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #3
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $338,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $13,365
  • Graduation Rate: 88%

#2. Arizona State University

Score: 19

Arizona State University offers an incredible 78 online undergraduate degrees as one of our top picks among accredited best online colleges. Among these are degrees in urban planning, sustainability, software engineering, political science, information technology, electrical engineering, engineering management, computer information systems, and biochemistry. ASU offers students one of the most robust online schools in the country, and because of its scope, is one of the top choices for undergraduates looking to top online colleges for alternatives to the traditional on-campus university experience.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #2
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $346,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $15,691
  • Graduation Rate: 63%

#3. Oregon Institute of Technology

Oregon Tech-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 18

Oregon Institute of Technology is an incredible value among best online colleges because they allow online students to pay the same price as in-state students at $245 per credit. They offer several online bachelor’s degrees including applied psychology, health informatics, information technology, operations management, and technology and management. Oregon Institute of Technology also offers several degree completion programs in the medical field, helping it to stand out among best online colleges.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $509,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $7,350
  • Graduation Rate: 80%

#4. Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

Penn State-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 18

Penn State University’s World Campus is wholly devoted to offering a top-flight Penn State education to students all over the country at an affordable price among accredited best online colleges. PSU world campus offers 35 bachelor’s degrees including programs in software engineering, strategic communications, security and risk analysis, information sciences and technology, finance, economics, criminal justice, and digital journalism and media. The best online colleges make learning enjoyable and convenient without breaking the bank, and Penn State World Campus is worth a look.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #5
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $391,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $13,988
  • Graduation Rate: 28%

#5. Washington State University

WSU-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 18

Washington State University offers 12 online bachelor’s degrees not including concentrations. The business administration degree offers concentrations in accounting, management information systems, and marketing. Other degrees available to students include data analytics, economics, hospitality business management, human development, integrated strategic communication, social sciences, and human development. Washington State earns a solid spot in the top five among best online colleges.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #20
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $356,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $11,329
  • Graduation Rate: 62%

#6. Colorado State University-Global Campus

Colorado State University Global-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 16

Colorado State University’s-Global Campus offers 12 distinct bachelor’s degrees, all of which offer a variety of minors and concentrations. CSU-Global offers online bachelor’s degrees in accounting, business management, criminal justice, healthcare administration and management, human resource management, human services, information technology, interdisciplinary professional studies, management information systems and business analytics, marketing, organizational leadership, and project management. Tuition figures are quite solid and compare favorably with the best online schools.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #8
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $298,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $8,400
  • Graduation Rate: N/A

#7. Cardinal Stritch University

Cardinal Stritch University-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 15

Cardinal Stritch University offers four bachelor’s degrees online at a greatly discounted price, coming in at $12,000 per year below the school’s traditional tuition. The degrees available are in nursing (RN to BSN), management, business administration, and respiratory therapy. The RN-BSN degree can be completed in as few as 16 months and is offered both in the online and blended formats. The fastest way to earn the degree is in the accelerated online format. Grad rate is solid among the best online colleges–a great indicator of student support.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #264-348
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $324,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $16,860
  • Graduation Rate: 89%

#8. George Mason University

George Mason University--Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 14

George Mason University is highly respected among accredited online colleges and has recently begun offering a larger number of online bachelor’s degrees. Among the available online degrees are programs in cybersecurity, technology and innovation, management, computer game design, information technology, nursing (RN to BSN), and psychology. The RN to BSN program can be completed in as few as two semesters (roughly eight or nine months). Accredited online colleges like George Mason make learning fun and easy to do.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $545,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: $34,370

#9. University of Arizona

University of Arizona-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 14

The University of Arizona offers over 100 online degrees including 32 bachelor level degrees. Students can study philosophy: ethics, public health, psychology, applied science: meteorology, information science and esociety, human services, informatics, government and public service, geographic information systems technology, global and intercultural understanding, and electrical and computer engineering. ROI from U of A is solid among our best online colleges.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #29
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $351,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $31,463
  • Graduation Rate: 64%

#10. Florida International University

FIU-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 14

Florida International University has been providing students with online bachelor’s degree programs for over 20 years. They currently offer 43 bachelor’s degrees online including programs in sociology/anthropology, public relations, advertising, and applied communication, nursing (RN to BSN), biology, logistics and supply chain management, international relations, and information technology. FIU ranks among our top 10 best online colleges.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #58
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $290,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $18,954
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

#11. Loyola University-Chicago

Loyola University Chicago-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 14

Loyola University-Chicago focuses primarily on degree completion with their bachelor’s degrees, helping them to stand out among the best online colleges. The degrees available are nursing (RN-BSN), applied criminal justice leadership, applied psychology, applied studies, information technology, and management. The IT program at Loyola consists of 39 credit-hours (the rest must be transferred into the program) and can be completed in less than one year.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #12
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $235,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $43,078
  • Graduation Rate: 77%

#12. Dallas Baptist University

Dallas Baptist University-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 13

Dallas Baptist University offers 16 online bachelor’s degrees. Students can choose between programs in healthcare management, management information systems, biblical studies, criminal justice, marketing, management, psychology, and sociology. The management information systems degree includes courses like ethical and human side of information technology, information systems analysis and design, IT security and forensics, and strategic IT planning/project management. DBU is showing a very respectable ROI and grad rate among best online colleges.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #200
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $319,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $27,480
  • Graduation Rate: 93%

#13. Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 13

Saint Leo University offers 20 online bachelor’s degrees. Students can choose to major in programs like cybersecurity, computer science-information assurance, computer information systems, health care administration, sociology-applied & clinical, human resource management, and criminal justice-homeland security. The business administration degree offers concentrations in logistics, management, marketing, and project management.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #69
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $258,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $22,220
  • Graduation Rate: 77%

#14. Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Tech-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 12

Florida Institute of Technology offers eighteen online bachelor’s degrees, many of them in different areas of business and management. Among these degrees are programs in aviation management, applied psychology (organizational psychology), computer information systems, criminal justice (homeland security), human resources management, and healthcare management. Florida Tech has reasonable tuition and great ROI among accredited online colleges.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #102
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $510,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $12,240
  • Graduation Rate: N/A

#15. Ottawa University

Ottawa University-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 12

Ottawa University is a Christian university that offers twenty-six online bachelor’s degrees. Students can enroll in programs like management of information systems, nursing (RN to BSN), data science and technology, accounting: secondary education minor, business administration: secondary education minor, communication, health care management, and studies in Christian ministries. Another solid offering for 20yr ROI among the best online colleges.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $438,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $28,550
  • Graduation Rate: 84%

#16. DePaul University

DePaul University--Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 11

DePaul University only offers five online degrees, but two of them are among the top ten highest paying online bachelor’s degrees. Students can choose between programs in business administration, communication and media, computer science, information technology, and psychology. The computer science degree features courses in discrete mathematics, python, Java, programming concepts, and design and analysis of algorithms. High grad rate shows strong support across the entire student experience among best accredited online colleges.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $370,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $39,010
  • Graduation Rate: 90%

#17. Old Dominion University

Old Dominion--Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 10

Old Dominion University offers 37 degree completion bachelor’s degrees online, and 13 full bachelor’s degrees online. Students interested in the full degree programs can choose between degrees in communication, computer science, criminal justice, human services, information systems and technology, psychology, marketing education, sociology, and management.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #74
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $262,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $27,900
  • Graduation Rate: 82%

#18. University of Alabama

University of Alabama-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 10

The University of Alabama offers 14 online bachelor’s degrees, some of which are offered as dual level programs where students can earn their bachelor’s and master’s at the same time (their RN to BSN nursing degree can also be combined with an MSN). Students can study social work, mechanical engineering, business administration, and criminology and criminal justice.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $245,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $28,100
  • Graduation Rate: 90%

#19. Tarleton State University

Tarleton State--Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 10

Tarleton State University’s global campus delivers online bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees to over 500 students while maintaining a student to faculty ratio of 19-1 in their online program, which is quite good. Students can major in general business, psychology, applied science, business management, information technology, health professions technology, and manufacturing and industrial management (engineering technology).

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #264-348
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $204,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $17,111
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

#20. Hampton University

Hampton University-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 9

Hampton University is constantly expanding the number of degrees offered at all levels, from associate’s up to Ph.D. level degrees. The online bachelor’s degrees currently available include programs in aviation management, nursing (one-year and two-year RN to BSN programs), systems organization and management, paralegal studies, and religious studies.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $242,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $24,441
  • Graduation Rate: 80%

#21. LeTourneau University

LETU-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 8

LeTourneau bills itself as the Christian polytechnic university and places a great emphasis on STEM degrees. The 29 online bachelor’s degrees offered by LeTourneau include programs like biblical studies and ministry, nursing (RN to BSN), health information systems, healthcare management, aviation studies, aircraft dispatch, aviation management, cyber security, and computer information systems. Solid ROI among best online colleges for those looking for a Christian educational perspective.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $436,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $29,320
  • Graduation Rate: 60%

#22. Regis University

Regis University-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 8

Regis offers a total of 24 online bachelor’s degrees. These include degrees in top paying fields like nursing (RN to BSN), health information management, information technology, finance, cybersecurity, computer science, computer information systems, and accounting. Healthcare administration is the only online area of study offered both as a major and minor by Regis.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #226
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $396,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $35,610
  • Graduation Rate: 71%

#23. Park University

Park University-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 8

With five start dates and convenient eight-week terms, Park is a great option among best online colleges for students looking for maximum flexibility. Undergraduate online courses include accounting, business administration, computer information systems, construction management, criminal justice administration, early childhood education, finance, geography, healthcare management, human resources, information and computer science, information systems, interdisciplinary studies, logistics, marketing, military history, nursing, organizational communication, political science, psychology, public administration, and social psychology.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #259
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $344,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $10,774
  • Graduation Rate: 23%

#24. Lewis University

Lewis-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 8

Five of the eight online bachelor’s degrees offered by Lewis University are accelerated programs. Students can choose between programs in business administration (accelerated), computer science (accelerated), criminal justice (accelerated), information security and risk management (accelerated), information technology management (accelerated), nursing (BSN), organizational leadership, and professional studies.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $219,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $14,310
  • Graduation Rate: 67%

#25. Linfield College

Linfield CollegeScore: 8

Linfield College offers ten online bachelor’s degrees and seven online minors. The degrees offered include accounting, business information systems, computer information systems, international business, project management, history, global studies, and nursing (RN to BSN). Minors offered include computer information systems, creative writing, environmental studies, and health administration.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #76
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $213,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $13,365
  • Graduation Rate: N/A

#26. Central Washington University

Central Washington University-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 7

Central Washington University offers twelve undergraduate degrees, many of which offer several concentrations. There are degrees available in public health, social services, psychology, paramedicine, law and justice, information technology and administrative management, English, business administration, and aviation management. The IT program offers specializations in administrative management, cybersecurity, retail management and technology, and project management.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #102
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $307,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $22,010
  • Graduation Rate: 52%

#27. Baker College

Baker CollegeScore: 6

Baker College offers around 20 online bachelor’s degrees, many of which offer multiple concentrations that allow students to specialize in their particular area of interest. These programs include information systems, information technology, game software development, computer science, business administration (accelerated), accounting, psychology, nursing, marketing, and logistics.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $299,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $12,510
  • Graduation Rate: 25%

#28. Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 6

Indiana Wesleyan is a protestant Christian university that offers 20 online bachelor’s degrees. Among these, students will find programs in business information systems, healthcare administration, hospitality management, marketing, communication, digital communication, addictions counseling, criminal justice, international relations and security, and nursing (RN to BSN).

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $234,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $9,645
  • Graduation Rate: 52%

#29. Albertus Magnus College

Albertus Magnus-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 5

Albertus Magnus College offers online undergraduate degree programs in the online and flex formats. Students will enjoy a faculty-student ratio of 1:14, which is quite impressive for online programs. Available majors include criminal justice, computer information systems, finance, health care management, business management, and sociology.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: N/A
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $297,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $31,140
  • Graduation Rate: 61%

#30. Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian-Top Accredited Online CollegesScore: 4

Colorado Christian University offers 17 bachelor’s degrees online, several of which have a variety of specializations. Degrees offered include computer information technology, business, applied psychology, accountancy, health care administration, human resource management, information systems management, logistics and supply chain management, and organizational management.

  • U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Ranking: #210
  • Payscale 20yr Net ROI: $264,000
  • Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $30,370
  • Graduation Rate: 50%

Methodology for Ranking Accredited Best Online Colleges

U.S. News Online Bachelor’s Degree Ranking

Quality is important when considering value at the best online colleges. We wanted to ensure we factored in a trusted source. U.S. News has been evaluating universities for over 35 years and is one of the foremost authorities on the subject. The points awarded for inclusion in the Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees ranking from U.S. News is as follows.

  • 1-10=10 Points
  • 11-20=9 Points
  • 21-30=8 Points
  • 31-40=7 Points
  • 41-50=6 Points
  • 51-60=5 Points
  • 61-70=4 Points
  • 71-80=3 Points
  • 81-90=2 Points
  • 90+=1 Points

Payscale 20-Year Net Return on Investment

Payscale is an incredibly useful website for determining value in education, and this includes evaluating the best online colleges. They take the cost of a degree and the time lost in the workforce (compared to going to work right out of high school), subtract it from the average 20-year earnings of graduates from a particular school, and then they subtract the average earnings over 20 years from a high school graduate with no degree from that number. For state universities they do this for both in-state and out-of-state students. We required universities to have at least a $200,000 20-year net return on investment to be a finalist among the best accredited online colleges, which averages out to $10,000/yr more money earned than a high school graduate. This ensured any school included in our ranking would have a track record of high rates of return. Points were awarded for higher returns on investment as follows.

  • $250,000=1 Point
  • $300,000=2 Points
  • $350,000=4 Points
  • $400,000=5 Points
  • $450,000=6 Points
  • $500,000=7 Points
  • $550,000=8 Points
  • $600,000= 9 Points
  • $650,000=10 Points

Out-of-State Tuition at the Best Online Colleges

The cost of a degree is certainly an important factor. The lower the cost, the easier it is to minimize student debt. Lower student debt means higher value. Many of the programs in our ranking offer such low tuition that if students decide to live at home, most of the cost of the degree can be covered by scholarships and grants. This has the potential to leave students with very low debt when they graduate. Even if students can’t stay at home, it’s often cheaper to live on your own instead of in dorms. And financial aid can be used to pay for housing and food costs, so make sure you factor that into your calculations. Points were awarded for lower tuition as follows.

  • Under $35,000/yr= 1 Point
  • Under $30,000/yr= 2 Points
  • Under $25,000/yr= 3 Points
  • Under $20,000/yr= 4 Points
  • Under $15,000/yr= 5 Points
  • Under $10,000/yr= 6 Points

Graduation Rate at the Best Online Colleges

Why does graduation rate factor into the value of a degree from accredited online colleges? Because if you don’t graduate, the value of your education decreases significantly. We wanted to reward the best online schools that offer exceptional graduation rates. The graduation rates ranked here add together true graduation rate and the transfer out rate of universities. This is because often students will do part of their degree online and then transfer to a different university. We awarded points for higher graduation rates to our best online colleges as follows.

  • Above 55%=1
  • Above 60%=2
  • Above 65%=3
  • Above 70%=4
  • Above 75%=5
  • Above 80%=6
  • Above 85%=7
  • Above 90%=8
  • Above 95%=9

FAQs

Are there good online colleges?

Yes! There are many great online colleges. In fact, many universities, in the days before the internet, offered correspondence courses so students could learn from a distance. Many respected universities, like Penn State, simply carried that tradition forward into the internet age. Now there are many highly respected state universities that have founded full-on e-campuses offering dozens of the most sought-after undergraduate and graduate degrees. Many even offer doctoral level programs online.

It is true that the short history of online education has been fraught with unaccredited diploma mills and scam universities offering degrees that aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. But most of those have been put out of business. Armed with the knowledge provided in this FAQ, you can protect yourself from those that still exist.

The first thing to check when analyzing a university’s credentials is regional accreditation. Regional accreditation (not national) is the highest level of accreditation in the United States. Another strategy, especially if you aren’t sure of a school’s quality, is to search out some reviews of the institution, or check the school’s wikipedia page. Wikipedia often has a section that details controversies involving the school. Following these simple steps can help you ensure you’re choosing one of the best online colleges.

What are the best accredited online colleges?

There are many very good accredited online colleges. This website features many of the best values on the market. What’s important to realize is that what school is “best” will be defined differently for different people. Some people are looking for very flexible programs that will allow them to work full-time while fitting school into their busy life. Others are looking for the absolute highest quality program among accredited online colleges. If you’re looking for graduate degrees, your criteria might be different than if you want to earn your bachelor’s.

For instance, many undergraduate students change their majors during their undergraduate career. A study performed by the U.S. Department of Education found that 30% of undergraduate students change their major at least once in their first three years. Changing your major might be a hassle if the online college you attend only offers a couple online degrees. In this case, if they don’t have the degree you want, you would have to transfer schools, which can result in losing credits and lots of paperwork. So for undergraduate students, it’s often best to choose an online university that offers a large number of undergraduate degree programs online. Below are some of the highest quality online universities that also offer a large number of majors. They’re also ranked in the top 250 universities nationwide by U.S. News (there are over 4,000 universities in the United States).

  • Pennsylvania State University: 37 undergraduate majors online
  • Oregon State University: 27 undergraduate majors online
  • Arizona State University: 114 undergraduate majors online
  • Colorado State University: 13 undergraduate majors online
  • Drexel University: 16 undergraduate majors online

What is the easiest degree to get from one of these top online colleges?

Some degrees have elements that make studying at home more difficult. Science, technology, and art degrees, for instance, often make use of university labs with specialized equipment you don’t have. This doesn’t mean they are less valuable or inferior to programs that take place on campus. I don’t want to discourage you from pursuing those degrees if that’s where your interest lies. But degrees in business, psychology, English, history, philosophy, and literature are likely to be easier as far as resources goes.

As far as the difficulty of the material goes, one of the reasons why online education is, in many cases, just as respected as traditional education, is that universities strive to make the classes just as rigorous and challenging as their traditionally delivered counterparts.

Regarding the flexibility of the programs and the formatting of the classes, there are real differences between universities, but they are too numerous to list here. Each university has its own unique methods. Some deliver classes year round in formats as short as five to eight weeks, giving you maximum flexibility as to when you can take them. Some continue to use the semester-based format of traditional classes, so there is as little difference between online and traditional delivery systems as possible. In the end, each student must decide what their preferences are.

Is online college cheaper?

It can be! It really all comes down to where you decide to go. The good news is that federal financial aid through FAFSA is available to students at the top accredited online colleges. This is a bonus of regional universities. Because regional is the most respected form of accreditation, the government tends to direct most of its higher education grants and low interest loans to students attending those colleges.

Another thing that often makes online colleges most affordable is that public universities often offer out-of-state students the low tuition rates normally reserved for in-state students. Even many of those that don’t offer the full discount to out-of-state students still offer significantly reduced tuition rates. Some of the cheapest online colleges even offer online students lower tuition than that paid at the main campus.

For instance, Penn State University charges out-of-state students a little over $34,000 per year. In-state students pay a little over $18,000. But students taking classes through Penn State’s world campus pay just $14,594 per year as a full-time student. However, tuition is just one part of affording education from the best online colleges. There’s also the cost of living, the cost of books, and various fees. These are different at all universities, and there are many cost-saving measures available for students that can mitigate some of these costs.

How do I pay for housing, food, and other necessities while attending one of the top online colleges?

If you aren’t able to live at home for free with your parents, the prospect of going to college while affording a place to live can be a bit daunting. The good news is that even if you live off-campus, you can use your financial aid to pay your rent and food costs. Traditional college students often have this entirely integrated into their college experience as they live and dine on-campus.

It pays to plan ahead. When you get your financial aid package (which includes all your federal grants, scholarships, federal student loans, and private student loans), any extra aid you receive goes to you. Computers also fall under “school supplies” which are included as a valid expense in most financial aid award letters. This means you can purchase a computer that meets the requirements for the online courses you plan to take (requirements for courses that involve video editing and rendering, or using applications like Photoshop, can be too advanced for dated or under-powered computers or tablets).

You will want to develop a firm understanding of your expenses and make sure you can cover them with financial aid and your job to avoid coming up short.

What are some of the cheapest online colleges?

Many of the best online colleges feature incredible tuition rates that are a great value. To give you a sample among top online colleges, I will list several schools and their remarkable tuition here. I will include only the cost of tuition; other fees and various expenses will not be included. The following figures are based either on the cost of yearly tuition for full-time students, or where schools charge only per-credit, the cost of a schedule of 15 credits per semester.

  • Mississippi State University: $11,002.5
  • University of Illinois at Springfield: $13,015
  • University of Alabama: $11,250
  • Florida International University: $10,697.17
  • Western Governors University: $6,450
  • Colorado State University Global Campus: $8,400
  • Washington State University: $11,550

Are online degrees respected?

Yes. And while there are still traditionalists out there who are skeptical, respect for degrees from the best online colleges continues to grow. It’s not surprising that the quickest sector to embrace online degrees is the technology sector. More and more respected institutions are offering online degrees, and they have invested a lot of time, effort, and money in ensuring that the quality of the education is high, and people who are paying attention know that. The most important thing is that the school be regionally accredited. Non-profit schools tend to have a better reputation among employers than for-profit schools when it comes to the best online colleges.

Unless the college or university you attend online only offers online courses, your prospective employer may not even know you earned it online. And even if they do, earning a degree online can raise your value in the eyes of an employer that appreciates the time-management and self-management skills required to earn a degree from one of the top online colleges.

Sources for Best Online Colleges Ranking:

National Center for Education Statistics: Tuition and graduation rates.

FAFSA

PayScale.com

U.S. News

Related to Best Online Colleges:

CVO Staff
March 2019

This concludes our ranking of the top 30 accredited best online colleges.

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