The Best Online Colleges for 2014-15

The term "best" is subjective. The best online college for one student may be less-than-ideal for another. It all depends on the criteria each student compiles to represent his or her most important educational needs. Yet many schools with stand-out online programs and courses have certain characteristics in common, including great program breadth, low student-faculty ratio, affordable tuition, academic counseling services, job placement programs and more. These institutions offer the best chance for students to meet their criteria and earn a quality degree that can translate into a successful career.

The following schools not only share these cost and quality benefits, but they also have years of online learning excellence under their belts. They have delivered programs and courses remotely for years, and at multiple academic levels. In essence, online education is their business. Let's see which online-focused schools make up the Best Online Colleges for 2015:

For a more in-depth breakdown of our criteria and scoring system, please visit our methodology page.

ACO Score: 97.5 Tuition + Fees: $15,957 Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 92%

Stevens-Henager College-Ogden offers numerous healthcare, business, information technology and graphic arts degrees that can be completed fully online. Students can complete their degrees in just 15-36 months. The convenience of online classes allows students to complete their coursework anywhere and at any time they choose.

Both associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees are offered online, although the associate degrees specifically focus on business management, medical specialties and surgical technology. Students can choose from a variety of bachelor degree programs including Health Information Management, Nursing Administration, Business Administration, Web Design and Development, Accounting and Health Information Management. Online students learn through assignments, exams and self-tests.

Many of Stevens-Henager College-Ogden’s instructors have real-world experience, which they bring into their online classes. Students have access to their instructors five days a week through email and chat programs. Additionally, a student advisor is available to online students who may have questions.

Online students can take part in the college admissions process over the phone. Additionally, online students have access to career services like professional development activities. Students who enroll at Stevens-Henager College-Ogden receive a laptop that becomes theirs to keep upon graduation.

ACO Score: 94.86 Tuition + Fees: $11,150 Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 97%

Herzing University offers both hybrid and online degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students. Many of the online programs are designed with working professionals in mind, which is in line with the university’s student-centered philosophy. For example, the RN to bachelor’s degree program for nurses allows them to potentially transfer up to 60 credits from an associate degree or diploma. Other programs may also accept transfer credits.

Fully online offerings from Herzing University include diplomas for bookkeeping and payroll accounting, medical office administration and wind energy technology. Associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree program are available in fields ranging from business and technology to public safety to health care. Online graduate programs include MBAs with different specializations as well as a master’s degree in nursing education.

Online classes are administered through the Blackboard learning platform, where students have access to lectures, activities and homework assignments. Academic advising and 24/7 tech support are also offered over the Internet. Students who wish to enroll in online classes must speak to an admissions advisor and send in an application with the appropriate academic transcripts and application fee. Additional documents are needed for military students, international students and students who transfer to Herzing from another college or university.

ACO Score: 93.38 Tuition + Fees: $6,510 Student-to-faculty ratio: 22:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 100%

Grantham University offers fully online certificates as well as associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Students can take classes for more than 40 programs without having to set foot on campus. Admission depends on the program — for example, the undergraduate requirements differ from those for graduate students. Candidates seeking a master’s in nursing through the online RN to MSN program must meet specific admissions criteria. For many online degrees, applicants do not need standardized test scores.

Online certificates available from Grantham University target studies in cybersecurity, project management, human resources and business leadership. Students interested in obtaining their associate degree have choices such as criminal justice, engineering management technology and business administration. Grantham University offers 15 bachelor’s degrees online, including computer engineering technology, health systems management and a customizable general studies option. Students aiming at a master’s degree can choose from business, project management, information management technology and health care-related fields such as nursing education and health systems management.

Online students at Grantham University are assigned advisors at the beginning of the enrollment process who can help with goal setting, registering for courses and academic accountability. Students in online programs also have access to other support services including the center for teaching and learning as well as career webinars.

ACO Score: 91.99 Tuition + Fees: $12,848 Student-to-faculty ratio: 22:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 92%

Students of Monroe College can earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees online. Distance learning programs use the same curriculum as on-campus programs. Students interact with faculty and classmates via online platforms like message boards or chat systems. Additionally, many instructors hold online office hours. Lectures, podcasts, videos and class activities are available through the class website. Program participants can access their college email from mobile devices using the MyMonroe tool. While most teachers give quizzes and exams online, some may require a proctored exam to be taken on campus or at a location near the student’s home.

Monroe College offers five online associate’s degree options: business administration, criminal justice, hospitality, information technology and medical administration. Online students also have several possibilities for bachelor’s degrees, including business management, criminal justice and public health. In terms of master’s degrees, online students have four choices: business administration, criminal justice, hospitality management and public health.

The college provides webinars to help students get and stay on the right track when earning a degree online. Students are supported along the way by a personal admissions counselor and a student services counselor. Online students also have access to tutoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

ACO Score: 91.24 Tuition + Fees: $11,811 Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 71%

National American University-Rapid City offers online degrees for students who are interested in earning a certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree. Students can choose from more than 30 programs in business, healthcare, information technology and other areas.

Online students at National American University-Rapid City can choose from diplomas like computer support specialist or healthcare coding. Students seeking an associate degree have their choice of accounting, management, criminal justice and more. For bachelor’s degree-seeking students, more than 20 options are available, including RN to BSN, information technology, healthcare management and organizational leadership. Students interested in graduate school can earn a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Management or a Master of Science in Nursing online. There’s also a dual degree option for those who want to earn a Master’s degree in management and business administration at the same time.

Students taking online classes at NAU can do so on their own schedule; however, attending class every week is mandatory. Like many on-campus courses, instructors follow a syllabus. Classmates interact online after introducing themselves at the beginning of the semester. Instructor interactions also takes place via online methods.

ACO Score: 91.17 Tuition + Fees: $12,620 Student-to-faculty ratio: 21:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 80%

Rasmussen College degrees can be earned completely online, and the classes have the same content as the ones being taught offline. Certificates, diplomas, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees are offered online in health sciences, design, education, justice studies, nursing and technology. Delivery options for each major differ — for example, business management degrees are available in a blended format combining on-campus and on-site studies or in an accelerated version available 100 percent online.

Rasmussen College has online programs for accelerated bachelor’s degrees in other areas such as human resources and organizational leadership, marketing, business systems analysis, early childhood education leadership and human services. Courses typically last for six weeks, and some students may be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in 18 months. For certain programs, applicants need to already hold an associate degree.

A number of certificates and diploma programs are available online from Rasmussen College, including medical administration, early childhood education and web programming. Students interested in an associate degree have more than a dozen options, including marketing, business management, pharmacy technician and software application development. Those pursuing a bachelor’s degree have their choice of health information management, graphic design, computer science and more. Programs such as accounting incorporate in-person, faculty-led classes as well as self-paced course modules for off-campus study.

ACO Score: 90.81 Tuition + Fees: $15,300 Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 87%

Students at Globe University-Woodbury have numerous online options, from certificates all the way to graduate degrees. Prospective students who are unsure about signing up for web-based learning can complete a readiness assessment, designed to introduce them to the skills needed when taking classes online. Individuals who wish to explore distance education before committing to a degree program can enroll in a single course delivered through either the fully online or hybrid approach.

Among Globe University’s online offerings, a diploma is available for business administration assistants. Online students can earn certificates in mobile application development, Internet marketing and electronic discovery. Associate degree programs include management accounting, health fitness specialist, paralegal and more. Online bachelor’s degrees range from business management to criminal justice to forensic accounting. Master’s degrees cover management, health fitness management and various specialties in business administration.

Students who earn their degree online receive web-based academic support, for example, an orientation, help desk and virtual library. Distance learning courses at Globe University-Woodbury are taught via CampusConnect. Students can use CampusConnect to access class materials and submit homework, as well as interacting with classmates and instructors. When students complete degree requirements they may attend a graduation ceremony on-campus if they choose.

ACO Score: 90.4 Tuition + Fees: $14,295 Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 100%

Westwood College-Denver North has diplomas, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees available online. Online courses follow the same general outline as campus-based classes. Westwood College notes that in order to be a successful online student, distance learners should have reliable, high-speed Internet access, be comfortable with technology, have enough time each week to devote to classes, and have friends and family to support educational endeavors.

Students can earn a degree at Westwood College in the areas of technology, healthcare, business design, and justice. The seven associate degree programs include information technology, healthcare office administration, and graphic design. Bachelor’s degree options include information technology with a major in network management, software development with a game software development major, business administration with a major in marketing management, graphic design with a visual communications major, and criminal justice with an administration major. The only master’s degree available online is the Master of Business Administration.

Degrees at Westwood College-Denver North are earned in numerous timeframes, depending on the program and a student’s prior experience. For example, some associate degrees can be earned in 17 months and some bachelor’s degrees can take as little as three years to complete.

ACO Score: 90.26 Tuition + Fees: $19,820 Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 87%

Waldorf College – and all of its online learning programs – is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and is a member of the North Central Association.

Waldorf Collge offers online Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts degrees in more than a dozen concentrations. Bachelor of Arts degrees are available in five concentrations, with a combined 10 fields of study. Bachelor of Science degrees may be pursued in six concentrations and eight fields of study. Bachelor of Applied Science degrees are available in 11 concentrations with more than 20 fields of study. Eleven certificate programs are also available.

Walfdorf College has different core requirements for each degree pursued. Applicants must submit proof of high school graduation or equivalent. If applicants have not completed at least six post-secondary education credits, they must submit a high school transcript proving a GPA of at least 2.0. For graduate program applicants, candidates must have maintained a minimum 2.5 GPA at the undergraduate level. Students who maintained a GPA of 2.0-2.49 may be admitted under provisional status after a direct review.

Tuition is $275 per undergraduate credit and $350 for graduate-level credits. Military members may receive reduced-rate tuition. Financial aid is available.

ACO Score: 89.69 Tuition + Fees: $11,550 Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 83%

Chancellor University offers 100 percent online degrees that can be fully obtained without any on-campus commitment. Chancellor holds both college-specific and program-specific accreditations from the Higher Learning Commission of the North-Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Chancellor offers certificates in social media marketing and health services management. Associate degrees are offered in paralegal, corporate management, accounting and criminal justice. Bachelor of Science degrees can be earned in business administration, criminal justice, applied management, finance, management information systems, marketing, criminal justice, legal studies, public administration and health management services.

For students applying for master’s degrees, Chancellor offers degrees in Master of Management with 14 concentrations and Master of Business Administration with 12 concentrations. Each concentration offers several fields of study.

Chancellor’s vast library is available to online learners through an electronic database that contains thousands of e-journals, reference e-books, case studies, legal sources and company and industry information.

Financial aid is available to qualifying applicants, and Chancellor’s website has a step-by-step tool to guide applicants through the process of seeking financial aid. By law, all students must complete at least 67 percent of their classes with a passing grade, regardless of the degree they are pursuing, to retain eligibility for financial aid.

ACO Score: 89.11 Tuition + Fees: $12,696 Student-to-faculty ratio: 3:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 97%

Independence University offers online degrees with new classes starting every month, so students don’t have to wait until the next semester to enroll. Some students may complete bachelor’s degrees in 36 months or less, or associate degrees in 20 months or less. Independence University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

Independence University’s online degrees focus on four areas: health care, business, information technology and graphic arts. Students interested in health services can choose from two associate, five bachelor’s and five master’s degree programs, including graduate studies in public health or nursing administration. In the business program, there are undergraduate degrees in accounting and business, each with a choice of specialization, as well as a general MBA or one focused on entrepreneurship. The information technology program offers four bachelor’s degrees — for example, web design and development — and two master’s degrees.

Enrollment requires a consultation and planning session with an admissions consultant who can assess an applicant’s qualifications, interests and needs. Incoming students can receive a laptop computer to facilitate their online study, and tech support can be contacted 24/7. Instructors are typically available five days a week through modes of communication such as chat and email.

ACO Score: 88.99 Tuition + Fees: $20,610 Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 94%

Schiller International University receives applications for its online degree programs from virtually every country in the world.

SIU chooses undergraduate students on a case-by-case basis, but generally, students must have completed secondary education to apply. For its graduate programs, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. For international students, there are enhanced testing and language requirements.

All distance learning programs at Schiller International University are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools to award associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s level degrees. The university is licensed by the Commission for Independent Education, Florida Department of Education.

Schiller does accept transfers from accredited colleges and universities, and may apply some or all transferrable credits.

There are four undergraduate degrees available. Students may pursue an Associate of Science degree in International Business, a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business, a Bachelor of Science degree in International Hospitality and Tourism Management, or a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations and Diplomacy.

Students may earn six different master’s degrees, including an MBA in International Business, an MBA in International Hospitality and Tourism Management, an MBA in Management of Information Technology, an MBA in Business Administration, an MIM in International Management or an MBA in Financial Planning.

ACO Score: 88.81 Tuition + Fees: $15,450 Student-to-faculty ratio: 22:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 73%

Spartan A&T offers a wide range of online learning options for students who are pursuing either associate’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees. Associate of Applied Science degree programs include Aviation Maintenance Technology, Avionics Maintenance Technology, Quality Control Program and Aviation Flight.

Spartan students who graduate with an associate’s degree are offered a track to move directly to a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technology Management. The bachelor’s degree combines general academic preparation with the development of business management skills and specialized knowledge of the aviation industry.

With the completion of a bachelor’s degree, students earn a professional technical certification through a career program of their choice:

  • Avionics Maintenance Technology
  • Aviation Maintenance Technology
  • Quality Control
  • Aviation (Flight) Specialties

To be accepted, online applicants must undergo an interview with an enrollment manager, which can be done over the phone. Candidates must also have a high school diploma, a GED or an equivalent level of education.

Scores from ACT, SAT, COMPASS, ASVAB, ACCUPLACER or ASSET tests are considered by the admissions department along with GPA and other qualifying factors.

ACO Score: 88.81 Tuition + Fees: $10,665 Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 97%

Herzing University and all of its affiliates are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. For its business programs, it has received programmatic accreditation through the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education. U.S. News and World Report recognized Herzing University as a top distance-learning program in 2014.

The Akron Institute of Herzing University offers fully online distance-learning programs in nursing, healthcare, public safety, business/legal studies and technology. There are two master’s programs available, as well as eight MBA concentrations and three MSN concentrations.

Students seeking to enroll in undergraduate programs may apply online and enlist the help of an advisor. Candidates should include their high school transcripts, diploma or proof of GED or HSED. Their advisor will then help them establish a financial strategy. Financial aid is available to qualifying applicants.

Candidates for graduate programs must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited institution, and have maintained a GPA of 2.7 in undergraduate studies or a 3.0 GPA through at least six credit hours of graduate studies. Those who do not meet those criteria may be admitted on a conditional basis. If a candidate has taken GRE or GMAT exams, they should submit their scores along with their transcripts.

ACO Score: 88.39 Tuition + Fees: $15,090 Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 93%

Daniel Webster College is chartered as an institution of higher education in accordance with New Hampshire law, subject to the authority of the New Hampshire Department of Education, Division of Higher Education. The school is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

Daniel Webster College offers one program to students pursuing an online associate’s degree, the Associate of Science in business administration. For students pursuing a bachelor’s degree, there are seven options — all of which are of Bachelor of Science degrees — including accounting, business administration, construction business management, health services management, homeland security, marketing management and sports management.

For graduate students, Daniel Webster College offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

All online students have access to math, science, and writing tutoring, academic advising, and the Career Services Department, which helps students with job searches and employment pursuits. The Veterans Memorial Library is available 24 hours a day from any location, via the virtual library website. The library contains more than 3,000 titles and is automated to facilitate research through a periodicals database.

Transfers are accepted for applicants who attended an accredited college or university, and some credits may be applied.

ACO Score: 88.31 Tuition + Fees: $13,090 Student-to-faculty ratio: 12:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 65%

Located in Greenville, South Carolina, Bob Jones University offers a number of graduate programs and undergraduate classes online. Students can earn a master’s degree in biblical studies, biblical counseling, teaching and learning, educational leadership counseling and music education. There are also a number of undergraduate classes available for those looking for scheduling flexibility, including courses in accounting, art, Bible, business administration, economics, English, history, music, philosophy, political science and more. While admission into BJU is not a requirement to take individual classes, students interested in earning a degree need to go through the school’s regular admission procedure.

In addition to offering courses for traditional college students, BJU also has programs for high school students. Eligible high school juniors and seniors can earn college credit at BJU while still in high school at a discounted rate. These classes often provide dual credit, enabling students to earn high school credits concurrently in some cases.

Online courses and programs at BJU begin throughout the school year so students don’t have to wait for the start of a traditional semester to start taking classes. Courses last six to eight weeks and are delivered asynchronously, allowing students the flexibility to view course lectures and materials on their own time. Students access materials and submit assignments through BJU’s course management system and take assessments via webcam through ProctorU.

ACO Score: 87.86 Tuition + Fees: $8,196 Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 78%

The National Hispanic University has a number of online degree programs available for both graduate students and undergraduates. Online students can earn their master’s degree in business administration, education and early childhood, while undergraduate students can earn their bachelor’s degree in business administration, child development, criminal justice and psychology. Some programs also offer specialized career pathway programs and degree concentrations. Hybrid options are also available for students who would like some face-to-face classroom time.

Online programs at NHU are designed to be of the same caliber as traditional on-campus courses but with the flexibility of completing classes at anytime and anyplace. Students can access course materials on their own time, as long as they meet the instructors’ deadlines.

Students can download lectures and supplemental reading materials through NHU’s online course management system where they can turn in assignments. They can communicate with fellow students and instructors via email, discussion boards and online chat rooms, allowing them equal access to the back-and-forth interaction found in traditional on-campus programs. Online students also have access to tutoring and other student services.

ACO Score: 87.81 Tuition + Fees: $11,787 Student-to-faculty ratio: 34:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 85%

Virginia College Birmingham offers 24 different academic programs to students who need the flexibility of online learning.

Students can earn their associate’s in accounting, network engineering, criminal justice, paralegal studies, healthcare reimbursement and more. Bachelor degree programs include management information systems, health services management, private sector accounting and business administration.

Students who are looking to earn their graduate degree can choose from business administration with concentrations in healthcare or management, or criminal justice.

Virginia College also offers a number of unique online degree programs including an associate degree in culinary and pastry arts, a bachelor’s degree in golf course management and a master’s in cybersecurity.

VC’s online programs are delivered asynchronously, so students can access course materials and complete assignments at their convenience. Through VC’s online course management system, students can communicate with instructors and fellow students via email and online chat rooms. Students also have access to online discussion boards that help mirror real life classroom interactions.

Students at Virginia College are taught by experts in the field to small cohorts of students, allowing students and instructors to get to know one another.

ACO Score: 86.95 Tuition + Fees: $15,705 Student-to-faculty ratio: 16:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 67%

Central Penn College offers one online master’s program (in organizational development), six online bachelor’s degrees and four online associate degrees. In addition, students can also take three hybrid degrees.

Students can choose a bachelor’s degree in business administration with concentrations in banking and financial services, finance, marketing, management, healthcare administration, and human resource management; corporate communications; criminal justice administration; homeland security management ; accounting; information technology with concentrations in applications development and networking and security; and organizational leadership.

A hybrid bachelor’s program in legal studies is available with a mix of on-campus and online classes.

Students can earn associate degrees online in accounting; CIS – applications development and CIS – networking and security; criminal justice; entrepreneurship & small business; and marketing.

Hybrid associate programs include medical assisting and paralegal.

Online programs at Central Penn run on accelerated 11-week terms and utilize the Blackboard class management program. Students communicate with instructors and fellow students online via email, chat rooms and discussion threads. They access class materials—including lectures, supplemental reading materials, grades, assignments and assessments—online and can turn in required assignments at any time during the day or night. Online courses and programs are designed with the same learning objectives and rigor as traditional on-campus classes.

ACO Score: 86.7 Tuition + Fees: $16,795 Student-to-faculty ratio: 2:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 100%

Students interested in earning an online degree from Stevens-Henager College attend its affiliated school, Independence University. Students can choose from more than 30 different online programs including graphic arts, information technology, business and healthcare. Online programs can be completed from just 15 months to three years.

Stevens-Henager offers a variety of master’s degrees available in healthcare administration, nurse education, business administration, business administration with an entrepreneurship emphasis, healthcare informatics and information systems. Bachelor’s programs include graphic arts, health information management, networking and information systems security, business administration (with a variety of concentrations), accounting, nursing and more. There are also several business associate degrees, along with an associate in graphic arts.

Online students have access to Stevens-Henager’s online resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students often team up to form study groups—both online and in-person. They can view class lectures and download assignments and supplemental materials through SHC’s online management system. Students submit assignments online and communicate with their instructors and peers completely through email and chat programs. Many of the online programs also have traditional on-campus options, allowing students the flexibility of brick-and-mortar resources if needed.

ACO Score: 86.25 Tuition + Fees: $18,764 Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 78%

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division offers 27 academic programs that can be taken through distance study, including:

  • Bachelor’s degree programs in advertising; culinary management; fashion marketing and management; game art and design; graphic design; hotel and restaurant management; interior design; media arts and animation; digital photography; Web design and interactive media
  • Associate’s degree programs in graphic design; kitchen and bath design; digital photography; Web design and interactive media
  • Certificate programs in 2D animation; 3D animation; 3D modeling for games; character animation for games; digital workflow; event management; food and beverage operations; Internet marketing; portrait photography; studio photography
  • Diploma programs in digital design; residential planning; Web design

Online programs at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division are accelerated, lasting five and half weeks each. Instruction is delivered through “virtual classrooms” that include message boards, multimedia presentations, reading materials, and online assignments. A video of a sample online classroom is available for prospective students on the school’s website.

Military personnel, spouses and veterans who qualify may be eligible to receive credits for their experience and training and reduced tuition. A number of other services are available for students, including technical support, career services, an online library, counseling, and assistance for students with disabilities.

ACO Score: 86.25 Tuition + Fees: $6,400 Student-to-faculty ratio: 22:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 37%

American Public University System (APUS) offers more than 180 online degree and certificate programs for distance learners who need a flexible class and study schedule.

All courses and programs at APUS are fully online, with no in-person requirements. Classes start on a monthly basis and most are taught in both an eight and sixteen-week format. Full-time students can estimate that it will take about one year to complete a certificate program, two years to complete an associate degree program, four years for a bachelor’s program, and two years for a master’s degree program.

The school’s most popular degree programs are business administration, criminal justice, emergency and disaster management, history, homeland security, information technology management, intelligence studies, management, sports and health sciences, and transportation and logistics management.

In addition to degree and certificate programs, APUS also offers undergraduate and graduate learning tracks. Learning tracks consist of an orientation course about online learning followed by three courses in an area of interest. They allow students to learn more about a particular topic without having to commit to a longer program. Learning track subjects include business basics, web development and IT project management, among others.

Some of the school’s students are active duty military. The school offers credit for many academic, military and civilian training and experiences that can be counted towards a degree or certificate program.

ACO Score: 86.17 Tuition + Fees: $19,668 Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 62%

Cogswell College offers an online Master of Arts in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. This regionally accredited program focuses on team-oriented, project-based learning taught by faculty who both instruct and serve as mentors from day one to graduation. The digital format is designed to emulate the heavily online practices of many Silicon Valley companies today.

The program requires 30 credit hours, 24 within the core curriculum and an additional six in the practicum. Course options for students include but are not limited to the following:

  • Business models & planning
  • Finance & accounting
  • Legal structures, contracts & risk management
  • Sales & negotiations
  • Social media & online marketing

Cogswell’s online master’s in entrepreneurship and innovation occurs on 8-week terms available on a rolling basis throughout the academic year. This includes two fall sessions, two spring sessions and one summer session. The program’s affordable tuition structure runs $1,700 per course or $17,000 for the entire course load. Qualifying applicants can earn a $5,000 Silicon Valley Merit Scholarship.

Admission to the program entails submission of high school transcripts or proof of GED completion. Applicants also need to hold a bachelor’s degree and be comfortable with economics, statistics and Microsoft Office software. GRE and GMAT scores may be considered but are not required.

ACO Score: 86.15 Tuition + Fees: $14,400 Student-to-faculty ratio: 5:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 85%

Broadview University offers a number of online degree and certificate programs for distance learners, including:

  • Master’s programs: management; business administration (MBA)
  • Bachelor’s programs: accounting; business administration; business management; criminal justice; health care management; health fitness specialist; information technology; paralegal; software application development
  • Associate programs: accounting and tax specialist; business administration; Internet marketing; criminal justice; health & fitness specialist; information technology; mobile application development; management accounting; paralegal
  • Certificate programs: electronic discovery, Internet marketing, mobile application development

Students interested in Broadview’s management degrees at the bachelor’s or master’s level can choose from a number of concentrations, such as agriculture, finance, hospitality management, human resources and criminal justice.

Broadview University also suggests hybrid programs for students whose course of study requires some on-campus participation, such as laboratory work or studio sessions. Students can complete these courses in-person and take the rest of their classes online.

A typical online class at Broadview requires weekly participation. For example, students may be required to contribute to a message board discussion every week by Thursday and respond to classmates by Sunday. Quizzes, exams and assignments also have specific deadlines. However, courses are asynchronous, so students can complete work at their convenience and do not have to be online at a specific time or day. Instructors hold weekly online office hours and students can complete everything from registration to financial aid documents online.

ACO Score: 86.1 Tuition + Fees: $15,352 Student-to-faculty ratio: 30:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 87%

Kaplan University offers many online programs including master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees in fields such as psychology, education and technology. Online certificate programs are available in a variety of fields, from crime scene technician to Linux system administration. Graduate programs delivered across the Internet include a master’s in nursing for RNs, a doctorate in nursing practice and a master’s degree in finance.

Kaplan’s online programs use a learning portal that provides access to classes, academic resources and support services. Courses are taught entirely online, including quizzes and assessments, seminars and web field trips. Certain programs offer opportunities for real-world, in-person experiences such as externships.

Kaplan has its own app, the KU Campus App, for use on mobile devices, including iPads, iPhones, Android phones and tablets, and Kindle Fires. This app allows students to complete a range of activities:

  • Attend classes and view class archives
  • Access course information such as syllabi and course materials
  • Participate in discussion boards
  • Check on grades and credits
  • Connect with classmates through social media

Several services are provided for Kaplan’s online students, such as electronic access to the school’s library, including an articles archive, book delivery, and reference assistance via phone or live chat. Online students also have the support of academic advisors to guide their academic progress.

ACO Score: 85.67 Tuition + Fees: $15,915 Student-to-faculty ratio: 25:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 82%

DeVry University offers a number of online degrees that students can earn from a distance. Students can also opt for a hybrid approach to learning, taking some classes online and others on-campus. Degree programs are administered through five different colleges:

  • Business and Management
  • Engineering and Information Sciences
  • Health Sciences
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Media Arts and Technology

Online degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s level — for example, choices for associate degrees range from accounting to network systems administration to health information technology. Online graduate certificate programs cover specialized topics in fields such as education.

DeVry’s online classes are organized on a web-based learning platform, with each week’s assignments, topics and discussions within a tab. Students can access any week throughout the course to review notes, lectures and chats. Online classes include forums and chats for interaction with classmates and professors, and many include group projects, as well. Prospective students can view an online classroom demo on the school’s website.

Some coursework can be completed with phone, tablets and mobile devices, but compatibility is not guaranteed, so students should have access to a computer. DeVry offers services for online students, including access to a virtual library and tutoring in real time for assistance with assignments and course materials.

ACO Score: 85.13 Tuition + Fees: $27,648 Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 82%

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design offers an array of online degree programs at the graduate and undergraduate level:

  • Bachelor’s programs: 3D animation, commercial photography, fashion design, game art, graphic design, illustration, interior design
  • Master’s programs: Design strategy and innovation; education, leadership and emerging technologies

Online certificate programs from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design cover a range of topics, such as leadership, design and the learning process. Certificates in 3D animation focus either on character animation or pre-production techniques.

Hybrid programs are also available, where students take some classes online and others on campus. The same faculty teach online and in-person classes, and the school uses a team of media developers to encourage seamless operation of web-based instructional tools and course materials.

The online learning management system uses video and multimedia instruction, a “Critique Zone” where students collaborate and provide feedback to one another, and live chat features and communication tools for student and instructor interactions. Other online support services from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design include library and tutoring resources. In addition, admissions counselors advise transfer students and applicants with a military background about potentially applying credits earned elsewhere toward their online degree.

ACO Score: 85.08 Tuition + Fees: $15,300 Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 91%

The Minnesota School of Business offers a number of fully online programs for individuals looking to earn their degree from a distance. Certain hybrid programs include on-site experience, in fields such as health fitness. Potential courses of study for online students include:

  • Associate degrees: accounting, business administration, information technology, logistics management, mobile application development, paralegal
  • Bachelor’s degrees: accounting, business administration, business management, criminal justice, forensic accounting, health care management, information technology, paralegal, software application development
  • Master’s degrees: business administration (MBA), business management, criminal justice, health care management, information technology
  • Certificates: Internet marketing, mobile application development, electronic discovery

The Minnesota School of Business provides an online orientation module for CampusConnect, its distance learning platform. Through this platform, students communicate with instructors and classmates, submit assignments, take quizzes and exams, and access grades. Classes also use SkillSoft, another learning platform that delivers academic modules that students can view online. Online support services include librarian chat, free tutoring and tech support. Classes are held asynchronously, so students do not have to be online at specific times. However, there are deadlines for assignments and participation in discussion boards. The school’s website offers advice on how much time students can expect to spend on their online classes.

ACO Score: 85.07 Tuition + Fees: $14,616 Student-to-faculty ratio: 24:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 85%

Everest University offers fully online degree programs in several fields, for example:

  • Associate degrees: accounting, business, applied management, computer information science, criminal justice, homeland security, paralegal
  • Bachelor’s degrees: accounting, business, applied management, computer information science, criminal justice, homeland security, paralegal
  • Master’s degrees: business administration, criminal justice

The school focuses its studies on practical, career-oriented information to use in real-life applications. Programs target working professionals and nontraditional students as well as others who prefer to learn online. The admissions process typically does not require essays or letters of recommendation. While online programs follow the same pace as their on-campus counterparts, students can be exempt from certain classes if they pass proficiency exams or transfer credits from other colleges. Applicants can request acceptance of transfer credits for relevant courses in which they earned a grade of C or higher.

Everest University offers a mobile app for Android, iPhone and Windows Phone. Delivery of course material uses asynchronous methods, so students can complete coursework at any time, from a location with Internet access. There are no mandatory chat sessions or exam times, and no on-campus requirements.

Technical support is available 24/7 to assist students in using the technology necessary to participate in online courses.

ACO Score: 83.72 Tuition + Fees: $20,200 Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 54%

The University of Advancing Technology offers several bachelor’s programs that students can complete online with no in-person requirements. Programs include:

  • Advancing Computer Science (BS)
  • Game Art and Animation (BA)
  • Game Design (BA)
  • Game Programming (BS)
  • Network Security (BS)
  • Technology Forensics (BS)
  • Web Design (BS)

Students take classes that are structured as five-week modules. These are generally taken one at a time. However, there is one period in each semester when two sessions are taken at the same time. Students complete four classes each semester over the course of 15 weeks. The classes are asynchronous, and students participate in discussions and view course materials on their own schedule without having to log in at a specific time each week.

Students work around a standardized schedule, so they can plan their weeks accordingly to complete their coursework on time. Instruction is delivered via online lectures, and professors and classmates interact through forum discussions and email. Assignments are submitted by email or by uploading them onto the course website.

Transfer students may have the opportunity to transfer General Education credits if they are found to be equivalent. Possible transfer of program-specific classes will be evaluated on a course-by-course basis by faculty within the student’s intended program of study.

ACO Score: 83.5 Tuition + Fees: $11,010 Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 69%

Walden University offers a comprehensive selection of online degree programs to choose from, including 17 doctoral programs, 39 master’s programs, and 18 bachelor’s programs. Certificate programs are also available. Areas of study include:

  • Business and management
  • Communication
  • Criminal justice and emergency management
  • Education
  • Information technology
  • Nursing
  • Psychology and counseling
  • Public health and health sciences
  • Public policy and administration
  • Social work and human services

Online students who are enrolled at Walden University participate at any time they choose, with few or no set times that students must log on. The online learning model is centered on communication, allowing students to interact with classmates and contribute to conversations. It also gives students access to clear learning objectives, an assignment schedule, and information on grading criteria.

Students submit their assignments to an online drop box, where professors can review and provide feedback. Students can then view their assignments once their professors have sent it back to them. Tests are given online as well, and are generally scored immediately upon submission.

Some programs require academic residencies, where students connect with peers and faculty members for networking, collaboration, career planning, and research. All doctoral students and some master’s students must do residencies. They are available in many locations across the United States and abroad. Eligible doctoral students may have an opportunity to participate in a virtual residency instead.

ACO Score: 83.56 Tuition + Fees: $16,842 Student-to-faculty ratio: 29:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 68%

ITT Technical Institute offers multiple online degrees in technology-oriented fields with options such as drafting and design, business, information systems and criminal justice. Programs range from associate to master’s degree level. Students interested in earning an online associate degree have choices including web design, construction technology, paralegal studies, business management and forensic technology. Bachelor’s degree programs include business administration — with five options such as project management — or accounting with a concentration in internal controls. ITT Tech also features an online bachelor’s program in nursing designed for registered nurses that has a clinical experience component.

Generally, classes are offered year-round as modules lasting six or 12 weeks. Course content is delivered over an asynchronous learning platform that allows self-paced work on many assignments. Instructors set a schedule for completion of online course work. Communication with peers and faculty takes place via discussion boards and email. ITT Tech online students have access to a variety of services: Student Support lends help with program questions, the Virtual Library provides academic support and the institute’s director of finance addresses financial aid questions. Students are able to take advantage of some services, including career guidance, even after graduation.

ACO Score: 82.85 Tuition + Fees: $18,650 Student-to-faculty ratio: 21:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 46%

Academy of Art University has nurtured students with artistic talent since 1929. In 2002, the school developed its online programs with the same revolutionary courses offered to traditional classroom students, but with the flexibility to schedule classes and complete coursework on their own time.

Students can choose from a wide range of degrees from the associate level to graduate level in creative areas such as advertising, graphic design, fashion and many more. Although some classes have prerequisites, many classes require no prior knowledge or experience.

Academy of Art University uses a centralized web tool called the Learning Management System (LMS). Students use LMS to interact with faculty and peers and as a central hub for accessing class news, grades and support. The LMS has a whiteboard feature which instructors utilize to provide feedback and audio commentary.

Online courses follow no set schedule, so students do not need to worry about getting to the computer at specific times during the day. Each course is comprised of 15 modules spread throughout a semester. Online coursework consists of instructional videos, digital documentation, audio-enhanced slideshows and other methods of learning. Students can access content at the beginning of each module period.

ACO Score: 81.8 Tuition + Fees: $12,685 Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 65%

Argosy University serves the San Francisco Bay Area from its location in Alameda. The school offers a wide range of business certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees in flexible learning formats for busy students. Students can choose from majors in:

  • Arts and Sciences
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Business
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Creative Arts and Design
  • Education
  • Health Sciences
  • Law

Online programs at Argosy University provide students with many choices for completing coursework in addition to traditional face-to-face campus learning. Blended classes combine online and classroom learning, while fully online classes are designed for working professionals across the country.

Students at Argosy SF are required to attend an intensive three-day session on campus for a maximum of one weekend each semester and one weekend per year. Other than that, students take classes through the online Campus Common, which offers a comprehensive student support services. It is possible to log into the virtual classroom any time of day or night and participate in group discussions, access multimedia presentations and post on classroom message boards.

Online students receive the same quality of instruction and earn the same degree as on-campus students. Yet they have the flexibility and convenience of scheduling coursework around personal and work responsibilities.

ACO Score: 81.46 Tuition + Fees: $15,225 Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 73%

Midstate College students can choose from online courses provided through distance learning methods as well as on-campus classes scheduled during the day or evening. A variety of programs incorporate web-based studies; the associate and bachelor’s degrees in business administration have classes offered through on-site and online options. Each program has specific features — for example, associate degree studies in medical assisting include an externship for practical experience.

Although the curriculum varies depending on the program, the school faculty relies on educational technology both on-campus and in the online virtual classroom program. College schedules specify whether courses are available on-site, online or as flex options combining the two approaches. Students seeking an asynchronous mode of content delivery can look for classes designated as “eLearning arranged” and so on. Technologies used by Midstate College include Skype, Moodle and the Joule learning platform. The curriculum generally builds in group assignments completed through the team efforts found in any employment setting.

To apply to Midstate College, students submit transcripts and a completed entrance examination used for placement and academic counseling. Applicants for degree or diploma programs need a high school diploma or the equivalent. Once students are accepted they are assigned an admissions representative to assist them with scheduling classes and the like.

ACO Score: 81.4 Tuition + Fees: $4,895 Student-to-faculty ratio: 67:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 41%

The online degree programs at Columbia Southern University (CSU) provide students with the convenience and flexibility of distance learning . CSU offers 15 online certificate programs, 6 associate degree programs, 11 bachelor’s degree programs and 6 master’s degree programs in business, criminal justice, fire administration, healthcare administration, human resource management, occupational safety & health, homeland security, organizational leadership, psychology, public administration and more. CSU also offers a continuing education program offering workshops, training seminars and other opportunities for students to earn continuing education credits for their careers.

CSU has a rolling admissions schedule so students can apply all year round. To apply to an online degree program, prospective students must complete an online application. Applicants need to provide evidence of high school completion or the equivalent, and include applicable transcripts, including military transcripts and professional licenses and certificates. Test scores are not required, as CSU applicants do not need to take the ACT, SAT, GRE or GMAT.

After receiving a prospective student’s completed application for admission, CSU conducts a comprehensive evaluation. Students will be sent a detailed report that outlines courses needed for completion, transfer credit accepted, and any instructions pertaining to enrollment. Because of the open enrollment policy at CSU, students can enroll at any time online or by phone.

ACO Score: 81.13 Tuition + Fees: $10,938 Student-to-faculty ratio: 22:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 75%

Students can choose from a variety of associate degree, bachelor’s degree and master’s degree programs at Ashford University. Ashford’s online platform, an asynchronous environment, enables students to log in any time of day or night. Students also use the platform to communicate with instructors and peers via discussion boards. In addition, students can access digital materials, submit assignments and take exams 24/7.

Online students at Ashford must attend classes every week to receive a passing grade. Attendance is managed through submitted discussion posts, written assignments, journal entries, quizzes and exams. In general, students need to participate in each course a minimum of two times per week, but requirements vary depending on the class.

Since many online students are adult learners who may have been away from the classroom for a while, each student is assigned a personal student advisor to answer questions and provide support through the entire degree program. Advisors go out of their way to be available to help with any issues that arise.

All students at Ashford, whether traditional or online, are given the opportunity to attend commencement ceremonies no matter where they live. These take place on Ashford University’s campus in Clinton, Iowa.

ACO Score: 80.96 Tuition + Fees: $15,135 Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 69%

Stratford University’s Global Online Program offers distance learning degree studies in some of the most sought-after career fields. For those seeking an associate program, five applied science degrees are offered: network management and security, business administration, medical and insurance billing and coding, hospitality management, and accounting. Accounting students can also study online for a diploma or certificate. Undergraduate students can choose from degree programs online for a Bachelor of Science in nursing, healthcare management, business administration and accounting, or a Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Management. Stratford also offers eleven online master’s degree programs, including specialized areas of business administration such as enterprise and entrepreneurial management, healthcare administration, international hospitality management, and accounting.

Classes are taught asynchronously, which means that students can access course materials at their convenience, day or night, from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Courses are delivered and managed through the Moodle learning management platform. Email, discussion boards, and virtual faculty office hours provide the same opportunity for interaction with fellow students and instructors as that of students who attend school on campus.

ACO Score: 80.82 Tuition + Fees: $7,400 Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 33%

Students at Miami, Florida’s Millennia Atlantic University enjoy a multicultural curriculum, family-oriented environment and an international approach to education. They also have the opportunity to pursue an MBA through an online hybrid program. Online curricula include courses in managerial accounting and economics, business statistics, organization and leadership, and marketing management. In addition to theory, the MBA online focuses on practical application to prepare the graduate student for a career in management, managerial finance, human resources or marketing. Online courses, educational resources and networking with classmates and faculty are accessed using the Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, or Moodle platform. The final semester, which includes a six-credit hour capstone, is conducted on campus.

Admissions criteria for the MBA online are identical to those for the on-campus MBA. Students accepted to the program will receive a syllabus for each course, which describes the course objectives. In addition to the faculty teaching the course, students also have access to a faculty member to answer questions regarding course content. Chat rooms provide another place to discuss coursework and encourages discussion among classmates. A combination of videos, case analysis, assignments, quizzes and exams, and Internet activities round out the online learning experience. The on-campus portion of the program provides supplemental engagement and a final exam or other method of learning assessment.

ACO Score: 80.8 Tuition + Fees: $16,347 Student-to-faculty ratio: 21:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 83%

Briarcliffe College has two Long Island, New York, campuses in Bethpage and Patchogue, but students can opt to pursue degrees in business administration, business administration management, healthcare, and dental hygiene completely online. Business administration students can pursue an AAS or a bachelor’s, either in business administration information technology or business administration management. Offerings for bachelor of business administration management degrees include healthcare management concentrations such as health information, medical imaging and medical practice management. Online bachelor’s degree programs are available for professional dental hygienists who have completed their associate degrees through a CODA-approved institution. For those students with a diploma or certificate in allied health, Briarcliffe offers a fully online degree program for the AAS degree in Applied Health. In addition to the online bachelor’s in healthcare management concentrations, a bachelor’s in professional studies healthcare administration with a concentration in long-term care is also offered, as well as a bachelor’s in nursing program.

With Briarcliffe’s Flexible Learning option, students can mix campus and online classes, making it more convenient to complete requirements for degree programs that are not fully online.

The college holds accreditation from The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges.

ACO Score: 80.48 Tuition + Fees: $11,964 Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 57%

Online academic programs from Mount Washington College include associate and bachelor’s degrees. The school’s online undergraduate degrees focus on business administration and information technology. For baccalaureate programs via distance learning, business administration majors can choose from three areas of emphasis: accounting, management, and marketing.

Formerly known as Hesser College, Mount Washington College offers both on-site and virtual instruction. On-campus students can take selected individual online courses to satisfy general education requirements. As one example of an online program, the IT bachelor’s degree curriculum covers 120 total credit hours, incorporating subjects such as oral communication, humanities, technical writing, finite math, and statistics. Classes for online IT majors include Java programming, web systems, systems architecture, operating systems and related topics.

Mount Washington College’s self-paced virtual learning platform allows students to begin and complete classes on their own schedule. Candidates for distance education can test out the college’s learning management system by taking a no-cost trial using modules from an online business course. Individuals who are considering enrolling can also take a free online course to help them document prior training and experience such as volunteer work. A mentor offers advice on creating this experiential learning portfolio, which the college evaluates for potential transfer credits.

ACO Score: 80.39 Tuition + Fees: $17,000 Student-to-faculty ratio: 12:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 90%

Online undergraduate degree programs from Fountainhead College of Technology target six technical majors. Students seeking online associate degrees can explore information technology, computer programming, and health information management. The online health information degree focuses on technological subjects such as data security and management of health care information systems. Online bachelor’s degree programs include network security and forensics as well as electronic wireless communication. An online baccalaureate in computer technology emphasizes application development and also examines related topics such as technical writing and project management. Prerequisites vary by program — for example, the application development degree calls for a background in programming.

Fountainhead College of Technology’s digital learning platform allows students asynchronous access to course materials 24/7; however, some instructors require participation in online activities such as meetings, group projects or discussions. Before registering for a course, students should verify specific requirements and determine if there are any on-site components. The school encourages students to communicate with peers and faculty using electronic tools, including chat. The learning platform offers file transfer services, interactive lessons, and the opportunity to take quizzes and exams online. Individuals considering a distance learning degree can evaluate their readiness through the school’s online student success assessment.

ACO Score: 80.06 Tuition + Fees: $11,952 Student-to-faculty ratio: 26:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 74%

Online learning opportunities from Capella University extend to approximately 40 undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as certificate programs. Bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees are available in fields such as business, education, information technology, psychology, and public health and safety. Certain hybrid programs, particularly at the graduate level, incorporate fieldwork designed for hands-on experience. Online certificates focus on specialized areas including business intelligence, human resource management, and school psychology.

Capella University describes its curriculum as competency-centered and is particularly suited for students with professional experience. To address the need for customizable schedules, the university offers two different styles of virtual learning:

  • Standard online classes with an asynchronous content delivery method allow 24-hour access to course materials; however, there is a weekly schedule for submitting assignments or participating in discussions.
  • The flexible option — available only for some programs — follows a self-paced approach without a pre-set timeline. When students have mastered a class module, they demonstrate competency and receive feedback from instructors.

Students in both types of online courses can use the university’s technical support hot line and digital library resources. Interested individuals can take a free one-week mini course and a technological readiness assessment before choosing their online academic path.

ACO Score: 79.84 Tuition + Fees: $6,150 Student-to-faculty ratio: 20:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 56%

Online academic opportunities from Aspen University encompass associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in diverse subjects. Associate degree programs are delivered digitally for general studies, fine arts and early childhood education. Students seeking online baccalaureate programs choose from majors such as medical management or fine arts specializing in illustration. Undergraduate criminal justice programs offer different areas of emphasis like crime investigation procedures. The options for online master’s degrees include business administration, education, technology and nursing, with specializations in those areas. Doctorates target the domains of computer science and education.

Online bachelor’s degree completion programs in certain disciplines target individuals who have earned an associate degree or equivalent college credits. Admissions requirements vary according to the program, including specifics for a minimum GPA. Applicants to the fine arts program need to submit a portfolio of their work along with other application materials. To enroll in online graduate nursing programs, a bachelor’s degree is needed.

Aspen University relies on a variety of instructional technologies. Doctoral candidates in computer science perform the oral defense of their dissertation via teleconference. Fine art students view demonstrations and receive feedback through electronic communications tools and video, and they submit some assignments using Adobe Photoshop. While online programs encourage self-paced studies and scheduling flexibility, each course has specific requirements — for example, online master’s degree programs in business administration and information management have proctored mid-term and final examinations.

ACO Score: 79.78 Tuition + Fees: $17,000 Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 67%

Grand Canyon University offers several online programs to help busy working adults attain a higher education, but still maintain their personal and professional schedules. Depending on the program, distance learning students can expect to devote at least 10 to 25 hours a week to their studies and will have access to message boards, professor notes, and other course materials 24/7.

Online students can take advantage of any of the university’s 100 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Programs are available in 10 different academic areas:

  • Business & Leadership
  • Teaching & Education Administration
  • Psychology & Counseling
  • Health Care
  • Nursing
  • Theology & Youth Ministry
  • Health Sciences & Pre-Med
  • MBA & EMBA
  • Performing Arts & Digital Design
  • Liberal Arts

At GCU, which is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, online students take courses one at a time in order to gain a more in-depth and thorough understanding of concepts. At the start of each online course, students will complete a tutorial to become familiar with the online course structure. Through the university’s learning management system, students will have access to the course syllabus, staff information, discussion boards, and a digital drop for assignment submissions. There are also dedicated full-time faculty members and trained adjunct instructors available specifically to online students to help them throughout their program.

ACO Score: 79.65 Tuition + Fees: $13,230 Student-to-faculty ratio: 21:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 85%

Florida National University (FNU) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and offers 100 percent online degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. Programs are offered in a range of disciplines to help students achieve their academic and career goals, whatever they may be. Online degrees are available in fields such as accounting, education, criminal justice, legal studies, nursing, and health services administration. Most of FNU’s online programs are at the undergraduate level, but the university does offer two master’s degrees online-an MBA and a Master of Health Services Administration (HSA).

Before applying to an online program, FNU offers a questionnaire to help prospective students determine if they are ready for online learning. If students are still unsure, they can also complete a short self-assessment quiz to get instant feedback and tips.

Online courses at FNU are managed and administered through Blackboard. For those new to online learning, the college offers a face-to-face Blackboard Training Course at the Hialeah Campus and South Campus. Online students are encouraged to purchase all textbooks before their program’s start date and should also log in to class at least twice a week (any day, any time). Homework and reading assignments can be expected every week. Course instructors are available to answer questions via email, discussion board, or Blackboard messages.

ACO Score: 79.31 Tuition + Fees: $10,485 Student-to-faculty ratio: 37:1 % Undergraduate students receiving aid: 86%

At Miller-Motte College (MMC), students can choose to pursue one of many distance learning options, from certificate programs to associate and bachelor’s degrees in a variety of fields including accounting, business administration, allied health management, nursing, and paralegal. Certification training programs include CompTIA, Quickbooks 2010, and Microsoft Office Specialist 2010.

Online students can rest assured that MMC will help them successfully complete their online program. The college offers each student helpful resources and services such as advising and tutoring, career development, and various educational tools.

In order to make the best of one’s online learning experience, students should make sure they meet the college’s minimum technical requirements for distance education. This includes a high-speed Internet connection, Windows 98 or MAC 9 platform, Mozilla Firefox 1.0.2 or Internet Explorer 5.5, and basic application programs and multimedia plugins such as Microsoft Suite and Flash player 8. If students need help upgrading any software, the school states that it is available to help.

To apply, prospective students will need to contact an admissions representative or request information from the school.

The 45 Best Colleges for Online Learning

The days of online education residing solely at for-profit institutions have disappeared. In fact, many world-renown colleges and universities have extensive collections of online courses available to undergraduates, graduate students, and even to the general public via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). When examining distance-learning options at the post-secondary level, however, not every top school offers equal quality and quantity. AC Online leveraged multiple government data sets and a ton of research elbow grease to find the 45 U.S. colleges where online learning is a clear priority.

1
Fordham University
Total Cost: $42,057 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.fordham.edu

Fordham University provides a Master of Social Work degree via online coursework to students that reside in NY, NJ, or CT. The admission requirements are just as rigorous as they are for on-campus students. Students are expected to complete fieldwork, and so Fordham’s Field Instruction Department assists students in finding geographically appropriate agencies for field instruction.

2
Harvard University
Total Cost: $39,966 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.harvard.edu

Harvard University offers students distance education courses in three formats, including video courses, live web-conference courses, and hybrid courses. Hybrid courses combine an intensive weekend class on-campus with online lectures throughout the semester. Though the extension school does not offer strictly online degrees, adding online classes is an excellent way to maximize one’s Harvard education.

3
Yale University
Total Cost: $42,300 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.yale.edu

Yale University offers its students rigorous online courses throughout the summer. But, even more impressive is Yale’s commitment to making education accessible to all. Through Open Yale Courses (OYC), anyone can partake in free introductory Yale courses that are available online through video, audio and text transcript formats.

4
Columbia University in the City of New York
Total Cost: $47,246 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.columbia.edu

Columbia University now offers distance learning Master’s degrees through their School of Engineering and Applied Science, CVN, and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Many e-courses are available for enrolled undergraduates. Columbia’s website also boasts a collection of “e-seminars” which are 3-5 hour multimedia versions of offered classes, available for free to Columbia students, faculty, and staff.

5
Stanford University
Total Cost: $42,225 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.stanford.edu

Stanford University is a leader in the world of distance learning, offering online courses to enrolled students, professional certificates, and even providing free content to the public. Stanford also has online courses for high school students who are enrolled in the Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY). Ever committed to early education, Stanford also runs a fully accredited diploma-granting high school program known as the “Online High School” available to 7th-12th grade students around the world.

6
University of Chicago
Total Cost: $45,609 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.uchicago.edu

The University of Chicago is a newcomer to distance learning, but has recently added some certificate programs that can be completed entirely online. Through the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, students can now be certified in “Clinical Trials Management” and “Medical Writing and Editing” through distance learning. The school is currently planning more online courses and expects to have these available within the next couple of years.

7
Duke University
Total Cost: $43,623 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.duke.edu

Duke University has partnered with Coursera to offer an array of free online courses available to the public. Topics currently include astronomy, engineering, philosophy, human physiology, and cell biology. Duke also offers online certificate programs through their Continuing Studies department and credited summer online courses to enrolled students.

8
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Total Cost: $42,050 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: web.mit.edu/student

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recognizes that in today’s current workforce, many teams must collaborate remotely. To prepare students for these real world complications, many programs offer point-to-point video conferencing and stored lectures. These programs include the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Singapore MIT Alliance, MIT International Science and Technology Initiative, and System Design and Management.

9
University of Pennsylvania
Total Cost: $43,738 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.upenn.edu

University of Pennsylvania (PENN) has an extraordinary catalogue of online classes, with over 15 full credit courses currently offered. PENN’s distance learning also services other categories of education. PENN boasts “Open Learning,” offering free classes to the public. Penn also offers continuing education for Dental, Medical, and Nursing professionals and online English language programs for international students.

10
California Institute of Technology
Total Cost: $39,588 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.caltech.edu

California Institute of Technology (CALTECH) has pioneered the world of “Massive Open Online Courses.” The school was one of the first to offer free education via YouTube, and iTunes U. And while CALTECH already offers free, open-access courses to the public through Coursera, the school is further expanding access to a similar online learning initiative called EdX in October of 2013.

11
Johns Hopkins University
Total Cost: $43,390 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.jhu.edu

John Hopkins University offers dozens of free courses to the public through their “OpenCourseWare” website. And for their enrolled students, even more courses and certificate programs are available. John Hopkins even offers unique courses for younger students all over the world, from Pre-K to 12th grade, through their Center for Talented Youth Online curriculum.

12
Northwestern University
Total Cost: $43,779 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.northwestern.edu

Northwestern University takes distance learning seriously, even offering complete Master’s degrees through online courses. In keeping its prestigious reputation, Northwestern’s admissions standards are just as rigorous for their online students as for their on-campus students. Online certificate programs are also available in accounting, CPA preparation, and Museum Studies.

13
Brown University
Total Cost: $43,758 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.brown.edu

Brown University offers many online pre-college courses for accelerated students from grades 6-12. For the enrolled Brown student there are a variety of blended online programs for The Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership and the IE Brown Executive MBA. Blended programs combine online classes with intensive on-campus sessions.

14
Cornell University
Total Cost: $43,413 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.cornell.edu

Cornell University recognizes the importance of distance learning and has made many lectures and professors’ live chats available to the public through their open-access “Cyber Tower” website. For the enrolled student, Cornell offers summer credit-bearing courses in many disciplines. And for the professional, eCornell boasts online project-based certificate programs.

15
Vanderbilt University
Total Cost: $42,118 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.vanderbilt.edu

An early adopter of distance learning, Vanderbilt University has offered digital classes for over a decade through their School of Nursing. In 2013 the school began providing free open-access courses through Coursera. In partnership with the Nashville Public Library, the school also posts academic lectures and talks on YouTube.

16
Rice University
Total Cost: $37,292 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.rice.edu

Rice University utilizes Blackboard Collaborate to offer fully online courses that meet in virtual classrooms. Furthermore, Rice’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies provides online and hybrid certificate programs. Rice also prepares high school students through their AP Exam Prep classes online.

17
University of Notre Dame
Total Cost: $42,971 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.nd.edu

University of Notre Dame offers numerous free non-credit courses to the public through their “OpenCourseWare” initiative. For the professional, Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business provides many certificate programs complete with interactive practice sessions. Certificates available include the Executive Certificate in Negotiation, EC in Leadership and Management, EC in Business Administration, and Advanced Specialized Certificate in Intercultural Management.

18
Emory University
Total Cost: $42,980 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.emory.edu

Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health has been offering distance learning for fifteen years. This program allows busy professionals to earn a Masters level public health degree. Students must have a minimum of three years professional experience and can choose between Applied Epidemiology, Applied Public Health Informatics, and Prevention Science programs.

19
Georgetown University
Total Cost: $42,870 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.georgetown.edu

Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies gives students the ability to earn a Master’s degree in Nursing online. The coursework is combined with clinical experiences near where the student lives. For other interests, Georgetown has partnered with EdX and offers free open access online classes within a number of departments.

20
University of California-Berkeley
Total Cost: $12,874 School Type: Public Website: www.berkeley.edu

University of California – Berkeley operates the UC Berkeley Extension program that provides online courses applicable towards college credit. Programs include Art and Design, Behavioral Health Sciences, Business, Education, Humanities, Sciences, Biotechnology and Mathematics, Technology, and Writing. UCB Extension also offers courses with both, year-round continuous enrollment, and fixed date enrollment during terms.

21
Carnegie Mellon University
Total Cost: $45,760 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.cmu.edu

Carnegie Mellon University has an array of distance learning choices focused on executive and professional education such as management, entrepreneurship, business, and Computer Science. Most programs are either online, or a hybrid format of online and on-site learning. Furthermore, Carnegie Mellon supports an Open Learning Initiative where online courses are available to the public, and also to anyone who wants to teach.

22
University of California-Los Angeles
Total Cost: $12,692 School Type: Public Website: www.ucla.edu

University of California – Los Angeles supports the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science – Master of Science Online program that enables students to work on the same courses and under the same instructors as students on-campus. UCLA also boasts the UCLA Extension program that offers numerous online courses in almost every field. UCLA Extension also provides certificate programs for professionals, which are taught online via the iPad Learning Center.

23
University of Southern California
Total Cost: $44,463 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.usc.edu

University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering offers over 40 online Master’s degree programs, in addition to certificate and non-credit professional programs. In fact, Viterbi is ranked the #1 Online Graduate Engineering Program in the ’13 U.S. News and World Report findings. Furthermore, USC’s Price School also provides students the ability to earn an online Master of Public Administration degree.

24
University of Virginia-Main Campus
Total Cost: $12,216 School Type: Public Website: www.virginia.edu

University of Virginia’s School of Continuing Education offers a variety of non-credit certificate programs for professionals. Classes with course credit are also available for many graduate degrees. Master’s degrees can be earned in Physics, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering, some of which are completed entirely online and others combine online classes with intensive residencies.

25
Wake Forest University
Total Cost: $43,200 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.wfu.edu

Wake Forest University provides certificates in financial planning through an interactive online education. Wake Forest’s counseling program also has online options for earning either a Master of Arts degree in Counseling, Clinical Mental Health, School Counseling, or Human Services. Looking to the future, Wake Forest will be joining Semester Online to also offer for-credit undergraduate courses in 2014.

26
Tufts University
Total Cost: $44,666 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.tufts.edu

Tufts University offers for-credit summer online courses. These classes are taught by the same professors who teach on-campus, and with the same rigorous expectations. To further increase online education, Tufts has also joined the OpenCourseWare movement, where a plethora of free online classes are offered to the public.

27
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Total Cost: $12,994 School Type: Public Website: www.umich.edu

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor offers an online Master’s degree in engineering. US News and World Report currently rank this impressive online engineering program #5 in the country. The university has also partnered with Coursera to offer the public free access to online classes, taught by U-M professors.

28
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Total Cost: $7,693 School Type: Public Website: www.unc.edu

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill offers numerous for-credit undergraduate courses through their “Carolina Courses Online” (CCO) program. These classes are available to the public, and even available to high school seniors pending their guidance counselor’s written recommendation. Online courses are accessible during spring, fall, and an extended summer semester.

29
Boston University
Total Cost: $42,994 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.bu.edu

Offering a decade of distance learning, Boston University leads the pack of schools boasting distance education. Ranked in the top 25 schools for online learning, Boston University offers many for-credit classes in seven-week intervals. In fact, BU not only has Certificate programs, but also has online-only tracks for students to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees.

30
Brandeis University
Total Cost: $44,294 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.brandeis.edu

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies focuses on online learning for active professionals. Courses use “LATTE,” the school’s online learning environment, to guide students through Certificate or Master’s degree programs. Brandeis University is also looking to the future of online learning, and will be offering undergraduate for-credit courses via Semester Online starting in 2014.

31
New York University
Total Cost: $43,204 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.nyu.edu

New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers both Graduate and Undergraduate degree programs via the Internet. NYU’s reputation for excellence also applies to their online teachings, and therefore the admissions criteria are rigorous. NYU also offers Certificate Programs in the humanities, financial planning, and marketing, none of which require acceptance by admissions.

32
University of Rochester
Total Cost: $43,666 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.rochester.edu

University of Rochester supports many categories of distance learning. Through their School of Nursing they offer “Fast Track” courses that are 100% online, and are more affordable than on-campus classes. The Eastman School of Music provides an online “e-Theory Course” that prepares incoming freshmen for their theory placement exams. And for everyone else, the University of Rochester has partnered with Coursera to offer free online classes to the public.

33
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus
Total Cost: $10,098 School Type: Public Website: www.gatech.edu

Georgia Institute of Technology has recently increased their educational formats to include online undergraduate summer courses for enrolled students. Furthermore, in 2014 Georgia Tech will off a Master’s degree in computer science, via the Internet, at a fraction of the cost of on-campus tuition. In the spirit of MOOCs [Massive Open Online Course], the public will also be able to take the same courses, for non-credit, at no cost.

34
Case Western Reserve University
Total Cost: $40,490 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.case.edu

Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences is ranked in the top ten nationally by US News & World Report. This school now offers a Master’s of Science in Social Administration entirely online. Case Western is also partnered with Coursera to provide select classes online and at no cost to the public.

35
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
Total Cost: $16,444 School Type: Public Website: www.psu.edu

Pennsylvania State University – University Park offers 100% online classes known as “Web Courses.” For students who are interested in combining online work with on-campus work, there are also blended classes known as “Hybrid Courses.” Graduate and Undergraduate degrees can be earned entirely online through Penn State’s “World Campus” program, and are considered identical to degrees earned on-campus.

36
University of California-Davis
Total Cost: $13,877 School Type: Public Website: www.ucdavis.edu

University of California – Davis offers many online classes through UC Davis Extension. These include a variety of Certificate programs, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, Equine Event Management, Paralegal Studies, Website Design, and Winemaking. For even more flexibility, Davis offers both “Self-Paced Courses,” and scheduled “Cohort Courses.”

37
University of California-San Diego
Total Cost: $13,217 School Type: Public Website: www.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego’s Extension program brings the classroom to you via online courses. Many online classes earn continuing education credit, and can be applied towards areas of study such as Business, Digital Arts, Education, Engineering, Foreign Languages, Law, and Life Sciences. And to make education even more accessible, UC San Diego offers select online courses for free to the public.

38
Lehigh University
Total Cost: $42,220 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.lehigh.edu

Lehigh University offers online courses to enrolled students during summer sessions. These classes carry the same credit as on-campus courses and also cost equivalent in tuition fees. In the spirit of continuing education, Lehigh University offers free online professional development courses to their alumni.

39
University of California-Santa Barbara
Total Cost: $13,671 School Type: Public Website: www.ucsb.edu

University of California – Santa Barbara now offers many summer classes for enrolled undergraduate students that can be completed entirely online. These classes include History of Dance, Biochemistry, Living with Global Warming, and Probability and Statistics. Note that some classes involve proctored exams, though numerous proctoring locations can be found outside of campus.

40
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Total Cost: $10,378 School Type: Public Website: www.wisc.edu

Through University of Wisconsin’s “eCampus” program, distance learners can graduate from UW– Madison with the same degrees and certificates earned by those students on-campus. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, UW’s eCampus classes are taught by the same UW professors found in the classrooms. Note that some degrees mandate an annual week long residency on-campus.

41
University of Miami
Total Cost: $41,220 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.miami.edu

University of Miami offers their enrolled students a variety of courses, for both credit-earning undergraduates and non-credit earning continuing education. These classes include Calculus, English Composition, Genetics and Society, Screenwriting, and many more. Miami also allows high school students to earn credits towards college via their online courses.

42
Northeastern University
Total Cost: $40,086 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.northeastern.edu

Northeastern University offers over sixty online programs, including Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even Doctoral degrees. Fully accredited, Northeastern’s online degrees are equivalent to the degrees earned on-campus. Furthermore, online students can receive the same financial assistance as on-campus students.

43
The University of Texas at Austin
Total Cost: $9,790 School Type: Public Website: www.utexas.edu

University of Texas – Austin’s Extension program offers nearly fifty self-paced online classes with up to five months given to complete coursework. These classes earn credit, are transferable to other institutions, and do not require UT admission. For those students who work best with more structure, UT Austin also offers online courses that follow the semester schedule.

44
Pepperdine University
Total Cost: $42,772 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.pepperdine.edu

Pepperdine University is one of the few prestigious schools that offer Doctorate degrees via online coursework. Students can earn a Doctor of Education in Learning Technologies through the 55-unit program. This program involves formal research, a dissertation, and five intensive on-campus meetings per year.

45
University of Connecticut
Total Cost: $11,242 School Type: Public Website: www.uconn.edu

With over a hundred online classes available, University of Connecticut’s “eCampus” boasts a huge selection of undergraduate and graduate courses. Fully accredited, the UConn credits earned are transferable and are identical to those credits earned on-campus. In fact, the same esteemed UConn faculty found in the on-campus classrooms teaches the online courses.

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Best Colleges Revolutionizing Online Education

The fact that avid learners can find just about any course online is amazing in itself. Perhaps more amazing, the distance-learning landscape continues to evolve as far and as fast as the technology it uses. Colleges and universities across the nation routinely invent new ways to engage, assess and teach students at multiple levels. But which schools are taking the biggest leaps forward - distancing themselves from the pack in either method or mode, or both? AC Online has researched thousands of colleges in the U.S. to answer that very question. Here's what we found.

1
Tufts University
Total Cost: $44,666 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.tufts.edu

Tufts University offers a revolutionary online course called “Simple Robotics” to enrolled and visiting students. In this course, students are loaned the tools necessary to build and program robots at home. Assignments include uploading videos of the robots and sharing projects with their cohort.

2
Washington University in St Louis
Total Cost: $43,705 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.wustl.edu

Washington University in St. Louis has the unique distinction of offering one of the only top-tier law degrees that can be earned entirely online. Prospective students must pass the same rigorous admissions standards as on-campus law students. However, once they’ve completed the program, they earn an identical diploma.

3
Wellesley College
Total Cost: $42,082 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.wellesley.edu

Wellesley College offers “Introduction to Human Evolution,” a free open-access Anthropology course through EdX that relies on cutting-edge technology to create a virtual excavation. Students are able to examine 3-D fossils and “virtually” visit archeological sites around the world.

4
University of Florida
Total Cost: $6,143 School Type: Public Website: www.ufl.edu

With over one hundred online programs offered, University of Florida is committed to online learning, with credited undergraduate and graduate courses, in addition to non-credit professional development classes. In fact, their online business MBA program is ranked #1 in the state. Looking to the future, University of Florida plans on opening the country’s first online-only public university in 2014.

5
Berklee College of Music
Total Cost: $36,490 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.berklee.edu

Berklee College of Music offers a twelve-week Jazz Improvisation course with Grammy winning musician, Gary Burton. Using audio recording equipment, students can turn in assignments and gain feedback on their improvisation work via the Internet. This course can be taken for credit or non-credit.

6
Clarkson College
Total Cost: $12,562 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.clarksoncollege.edu

Clarkson College provides many online degrees, and even offers dual degree choices. But, what sets Clarkson apart is the “externships” that the Nursing programs rely on for field experience. With a majority of online students holding employment while enrolled, Clarkson encourages them to complete their externships while they work.

7
Princeton University
Total Cost: $39,537 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.princeton.edu

Princeton University boasts a free, open-access class, via Coursera called “Networks: Friends, Money, and Bytes” that explores technology and networking. Structured around twenty commonly asked questions about the internet, this course has a rare added element of involving venture capitalists to judge assignments for potential funding.

8
The New School
Total Cost: $39,368 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.newschool.edu

The New School in New York City now offers transfer students and those that have let a few years lapse in their educational pursuits, earn a bachelor’s degree online. Through their New School for Public Engagement nontraditional students can even enroll in a combined and accelerated Bachelors-Master’s degree.

9
Washington State University
Total Cost: $12,300 School Type: Public Website: wsu.edu

Washington State University is leading the way in online education regarding healthy food. Washington offers the nations’ first undergraduate certificate in “Organic Agriculture” in order to prepare students for future employment within the organic food industry.

10
Michigan State University
Total Cost: $12,622 School Type: Public Website: www.msu.edu

Michigan State University offers a Master of Science in Packaging degree that can be earned through online classes. The program focuses on topics such as tamper evident packaging, permeability, and shelf life. This course can be completed in approximately three years and does not require a thesis.

11
Utica College
Total Cost: $31,930 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.utica.edu

Utica College provides enrolled students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Economic Crime Investigation through their online courses. The only online BS Economic Crime Investigation program in the country, students have a further choice of two concentrations, Financial Investigation or Fraud Prevention and Detection.

12
Purdue University-Main Campus
Total Cost: $9,900 School Type: Public Website: www.purdue.edu

Purdue’s “Extended Campus” offers distance learning through a variety of master’s level online programs. Graduate programs include Master of Science in Building Construction Management, Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Master of Science in Industrial Engineering. Purdue even offers dual degrees, in collaboration with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business to offer a Dual Master of Science in Engineering- Master of Business Administration.

13
Ferris State University
Total Cost: $10,354 School Type: Public Website: www.ferris.edu

Ferris State University boasts the #1 ranked online Nursing program in the country according to US News and World Report. A public institution, these graduate level programs are 100% online and specialize in Nursing Administration, Nursing Informatics, or Nursing Education.

14
Daytona State College
Total Cost: $3,371 School Type: Public Website: www.DaytonaState.edu

Daytona State College offers many associate degrees and certificate programs online. But, what sets Daytona State apart is the 2+2 track for students earning an online Bachelor of Science degree. Students can complete an associate of science degree via distance learning, and then continue to baccalaureate degree courses, all via the Internet.

15
Pace University-New York
Total Cost: $36,614 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.pace.edu

Pace University has been ranked the best Online Bachelors Program in the country by US News & World Report. Through their iPace Degree Completion Program students can gain the same degree online as the on-campus students earn. Pace also provides their online students with a Career Services team to develop interviewing skills and a strong resume.

16
Yeshiva University
Total Cost: $36,500 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.yu.edu

Yeshiva University now provides students the ability to earn a Master’s degree in Jewish education online. Note that students must have access to an approved Jewish day school or yeshiva to complete student teaching requirements. Yeshiva also offers a thirty weeks long online program for Jewish educators to learn how to teach and design their own online learning environments.

17
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago
Total Cost: N/A School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.thechicagoschool.edu

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is a not-for-profit accredited graduate school that offers Master’s degrees in Psychology to students earning credits online. The school offers many concentrations including Child and Adolescent, Sport and Exercise, Organizational Leadership, and Gerontology. Note: Applicants must already have a Bachelor’s degree and at least five years of relevant work experience.

18
Western Governors University
Total Cost: $6,070 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.wgu.edu

Western Governors University is the first exclusively online university to offer an accredited Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). Using a competency –based approach instead of accumulated credit hours, Western Governors is changing educational formats.

19
University of California-Irvine
Total Cost: $13,122 School Type: Public Website: www.uci.edu

The University of California, Irvine provides many online courses through UC Irvine Extension, their continuing education unit. In fact, more than 40 of Extension’s certificate programs, such as Investor Relations, Medical Product Development, and Personal Financial Planning, are completely online. UC Irvine is dedicated to accessible education, and its director of OpenCourseWare is the current president of the global OpenCourseWare Consortium. The school offers unique classes, such as a course based on AMC’s “The Walking Dead” TV show.

20
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Total Cost: $14,740 School Type: Public Website: www.njit.edu

New Jersey Institute of Technology offers many degrees and certificates online, such as Construction Management, Data Mining, and Engineering Leadership. Significant is NJIT’s tuition for these online classes. New Jersey residents can pay in-state tuition, and all other students can avoid out-of-state tuition via the new online tuition pricing.

21
The University of Tennessee
Total Cost: $9,092 School Type: Public Website: www.tennessee.edu

The University of Tennessee Extension – Department of Family and Consumer Sciences offers a unique online program called “Love Your Money” for students to explore personal finance. Topics include 401k programs, identity theft, and building wealth. Free and open to the public, the University of Tennessee is supporting open access education.

22
Ohio State University-Main Campus
Total Cost: $10,037 School Type: Public Website: www.osu.edu

Ohio State University recognizes the importance of flexibility for online students and so their Fisher College of Business offers classes in colored “Belt” certification levels. These tracks allow the student full control over schedule, progress, and on-demand access to all multi-media course content.

23
Clemson University
Total Cost: $12,674 School Type: Public Website: www.clemson.edu

Clemson University boasts an eight-week online course titled, “Sustainable Energy Innovation” that asserts it gives students the chance to change the course of history. The assignments are built around the development of students’ sustainable energy solutions.

24
Southern Methodist University
Total Cost: $41,750 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.smu.edu

Southern Methodist University is broadening its educational reach by offering approved enrolled students a chance to participate in live, online courses from other prestigious universities. SMU, a pioneer in this format, is a Charter Affiliate Partner with Semester Online. The classes will be taught via other universities, but are awarded as SMU credits.

25
University of Georgia
Total Cost: $9,842 School Type: Public Website: www.uga.edu

University of Georgia has instituted a revolutionary way of transitioning non-traditional students into their collegiate careers. Through their electronic core-curriculum [eCore] students can complete their first two years of coursework via online learning. With transferable credits, low tuition rates, and flexibility, eCore is an innovative educational format.

26
Syracuse University
Total Cost: $39,004 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: syr.edu

Syracuse University has been a part of the online education movement from the inception. In fact, their School of Information Studies has been offering online courses for twenty years. The “iSchool” program offers identical degrees as those earned on-campus, and access to the “WISE” consortium, which allows students to take classes from other partner schools.

27
Texas A & M University-College Station
Total Cost: $8,506 School Type: Public Website: www.tamu.edu

Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension program offers many online certificate programs for busy professionals. But what makes this program even more unique is a system that allows employers to verify earned certificates. Through the website, employers can confirm certificates by entering a certificate code.

28
University of Minnesota-Duluth
Total Cost: $12,785 School Type: Public Website: www.d.umn.edu

University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education recognizes that learning is a lifelong endeavor. To support continuous education, Minnesota offers residents, who are 62 and older, the ability to audit classes free of charge. If the enrolled senior would like to earn credit, tuition is reduced to $10 per credit.

29
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Total Cost: $10,923 School Type: Public Website: www.vt.edu

Virginia Tech is a leader in online education, offering a staggering 356 courses online. Just as impressive is the 79 entire programs that can be completed via the Internet. But the most revolutionary element of Virginia Tech’s online format is the “Math Emporium.” Virginia Tech’s largest classroom, where 8,000 students a year complete self-paced online introductory math classes.

30
Graceland University-Lamoni
Total Cost: $22,680 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.graceland.edu

Graceland University is dedicated to early education that is exemplified in their ACE program for approved 11th and 12th grade high school students to earn college credit through online classes. In fact, ACE students are given automatic acceptance into Graceland University and up to a 50% discount on tuition.

31
Harvard University
Total Cost: $39,966 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.harvard.edu

Harvard University has partnered with EdX to offer free, open-access courses online. One of these groundbreaking programs includes a course called “Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science” where scientists and chefs work together to explore scientific principles that can be examined in the kitchen.

32
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Total Cost: $13,073 School Type: Public Website: www.rutgers.edu

Rutgers University, offering one of the first “iSchool” programs, is continuing to revolutionize online learning. Rutgers Center for Management Development now provides the first ever online “Mini-MBA” program, with unique courses such as “pay-per-click” advertising classes.

33
University of Vermont
Total Cost: $15,284 School Type: Public Website: www.uvm.edu

University of Vermont is leading the green movement with 100% online Sustainability Training certificate programs. These courses concentrate on sustainability in business settings, and also in Campus Operations.

34
University of Colorado Boulder
Total Cost: $9,482 School Type: Public Website: www.colorado.edu

University of Colorado – Boulder’s Center for the Advanced Engineering and Technology Education (CAETE) offers a pioneering program teaching “Cable-Supported Pedestrian Bridge Design” via the Internet. Providing this type of course to online students, CU is empowering those in developing and rural populations, and teaching them how to build access within their community.

35
Drexel University
Total Cost: $36,090 School Type: Private not-for-profit Website: www.drexel.edu

Drexel University offers a variety of undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and certificate programs through online learning. However, it is Drexel’s Educational Partnerships program that sets it apart from other institutions. Drexel currently works with over 250 corporations, schools, and professional associations to offer their employees and members reduced tuition rates.

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Finding the Best Online Colleges for You

For years, distance learning stood on the fringes of formal education. Working professionals enrolled mostly at for-profit institutions, or, when available, took correspondence classes from the few colleges that gave the option. Most students were over 30, married and looking for a specific career-focused credential (“The Home Study Inheritance,” Lambert, 2000).

The growth of broadband Internet and mobile technology quickly opened distance learning to a larger post-secondary student population. Colleges and universities of all types began to add online classes to their curriculum, followed soon by full-fledged degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The average distance learner became younger, more diverse, and motivated by a wider range of college and career goals. In Fall 2002, an estimated 578,000 students enrolled in at least one online class. Ten years later, the number topped seven million (“Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States – 2013,” Sloan-C, 2013).

With so many distance-learning options now available, finding the best online colleges can be a tough task. What makes an online college great? How do today’s online colleges differ and why? Which one is right for you? The following article addresses these questions, and looks at institutions of higher learning that continue to raise the bar when it comes to online education.

Which Types of Colleges Offer Online Programs?

Once a landscape dominated by for-profits, hundreds of community colleges, public universities, private non-profits and faith-based institutions have developed extensive online catalogs. Academic options range from introductory certificates and associate degrees to professional degrees and doctorates. Let’s take a look at how these types of institutions compare, and the primary benefits they bring to online learners.

Community Colleges

Online learning benefits: Diversity and cost. These two-year schools offer a variety of academic options, with many students falling into one of three categories: (1) those who want to explore college education at its most basic level, (2) those looking for a cost-effective way to earn credits before transferring to a four-year school, and (3) those who wish to earn a career-focused certificate or degree.

This diverse student body calls for a wider variety of class and learning mode options. In many cases, this means more online courses and degree programs available to students. And because it’s a community college, the cost remains relatively low in comparison to universities.

Public Colleges and Universities

Online learning benefits: Program breadth, support, cost. The most popular post-secondary option in the U.S., public colleges have the largest student populations and usually the widest range of academic options. They also boast extensive human and technological resources to facilitate learning on multiple levels and in myriad learning modes.

Therefore, many public universities have more online learning options — from introductory 100-level courses to those at the doctorate level. Near-24/7 tech support and other resources also make it easier for online students to get help when needed. And while more expensive than their community college counterparts, the cost of an online course or degree program often runs less than those at private institutions.

Private, Non-Profit Institutions

Online learning benefits: Personal attention, specialization, academic rigor. Many private, non-profit institutions offer students a more personal academic experience, even when studying online. For some colleges, lesson plans revolve around a certain faith or focus, which allows students to interact with professors and peers with similar ideals or goals. For other colleges, academic rigor takes center stage. Universities such as Harvard and MIT have world-class online degree programs that rival their campus offerings.

Private, For-Profit Colleges

Online learning benefits: Experience, support. Private for-profits have experience on their side. Each year, hundreds of thousands of students enroll in their programs seeking a certificate or degree. Many of these schools have time-tested support systems and processes designed to help first-time online learners acclimate to the virtual classroom. They can, however, be more expensive than other distance learning options. Before enrolling at a private, for-profit college or university, make sure the price point works for you, and that the institution has proper accreditation.

Is an Online College or Degree Program Right for You?

It seems like everyone is taking an online class nowadays, but should you? Read the following questions before enrolling in (or even considering) a distance-learning program. If you answer “yes” to at least six, online education may be a good move.

  1. Do you have access to a computer and Internet connection?
  2. Can you work independently with little direction?
  3. Are you comfortable with simple technologies, including email and word processing?
  4. Are you motivated to succeed?
  5. Do you have solid communication skills, especially in writing?
  6. Do you have a high school diploma or GED?
  7. Are you comfortable participating in online discussion?
  8. Can you work on a computer multiple hours per day?

So What Are the Best Online Colleges?

Simply put, the best online college depends on the student. Each learner has a unique set of wants and needs that dictates his or her ideal academic environment. A student looking for a cost-effective introduction to online learning may find a community college the best option. Conversely, one with eyes on world-class distance learning at the doctorate level may feel a top private university to be the best choice. It’s all about perspective.