The following list of 54 affordable online colleges comprises some of the premier universities in the country, specializing in online education as a medium to deliver relevant coursework. Given today's global economy, the importance of being able to work virtually is imperative, and gaining one's education online will only become more common over time. Choose the right school for you.
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Founded in 1960, California State University, Dominguez Hills has the largest distance learning program in California, with more than 4,000 students enrolled worldwide. Named by “Forbes” magazine as one of the top online colleges, CSUDH offers students opportunities to complete their bachelor degrees, earn graduate degrees and professional certificates, advance their careers, and complete hundreds of courses broadcast on TV and streaming online. Online master’s degrees are available in humanities, business administration, public administration, negotiation/conflict resolution and peacekeeping, quality assurance, and nursing; bachelor’s degrees are offered in applied studies, nursing, and quality assurance.
Bellevue University, founded in 1966, offers a Ph.D. in Human Capital Management along with a wide range of more than 50 undergraduate programs to a student body of 16,000. Bellevue’s online college programs were ranked among the Top 10 in the 2013 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report.
Begun as a high school in In 1908, Cameron University grew into a diverse college offering more than 50 programs leading to associate’s, bachelor and master’s degrees — all with a focus on small class size. Online college degrees are offered in interdisciplinary studies and organizational leadership; online graduate degrees include an MBA.
Founded in 1879, Sam Houston State University offers over 80 bachelor’s degree programs and 56 post-graduate degree (master’s and doctoral) programs. The university received top honors from U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 rankings for its online bachelor’s degree programs, online graduate Education programs, online graduate Computer Information Technology programs, and online graduate Business programs.
The University of Tennessee at Martin, founded in 1900, is home to UT Online, offering distance undergraduate and graduate degrees for the University of Tennessee system. The university’s graduate secondary licensure program made the National Council on Teacher Quality Prep Review honor roll released in June by U.S.News & World Report. Also, U.S. News named the university’s online business program earlier this year as one of the top-10 best online graduate business programs in 2013
Founded in 1884 as the Louisiana State Normal School, Northwestern State University of Louisiana serves its 9,000 students with more than 50 online college degrees. More than 30 fully accredited degree programs are offered online at the associate’s, bachelor, master’s and specialist levels.
Founded in 1963, the University of South Alabama is the only higher educational institution of the upper Gulf Coast, serving nearly 15,000 students. It is host to the Pat Capps Covey College of Allied Health Professions, Mitchell College of Business, School of Nursing and Auburn University School of Pharmacy. USA offers 250 online college courses each semester and degree programs in nursing, education, information technology and special education.
New Mexico State University is known for academic excellence and diversity, offering a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degrees. The school holds the distinctions of a being a Hispanic-serving institution and a NASA Space Grant College. The university is ranked in the top-tier of Best National Universities by U.S. News and World Report. NMSU online college degree programs run throughout the calendar year.
Columbus State University, founded in 1958, has been ranked among the Top Universities in the South by US News & World Report, and is a top choice for online college. Its online graduate education programs were ranked best for 2013 and were recognized for arts, education, business and nursing. The music department received the Regents Teaching Excellence Award for Departments and Programs.
The American Public University System, founded in 1991, received national accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council in 1995. Today it offers over 1,500 courses comprising 70 majors for undergrad and graduate students. Online college degrees are offered through the School of Arts and Humanities, School of Business, School of Education, School of Public Service and Health, School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and School of Security and Global Studies.
Florida International University was Miami’s first public research university and remains the only one, offering undergraduate, post-graduate and professional degrees to its more than 50,000 students. Hallmarks include FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the School of Computing and Information Sciences’ Discovery Lab. Online college degrees are available in communication, business administration, criminal justice, education, and nursing.
Cited by the Princeton Review as ‘one of the best overall bargains – based on cost and financial aid–’, the University of West Georgia offers online degrees in education, nursing, criminology, computer science, and business. With low student-teacher ratios, UWG offers degrees entirely through online college or in a hybrid setting. Graduate online degree programs feature majors in education/media, music, applied computer science, nursing, and an MBA.
East Carolina University awards bachelor, master’s and doctoral degrees, offering small class sizes and an 18/1 student-faculty ratio for undergraduates. The university is home to the largest nurse education program in the state and the online nursing program is among the top online college degrees in the country.
Troy University, founded in 1887 as the Troy State Normal School, was a teacher’s college for 30 years, and finally became Troy University in 2006. Students can choose among 46 bachelor degree majors and 22 master’s degrees from its online college. The university’s eTROY system offers an associate degree program in general education, 12 majors leading to a bachelor degree, and 14 master’s degree programs.
North Carolina State has garnered an international reputation for excellence in mathematics, technology and engineering. Founded in 1889, NC State spends more than $325 million each year on sponsored faculty and graduate student research. Fifty online college programs are available for undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees, teacher licenses and certifications.
Founded as the Southeast Missouri State Normal School in 1873, Southeast Missouri State University currently serves its 10,800 students with more than 200 study areas, including programs at its specialized campus for music and theatre, dance and art. Popular online college programs lead to undergrad degrees in business, technology, nursing, criminal justice, with graduate degrees in business administration, technology management, elementary education and criminal justice.
Students can choose among more than 100 academic programs offered at Pittsburg State University‘s Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and Technology colleges. With a student/faculty ratio of 19-to-1, PSU provides excellent mentoring opportunities to its 7,000 students. Online college degree programs are offered in engineering technology, health science, history, nursing, teaching, and workforce development.
University of Memphis was founded in 1912 as West Tennessee State Normal School. Today, more than 22,000 students pursue bachelor degrees in more than 250 fields, master’s degrees in 55 majors, and in 23 disciplines leading to a doctoral degree. Popular online college degree fields include business, communications and information technology.
Detroit’s Wayne State University was founded in 1868. Today it offers its 29,000 students more than 370 undergraduate and graduate degree programs at 13 schools. Minorities comprise more than 41 percent of the student body. Students can earn online college degrees from the School of Business Administration, College of Education, School of Library and Information Sciences, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and the School of Social Work.
Forbes ranked Utah State University first in the state and in the top five nationally in its list of America’s Best College Buys (2011). Founded on March 8, 1888, USU’s science programs draw students from around the globe and the Space Dynamics Laboratory has rocketed more student experiments into space than any other university program. The university offers 18 online college degrees and programs.
Fort Hays State University, located mid-way between Denver and Kansas City, offers associate, bachelor, master’s degree and certificate programs to its 13,000 students. Popular online college programs offered through the Fort Hays State Virtual College include bachelor degrees in business, education, information technology, justice studies, management, and nursing; with master’s programs including business (MBA), counseling, education leadership, nursing, and special education.
Arizona State University is ranked in the top-100 world universities by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and 45th in the nation for contribution to the public good by Washington Monthly. More than a third of all students are first-generation scholars. ASU offers online college degree programs in fields including the arts, business, communication, criminal justice, engineering, social sciences, health sciences, IT, nursing, foreign languages, and education.
Old Dominion University was founded in 1930 as the Norfolk Division of The College of William and Mary. Ranked the Best Southeastern College by The Princeton Review, ODU offers 66 bachelor programs and 97 graduate and post graduate degrees. ODU also offers online college degree programs in business, communications, computer science, education, engineering, nursing and social sciences.
Founded in 1875, Park University serves more than 22,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Students can complete degrees by attending classes at the flagship campus in Parkville, Mo., at one of its 39 other campus centers across the country or online. Park’s undergrad online college majors include business administration, management, education studies, interdisciplinary studies, information and computer science, organizational communication, geography, criminal justice administration, public administration, psychology, social psychology and sociology.
Founded in 1863 as Kansas State Normal — the state’s premier institution to educate teachers — Emporia State University offers 42 undergraduate and 27 graduate degrees in the School of Business, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Library and Information Management and The Teachers College. SLIM also offers a Ph.D. program. Emporia State is ranked as a Tier 1 Top 100 Regional University in the 2013 edition of “Best Colleges” compiled by U.S. News & World Report. The publication also cited the School of Business as a best value for both in-state and out-of-state students and ranked the online graduate education program in the Top 100 programs in the nation, making it a top online college choice.
Serving more than 21,100 students across four campuses, Western Kentucky University has been recognized for its programs in education, engineering, business and communications. WKU Online offers more than 60 online college degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students, with 1,000 web-based courses each year.
Stony Brook University is renowned for co-managing the Brookhaven National Laboratory in partnership with Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Princeton and the University of California. Founded in 1957, Stony Brook is ranked in the top one-percent of world universities by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Located in Aberdeen, SD, Northern State University was established in 1857. Northern offers 19 certificate programs, eight associate degrees, 41 bachelor degrees, and nine graduate degree programs to its 3,580 students. For online college students, NSU provides two associate’s degrees, six bachelor degrees, and six master’s degree programs.
Stephen F. Austin State University was founded as a teachers’ college in 1923 and today has grown to offer online college degree options in more than 80 undergraduate majors, 60 graduate fields, and three PhD programs. SFA is an independent public university in Texas with a 20:1 student/faculty ratio. Online programs are available at the undergraduate level in education, nursing, and agriculture, with graduate degree programs in education.
Founded in in 1906, the University of Florida today is home to nearly 50,000 students spread across 16 colleges and 900 buildings. Its distinguished faculty includes 28 members who have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, or the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Online college degrees are offered at the bachelor, master’s, doctorate and specialist levels through the College of Education, College of Public Health, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, College of Business Administration, and College of Veterinary Medicine.
Bemidji State University is on western shore of Lake Bemidji, situated on a north woods campus. Named a top-tier Midwest university by U.S. News and World Report, BSU serves 5,000 undergrad and more than 300 graduate students. Its Center for Extended Learning, founded in 1973, offers online college degrees in fields that include accounting, technology, nursing, engineering, education, criminal justice, and business administration.
Lee University was founded as a Christ-centered private college at Cleveland, TN in 1918. Students enjoy a student/teacher ratio of 17:1 and The Princeton Review has ranked Lee University in the “Top Tier — Best Colleges”. Online courses include history, pastoral studies, psychology, theology, general studies and computer information systems.
University of Southern Indiana, founded in 1965 in Evansville, serves its nearly 11,000 students by offering 70 majors for undergrads, 10 degrees at the master’s level and one doctoral program. The university offers continuing education, workforce development and non-credit courses online. Popular online education courses are in leadership, HR certification, project management, Six Sigma management, business, and paralegal studies.
Minot State University, founded in 1913, offers undergraduate degrees from its College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and College of Education. Post-graduate programs in criminal justice, management, and special education have produced the greatest number of graduates. The Minot State University Center for Extended Learning offers online courses in accounting, business administration, criminal justice, economics, education, and nursing.
Founded in 1883, the University of North Dakota offers nearly 50 online college programs, including bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees as well as graduate certificates. For most online programs, students are charged the in-state tution rate regardless of their actual residency status. Ranked in the 2012 Guide to Online Schools as one of the top military-friendly and top nonprofit online schools in the country, UND offers online programs in the areas of business, nursing, education, engineering, psychology, public administration, communication, social work and more.
Founded in Beaumont in 1923, Lamar University currently serves over 14,000 students with more than 100 academic programs designed for bachelor, master’s and doctoral degrees. Programs are offered on campus and through Lamar’s nationally recognized online college. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has designated Lamar as a Doctoral Research University.
Westfield State University is called “The People’s College” in recognition of its commitment since 1838 to be a co-educational college without economic or cultural barriers to education. It is ranked in the Top Tier category in the latest US News & World Report’s 2013 “Best Colleges”. US News & World Reports also recognized Westfield’s PLATO online college learning system among the Top Online Programs for 2012.
Ball State University has roots back to 1918, but today is known for its online master’s degree in nursing and campus programs in architecture, education, entrepreneurship, telecommunications, and landscape architecture. The university offers more than 180 undergraduate majors and over 100 major fields for graduate-degree students. Choose from online college and hybrid learning programs leading to degrees, certificates and professional licenses.
Florida State University excels in arts and sciences across 16 colleges that offer 275 degrees at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral fields — as well hosting a medical school and law school. With educational roots dating back to 1823, Tallahassee’s FSU is recognized for its National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and marine research programs. More than 40 post-graduate degree and certification programs are available through its online college.
Colorado State University in Fort Collins, a doctoral-granting research university, was founded in 1870 as the state’s land-grant institution. Colorado State has been consistently recognized as one of the top public universities in the United States for its outstanding education and affordability. CSU offers 5 undergraduate degree completion and more than 30 graduate degree programs online and at a distance through OnlinePlus, a division of the University that combines the academic excellence of CSU with high-quality, flexible learning. Online college programs are taught by CSU faculty and carry the same regional accreditation and reputation of the university’s world-class campus degree programs.
University of Illinois at Springfield serves its 5,000 students with 23 undergraduate, 20 master’s degree, and one doctoral degree program. The average class size is 15. Popular online college degrees include business, computer science, mathematics, English and history. Graduate major fields include computer science, environmental studies, public health, teacher leadership, legal studies and management information systems.
Founded in Mount Pleasant in 1892, Central Michigan University has become a doctoral research university and the fourth-largest college in the state. It is renowned for its Global Campus unit, its online college, which has graduated 70,000 students from undergraduate, graduate and certification programs.
Offering distance education since 1902, the University of Northern Colorado began providing its online college degree programs more than a decade ago. Unique online bachelor degrees are offered in American Sign Language, nursing, and sociology. An extensive online graduate degree program features majors in nursing, teaching, special education, sports coaching, educational leadership, and criminal justice.
Founded in 1895, Graceland University is a private liberal arts university offering more than 50 undergraduate degrees and six master’s degrees. The university’s online Master of Education in Quality Schools program received the USDLA Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning Programming, encouraging the development of five online college Master of Education programs at the school.
Peirce College began developing courses for working adults in Philadelphia back in 1865. Accelerated learning programs enable students to complete an associate degree in as little as 18 months and a bachelor degree in as little as two years. Top-demand online college degree programs in business, healthcare, information technology and paralegal studies can be completed without any in-person classes.
Founded in 1869, The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is a leading teaching institution listed five straight years in the top 50 public universities in U.S. News and World Report’s annual America’s Best Colleges. The first college west of the Mississippi to develop a graduate degree program, UNL today considers its PhD and professional degree programs a key component in fulfilling its educational mission. Online college programs lead to undergrad and graduate degrees and a special online program for high school students for college credit is among popular offerings.
The W. A. Franke College of Business draws many entrepreneurial and management students to Northern. NAU offers online college degrees in fields including business, communication, technology, engineering, health professions, mathematics and humanities.
University of Alabama at Huntsville serves its 7,700 students with more than 70 online college degree programs for undergrads and post-graduate students at five colleges: Business, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Nursing, Science, and Graduate Studies. The College of Nursing online graduate program was selected among the top 20 in U.S. News’ 2013 America’s Best Online Education Programs.
Founded in 1906 in Statesboro, Georgia Southern University today serves students with 117 academic majors at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels. U.S. News & World Report’s Top Online Education Programs honored GSU’s online college programs in business, nursing, education, and information technology, ranking them among the nation’s best.
Brenau University was founded in 1878 in Gainesville as the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary. Ranked among the 15-best college values in the South by US News & World Report (2012), Brenau offers undergraduate and graduate programs in campus and online formats. Online majors lead to degrees in accounting, business, gerontology, nursing, human resources management and organizational leaderships.
A Catholic and Franciscan institution, Madonna University was founded in Livonia, MI in 1937. Today the university offers programs with 100 undergraduate majors, 35 master’s degree fields, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Its online offerings include certificate training programs in healthcare, business, IT, management, media and trades. There are 300 six-week online courses available all year.
Established in 1899 as the Western Illinois Normal and Training School, Western Illinois University today serves more than 12,000 students with undergraduate, graduate, pre-professional and certificate programs and a doctorate in education. The student/faculty ratio is 15:1. Top online programs are a bachelor in general studies, masters’ of science in education and technology, and a national fire academy curriculum.
Oakland University, founded in 1959, offers more than 130 bachelor degree programs and more than 120 graduate degree and certificates programs. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has ranked Oakland as a doctoral, research-intensive university. Blended and completely online programs are available at the undergrad, master’s, doctoral, education specialist and professional certification levels.
Established in 1902 in Joliet, IL, the University of St. Francis is a Roman Catholic Church-affiliated school serving 3,400 students with a uniquely small student/faculty ratio of 12:1. An online business class was first offered in 1998 and recently U.S. News & World Report ranked the university’s current 129 online courses among the best in the nation.
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Affordable online colleges can be difficult to find. Many students search for the best affordable online colleges, but have a difficult time discerning which sources of data can be used to choose the right fit for them.
AC Online has put together a resource list of the top affordable online colleges. You can see our list of 54 schools above.