Colorado Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2015

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Colorado features 134 schools of higher education, with nearly 540,000 enrolled in certificate or degree programs in 2012. The state’s collection of educational opportunities ranks it 20th nationally in number of colleges and 20th in number of college students. Its wide range of post-secondary institutions also gives students numerous options for pursuing a higher education:

College Type Number in Colorado
Private for-profit 49
Public 31
Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation) 11
Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation) 5

Top Cities in Colorado for College Education

Large urban areas in Colorado house the biggest number of colleges and college students. However, many colleges are also located in some of the small and mid-sized cities in the state. The following lists rank the higher education opportunities in Colorado by city:

Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)

  • Denver (100,000)
  • Colorado Springs (87,400)
  • Westminster (37,000)
  • Boulder (31,000)
  • Fort Collins (28,400)

Cities with the Most Colleges (Total)

  • Denver (33)
  • Colorado Springs (22)
  • Aurora (13)
  • Lakewood (8)
  • Boulder (7)

Higher Education in Denver, Colorado

Standing at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is home to 32 universities, colleges and post-secondary trade schools. In this highly educated metro, 42.2 percent of all residents aged 25 and older have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. Denver colleges and universities serve a combined student body of 70,570 with an excellent range of undergraduate and graduate degree options at nationally recognized institutions.

Denver’s Auraria Campus is a downtown complex serving the four-year University of Colorado, Denver (UCD), the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the two-year Community College of Denver. UCD is Colorado’s largest research university and is ranked among the top 200 national universities by U.S. News and World Report. Offering the 132 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, UCD has gained high rankings and recognition for its nursing and School of Medicine programs coordinated with the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. The Community College of Denver has more than 200 partnerships with businesses in the city and offers more than 100 certificate and associate degree programs.

Digital Denver: Online Schools and Universities

Students with heavy work and family obligations can still complete professional certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees online. There’s no waiting for the snowplow to arrive to commute to campus. More than 65 colleges, universities and private schools offer online degree programs in Colorado. In Denver, UCD was among the first universities in the nation to offer online degrees in 1996. The university’s CU Online has grown to offer 18 degree programs along with 12 professional certificates entirely online. Popular programs include an online MBA, nursing (RN, RN to BSN, Master’s and PhD), and Specialist License: Early Childhood Special Education. U.S. News ranks the university’s online graduate nursing programs 10th in the nation.

Regis University, a Jesuit institution in Denver, offers 16 undergraduate degree programs, 25 graduate degrees, and 25 professional certificates entirely in an online format through its College of Professional Studies. The Regis College for Health Professions offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates through the Loretto Heights School of Nursing, School of Physical Therapy, and Division of Health Services Administration.

Online Learning in Colorado

Colleges in Colorado have recognized the need for flexibility in higher education, and responded by adding distance learning courses to traditional course line-ups. The result is that students now have more online learning options than ever before for earning certificates and degrees. These online programs come from public colleges, private not-for-profit colleges, religious colleges and for-profit institutions. For example, CU Online from the University of Colorado is proud of its three-pronged approach to distance learning: flexible degree options, extensive student support and excellent faculty training. CU Online has 23 online and hybrid degree programs available, as well as 15 certificates. Featured majors include business, engineering, nursing, health care and education.

Paying for College: Tuition and Cost of Living

Pursuing a college education is a significant financial investment, with tuition as the highest expense. Tuition can vary considerably depending on the institution and its location. Colorado college students who have established state residency typically pay less tuition than those who have not. In 2012, yearly tuition for Colorado residents was $10,900.

When estimating the cost of college, prospective students also need to consider other mandatory college fees in addition to tuition. For example, many schools charge fees for labs, parking, athletics and other student services. Fees to attend colleges in Colorado in 2012 averaged $800, for a total of $11,700 in tuition and fees for the year.

In addition to tuition and fees, living expenses account for a large portion of higher education costs. Room and board rates can cover a wide range, depending on whether students choose to live on campus or off campus. The cost of living in Colorado is just 1 percent higher than the national average. The following table breaks down the cost of living (COL) in Colorado’s metro areas as compared to the U.S mean (100%):

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Pueblo -14.4% -28.5% 0.5% -19.9% -6.2% -5.9% -9.9%
Loveland -9.0% -20.7% 2.7% -10.4% -8.6% 0.3% -4.3%
Colorado Springs -7.2% -8.0% -4.6% -13.2% -3.8% 2.3% -7.9%
Grand Junction -1.7% 5.4% 1.9% -13.6% -0.9% 3.8% -6.9%
Denver 3.2% 7.5% 1.0% 1.9% -4.6% 5.9% 2.7%
Gunnison 10.0% 34.5% 10.6% -14.3% -1.0% -2.7% 0.6%
Glenwood Springs 24.0% 69.0% 3.3% -11.0% 10.9% 12.0% 8.7%

Many colleges in Colorado offer a wide range of academic opportunity, but how do you choose one that offers a solid return on your investment? The following five colleges have the highest lifetime returns on investment (ROI). Here, ROI is measured by subtracting the total cost of attendance for four years from the average lifetime salary of graduates:

  • Colorado School of Mines
  • University of Colorado – Boulder
  • University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • University of Colorado at Denver
  • University of Denver

Scholarships, FAFSA and Alternative College Funding

Students can reduce college costs with help from numerous programs. For example, federal financial aid is one of many options Colorado students have for lowering college costs. Since federal financial assistance entails need-based programs, students must fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form to determine the total amount for which they qualify. The percentage of Colorado undergraduate students who received federal financial aid in 2012 was 59.

Most students, even those who receive federal financial aid, can pursue scholarships to make college more affordable. A number of higher education institutions in Colorado award scholarships. Students can also apply for scholarships from non-profit organizations, companies and state and local governments. Here is a list of some of the sources for scholarships in Colorado:

  • ASTA-Rocky Mountain Chapter
  • Coloradans for Nebraska
  • Colorado Department of Higher Education
  • Colorado Early Achievers Scholarship
  • Colorado Student Grants
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals
  • Denver Association
  • EMU National Scholars Program
  • Greenhouse Scholars
  • LEAD Foundation
  • Lowe’s
  • Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarship
  • Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute
  • Stephen T. Marchello Scholarship Foundation
  • The Pinnocal Foundation College Scholarship Foundation


In order for students to receive college financial assistance, they must attend an accredited Colorado college or university. There are several regional and national accrediting agencies, each with quality standards for accreditation. In Colorado, the primary accrediting body is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools ( However, online colleges in Colorado may receive national accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1926 to cover correspondence education. Individual schools and programs may also seek accreditation to garner further approval of their academic offerings. For instance, the University of Northern Colorado's School of Nursing has received accreditation from Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and approval by the Colorado State Board of Nursing.

Online schools in Colorado offer tremendous distance learning opportunities for students. Many online programs use the same professors and curriculum for the online track as the equivalent on-campus programs. This means online students can earn identical degrees as their on-campus peers. We’ve cataloged the most affordable online colleges in Colorado, ordered from lowest tuition to highest. Comparing degree levels, accessibility, admission requirements, and tuition costs, one can find great value in Colorado’s online colleges.

Click here to see our methodology.
University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
Tuition and fees: $6,412 Enrollment: 10,027 Accredited: YES Website: University of Colorado-Colorado Springs

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs offers a vast number of master's degree available through distance learning. The university is accredited through the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission. Master's of arts, business administration, criminal justice, engineering, and public administration, and master's of science nursing degrees comprise the school's online college offerings.

University of Northern Colorado
Tuition and fees: $6,514 Enrollment: 11,895 Accredited: YES Website: University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado offers graduate level degrees entirely through online college to students interested in distance learning. These include a broad number of Master's of Arts degrees in areas such as art and design, educational psychology and special education. U.S. News & World Report also ranked the school 9th out of 200 for having the best online graduate level programs for 2013.

Colorado Mesa University
Tuition and fees: $7,206 Enrollment: 10,773 Accredited: YES Website: Colorado Mesa University

Colorado Mesa University provides both individual courses and specific degrees that are available to students through online college. These include associate and bachelor's degrees in areas such as the liberal arts, nursing, public administration and social science. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.

Adams State University
Tuition and fees: $7,449 Enrollment: 3,058 Accredited: YES Website: Adams State University

Adams State University, based in Colorado, provides distance learning degrees and certificates fully online to students. Example distance-learning programs include the RN-to-BSN degree, and the Bachelor's of Arts in Business Administration. Students who have already completed their associate degrees elsewhere can pursue two-year programs through Adams State's online college to complete a bachelor's degree.

University of Colorado Denver
Tuition and fees: $7,494 Enrollment: 16,271 Accredited: YES Website: University of Colorado Denver

University of Colorado Denver offers bachelor's and master's degree programs online. See if the courses you want are available at CU Denver by searching the distance learning database for each CU campus. Choose from courses in Business, Nursing, Sociology and more. Some online college courses use a mix of different types of educational media.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins
Tuition and fees: $8,649 Enrollment: 25,590 Accredited: YES Website: Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Online master’s degree programs at Colorado State University-Fort Collins are taught by on-campus professors. Receive the same education you would as a resident without compromising your current work or family responsibilities. Master’s degree programs are available in the fields of Education, Computer Science, Business, Engineering, Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Tourism, Health and Natural Sciences.

University of Colorado Boulder
Tuition and fees: $9,482 Enrollment: 29,890 Accredited: YES Website: University of Colorado Boulder

Using the new web-based distance education catalog of the University of Colorado Boulder, you can research online college courses offered at CU Boulder. Current offerings include master’s degrees in Engineering, Computer Science and Telecommunications. Some courses are offered completely online while others are taught using a combination of learning media.

Nazarene Bible College
Tuition and fees: $11,250 Enrollment: 1,228 Accredited: YES Website: Nazarene Bible College

Nazarene Bible College offers a wide range of ministry-related bachelor's degrees to students, some of which are available via distance learning. Online degrees from Nazarene Bible College include Counseling for Christian Ministries, Hispanic Pastoral Ministries, Bible and Theology, Christian Educational Ministries, Christian School Education, Leadership and Ethics, Pastoral Leadership, and Pastoral Ministries. The college is accredited by Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Remington College-Colorado Springs Campus
Tuition and fees: $14,695 Enrollment: 274 Accredited: YES Website: Remington College-Colorado Springs Campus

Remington College at the Colorado Springs campus offers online college opportunities to students who want to obtain associate and bachelor's degrees. Distance-learning programs are career oriented and available in subjects such as business, criminal justice, human resources, marketing, and organizational management. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

Colorado Christian University
Tuition and fees: $23,870 Enrollment: 4,317 Accredited: YES Website: Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian University offers associate, bachelor's and master's degrees online and certificates and minor degrees available through distance learning. The school utilizes group discussions, document sharing, and e-mail within its online college programming, and students can pursue degrees in areas such as biblical studies, business administration, criminal justice, healthcare administration, psychology, and more.

Johnson & Wales University-Denver
Tuition and fees: $26,412 Enrollment: 1,951 Accredited: YES Website: Johnson & Wales University-Denver

Johnson & Wales University in Colorado offers expanded education options to students through its online college programs. Students use the online learning course platform, Ulearn, to discuss issues, receive instructions, and submit assignments. Online options include its bachelor's of science degrees in baking and pastry arts and food service management or the culinary arts and food service management as well as an MBA program offering a hospitality concentration.

Regis University
Tuition and fees: $31,800 Enrollment: 7,165 Accredited: YES Website: Regis University

Regis University, a Jesuit school based in Colorado, provides an extensive number of online college options to students interested in distance learning. These include bachelor's and master's degrees, and certificate programs offered at the undergraduate and graduate level. Students can pursue online learning in subjects such as accounting, business, finance, marketing, and public administration.

University of Denver
Tuition and fees: $39,177 Enrollment: 5,879 Accredited: YES Website: University of Denver

The University of Denver's "University College" provides hybrid and online learning options to students wanting to pursue certificates or bachelor's and master's degrees. Learning is asynchronous, meaning that students can be online at a time convenient for them. Online degrees are available in subject areas such as arts and culture, global affair, healthcare leadership, security management, and more.