Colorado Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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Overview of Colorado Online Colleges

Colorado schools have recognized the need for flexibility in higher education and responded by adding distance learning courses to traditional course line-ups. These online programs come from private not-for-profit colleges, religious schools, for-profit institutions and public universities–for example, the University of Colorado.

At the forefront of online colleges in Colorado, UC proudly describes a three-pronged approach to distance learning: flexible degree options, extensive student support and specialized faculty training. The university’s CU Online division has 23 online and hybrid degree programs available, as well as 15 certificates. Featured majors include business, engineering, nursing, health care and education.

The University of Colorado is just one of the many higher education institutions in the state that offers extensive choices for online learning programs. Colleges and universities in Denver—the state’s largest city—provide students with a wide selection of distance learning opportunities.

Higher Education Spotlight: 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 excellent undergraduate and graduate degree options at nationally recognized institutions.

The 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 & World Report. With more than 130 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 over 100 certificate and associate degree programs.

Online Learning at Denver Colleges and Universities

UCD was among the first universities in the nation to offer online degrees in 1996. This university’s fully online offerings have grown to 18 degree programs along with 12 professional certificates. Popular programs include the MBA, nursing (RN, RN to BSN, master’s and PhD) and a specialist license in early childhood special education. U.S. News has ranked the university’s online graduate nursing programs 10th in the nation.

Regis University, a Jesuit institution in Denver, provides 16 undergraduate degree programs, 25 graduate degrees and 25 professional certificates in a web-based 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.

Cost of Living and Tuition in Colorado

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. 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 spectrum, 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 -14.40% -28.50% 0.50% -19.90% -6.20% -5.90% -9.90%
Loveland -9.00% -20.70% 2.70% -10.40% -8.60% 0.30% -4.30%
Colorado Springs -7.20% -8.00% -4.60% -13.20% -3.80% 2.30% -7.90%
Grand Junction -1.70% 5.40% 1.90% -13.60% -0.90% 3.80% -6.90%
Denver 3.20% 7.50% 1.00% 1.90% -4.60% 5.90% 2.70%
Gunnison 10.00% 34.50% 10.60% -14.30% -1.00% -2.70% 0.60%
Glenwood Springs 24.00% 69.00% 3.30% -11.00% 10.90% 12.00% 8.70%

While many colleges in Colorado offer a wide range of academic opportunity, certain schools are notable for a solid return on investment (ROI). The following five colleges boast the highest lifetime value for a college education. Here, ROI is measured by subtracting the total cost of attendance for four years from the average lifetime salary of graduates:

  1. Colorado School of Mines
  2. University of Colorado – Boulder
  3. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  4. University of Colorado at Denver
  5. University of Denver

Funding College Studies in Colorado: Scholarships and Financial Aid

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 nonprofit 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
  • MU National Scholars Program
  • Greenhouse Scholars
  • LEAD Foundation
  • Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarship
  • Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute
  • Stephen T. Marchello Scholarship Foundation
  • The Pinnocal Foundation College Scholarship Foundation

Colorado College Accreditation Standards

In order for students to receive financial assistance, they must attend an accredited Colorado college or university. There are several regional and national accrediting agencies, each with set quality standards. In Colorado, the primary regional accrediting body is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. 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 recognition of their academic offerings. For instance, the University of Northern Colorado’s School of Nursing has received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and approval by the Colorado State Board of Nursing.

Best Online Colleges in Colorado for 2015-2016

Students with work and family obligations can complete undergraduate and graduate degrees online, and there’s no waiting for the snowplow to arrive before commuting to campus. The breadth and depth of academic options vary from program to program, curriculum to curriculum. The colleges listed below are leaders in online education in Colorado, universities committed to providing students with affordable, flexible and diverse learning opportunities. See who made the list of the Best Online Colleges in Colorado for 2015-2016:

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE INFO
1 University of Northern Colorado 99.3518:190%

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.

2 Colorado Mesa University 98.4623:190%

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.

3 Regis University 96.158:198%

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.

4 University of Denver 95.8911:185%

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.

5 Nazarene Bible College 95.0612:150%

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.

6 Colorado State University-Global Campus 87.6426:1 N/A

Colorado State University was the first fully-accredited, 100 percent online university. Today the university offers 25 undergraduate and graduate degrees besides certificates and specializations. Courses are fully-online and do not follow a fixed schedule, allowing students to complete coursework at any time and day. Courses begin every four weeks, and are student-driven with students setting the pace of their work as their schedules and learning styles permit. The school encourages a learner to be self-motivated and have an open mind about distance education. Students can also take advantage of career services, an online library, technical support and one-on-one tutoring

Researching Online Colorado Colleges

Nearly 540,000 college students are enrolled statewide in Colorado. For the prospective student considering joining their ranks, there are several criteria to evaluate prior to making a decision about which university to attend. Important factors include tuition, student population, degree levels and the type of instruction available. The search tool below allows students to gain a better understanding of these and other factors, which can help them make a practical, data-driven decision about their educational future.

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Comprehensive Resources for Colorado Students

For students seeking additional information about online colleges in Colorado, the list of resources below highlights major topics of interest: student aid, career selection and development, and services offered by the government and other groups to support higher education.

Major Colorado Educational Resources: