Georgia Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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Introduction to Georgia Colleges Online

Online degrees are fast becoming a popular choice for college students in Georgia. In 2013, 30 four-year colleges in the state offered distance learning courses and programs at the certificate, undergraduate and graduate levels. The University of Georgia’s UGA Online gives students the chance to earn web-based degrees in areas including education, food technology, financial planning, Internet technology, avian health and pharmacy tech. Furthermore, UGA’s eCore allows students to complete the first two years of core-curriculum classes in a fully online environment.

Other colleges in Georgia equal UGA’s commitment to higher online learning. Georgia Southern University has more than 30 fully online programs, and Georgia State boasts nearly 100 courses available via the web. Through its e-campus, Atlanta Technical College offers wholly online certificate and associate degree programs in accounting, management and supervisory development, marketing management, and business and office technology. Additional programs are available in a hybrid format requiring limited campus visits.

Another online mainstay is Atlanta Metropolitan State College, a public college in the University of Georgia system. It holds accreditations from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to offer its business administration and general education programs. In addition to various certificate programs, 70 percent of its 80-plus college courses are available entirely online. Associate degree studies include majors such as science, math, health professions, business, computer science, social sciences and the humanities.

Atlanta: The Heart of Georgia’s Educational System

A technological research hub, Atlanta has drawn world-class talent to its more than 30 colleges, universities and professional schools. Ten universities, 10 private colleges, a community college and dozens of for-profit trade schools call Atlanta home. These range from schools offering two-year degrees to post-graduate research centers and technology laboratories in the greater metro area. According to the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, the city ranks 6th nationally in four-year college graduates per year. More than 42 percent of residents above the age of 25 have completed a bachelor’s degree.

Technical education centers on the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), located downtown. Georgia Tech is continuously listed among the top national universities for undergraduate engineering programs and graduate computer science programs. It is recognized for offerings in areas such as aerospace studies, civil engineering, biomedical engineering, industrial manufacturing engineering, and information and technology management.

The spotlight should also shine brightly on Emory University, a private Methodist research university founded in 1836. Emory’s Goizueta Business School was ranked 9th in the nation for undergraduate business degrees by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014, and 11th in the nation for its part-time MBA program. Undergraduate students can choose among Emory’s 70 bachelor’s degree programs.

Many students seeking two-year certificate or associate degrees enroll at Atlanta Technical College, first established as an adult vocational school in 1945. It awards degrees or certificates in more than 45 fields including accounting, automotive technology, bioscience technology, dental assisting, fire science, hotel management, nursing, paralegal studies and physical therapy assisting.

Cost of Living and Tuition in Georgia

For students in both metropolitan Atlanta and the state’s rural communities, there are significant costs associated with pursuing a college education. Tuition, one of the largest expenses, varies considerably depending on the institution. Students in Georgia who are established residents typically benefit from lower tuition costs than out-of-state residents. Georgia had the 14th highest in-state tuition among all states with a yearly tuition of $9,303 in 2012.

In addition to tuition and fees, students are responsible for their living expenses. The largest item is room and board, which varies among colleges. Some students prefer to live off campus, which requires different types of expenditures. The cost of living in Georgia is 8 percent lower than the U.S. average, providing a boon for cash-strapped students. This table breaks down the cost of living (COL) in Georgia’s communities compared to the national average (100):

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Americus -11.7% -29.0% 5.5% -11.8% -0.2% 3.7% -8.7%
Douglas -11.4% -31.5% 4.1% -2.1% -10.7% -8.7% -3.4%
Albany -9.9% -25.2% 8.7% -18.0% -3.4% -10.2% -3.2%
Savannah -6.5% -16.0% -5.3% -6.0% -1.6% -1.0% -0.9%
Valdosta -5.9% -14.7% 11.8% -11.0% -3.3% 2.2% -5.5%
Marietta -5.2% -15.3% -3.2% -9.7% -2.9% 7.9% 1.9%
Orlando -2.2% -14.6% -2.2% 8.5% 1.8% -4.5% 4.5%
Atlanta -4.4% -9.3% -3.8% -13.7% -0.7% 3.3% 0.3%

Tuition and cost of living represent two significant financial elements to consider when vetting colleges. Yet return on investment (ROI) has emerged as one of the most important factors, as well. Unlike other financial factors, ROI looks at earnings after graduation, giving potential students the chance to see how they could fare after getting their diploma. In Georgia, the following schools have the highest ROI, according to data collected in 2013:

  1. Georgia Institute of Technology
  2. Southern Polytechnic State University
  3. Emory University
  4. Clayton State University
  5. University of Georgia

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Financial aid is one way to reduce college expenses, and the federal government manages a need-based program for students. To determine how much they may be eligible to receive, students must fill out the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA®) form. In 2012, 78 percent of undergraduates in Georgia received financial aid. Georgia was second among all the states for students who received federal financial assistance.

In addition, students in Georgia can apply for scholarships offered by individual schools. Nonprofit organizations, companies and corporations, and state and local governments also run scholarship programs. The following list includes some of the scholarships available for students attending colleges and universities in Georgia:

  • ARRL Charles Clarke Cordle Memorial Scholarship
  • Atlanta OU Club Scholarship
  • Carson Scholars Fund, Inc.
  • COAG Scholarship
  • Dixie Youth Baseball Scholarship
  • Georgia Governor’s Scholarship
  • Georgia HOPE Grant Program
  • Georgia Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents Grant
  • Georgia Mining Foundation Scholarship Program
  • Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant
  • Julian & Jan Hester Memorial Scholarship
  • National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia

The Importance of Accreditation

Students must attend an accredited school in order to be eligible for financial assistance. Several regional and national accrediting agencies set standards for U.S. colleges and universities. The regional accrediting body for the Peach State is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS vets public and private nonprofit institutions in the state to ensure quality of curriculum and faculty.

Georgia online colleges may hold accreditation from other organizations such as national accrediting bodies. Colleges and universities may also opt to seek specialized accreditation for an individual school or program. For example, Georgia Tech has a number of programs accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Best Online Colleges in Georgia for 2015-2016

Georgia is indeed a leader when it comes to higher education, with Atlanta ranking 7th in total student enrollment for U.S. urban centers. With more than 30 institutions statewide offering fully online or hybrid degree options, students can select from an array of academic programs. While off-campus learning is on the rise across the state, certain colleges stand out for the strength of their commitment. The schools shown below are recognized as providing the best opportunities and value for students seeking online training and educational programs.

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE INFO
1 Middle Georgia State University 98.5120:191%

The Middle Georgia State College School of Distance Learning offers a range of certificate, associate's, and bachelor's degree programs for students to earn from the comfort and convenience of their own homes. Students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, enroll in one of the many associate programs, such as criminal justice, psychology, political science, or social work, or receive a certificate in airline or airport management by completing the coursework offered through BrightSpace learning management system. Students will have access to all information, assignments, quizzes and communication boards 24/7, allowing them to complete their course credits at the time and place most convenient for them.

2 Albany State University 95.1220:199%

ASU's convenient online degree programs allow students to harness extended learning tools to receive their bachelor or graduate level degrees. Using the electronic core-curriculum system known as eCore®, as well as the Desire2Learn Learning Environment, students are able to complete a wide variety of degrees from the comfort of their homes, accessing modules, content, forums, discussions and other course materials 24/7. The programs range from Bachelor of Applied Science in Fire Service Administration and Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems to Master of Science in Criminal Justice, Master of Science in Nursing and Master of Education.

3 Clayton State University 94.0718:194%

The CSU Distance Learning Program offers a wide range of degrees for students at all levels looking to benefit from a flexible program designed specifically for busy working professionals. Taking a global prospective to the curriculums, students can earn a Bachelor of Applied Science in Administrative Management and Homeland Security, Emergency Management, or Technology Management, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Studies or Nursing, and a Master of Science in Nursing or Archival Studies. Through eCore®, students will have access to tutorials, Dropbox, discussion boards and other internet technologies for collaborative and interactive learning.

4 Columbus State University 94.0117:193%

With an annual enrollment of over 8,000 students, CSU Online offers distance education programs for undergraduate studies. Whether interested in business, sociology, liberal arts, or nursing, students will be able to earn their bachelor's degree 100 percent online by taking courses offered in 15-week semesters. Students are offered a unique degree allowing them to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Communication entirely online in just three years. The degree programs, partnered with the Southern Regional Education Board's Electronic Campus and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, uses CougarVIEW to allow students 24/7 access to all course materials.

5 Fort Valley State University 93.7820:197%

Using Brightspace by D2L and eCore® learning management systems, undergraduate students at Fort Valley are able to receive a comprehensive liberal arts education at a school known for having their values set in African American culture. With a long list of online courses offered, from career development and independent study to cultural diversity and African American prose fiction, students will benefit from an interactive educational environment that allows them to work at their own pace. Fully-online degree programs are offered for Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, political science, psychology, technical and professional writing, and organizational leadership, with concentrations in healthcare administration, legal office administration, office administration and technology, public service administration, and Spanish for professionals, as well as an MS in rehabilitation counseling and case management.

6 Toccoa Falls College 93.2414:1100%

Toccoa is a Christ-centered institute of higher education that offers a variety of online degrees for undergraduate students. From Associate of Arts to Bachelor of Science degrees, students can major in biblical studies, counseling psychology, general studies, ministry leadership, nonprofit business administration, organizational leadership, sport management, or youth ministries. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Toccoa offers degrees through three different schools: Arts & Science, Christian Ministries and Professional Studies. The online programs incorporate both biblical thinking and lifestyle with the advanced quality of academic rigor and professional success.

7 Kennesaw State University 92.9621:190%

The online degree programs at Kennesaw are ideal for students interested in receiving an education that will allow for future employment in the fields of computing and software engineering, as well as management and marketing positions. The Web Learners Program gives students the same access to Student Services as traditional on-campus students, including priority registration for courses. Using Virtual Owl for Cloud-based computer labs, online courses are offered using the latest technologies so students can receive a quality education that allows them to learn at their own pace. Degrees offered include BA in geography, BBA in management, BS in information technology, and more. A unique program also offers students a Coles Master of Business Administration degree completely online.

8 Georgia Southwestern State University 92.7017:191%

Several online and blended education programs are available at Georgia Southwestern State University. Learning outcomes for online programs are identical to on-campus programs and instructors are adept at following best practices for student success. These degrees are designed specifically for non-traditional students who need more flexibility such as adult learners with job and/or family responsibilities that prevent them from attending traditional courses. Currently, GSW is not authorized to accept students who reside in the District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.

9 University of West Georgia 92.5219:194%

UWG Online has a dynamic offering of bachelor's degrees, doctoral degrees and graduate programs for students looking to earn a quality education without having to sacrifice their current employment or personal responsibilities. With a 100 percent online program offered for BS in Criminology, a hybrid program for BSN, and a wide range of eCore® courses for science and medical studies, students will have access to a diverse curriculum that emphasizes self-paced learning and interactive environments that are enriched with the latest internet technologies. Joint/dual enrollment options are also offered to students, as well as certificate programs and specialist degrees for those interested in advancing their current careers.

10 University of Georgia 91.9017:194%

Including the online degree options that allow students to take courses that reduce the time to graduation, the University of Georgia's online learning offerings are varied. Students can earn bachelor's degrees in business administration and special education as well as master's degrees in a number of fields. Courses are both synchronous and asynchronous, depending on the course instructor. However, the Office of Online Learning works with the faculty to ensure that the online course meets accessibility standards so every student has the opportunity to earn a degree.

11 Reinhardt University 91.6814:192%

With new classes starting every eight weeks, students interested in public safety or health can earn their degrees entirely online. Grounded in Methodist faith and traditions, and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Reinhardt offers 16-month online degree programs for Bachelor of Healthcare Administration and Bachelor of Criminal Justice for students interested in careers in law enforcement or healthcare in both private and public sectors. Designed for working professionals, the curriculums offer small courses with individualized attention and provide a long list of general studies online courses in business, art, English, religion, history, philosophy and Spanish.

12 Shorter University 91.5712:199%

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Shorter offers associate, baccalaureate and master's degree programs for students to earn entirely online. With curriculums that are centered on Christian values and beliefs, students will receive a well-rounded education that encourages people of faith to integrate biblical and theological studies into professional development. Whether earning a bachelor or graduate level degree in business, criminal justice, human services, or sport management, students will have the flexibility to complete the coursework at their own pace, with no set class time, allowing for independent studies through the Moodle Learning Management System.

13 Georgia College 91.4517:195%

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Georgia College Online offers certificate, bachelor and master's degree programs in liberal arts studies and professional studies for students who want to earn their degrees without interrupting their work schedules. Options are available for an online RN-BSN degree program for nurses who are already practicing in the healthcare setting, as well as the GeorgiaWebMBA® program for those interested in a Master of Business Administration program. Offered asynchronously, students will have the convenience of completing their coursework on their own time.

14 Brenau University 91.2112:197%

With an expansive list of 16 online degree programs to choose from, students at Brenau will have the opportunity to earn the undergraduate or graduate degree of their choice by following an eLearning curriculum designed to meet their individual needs. Using the Canvas delivery platform, the asynchronous courses are offered in 7-week sessions, each taught by certified faculty who have completed additional certification for online teaching. Degrees are offered for both 2- and 4-year programs, and include an Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies, a BA in Organizational Leadership, a BS in Early Childhood Education, a BBA in Accounting, and a BS in Nursing. Master degree programs are also offered completely online for MBA, MEd, MFA and MS in Applied Gerontology degrees.

15 Valdosta State University 91.2020:192%

With six bachelor's and 16 master's degrees offered online, Valdosta provides the same dynamic and interactive learning experience given to traditional on-campus students to those enrolled in the distance education options. Students enrolled online benefit from synchronous courses that are enriched with video and audio lectures, chats and discussion boards. Valdosta State's online degree programs are specifically tailored to meet the unique and specific needs of busy adults and working professionals. With BA degrees in legal assistant studies and criminal justice, as well as BS degrees in office administration and organizational leadership, graduate students will have the opportunity to enroll in the Georgia WebMBA™ program that demands a rigorous standard of academic excellence.

16 Georgia Southern University 90.5621:189%

The electronic campus offers flexible programs for students interested in careers in business, education, and healthcare fields at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Using the GoVIEW learning management system for courses, students will be able to choose from a wide range of degrees - from an MS in applied economics or MEd, to a BS in information technology or nursing - that adhere to the principles of academic excellence at one of the largest comprehensive higher education institutions in the state. Students will use the Regional Mentor™ System for enhanced learning experiences, following a curriculum designed and tailored around their specific schedules.

17 Mercer University 90.1812:1100%

Busy professionals interested in earning their degrees online can benefit from the web-enhanced learning programs offered at one of the oldest universities in America. From bachelor's degrees in psychology and public safety, to master's degrees in software engineering, software systems, technical communication management and early childhood education, the Working Adult Programs at Mercer offer students an opportunity to pursue a liberal learning education through interdisciplinary programs of study. Using Blackboard and Moodle Course Management Systems, and WebEx for voice and video chatting, students will find themselves integrated into a collaborative learning environment without having to step a foot on campus.

18 Savannah College of Art and Design 90.1718:198%

Savannah College of Art and Design is a hub for students interested in earning their bachelor or master's degree in an online environment that facilitates creativity, freedom, collaboration and integration. The eLearning degree programs follow the regular academic calendar of traditional on campus programs, with courses offered in 10-week schedules. Using the Blackboard Learning Management System, students will have constant access to all course materials and won't feel constrained by set meeting or class times. A total of 25 complete degree programs are offered entirely online, including Bachelor of Arts in advertising, sequential art, photography; Master of Arts in animation, illustration, design management, fashion, interior design; and Master of Fine Art degrees in writing and painting.

19 Point University 89.7222:195%

Students interested in earning their bachelor's degree in a way that allows them to work at their own pace, set their own schedule and follow a curriculum that emphasizes professional development with an integration of faith will find the online degree programs offered at Point exceptionally beneficial. Encouraging a Christian worldview, the degree programs focus on teaching students to be analytical and critical thinkers, as well as effective communicators in the field of their choice. In addition to biblical and theological studies, students can earn their degrees in a non-traditional format by taking synchronous courses to earn a BS in Christian ministries, criminal justice, human relations or organizational leadership, as well as an Associate of Arts in Christian ministries, general studies, human relations or organizational leadership.

20 Beulah Heights University 89.5212:148%

Built on a foundation of Christian values, Beulah's distance learning department uses online resources to allow students to earn associate, bachelor's and master's degrees with ease and flexibility. Employing practical applications and modern technological resources to enrich the education experience, courses are taught using the Beulah360™ technology platform to help students meet their academic goals. Using the Blackboard Learning Management system for online communication, students will be required to log in at least once a week to participate in a collaborative and interactive learning environment, regardless of where they are located in the world. Associate and Bachelor of Arts degrees are offered in religious studies and leadership studies, as well as master's degrees in divinity and business administration.

21 Truett-McConnell College 89.0216:1100%

All of the online degree programs offered at Truett-McConnell also offer undergraduates the option of minoring in the Great Commission. Established with a focus on Christian worldviews and values, the bachelor degrees offered include Christian studies (with concentrations offered in biblical and theological studies, student ministry, and missions), world missions, business and psychology. Flexible courses designed to emphasize time management skills and operated on mediated channels for communication, such as web-enhanced labs, chats and discussions, provide students with a quality, fully-accredited education that follows a curriculum designed around scriptural truth and biblical ethics to prepare undergraduates for success in their professional careers.

22 Luther Rice University & Seminary 86.9828:167%

All degrees offered at this Christian institution can be earned entirely online. With a total of nine degrees, three undergraduate minors, and over 300 courses, students will follow a 15-week semester schedule, with some accelerated 8-week programs offered. Based on Christian values, degree programs are offered for Bachelor of Arts with concentrations in biblical counseling, Christian worldview, and ministry; a Master of Arts in apologetics, biblical counseling, Christian studies, leadership, and ministry; as well as a seminary degree program for Master of Divinity or Doctor of Ministry. Students will enjoy the convenience of the eLearning programs with no set meeting times and access to Blackboard Learning Management Systems for discussion boards, audio and videos lectures and quizzes.

Tools for Finding the Right College

Georgia offers numerous higher education options to more than 790,000 students statewide at the community college and four-year university level. With such a diverse assortment of institutions, finding the best fit can be challenging. The search tool below allows you to review important factors such as tuition, degree programs and enrollment. Comparing the various programs available can help you make a decision about a college that meets your personal, educational and professional needs.

Degree Level:
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Spotlight Interviews With Georgia Online Colleges

Georgia may be home to some of the nation’s most affordable online colleges, but a school’s cost and its value are two different things entirely. We asked representatives from two top schools in the state to tell us a little more about what sets their online learning options apart from the rest. Here’s what they said:

Online Departments in Georgia

Columbus State University

How would you describe your institution’s approach to online learning?

Columbus State University has successfully offered online degree programs at the undergraduate and master’s levels for many years. Programs have been offered strategically based on high needs (RN-to-BSN; Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Mathematics and Science; and M.Ed. in Special Education), to respond to student interest and economic conditions (Degree in Three programs in Communication and Criminal Justice), and to provide degree opportunities to students whose locations or job commitments might otherwise make earning a degree extremely difficult (B.A. in Liberal Arts; master’s degrees in education, business and computer science). Columbus State is committed to offering quality online programs, made possible through 24-hour tech support and comprehensive training for faculty. CSU continues to make high levels of student engagement a hallmark of distance learning delivery.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Online programs offered at Columbus State are of great value for a variety of reasons. Our faculty believe students should receive the same high quality classes they obtain in face-to-face instruction and are devoted to knowing their students and to high levels of engagement with them in the online environment. Students are able to earn degrees that significantly impact their jobs skills, help them obtain promotions, and/or prepare them for new areas of employment.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

Columbus State University will continue to grow its existing programs -- for example, the newly implemented Degree in Three programs that allow students to obtain affordable, high quality degrees in communication and criminal justice, which may be completed in three years. We will also continue to make strategic decisions in adding online degree and certificate programs. In response to teacher certification changes in the state, the university is now offering an online M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership and is adding an online endorsement in that field. Nurse Educator and Healthcare Informatics Certificates are in the process of being implemented, and there are plans for additional degree and certificate programs in nursing and education.

Middle Georgia State College

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

Middle Georgia State College provides students with a variety of fully online degree programs including a bachelor's degree in information technology and nursing (RN to BSN), 10 associate degrees, and 4 certificate programs. Online courses are designed and developed to guide students through content using a combination of text, images, multimedia, and interactive exercises.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Students are receiving a quality college education from an institution with 15 years of experience in online instruction. All courses are accessible through mobile technology.

Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?

MGSC will soon be adding additional bachelor degree programs in aviation, public safety, public policy.

Educational Resources for Online Students in Georgia

For students who are considering attending Georgia colleges online, the resources below make suggestions for selecting academic programs and institutions. These sources also include advice on technical training and ways to align educational options with career goals.

Major Georgia Educational Resources: