Michigan Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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A Guide to Online Colleges in Michigan

In addition to private for-profit schools focused on distance learning, traditional educational institutions in Michigan have also adopted online delivery, enabling remote studies for a variety of subjects and degree programs. In 2013, Michigan students had access to 42 four-year colleges offering some level of online learning. Central Michigan University’s online education opportunities exemplify the state’s overall growth in this area. CMU offers more than 50 online programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, in addition to various certificate options. The school’s online learning resource center provides students with step-by-step support services from application to graduation. A great way to grasp the range of academic options is to explore campus and online learning opportunities in one of the state’s largest cities, Detroit.

Detroit Colleges and Universities

Detroit is known as the original seat of the American automobile industry and supports an outstanding group of colleges and universities. Wayne State University is located in the city’s cultural center and offers over 370 degree and certificate programs. The University of Detroit Mercy offers more than 100 programs taught from a Catholic perspective. Wayne County Community College operates five campuses throughout the city, providing occupational and career programs at certificate and associate degree levels in a range of studies.

The College for Creative Studies is a visual arts school ranked as the fifth Most Creative Campus by Her Campus magazine. BusinessWeek also named it as one of the world’s best design schools.

Online Colleges in Detroit

Several of Detroit’s acclaimed colleges and universities provide online learning opportunities for those who cannot partake in the on-campus experience. Wayne State University offers an array of online options, including a bachelor’s degree in social work and master’s degree programs in education and library/information science. The school also offers an online MBA and a PhD in transitional physical therapy. Additional opportunities can be found at the University of Detroit Mercy, which provides 12 online degrees programs in topics such as business, engineering, and nursing. High school students seeking an early start on their college education can apply to Wayne County Community College, which has a Virtual Middle College program with dual enrollment offerings.

Tuition & Cost of Living in Michigan

When making a college budget, aspiring students in Michigan need to calculate the different types of expenses they may encounter. Tuition varies depending on the type of school and an applicant’s residency status. Annual tuition for Michigan residents averaged $12,322 in 2012, with the state ranking 22nd nationwide in terms of in-state tuition affordability.

While tuition represents a crucial factor in choosing a school, other costs figure into the equation as well. Students may discover fees for parking, on-campus transportation, and basic services such as registration. The combined tuition and fees for Michigan students totaled $12,478 in 2012.

After examining schools’ tuition and fees, well-organized students also estimate their living expenses and other costs related to college. Miscellaneous expenditures could include books, supplies, and a robust Internet connection for online coursework. Living costs in Michigan come in six percent below the national average. The following table depicts the cost of living (COL) for Michigan’s metropolitan areas, ranked in comparison to the national average (100%):

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Grand Rapids -9.3% -22.4% 2.7% 0.6% 3.7% -5.6% -10.0%
Kalamazoo -8.8% -18.7% -4.4% 1.8% -0.6% -7.5% -7.6%
Detroit -0.6% -4.8% -7.3% 29.5% 1.3% -5.8% -3.4%

Accreditation Standards in Michigan

Before committing, Michigan students should inquire about a school’s accreditation status. Financial aid programs generally require colleges be accredited, meaning they meets official quality standards. In Michigan, institutions gain accreditation from bodies such as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Colleges and universities in the state may also be accredited by various specialized agencies. For example, business and nursing programs can be accredited by associations with detailed knowledge of their respective fields. Institutions with distance learning opportunities have the option of seeking accreditation by the Distance Education and Training Council, a national body with concentration in online education.

Best Online Colleges in Michigan for 2015-2016

With nearly one million students currently enrolled in 204 postsecondary institutions, educational offerings in Michigan cover a wide range of degree levels and disciplines. Community colleges, technical and trade schools, universities, and online colleges offer programs ranging from certificates to doctoral studies. Michigan’s state government is known for being generous in providing financial aid: since 1964 it has dispensed approximately $4 billion in assistance to more than three million students. In the guide that follows, prospective online students can learn about the best programs to meet their educational goals. Schools that have risen above the competition by demonstrating excellence in online education can be found on our list of the Best Online Colleges in Michigan for 2015-2016.

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE INFO
1 Ferris State University 99.0716:196%

Ferris Online offers bachelor's and master's degrees, classes, and certificates that are mostly or fully online. "Guest students" who want continuing education units, want to maintain a certificate, or who are just interested in attending a few courses can bypass some of the admission process. A self-assessment quiz for those interested in finding out if online college learning is best for them can be found on the website.

2 Michigan Jewish Institute 97.2419:199%

Michigan Jewish Institute provides online learning options at the undergraduate level to students interested in expanding their religious education. Online college programs include a Bachelor's of Science degree in Judaic Studies with concentrations in areas such as education and leadership. The school, accredited through the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools, also provides related certificates and degrees to choose from.

3 Baker College 95.5914:1100%

Baker College's online programs are available for earning certificate, associate and bachelor's degrees. Classes follow a set schedule similar to that of in-person courses, with specific start and end dates, and due dates for assignments throughout the semester. However, they are asynchronous, allowing students to view material and complete coursework at any time before the given deadlines. All online programs can be completed fully from a distance, with no campus visits required. The courses are smaller than those on campus, with only 12-15 students per class. Students can communicate with one another and with professors through the Blackboard system, and with email and discussion board.

4 Siena Heights University 91.8012:1100%

Sienna Heights University offers fully online college degrees to students who want to complete an undergraduate education via distance learning. E-learning courses are eight weeks in length and feature weekly discussion threads. The university is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission, and provides degrees in areas that include business administration, multidisciplinary studies, and professional communications.

5 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 90.2712:163%

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor offers online college master's programs in engineering. Students from throughout the United States and nearly 50 countries have received their degree through the program. All courses use the CTools management system and are self-paced. Non-candidates for the degree can be introduced to courses before applying to U-M or another institution. Visitors taking classes for no credit are also allowed.

6 Grace Bible College 90.2411:1100%

Grace Bible College offers undergraduate, graduate and online programs that can be taken along two- orfour-year degree tracks. With a Christ-centered and biblical core, this small, close-knit college provides a curriculum that prepares students for the evolving needs of the society around them. On campus students will attend twice weekly chapel services and Ministry Labs. Online students can earn an Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Science in leadership/ministry. Online courses are offered asynchronously for students convenience and flexibility and with the option of taking classes in an accelerated format. Online degree programs operate on a weekly basis using the Blackboard learning management system.

7 Lawrence Technological University 88.7411:186%

Lawrence Technological University offers online college programs for bachelor's degrees in business administration or information technology, and master's degrees in business administration, architecture, educational technology, engineering, and information systems. The University also offers certificate programs and all courses include Blackboard software. Lawrence Technological University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission

8 Wayne State University 88.7215:189%

Students can obtain bachelor's and master's degrees in addition to certificates through Wayne University's online college program. Some degrees are offered fully online, while others only have some online course options. Most instructors administer tests online, though some ask students to take proctored exams at testing centers. Many classes utilize Blackboard learning software, Skype, and Wimba.

9 Central Michigan University – Global Campus 88.5921:192%

Central Michigan University's global campus offers undergraduate and graduate-level certificates and degrees. Most online college courses require students to take at least one, in-person proctored exam and online classes may also meet online at scheduled time for chat sessions. All classes use Blackboard software and material is available at any time.

10 Rochester College 88.0511:1100%

Rochester College is a Christian-centered institution of higher learning that has values deeply rooted in faith, leadership and innovation. The college offers undergraduate degrees as well as adult and professional programs for a wide range of topic areas, including Biblical studies and ministries, accounting, business, education, digital and broadcast media, nursing, sports management, psychology, journalism and public relations, and music. Students will benefit from their Integrated Learning Model, which emphasizes a liberal arts curriculum and focuses on teaching critical thinking, effective communication skills and scholarly research. Online classes are offered using Moodle learning management system. Undergraduates can earn a Bachelor of Science in leadership entirely online.

11 Cornerstone University 86.7920:198%

Cornerstone University Online, or CU Online, offers adult learners degrees in business, education, and ministry. The University also has individual online college courses. Textbooks and other learning resources can be accessed on mobile devices. Cornerstone University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Search Accredited Michigan Online Colleges

Online students in Michigan often live very busy lives. In the midst of personal and professional obligations, it can be overwhelming to search among hundreds of options for degrees and certificate programs. One way to streamline this process is to use the custom search tool below to filter prospective online colleges and programs by factors such as tuition, types of degrees offered, acceptance rates, and accreditation.

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Deans Talk: Inside Michigan’s Online Colleges

What makes the best online colleges unique? We asked each of the schools on our list to describe their programs and what sets them apart. Here’s what they had to say:

Online Departments in Michigan

Ferris State University

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

Ferris has developed degree programs for online delivery that we feel demonstrates our unique strengths, such as our Heating Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration degree, our Automotive Management degree, and our many and varied programs in the health professions areas. Additionally, we have developed many of our 300-and 400-level courses for online delivery to provide alternatives for students who are unable to attend one of our campus locations. All of our programs and courses have the same outcomes and rigorous standards as our traditional face-to-face offerings, and our faculty members develop and encourage collaborative learning environments within our online offerings.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Students today have many areas competing for their time and attention, such as work and family obligations. People who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree recognize the value of the higher degree in the job market, but the attainment of the degree also results in additional financial obligations. Ferris provides online degree programs that allow students to transfer in portions of their degree requirements from prior college coursework that can help to reduce student debt. We are providing a cost-efficient and convenient method for students to complete their degree. These features, combined with responsive faculty and a culture of caring student services, make Ferris stand apart.

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

We’re committed to growth in our online programs while at the same time continuing to provide exceptional student services. We have new degree programs in development to provide more options for our students. In addition, Ferris State University continues to explore new technologies to enhance the students’ learning experiences.

Grand Valley State University

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

Grand Valley State University believes that the most successful online educational experience engages students and promotes interaction with faculty members.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

Our students enjoy the flexibility of fully online programs and courses combined with personal, face-to-face contact with professors.

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

We will continue to grow our online learning programs based on demand, opportunity, and ability to deliver the academic excellence for which the university is known.

Western Theological Seminary

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

Simply said, our approach to online learning is to offer "one degree." For 125 years Western Theological Seminary students have earned their Divinity degrees on campus, in our city, sitting at a desk, in a classroom, face to face with their professor. Online learn changed most of that. We knew that the quality of learning could easily decline. Therefore we approached Distance Learning with a commitment to maintain "One Degree." Our goal was to extend formal theological education with online learning, without sacrificing the high educational outcomes expected from our residence students. "One Degree" at Western Theological Seminary means that our Distance Learning students may expect the same curriculum, instruction from the same tenured faculty, the same diploma and the same quality as our residential students receive. It is "one degree" that comes in two formats, both Residential and Distance Learning. Beyond academic courses both formats include tenured faculty attention for advising, mentored internships, annual spiritual formation retreats, daily worship, cultural immersion trips, shared meals on campus, seminars focusing on diversity training, self-care and sexual abuse prevention. All vital learning is experienced by all students pursuing a degree, whether they are residential students or distance learning students.

What makes your online programs so valuable to students?

  • Our online programs allow a manageable pace for degree completion.
  • Our online students do not need to relinquish their incomes, or uproot their families to earn a degree.
  • Required internships are completed in the churches or ministries to which our online learners are already committed.
  • All students keep to the same pace of learning in each course but there are no synchronous requirements. Each week students engage the lectures and readings on their own schedule.
  • Weekly message boards lead to more thoughtful, in-depth and enriching discussions than time could ever allow in a classroom setting.

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

Western Theological Seminary has been on the front edge of using technology to make formal theological education accessible. We will remain there, blending the best of academic rigor, faith formation, and technological advances to equip men and women who are called by God to lead the church in mission. As educational technology improves we will adopt it, reducing where we can the time and travel expense of face-to-face learning sessions. However, we will do this as long as the quality of learning is not compromised.

Great Resources for Online Students in Michigan

Online students need resources at their fingertips for exploring Michigan’s student aid programs, tips for budgeting and saving for school, and preparing for their online education. The following in-state organizations provide free resources to assist students in planning for college and financing their education.