What We Do
Affordable Colleges Online (AC Online) began in 2012 with the goal of connecting students to affordable, high quality education. We aim to help students and parents identify colleges, programs, and scholarship opportunities that fit their academic and financial ambitions and needs. We believe that affordable, high-quality educational opportunities should be attainable for all students.
Our free, in-depth resources include comprehensive guidebooks, student interviews, user-friendly search tools, federal datasets, college rankings, and additional materials created and vetted by experts in education.
Our guidebooks help students navigate difficult decisions, such as choosing an online college, selecting the right financial aid program, or deciding on a major. We also help students make the most of the college experience by providing resources on topics like college safety, mental health, and staying fit on campus. Our easy-to-use search tools help students narrow down their school options by degree level, location, and types of programs. Our up-to-date college rankings help students find a school that best matches their budget, career goals, and lifestyle.
More than 1,300 colleges and government entities have shared our content with readers worldwide.
FAQs About Affordable Colleges Online
- Do ACO Online Resources Cost Money to Use?
No, all of the content, search tools, rankings lists, and other resources on our site are free for anyone to use or reference. We would love if you would include us as a resource on your website, but request that you include a link to our content.
- How Does ACO Online Make Money?
We partner with online schools that offer programs that may be of interest to students. In exchange for student referrals to these programs, we receive compensation. The sponsored schools on AC Online are clearly labeled with “Sponsored,” “Sponsored Schools,” or similar language.
Students will only be contacted by our clients if they choose to fill out a referral form and their information will only be sent to the school or program they choose on the referral form.
- How Does ACO Online Provide Accurate, Up-To-Date Information?
We use primary sources, including the U.S. Department of Education, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to inform our content and our school rankings. We also work extensively with experts in the field of education to ensure that we provide accurate, trustworthy information. We update our rankings lists on a yearly basis. Our guides and student resources are reviewed on a regular cadence to keep information relevant and up to date.
- What Types of Schools are Included in ACO Online Rankings?
We only include nonprofit, accredited colleges and universities in our school rankings. Each rankings list may have a slightly different methodology, depending on the type of ranking. The methodology for each ranking list, including data sources, can be found on each page.
- Can a School Pay to Be Included in ACO Online Rankings?
No, schools and programs are not permitted to pay to be included in our rankings.
- Have Additional Questions About Affordable Colleges Online?
Please Contact Us.
Who Are We?
Our extended team has decades of combined experience in higher education and includes former teachers, subject matter experts, veterans’ education specialists, and more.
Administrator and Disability Advocate
Dr. Chester Goad is a university administrator and graduate instructor, former K-12 principal and teacher, former US congressional staffer, author, and blogger. He is coauthor of Tennessee’s Dyslexia Is Real law and has presented on disability and leadership-related topics everywhere from Appalachia to Africa. He sits on the editorial review board of the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability and on the board of directors for the Association on Higher Education and Disability.
A leader in education, nonprofit advocacy, parenting issues, access, and policy, Goad has been quoted in major media outlets such as CNBC, Yahoo, the Washington Post, and Forbes Leadership. He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and Edutopia.
Queer Resource Center Coordinator
Craig Leets, Jr. is the coordinator of the Queer Resource Center (QRC) at Portland State University (PSU) in Portland, Oregon. Craig earned his bachelor of arts in communication studies with a minor in leadership and organizational studies at Chapman University in Orange, California. He also holds a master's in counseling and personnel services with a focus in college student personnel at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD).
While working on his master’s, Craig was employed by UMD as a Resident Director, where he worked on gender-inclusive housing, an inclusive language campaign, and a coming out support group for students. Prior to coming to PSU in October 2013 to lead the QRC, Craig worked at Penn State University as the Assistant Director for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally Student Resource Center.
College Funding Expert
Deborah Fox has been a financial advisor in San Diego, CA for over 25 years and is known as one of the leading college funding experts in the country. She founded Fox College Funding LLC to help families navigate the complexities of college funding strategies and applying for college financial aid. Her company provides comprehensive college funding planning services nationwide. Fox also provides advanced college planning and continuing education to financial advisors and tax professionals through Fox College Funding Academy.
Financial Aid Program Officer
Echo Lynch is a program officer in the Financial Aid Office at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada. She has 18 years of experience in student services and financial aid and is dedicated to helping first generation, low-income and minority families.
Founder, Learning Lab LA and Beyond Tutoring
Katie Schellenberg is the CEO and Founder of the educational blog BeyondTutoring and Learning Lab LA, a concierge and academic advocacy firm focused on creating and cultivating lifelong success through learning. After graduating magna cum laude from the USC, Katie went on to attend UCLA’s School of Law and USC’s Rossier School of Education, where she received a master’s degree in teaching.
She is passionate about learning and education, and her background reflects extensive experience working with students with a variety of disabilities and teaching a wide swath of subjects. Katie continues to successfully and comprehensively advocate for students at all levels of education.
Ron retired with 36 years of military service. His assignment as Supervisor of Military Personnel Services, including the Education Benefits Section, provide him with a wealth of knowledge, training, and experience with respect to the GI Bill® and postsecondary education in general. His last assignment was the 34th Infantry (Red Bull) Division Command Sergeant Major/E-9.
Abby Herman is a writer and journalist with years of experience covering topics in higher education and workforce development. A former classroom teacher and corporate-world professional, Abby also has first-hand knowledge of continuing education and its benefit to both employees and employers. From required teacher recertification to voluntary communication classes, Abby has experienced professional development from multiple perspectives.
Elizabeth Doerr is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Baltimore City Paper, Scalawag Magazine, and Portland Monthly, among other publications. She has lived, worked, and studied in Africa and Latin America and is a returned Peace Corps volunteer from Malawi.
She worked in higher education community engagement for nearly a decade and has worked with many high-achieving sociology majors who have gone on to a wide variety of successful careers. She has earned a bachelor’s in rhetoric and media studies from Willamette University, a master’s in international education policy from University of Maryland, and a master’s in writing from Johns Hopkins University.
Jeff Benson has contributed articles to Via, Sunset Magazine, and Inspired Bali. In his spare time, he writes and edits curricula for African schools. He's currently trying to finish his first novel.
Jennifer Koebele has more than ten years of experience researching and writing on topics related to higher education and online learning. She often collaborates with college and career experts to produce in-depth, value-driven guidebooks for current and future college students and young professionals. Jennifer holds a master’s degree in education.
Michael Hoffman, JD, is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. As a freelance writer, Hoffman specializes in research and writing higher education content, from online learning to financial aid, and everything in between.
Rob Sabo is a veteran writer based in Reno, Nevada, who specializes in journalism, marketing communications, and web content development. Rob has written about navigating higher education and student loans since 2008. He paid his own way through the California State University system and made his final student loan payment in 2016.