The Best Online Colleges 2021

Online college is a great way to earn a degree. Learn more about the top online colleges and the costs of an online degree.

November 12, 2021

reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
The Best Online Colleges 2021

AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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More than seven million college students took online classes in 2019, and nearly 3.5 million enrolled in fully online colleges. Online programs offer students a flexible, convenient way to further their education.

Online enrollees can pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in many fields. Common areas include business, healthcare, and education. Some programs require students to attend virtual classes at set meeting times. Others allow learners to complete coursework at their convenience. Most programs allow online learners to complete any in-person requirements locally.

Our list ranks the best online colleges. Prospective students can use this list to find the right fit for their budget and goals.

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Featured Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Degrees

true Q. How much does online college cost?

Cost varies by program and school. Students enrolled at public, in-state schools usually pay the most affordable tuition. As of August 2021, in-state tuition for an online bachelor's degree averages $38,500. Tuition averages $54,180 at out-of-state colleges.

true Q. Can I go to college online for free?

Eligible students can apply to tuition-free online colleges. Learners can also research financial aid such as scholarships and grants to lower out-of-pocket costs.

true Q. Is it cheaper to get a degree online?

Earning a degree online can help students save money since they do not need to commute to campus or relocate to attend the most affordable program. Many online programs run asynchronously. This delivery format allows students to continue working while earning their degree.

Why Get a Degree Online?

Earning a degree online offers flexibility. Learners can complete coursework from anywhere while managing work and family responsibilities.

An online learning format can also save students money. Many colleges offer tuition breaks for fully online students. They may charge a flat tuition rate regardless of learners' residency.

How Much Does an Online Degree Cost?

Degree costs vary by program and school. Bachelor's programs generally cost more than associate programs. Private schools usually charge more than public schools.

Students earning a bachelor's degree online pay an average of $9,350 per year in tuition and fees at public, in-state colleges, according to 2019-20 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Learners at private colleges pay $32,770 in tuition and fees. Scholarships and grants can help enrollees pay for their degree.

Additional Online Student Fees

Online learners should budget for additional fees, such as upgrading their internet or buying a new computer. Some online colleges charge distance-learning and graduation fees. Students also need to buy books and class materials, which cost an average of $1,240 per year.

Some online programs include on-campus components. Learners should reserve money for travel and lodging. Before choosing an online college, prospective students can ask advisors about a degree's total cost.

Available Online Degrees

Colleges and universities offer online programs in popular fields like business, healthcare, and education. Students can pursue degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Online programs help build strong critical thinking and analytical skills. They also hone problem-solving, research, writing, and communication skills.

Learners pursuing an online bachelor's degree complete general education courses, major courses, and electives. Master's programs include advanced coursework and specialization options. See below for information on three common online degrees.

The Best Online Colleges 2021

University of Florida true View School Profile Gainesville, Florida Unconfirmed

UF ranks at the top of our list of the best online colleges. A public institution with a 2,000-acre campus in Gainesville, UF offers over 200 online programs to its 56,000 students. Distance learners can earn an online degree through the Warrington College of Business or the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

At UF, undergraduates can earn an online degree in business administration, nursing, public relations, or computer science. At the graduate level, UF offers online master's degrees in biostatistics, civil engineering, pharmaceutical sciences, and fisheries and exotic sciences. The university also grants online doctoral degrees.

Online learners complete rigorous courses and earn the same degree as on-campus students. Enrollees seeking affordable online colleges benefit from UF's low tuition rates. Applicants must meet UF's general admission requirements to enroll in online programs.

University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

California State University-Bakersfield true View School Profile Bakersfield, California Unconfirmed

A public university located in the Central Valley, CSUB prioritizes global awareness and a lifelong commitment to learning. Established in 1965, CSUB enrolls over 10,000 students. The university designs its online programs for working students and helps learners advance their education in a flexible format. CSUB creates a personalized learning atmosphere thanks to its small class sizes and high level of faculty support.

The university's fully online programs include undergraduate majors in communications and sociology. Graduate learners can earn their master of business administration or a master's in management, education, or kinesiology. CSUB also offers hybrid options in education, nursing, and social work.

CSUB helps online learners through academic support and networking opportunities. California residents looking for in-state online schools benefit from CSUB's low in-state tuition rates.

California State University, Bakersfield is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Indiana University-Bloomington true View School Profile Bloomington, Indiana Unconfirmed

The flagship institution in Indiana's public university system, IU enrolls over 40,000 students. IU Online connects learners with over 150 online programs at different degree levels. The school counts over 6,000 online learners pursuing degrees with a flexible schedule. IU offers hundreds of online course options every semester, making it easy for learners to advance their education.

Undergraduates can major in labor studies, and aspiring nurses can complete an online RN-to-BSN program. At the graduate level, IU offers an online master of business administration program from a top-ranked business school. Learners can also pursue a master of arts in teaching, a master's in criminal justice and public safety, or a graduate degree in English or finance. On-campus faculty design and teach the online classes. Courses offer the same level of academic rigor as in-person classes.

Indiana University Bloomington is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Connecticut true View School Profile Storrs, Connecticut Unconfirmed

Connecticut's flagship state university, UConn grants degrees from its campus in Storrs. The research university also offers online courses and degrees through its online campus. Learners can earn an online master's degree or take undergraduate courses online. The online programs prioritize academic rigor and a research-based curriculum.

UConn offers online master's programs in areas including accounting, engineering, business, and nursing. The school tailors its educational technology and gifted and talented education master's programs to working educators seeking career advancement. These programs use a unique summer format.

Distance learners complete coursework using weekly module rubrics. At UConn, distance learners earn the same diploma as on-campus students. Most students work while pursuing an online master's degree. Learners also receive technical and academic support during their studies.

University of Connecticut is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

The University of Texas at Austin true View School Profile Austin, Texas Unconfirmed

With over 50,000 students, UT Austin ranks among the nation's largest universities. In addition to its on-campus courses, the public institution offers online courses through TEXAS Extended Campus (TEC). Designed for traditional college students, mid-career professionals, and learners at every age, TEC makes it easier to complete college coursework.

Learners can choose between self-paced or semester-based online courses at TEC. The self-paced courses allow motivated learners to begin classes at any time and complete assignments at their own pace. Students who prefer more structure can take semester-based courses. TEC also offers professional training and continuing education opportunities. Prospective students do not need to apply to UT Austin to enroll in TEC classes.

The University of Texas at Austin is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins View School Profile Fort Collins, Colorado Unconfirmed

Founded in 1870, CSU is a public land-grant institution located in Fort Collins. Distance learners can earn an undergraduate or graduate degree through CSU Online. One of the best online colleges, CSU offers various programs that use the same faculty and academic standards as the university's on-campus programs.

At CSU, students can earn an online bachelor's degree in the liberal arts, computer science, or economics. CSU also offers unique online programs, like its majors in agricultural business, horticulture, and natural resource tourism.

At the graduate level, degree-seekers can study agricultural sciences, applied statistics with a data science specialization, sports management, or computer science. The university also offers an online master of business administration and multiple online graduate programs in education and engineering. CSU's graduate certificate options include an online ski area management program.

Colorado State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Palm Beach State College View School Profile Lake Worth, Florida Unconfirmed

Established in 1933, PBSC is Florida's first public community college. PBSC offers online associate and bachelor's degrees through its eLearning programs. Distance learners benefit from online tutoring support, a flexible learning environment, and the ability to easily transfer into a four-year university.

Students can choose a business administration program that prepares graduates to transfer into a bachelor's program. The program builds foundational knowledge in business, with coursework in areas like marketing, finance, and accounting.

PBSC hosts a student online course support and advising center to assist distance learners. The center helps learners build their online study skills and manage technical problems. Distance learners may need to take proctored exams. Prospective students must apply to PBSC in order to register for online classes. PBSC offers online classes exclusively to Florida residents.

Palm Beach State College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Hawaii at Manoa View School Profile Honolulu, Hawaii Unconfirmed

Hawaii's flagship public research university, UH Manoa grants degrees from its scenic campus in Honolulu’s Manoa Valley. Degree-seekers who prefer a flexible schedule can enroll through UH Online. The university offers over 50 online programs, including certificate, associate, bachelor's, and master's programs.

Through UH Manoa, online learners can earn a bachelor's degree in economics, social work, or interdisciplinary studies. UH Manoa ranks as one of the best online colleges for students interested in ocean studies. The college features an online social sciences of the oceans major. At the graduate level, the university offers nursing, education, social work, and business programs.

UH Online offers academic and student support tools for learners. In addition to enrolling at UH Manoa, degree-seekers can choose online options at Hawaii's public community colleges and other four-year campuses. Prospective learners must apply to a specific UH campus to register for classes online.

University of Hawaii at Manoa is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Arkansas Tech University View School Profile Russellville, Arkansas Unconfirmed

A public institution located in Russellville, ATU offers online undergraduate degrees through the College of eTech. ATU's online options include three bachelor's programs. These programs emphasize convenience and personalized support from academic advisors. Online learners work with advisors to customize their educational experience.

ATU's online bachelor's programs include a degree in organizational leadership, a bachelor of applied science, and an interdisciplinary studies program. In the organizational leadership major, learners build supervisory skills while studying workplace learning and organizational change. The applied science major allows transfer students with an associate of applied science to earn a bachelor's degree. Similarly, the interdisciplinary studies program operates as a degree-completion track for students seeking an accelerated course of study.

Online learners also benefit from access to training programs in hundreds of applications through the Virtual Training Center.

Arkansas Tech University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Eastern Florida State College View School Profile Cocoa, Florida Unconfirmed

A public institution in Brevard County, EFSC enrolls 25,000 students on its campuses and through its virtual campus. The college's online program helps learners complete degrees in high-demand fields. EFSC grants associate and bachelor's degrees through its online program that offers over 250 courses.

EFSC prioritizes small class sizes and accessibility. The college designs courses for working professionals and uses interactive tools to engage students. Distance learners receive personal attention and access to learning resources to support their studies. The college offers online courses during five terms each year.

Students can earn an online RN-to-BSN degree. Enrollees can also pursue a bachelor's in organizational management with specialization options in banking, business, healthcare management, and public safety management. The college also offers online degrees in computer information systems technology and applied health sciences.

Eastern Florida State College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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