Best Online Christian Colleges

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Christian colleges give students the opportunity to earn a higher education in an environment focused on faith. For years, students have earned degrees on campus while going to church and participating in religious activities with their peers. And while these on-campus activities continue, many Christian colleges have moved academics online, providing a wide range of degree programs and courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. Some have even extended religious support and interaction to the web, allowing their online students to discuss their faith with fellow classmates, even if they’re not on a campus.

Top 10 Best Online Christian Colleges

Rank School Location
1 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
2 Brigham Young University-Idaho Rexburg, ID
3 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Mount Vernon, OH
4 Manhattan Christian College Manhattan, KS
5 Rosemont College Rosemont, PA
6 Columbia College Columbia, MO
7 Clear Creek Baptist Bible College Pineville, KY
8 Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Kansas City, MO
9 Bethel University Saint Paul, MN
10 University of Mary Bismarck, ND
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Best Online Christian Colleges


  • METHODOLOGY

    Best Online Christian Colleges: Ranking Top Universities for 2018-2019

    Deciding which college to go to is no easy task, so ACO evaluated more than 3,500 colleges to give you the information you need to make the search more manageable. Our 2018 college rankings are based on statistical data from trusted sources, eligibility criteria and various ranking factorsData Sources:

    Eligibility Criteria:

    • Each college must be accredited
    • Each college must be a not-for-profit institution
    • Each college must be located in a state (US territories and Washington DC were excluded)
    • Each college must have at least one online program 1
    • Each college must have a maximum four-year tuition of $25,000 or a maximum two-year tuition of $5,000

    Ranking Factors:

    • Affordability
    • Quality
    • Flexibility
    • Program

    Several individual data points were objectively evaluated to calculate a score for each ranking factor listed above. For affordability, the most impactful data points were tuition2 and grants; for quality, graduation and acceptance rates; for flexibility, part-time enrollment options; and for program, degrees granted in that specific program area. Each score was then weighted, with affordability being the most highly weighted factor for all ACO rankings.

    1 Best Vocational Programs included data for both online and campus programs.

    2 Both in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our rankings tool currently only displays in-state rates.Notes:

    • A dash in our Rankings Tool indicates IPEDS data was not available.
    • Tuition displayed in in-state and per year unless stated otherwise.


The following schools offer the full package: a Christian ethos, affordable tuition, full online programs, and a number of student support services that help shape cost-effective, quality learning at the college level. In other words, they belong to an exclusive list: The Best Online Christian Colleges for 2018-2019.

  1. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The largest institution in Virginia, Liberty University boasts over 550 degree programs founded on Christian values. Christian values extend to their online campus where students have plenty of undergraduate programs to pick from. Ranging from unique programs like aviation to more common programs like education, their online school has options for students of all interests and backgrounds. Liberty University also offers three online programs through their divinity program: bachelor's degrees in Biblical education, leadership and religion. On top of their wide-ranging degree programs, Liberty makes it easy for students to earn their degree online. Courses are offered in nontraditional eight-week formats, letting students jump in and out of their studies as their schedules allow. Online tuition at Liberty hasn't increase in three years. Transfer students are also welcome and can bring up to 75 percent of their previously earned credits to the online school, reducing the cost and time it takes to earn a degree.

  2. Brigham Young University-Idaho
    Location

    Rexburg, ID

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Brigham Young University-Idaho is one of the largest private, Christian institutions with over 34,000 students on campus and another 15,000 online. One reason their online program is so popular is the flexibility it offers to students. Along with studying toward their bachelor's degree, students are able to earn a certificate and associate degree, all within the usual 4-year period it would take to earn a bachelor's degree. Regardless of how students choose to supplement their education, they'll end up earning one of BYUI's 9 bachelor's degrees. Prior to entering the online school, students will need to have completed a program called PathwayConnect, a 3-semester program that can be completed entirely online in just 1 year. If students have previously earned 15 or more on campus credits from a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints college, they can avoid the PathwayConnect program entirely and begin their studies immediately.

  3. Mount Vernon Nazarene University
    Location

    Mount Vernon, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Mount Vernon Nazarene University educates the whole person by combining higher education with Christian education. Its programs, including online programs, are structured to teach students how to be better leaders, learners and independent thinkers while also bringing in a religious element. Students that are interested in earning a bachelor's degree online from Mount Vernon Nazarene should have previous credit prior to applying. All of their online bachelor's degree programs are degree completion and require a minimum of 56 transferable credits. These can be earned by studying toward a degree at another institution or through a relevant associate degree program. For students that don't have enough credits, MVNU recommends earning an MVNU associate degree in general studies first. For online students interested in a degree in religion, the best option is the bachelor's in ministry leadership. It's a 40-credit-hour, degree-completion program that teaches students how to become better leaders in their local communities.

  4. Manhattan Christian College
    Location

    Manhattan, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    What was once Kansas Bible College is now Manhattan Christian College, a private, Christian school that focuses solely on educating students in religion. However, as the school has grown, it's expanded to include an online department, which offers one of the college's only nonreligious degrees. Students who want a bachelor's degree from MCC have 2 online options: the bachelor's in Biblical leadership and the bachelor's in management and ethics. The latter, which is also their most popular online program, still places an emphasis on Christianity through the ethics and leadership of business. Both of these programs are degree completion, so students should have prior college credit before applying. Once in the program, students will take 4 courses each semester. This is broken down into 2 8-week courses, followed by another 2 8-week courses to make up a 16-week semester. Including prior credits, students should expect to earn their degree in 4 years.

  5. Rosemont College
    Location

    Rosemont, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    With roots in Catholicism, Rosemont College is a small school with just over 500 undergraduate students. With such a small student body, Rosemont is able to pay special attention to each student, ensuring that they're getting the best education possible. Even students pursuing an online program receive the same attention and quality education that on-campus students receive. If students are interested in studying entirely online at Rosemont, they'll only have one undergraduate degree option- the bachelor's in criminal justice. This 120-credit degree is taught through unique 5-week courses, allowing students to quickly earn college credits. Rosemont's online programs are all accelerated, too, so students can easily earn their degree in less than the traditional 4-year period. Transfer students can complete the bachelor's in criminal justice even faster since Rosemont allows them to bring in up to 84 credits. This reduces the cost even further, making this an affordable option for online transfer students.

  6. Columbia College
    Location

    Columbia, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    While it's changed a lot over its 160 years, Columbia College has still maintained their ties with the Christian Church. Since opening, Columbia College has grown from a 2-year degree institution to a 4-year degree college with 35 campuses around the country. Along with its many in-person distance learning options, Columbia College also has an online campus, which offers a quick, affordable path toward a degree. Its online school offers 8-week courses with 6 sessions each year, meaning students can easily complete their studies in less than the traditional 4 years. However, students are also able to study at their own pace, since many of their online students are too busy to commute. There are 8 bachelor's degree programs offered through Columbia College's online school, some of which can be further specialized with a major or area of focus. Columbia also offers a flat tuition rate per credit, making it easy to budget for a bachelor's degree.

  7. Clear Creek Baptist Bible College
    Location

    Pineville, KY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Everything at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College is Christ-centered. Not only does this influence the academics at Clear Creek, but also the way the school treats students and its tuition costs. Their online program has the same flat-rate cost as their on campus tuition, as well as the same quality of education and student expectations. By doing this, there is no real difference between studying on campus or online- except that online students are able to study at their own pace and set their own schedule. The only bachelor's degree offered entirely online is their Bachelor of Arts in Ministry, a 120-credit-hour program that prepares students for a future career in ministry. Students can further specialize their education through elective courses, each of which is meant to teach real-life skills that graduates would use. Online courses are offered through the Sakai platform.

  8. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Location

    Kansas City, MO

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is one of the top Christ-centered institutions in the region, basing its education off Methodist beliefs and values. Midwestern Baptist's online school is designed specifically for students who currently work in a ministry setting and don't want to or are unable to leave. With the flexibility of online learning, Midwestern Baptist brings its bachelor's degree programs to students, taught through the popular Canvas platform. Currently, there are 5 bachelor's degree programs offered, as well as special accelerated and fusion programs. The accelerated program lets students earn 2 bachelor's degrees online over 5 years of study while the fusion program allows students to spend their first year of school in the field. Courses in the online school last 8 weeks, and there are 7 different terms each year, allowing students to study continuously without needing to take on too much schoolwork at once.

  9. Bethel University
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    As one of the oldest colleges in Tennessee, Bethel University has a long-established reputation not just as a Christian college, but as an institution of higher learning. One of the only large changes Bethel has experienced in the past 175 years is the growth of its online programs, which often gain regional and national attention. Because Bethel educates with Christianity in mind, all of its online degrees will pertain to Presbyterian ethics, teaching students their subject while also educating their spirit. While there are online bachelor's degrees offered that are related to Christianity (such as the bachelor's in Christian ministries), Bethel also offers a variety of degrees that lead to high-demand jobs. The online bachelor's degree programs are all completion programs, so students will need to have a minimum number of credits to be accepted. Prerequisites vary depending on the program, but incoming students should expect to already have at least 60 credits.

  10. University of Mary
    Location

    Bismarck, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Mary is a Catholic, Benedictine college based in Bismarck, North Dakota. However, many of its students are nontraditional, which has led to the growth of its distance education program. The University of Mary has over 25 years of experience in distance education. The school currently offers 10 bachelor's degree programs that can be completed entirely online, and some through a hybrid of on-campus weeknight classes and online study (if students prefer that format). These programs are all designed for busy adults that want to further their career as soon as possible. To speed up their education, students are allowed to transfer credits into the program, and can even earn some college credits through previous work experience. Doing so can also save students money, reducing the already affordable online tuition costs. Some programs can be completed in as little as 15 months, although students are allowed to study at their own pace.

Online Christian Colleges: The Basics

Colleges with religious affiliations can be found throughout the United States. In 2013, 970 faith-based institutions received regional or national accreditation, 570 of which were Christian, according to the Department of Education. This includes Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian schools, among a handful of others.

In addition to denomination, many Christian colleges vary by level of religious focus. For example, some Christian institutions boast academic environments with strong dedication to a faith-based curriculum. These institutions often use Scripture as a backbone for lessons and coursework, and require students to take classes on the Old Testament and New Testament. Students may also participate in ministry work locally or overseas, or work toward an actual career in the ministry. A master’s degree in divinity serves as the staple here, taking an estimated two years to complete.

Other Christian colleges have a more relaxed approach, remaining tied to the church but offering a more secular education. These Christian colleges tend to have strong liberal arts foundations that lead to a wide range of degree program options. Also, despite relatively loose affiliation with the church, they often have faith-based clubs and support groups for students and faculty.

Online Learning at Christian Colleges

Similar to secular institutions, many Christian colleges have prioritized distance learning via new courses, full-fledged degree programs, support services and a revamped technological infrastructure. More courses, programs and degrees available online means increased diversity and happiness among the student body. Online learning maximizes flexibility, allowing degree seekers with family, job or other important commitments to work toward graduation without neglecting elsewhere.

This is especially true of asynchronous, or self-paced, online programs. Here students listen to or watch pre-recorded lectures, submit assignments and take exams on their own time. This could be a day, a week or a month after the live event. Many self-paced programs, however, do come with some deadlines to ensure students move forward.

In contrast, synchronous programs call for regular student activity and attention. Participants may need to log on at preset dates to chat with professors and peers in real-time. They may also be required to take timed exams or engage in group discussions or projects on a set schedule. These courses still offer great flexibility, but also promote collaboration.

The Christian Ethos in Online Programs

Online Christian colleges offer a unique approach to higher learning. They are committed to developing Christ-centered adults who impact the world in positive ways. Through a variety of learning formats, students learn important biblical principles that they can take back to their homes, workplaces and communities.

At Christian colleges, students and faculty connect through a shared faith, whether they attend classes on campus or online. Requirements vary widely among Christian colleges. Although church attendance is not mandatory at some institutions, other schools require students to attend church regularly, even in an online program.

More conservative programs require all faculty members to practice their faith and even sign a Christian doctrinal statement. Courses may be the same as those taught at secular schools, but the perspective is likely to be different. It would not be unusual to find a course such as “Foundations of Christian Living” alongside courses on the Old Testament and New Testament. “

Some online Christian colleges offer students in distance learning programs the chance to connect spiritually via the web. Resources often include prayer and counseling through a dedicated forum. Students in distance learning programs at some Christian colleges can earn credit for volunteering and social activism.

Spotlight Interview: Christian Brothers University

The best to truly understand how a college’s distance learning works is to ask. Affordable Colleges Online asked C. Michael Perry, an admissions counselor at Christian Brothers University, to explain how the school’s Christian component works with online learning.

Are online students at Christian Brothers University required to receive the same instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice as on-campus students?

While CBU was founded as a Catholic school, the student body is quite religiously and culturally diverse. Catholic studies are not a requirement, and there is no instruction in Catholic doctrine outside of certain Religious Studies courses. However, students who live on campus have opportunities to participate in faith-based programs such as bible study groups, prayer events and service activities. For example, we have a tutoring program with Blesses Sacrament and Holy Names Schools and our students work with St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen.

Is the material in the online courses at Christian Brothers University similar to the material in traditional on-campus courses?

Our students receive the same academic material regardless of the course being offered online, in a hybrid format, or completely on campus. Currently only a select group of courses are offered completely online, although we have quite a few hybrid courses, especially within the College of Adult Professional Studies. As the popularity of those courses increases, there is the possibility of expansion.

Please describe the value of your online courses in comparison to on-campus courses.

The hybrid format allows for flexibility. It blends face-to-face time with the school’s faculty and other students, with the freedom to complete coursework online. In our hybrid courses, we utilize online lectures and discussions in addition to campus classes.

Interview with an Online Student

Hearing from administrators of online programs at Christian colleges means more detail and insight into the mindset and resources that fuel online learning. However, to cultivate a more well rounded point of view, AC Online reached out to Anna G., an undergraduate student at Liberty University Online.

What made you choose the online program at Liberty University?

When I first graduated from high school I looked at different Christian colleges because my faith is really important to who I am. But I ended up working full-time for a few years before I was ready to commit to earning a degree. Scheduling classes around a full-time job is difficult, so I thought taking classes online would be a good way to work around my schedule. And it has been. Plus I still get the benefit of being in a Christian environment. The faculty is Christian, the other students are Christian. The perspective is just what I was looking for.

What does Liberty University offer in terms of faith-based services for online students?

Obviously it is a little different because when you don’t live on campus or take classes there every day, you aren’t able to take part in the same activities. But if you go to Online Communities on the website, you can connect through live streams, bible studies, and that kind of thing. People post their testimonies, sign up for public service. Basically anything you would do on campus is there in a virtual environment.

What type of academic support do you receive through Liberty University Online?

I have always felt supported by the school academically. For example, I have gotten help through Tutor.com when I’ve needed it. Any time I have a question I can reach my professors online and they get back to me right away. My advisor has also been really helpful. I have always been able to find what I need when I need it.

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