Colorado Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2017-2018

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Best Online Colleges In Colorado

Students with work and family obligations can complete undergraduate and graduate degrees online, and there’s no waiting for the snowplow to arrive before commuting to campus. The breadth and depth of academic options vary from program to program, curriculum to curriculum. The colleges listed below are leaders in online education in Colorado, universities committed to providing students with affordable, flexible and diverse learning opportunities. See who made the list of the Best Online Colleges in Colorado for 2016-2017:

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Colorado Christian University Lakewood, CO 99.67$20,93539 97% 14:1 42% Yes Yes Yes

Colorado Christian University was founded in 1914 and is a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. Distance learning through Colorado Christian University offers 9 associate degree programs, 14 bachelor degree programs and 11 master’s degree programs in full online or hybrid learning through lecture, group discussion, Internet courses, etc. The university uses Blackboard, which is a web-based virtual classroom that gives you the opportunity to connect with instructors and students. All of the degree programs, online and classroom-based, are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Associate of Colleges and Schools.

2 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO 99.07$7,73323 79% 17:1 46% No Yes Yes

The University of Northern Colorado was one of the first schools to offer online programs, beginning in 1996. Offering more than 50 degree, licensure and certificate programs, UNC provides options for a variety of different learning styles and methods that fit within your schedule. Most of the faculty who teach on-campus also teach degree program courses online so students get the same coursework and experiences. Since 1916, UNC has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. UNC utilizes the Blackboard course management system for online education.

3 University of Colorado Colorado Springs Colorado Springs, CO 97.98$7,46018 28% 15:1 47% Yes Yes Yes

Online undergraduate and graduate programs are available to students through the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS). Students can choose from seven undergraduate programs, including business, communication, criminal justice, health care sciences, nursing and sociology. UCCS offers 12 online master’s degrees including concentrations areas of business, criminal justice, education, engineering, nursing and public administration. Graduate certificates are also available in business, criminal justice, education, engineering, nursing and public administration. UCCS also offers an online doctorate of nursing practice for those students pursuing an advanced health care career. UCCS is accredited through the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission.

4 Adams State University Alamosa, CO 97.81$8,01412 70% 15:1 21% Yes Yes Yes

Students can pursue undergraduate programs, master’s degree programs and a doctoral program at Adams State University in Colorado, with most of the courses offered online. The campus recently undergone a $65 million transformation and now houses state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories to strengthen student learning. Distance learning supports students seeking undergraduate degrees, graduate programs, K-12 educator professional development and high school students seeking early college credits. Associate degrees are available in both general studies and business, bachelor degrees are available in business administration, liberal arts, interdisciplinary studies, criminology, social welfare and RN in nursing. Adams State University utilizes the Blackboard course management system to deliver online course content.

5 Metropolitan State University of Denver Denver, CO 97.78$6,07019 18% 19:1 24% Yes Yes Yes

Metropolitan State University in Denver offers students online programs and an extended campus, which offers off-campus site and distance learning opportunities. Metro State also offers courses that are fully online, mostly online and a hybrid class, which combines both in-person learning and online instruction. Online learning instruction is provided through the course management system called Blackboard Learn. Students can choose from 67 undergraduate majors and master’s degrees in professional accountancy, teacher education and social work. In 2017, master’s degrees will also be available in business administration and health administration.

6 University of Colorado Denver Denver, CO 97.48$8,50019 48% 16:1 40% No Yes Yes

The distance learning through the University of Colorado Denver offers more than 450 online courses and over 20 full online degree programs. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs include arts and media, business, education, engineering, liberal arts and sciences, nursing, pharmacy, public affairs and public health. In addition, at CU Denver students can combine both online courses with on campus courses for a customizable experience that fits individual learning styles. CU Denver utilizes the Canvas learning management system for all online courses, an advanced platform that integrates better security, innovative features and the integration of social media.

7 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO 97.14$9,89713 48% 16:1 65% No Yes Yes

Students can pursue traditional on-campus or online learning degree programs through Colorado State University. The online programs combine a learning-management system with instructors delivering course content through video, text, assessments, projects and group discussion. In addition, the school has partnered with Unizin to provide students with a cutting-edge program for digital education. CSU offers undergraduate and graduate online programs in a variety of disciplines and students can count on the same degree program whether you’re taking classes on-campus or online. Colorado State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, a Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.

8 Western State Colorado University Gunnison, CO 97.06$7,8743 66% 16:1 36% No Yes Yes

Western State Colorado University is in Gunnison, Colorado, in the beautiful Gunnison Valley. Research, undergraduate and graduate training are at the heart of the university’s academic curriculums. Degrees exist for adults across a broad range of specialties, including sciences, health, education and arts. Credit and non-credit classes are taught through the Extended Studies program. Specific offerings in the program include the Summer Teacher Institute, Career Step training courses, Outdoor and Wilderness Education program and international learning opportunities. Adults can also take Pearson VUE licensing certification exams through the Extended Studies program.

9 Nazarene Bible College Colorado Springs, CO 97.01$11,40021 N/A 10:1 17% Yes Yes Yes

Nazarene Bible College’s main offices are in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As one of ten Nazarene postsecondary schools in the United States, Christ is at the center of the college. Future and current students have more than a dozen degrees to choose from. Pastoral ministries, Christian counseling, Bible and theology and leadership and ethics are highlighted training areas at Nazarene Bible College. Pastoral ministries and early education are other areas that associate and bachelor’s degrees are awarded in. Adults who want to serve in ministry as a deacon or elder can enroll in the college’s ministry preparation program.

10 Colorado Mesa University Grand Junction, CO 87.00$7,11615 35% 23:1 33% Yes No Yes

Colorado Mesa University boasts a student population of about 10,660. The school is located in Grand Junction, Colorado, the most populated town in Mesa County. The school’s 86 acre main campus is near miles of natural land, including canyons and mountains. Since it was founded in 1925, Colorado Mesa has graduated thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in majors like art, sciences, mass communication, languages, business, education and arts. Distance learners are able to complete individual courses to apply towards their degrees entirely online.

11 Colorado State University-Global Campus Greenwood Village, CO 86.60$8,40038 N/A 38:1 N/A Yes No Yes

Colorado State University’s Global Campus offers fully online degrees for students, on their own terms. Courses are asynchronous, so students can access their program materials at any time of the day or night. Classes begin every four weeks, so students don’t have to wait for the beginning of a traditional semester to begin working toward their degree. Prospective students can choose from undergraduate degrees in marketing, organizational leadership, communication, human services, business management and several other programs. They can transfer up to 90 credit hours from another university, upon approval.

12 Colorado State University-Pueblo Pueblo, CO 86.00$7,8346 48% 16:1 32% Yes No Yes

Colorado State University - Pueblo offers students a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in four main schools: College of Education, Engineering and Professional Studies; College of Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Science and Math and the Hasan School of Business. Students will enjoy an average class size of 25 students, hands-on educational opportunities and international programs. In addition, the university offers a program for part-time students through the Division of Extended Studies. Credit and non-credit courses, seminars and workshops area available to students living in Pueblo and off-campus sites.

Best 2-Year Online Colleges in Colorado

Rank University Location ScoreAnnual Tuition# of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Lamar Community College Lamar, CO 95.21$3,35715 62% 19:1 28% Yes Yes Yes

Lamar Community College offers associate degrees and certificate programs in a number of fields both online and on campus. Certain online classes are offered strictly through LCC while others are through the consortium of Colorado Colleges. Students have the option to live and dine on campus and participate in student life events on and off campus. Free tutoring is offered six days a week and Office 365 is provided to every student after admission. Students who complete an associate's degree have to option to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor degree.

2 Colorado Northwestern Community College Rangely, CO 94.35$3,6829 62% 12:1 33% Yes No Yes

As a member of the Colorado Community College system, Colorado Northwestern offers guaranteed transfer to a 4-year college after completion of an Associate of Art of Associate of Science program. Associate degrees with a program of emphasis are also offered, allowing students to participate in lab work and continue their education in colleges in and out of state. Two online degree programs in Early Childhood Education and Banking and Finance Services are also offered through CNCC's Virtual Classroom powered by WebEx. This online program puts students in cohorts, meaning they complete each class with the same students and attend live lectures all online.

3 Trinidad State Junior College Trinidad, CO 93.87$3,3853 44% 14:1 39% Yes Yes Yes

Trinidad State was the first college in the Colorado Community College system. It offers degree programs for associate degrees as well as career ready certificates at two campuses in Trinidad and Alamosa Colorado. Different degree programs are offered at each campus. At the Trinidad campus, a gunsmithing program affiliated with the National Rifle Association takes place, where students can gain experience in all aspects of gun making and marksmanship and earn an Associate of Applied Science in Gunsmithing. Southern Rockies Heritage School which is authorized by TSJC, offers classes available to students and community members in subjects like cultural arts and sustainable living.

4 Northeastern Junior College Sterling, CO 93.45$3,39421 32% 20:1 36% Yes No Yes

Northeastern Junior College became the first iPad college in Colorado in 2015, meaning every student is required to have an iPad to use during classes, labs and shops. Students can earn transfer, two-year and certificate degrees both on-campus and online. Online courses are offered in the in the fall, spring and summer in 15, 10 and six-week sessions, allowing students to take classes at their own pace. Hybrid classes also exist that mix online course work with sporadic on campus meetings in a number of departments. All online classes us Blackboard, an online learning tool used by college across the United States.

5 Morgan Community College Fort Morgan, CO 93.11$3,39412 15% 15:1 34% Yes Yes Yes

As one of 13 colleges in the Colorado Community College System, Morgan Community College works to give students man different pathways to learning. This means they provide accredited, associate degree in art, science, applied science and general studies, as well as certificate programs. As part of the CCCS, Morgan has the ability to bring more than 200 online course offerings to students, from colleges all across Colorado. MCC partners with a local meat plant Cargill to bring workers and their families workplace education training where they can learn English as a Second Language, prep for the GED and acquire basic computer skills.

6 Otero Junior College La Junta, CO 93.01$4,0339 68% 18:1 30% No No Yes

Otero Junior College offers more than 50 associate degree and certificate programs, accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. As a participant in the Alternative Credit Project, OJC gives students who have taken classes at other colleges the chance to transfer 53 approved classes to earn credit toward their degree. Outside of the classroom students have the opportunity to participate in many on-campus clubs including an honor society and drama club. Classes are available in the fall, spring and summer semesters both online and in the classroom. Online courses have a fast track class that lasts six weeks or a late start course that lasts 10 weeks.

7 Arapahoe Community College Littleton, CO 92.95$3,39225 10% 24:1 18% Yes Yes Yes

Arapahoe Community College has three campuses and an online learning module, widening their reach across not only the state but the country. Utilizing the Brightspace learning management system gives ACC the unique opportunity to offer more than 200 online courses during the fall, spring and summer. Though the use of iTunes, many instructors upload video lectures that students can watch on their computer, tablet or smartphone at will. ACC offers a concurrent enrollment program for qualified high school students. This program allows them to earn both college and high school credit for classes taken on the ACC campus.

8 Front Range Community College Westminster, CO 92.68$3,36518 9% 20:1 18% Yes Yes Yes

With four campuses around the state, Front Range Community College offers learning opportunities in multiple counties across Colorado. There more than 50 educational programs give students the chance to prepare for careers, earn associate degrees, and work on their general education courses. Those who meet the requirements receive a guaranteed transfer to multiple four-year colleges including the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Colorado. Student looking for more challenging coursework and participate in an exclusive honors program that features special advising. Students who can't attend on-campus classes can complete 33 different degree programs completely online.

9 Aims Community College Greeley, CO 92.67$2,7566 22% 17:1 29% Yes No Yes

More than 7,000 students attend Aims Community College annually to work toward more than 160 different degree and certificate programs. The college is spread across four campuses and offers day and evening classes during the spring, summer and fall semesters. ACC offers a full load of online courses with certain classes offered on a fast-track basis. Students who are unsure what career path they want to work toward may participate in an online "Who Are You" quiz to find out their personality type. Once complete ACC provides each student with a list of courses that best match these results.

10 Pikes Peak Community College Colorado Springs, CO 91.37$3,22718 1% 23:1 14% Yes Yes Yes

Pikes Peak Community College is the largest educational institute in Southern Colorado spanning, three campuses, two smaller learning centers and two military centers. Its 158 associate degree and certificate programs are offered online and on-campus and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ten of their associate degree programs can be completed 100 percent online with full semester and fast paced options available. Students who want online classes, that feature on campus meet-ups can participate in hybrid classes. Students and community members can also take non-credit community classes for additional learning opportunities in fields including baking and retirement planning.

11 Community College of Aurora Aurora, CO 91.02$3,39436 3% 21:1 20% Yes No Yes

Students who attend the Community College of Aurora have the opportunity attended classes in both Denver and Aurora Colorado. Classes are small with the student teacher ratio at 21:1. Online and hybrid classes, as well as self-paced and open entry, are offered for CCAs 40+ associate degree and certificate programs. Self-paced classes allow students to complete a 15-week class at their own pace and begin at the beginning of the semester. Open entry is a unique experience where students can begin a class at any time during the semester and must complete it within a 15-week (fall/spring) and a 10-week (summer) time frame.

12 Community College of Denver Denver, CO 90.31$3,8749 9% 25:1 10% Yes Yes Yes

Community College of Denver rests in the heart of Denver and offers more than 100 certificate and associate degree programs. Class sizes vary from as few as 14 students a class to as many as 20 and features one of the best welding programs in the state of Colorado. Classes are offered at both two separate campuses as well as a state of the art manufacturing center near CCDs main campus. Traditional, hybrid, self-paced and online courses are provided, allowing CCD to cater to every student type. Students who need help transitioning into college life can get help by signing up for the "First Year Experience Program."

13 Pueblo Community College Pueblo, CO 89.77$3,6723 6% 17:1 24% Yes Yes Yes

Sprawled across the state of Colorado, Pueblo Community College features 4 campuses hundreds of associate degree and certificate programs as well as on Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene. Apart from in-class instruction, PCC supplies students with three distance education alternatives. Hybrid classes are offered along with two online course offerings. Online courses are offered through PCC and taught by instructors of the college, while others are provided by the Colorado Community College system. PCC gives students the opportunity participate in the Presidential Leadership Program Certificate program. This program teaches students leadership skills they can take into the workforce or with them as the continue their education.

Overview of Colorado Online Colleges

Colorado schools have recognized the need for flexibility in higher education and responded by adding distance learning courses to traditional course line-ups. These online programs come from private not-for-profit colleges, religious schools, for-profit institutions and public universities–for example, the University of Colorado.

At the forefront of online colleges in Colorado, UC proudly describes a three-pronged approach to distance learning: flexible degree options, extensive student support and specialized faculty training. The university’s CU Online division has 23 online and hybrid degree programs available, as well as 15 certificates. Featured majors include business, engineering, nursing, health care and education.

The University of Colorado is just one of the many higher education institutions in the state that offers extensive choices for online learning programs. Colleges and universities in Denver—the state’s largest city—provide students with a wide selection of distance learning opportunities.

Higher Education Spotlight: Denver, Colorado

Standing at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is home to 32 universities, colleges and post-secondary trade schools. In this highly educated metro, 42.2 percent of all residents aged 25 and older have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. Denver colleges and universities serve a combined student body of 70,570 with excellent undergraduate and graduate degree options at nationally recognized institutions.

The Auraria Campus is a downtown complex serving the four-year University of Colorado, Denver (UCD), the Metropolitan State University of Denver and the two-year Community College of Denver. UCD is Colorado’s largest research university and is ranked among the top 200 national universities by U.S. News & World Report. With more than 130 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, UCD has gained high rankings and recognition for its nursing and School of Medicine programs coordinated with the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. The Community College of Denver has more than 200 partnerships with businesses in the city and offers over 100 certificate and associate degree programs.

Online Learning at Denver Colleges and Universities

UCD was among the first universities in the nation to offer online degrees in 1996. This university’s fully online offerings have grown to 18 degree programs along with 12 professional certificates. Popular programs include the MBA, nursing (RN, RN to BSN, master’s and PhD) and a specialist license in early childhood special education. U.S. News has ranked the university’s online graduate nursing programs 10th in the nation.

Regis University, a Jesuit institution in Denver, provides 16 undergraduate degree programs, 25 graduate degrees and 25 professional certificates in a web-based format through its College of Professional Studies. The Regis College for Health Professions offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates through the Loretto Heights School of Nursing, School of Physical Therapy and Division of Health Services Administration.

Cost of Living and Tuition in Colorado

Pursuing a college education is a significant financial investment, with tuition as the highest expense. Tuition can vary considerably depending on the institution and its location. Colorado college students who have established state residency typically pay less tuition than those who have not. In 2012, yearly tuition for Colorado residents was $10,900.

When estimating the cost of college, prospective students also need to consider other mandatory college fees. For example, many schools charge fees for labs, parking, athletics and other student services. Fees to attend colleges in Colorado in 2012 averaged $800, for a total of $11,700 in tuition and fees for the year.

In addition to tuition and fees, living expenses account for a large portion of higher education costs. Room and board rates can cover a wide spectrum, depending on whether students choose to live on campus or off campus. The cost of living in Colorado is just 1 percent higher than the national average. The following table breaks down the cost of living (COL) in Colorado’s metro areas as compared to the U.S. mean (100%):

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Pueblo -14.40% -28.50% 0.50% -19.90% -6.20% -5.90% -9.90%
Loveland -9.00% -20.70% 2.70% -10.40% -8.60% 0.30% -4.30%
Colorado Springs -7.20% -8.00% -4.60% -13.20% -3.80% 2.30% -7.90%
Grand Junction -1.70% 5.40% 1.90% -13.60% -0.90% 3.80% -6.90%
Denver 3.20% 7.50% 1.00% 1.90% -4.60% 5.90% 2.70%
Gunnison 10.00% 34.50% 10.60% -14.30% -1.00% -2.70% 0.60%
Glenwood Springs 24.00% 69.00% 3.30% -11.00% 10.90% 12.00% 8.70%

While many colleges in Colorado offer a wide range of academic opportunity, certain schools are notable for a solid return on investment (ROI). The following five colleges boast the highest lifetime value for a college education. Here, ROI is measured by subtracting the total cost of attendance for four years from the average lifetime salary of graduates:

  1. Colorado School of Mines
  2. University of Colorado – Boulder
  3. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  4. University of Colorado at Denver
  5. University of Denver

Funding College Studies in Colorado: Scholarships and Financial Aid

Students can reduce college costs with help from numerous programs. For example, federal financial aid is one of many options Colorado students have for lowering college costs. Since federal financial assistance entails need-based programs, students must fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA®) form to determine the total amount for which they qualify. The percentage of Colorado undergraduate students who received federal financial aid in 2012 was 59.

Most students, even those who receive federal financial aid, can pursue scholarships to make college more affordable. A number of higher education institutions in Colorado award scholarships. Students can also apply for scholarships from nonprofit organizations, companies, and state and local governments. Here is a list of some of the sources for scholarships in Colorado:

  • ASTA-Rocky Mountain Chapter
  • Coloradans for Nebraska
  • Colorado Department of Higher Education
  • Colorado Early Achievers Scholarship
  • Colorado Student Grants
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals
  • Denver Association
  • MU National Scholars Program
  • Greenhouse Scholars
  • LEAD Foundation
  • Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarship
  • Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute
  • Stephen T. Marchello Scholarship Foundation
  • The Pinnocal Foundation College Scholarship Foundation

Colorado College Accreditation Standards

In order for students to receive financial assistance, they must attend an accredited Colorado college or university. There are several regional and national accrediting agencies, each with set quality standards. In Colorado, the primary regional accrediting body is the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Online colleges in Colorado may receive national accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 1926 to cover correspondence education.

Individual schools and programs may also seek accreditation to garner further recognition of their academic offerings. For instance, the University of Northern Colorado’s School of Nursing has received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and approval by the Colorado State Board of Nursing.

Researching Online Colorado Colleges

Nearly 540,000 college students are enrolled statewide in Colorado. For the prospective student considering joining their ranks, there are several criteria to evaluate prior to making a decision about which university to attend. Important factors include tuition, student population, degree levels and the type of instruction available. The search tool below allows students to gain a better understanding of these and other factors, which can help them make a practical, data-driven decision about their educational future.

Degree Level:
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Best Online Colleges in Colorado for 2015-2016

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCostMORE INFO
1 University of Northern Colorado 99.3518:190%

The University of Northern Colorado offers graduate level degrees entirely through online college to students interested in distance learning. These include a broad number of Master's of Arts degrees in areas such as art and design, educational psychology and special education. U.S. News & World Report also ranked the school 9th out of 200 for having the best online graduate level programs for 2013.

2 Colorado Mesa University 98.4623:190%

Colorado Mesa University provides both individual courses and specific degrees that are available to students through online college. These include associate and bachelor's degrees in areas such as the liberal arts, nursing, public administration and social science. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.

3 Regis University 96.158:198%

Regis University, a Jesuit school based in Colorado, provides an extensive number of online college options to students interested in distance learning. These include bachelor's and master's degrees, and certificate programs offered at the undergraduate and graduate level. Students can pursue online learning in subjects such as accounting, business, finance, marketing, and public administration.

4 University of Denver 95.8911:185%

The University of Denver's "University College" provides hybrid and online learning options to students wanting to pursue certificates or bachelor's and master's degrees. Learning is asynchronous, meaning that students can be online at a time convenient for them. Online degrees are available in subject areas such as arts and culture, global affair, healthcare leadership, security management, and more.

5 Nazarene Bible College 95.0612:150%

Nazarene Bible College offers a wide range of ministry-related bachelor's degrees to students, some of which are available via distance learning. Online degrees from Nazarene Bible College include Counseling for Christian Ministries, Hispanic Pastoral Ministries, Bible and Theology, Christian Educational Ministries, Christian School Education, Leadership and Ethics, Pastoral Leadership, and Pastoral Ministries. The college is accredited by Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

6 Colorado State University-Global Campus 87.6426:1 N/A

Colorado State University was the first fully-accredited, 100 percent online university. Today the university offers 25 undergraduate and graduate degrees besides certificates and specializations. Courses are fully-online and do not follow a fixed schedule, allowing students to complete coursework at any time and day. Courses begin every four weeks, and are student-driven with students setting the pace of their work as their schedules and learning styles permit. The school encourages a learner to be self-motivated and have an open mind about distance education. Students can also take advantage of career services, an online library, technical support and one-on-one tutoring

Comprehensive Resources for Colorado Students

For students seeking additional information about online colleges in Colorado, the list of resources below highlights major topics of interest: student aid, career selection and development, and services offered by the government and other groups to support higher education.

Major Colorado Educational Resources: