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Colorado Online Colleges & Universities: Top Schools for 2018

Updated on: 01/04/2018
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Colorado online colleges have joined the ranks of schools across the country, growing their number of online degree programs to meet the needs of today’s busy student. More than 60 schools in Colorado have online learning options, from one-off courses to fully online degree programs. The University of Colorado, for example, is at the forefront of convenient and quality online programs in the state, with about 50 online and hybrid degree programs and certificate options. The state is part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) western undergraduate exchange, making it easier for students in the state and beyond to access affordable tuition rates at Colorado state schools.

Finding the best and most affordable online colleges in Colorado can be challenging. Students must do their research and ask the right questions to find the right program at the right price. For some, scholarships and other aid is a necessity and one of the deciding factors when choosing an online college. The information-gathering starts here, with answers to students’ most pressing questions so they can make an informed decision about the best college for their educational and career goals. Armed with this information, students can go into their decisions knowing they did their homework and are set up for success.

Best Online Colleges in Colorado: 2018

Choosing a college isn’t a decision to go into lightly. It’s one that should be well thought out and researched carefully. The best accredited online colleges in Colorado aren’t difficult to find—if you’re looking in the right places. We did some research to find the best colleges based on quality, available programs and, of course, affordability. So, if you’re looking for the best affordable online colleges in Colorado, you’ve come to the right place. Check out our Best Of list for 2017–2018 to help you get started finding your college.

  • Accredited public or private not-for-profit institution

  • At least 3 online associate degrees or certificate programs (2-year schools)

  • At least 3 online bachelor’s or master’s degrees (4-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $5,000 (2-year schools)

  • Annual in-state tuition below $25,000 (4-year schools)

Colleges receive a total score based on performance in the following categories:

  • Average in-state net price for first-time/full-time undergraduates

  • Count and breadth of online programs available

  • Student-teacher ratio

  • 6-year graduation rate (4-year schools only)

  • % of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving scholarship/grant aid from the college

  • Average $ of financial aid students receive directly from the college

  • Availability of academic/career counseling services

  • Availability of job placement services for students and graduates

  • 3-year loan default rate

  • AC Online Peer-Based Value (PBV)*

  • *PBV is a proprietary metric that compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or a similar) qualitative score. It also compares the qualitative score of the program to the score of other programs with the same (or similar) cost. In short, the PBV calculation denotes the overall value – or ‘bang for your buck’ – of an online degree.

Our college rankings are backed by data collected and analyzed from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a program managed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Surveying over 7,500 colleges annually, it is among the most longstanding and trusted providers of U.S. postsecondary information.

  • Most recent “Final Release” data available as of October 2017

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Colorado Christian University Lakewood, CO 100.00 $20,435 16 98% 15:136%yes yes yes
2 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO 98.12 $7,868 29 51% 18:164%no yes yes
3 Adams State University Alamosa, CO 97.62 $5,160 17 68% 14:125%yes yes yes
4 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO 97.37 $6,024 11 69% 18:146%no yes yes
5 University of Colorado Boulder Boulder, CO 95.88 $9,048 4 47% 18:170%no yes yes
6 Metropolitan State University of Denver Denver, CO 93.88 $4,973 7 21% 18:126%yes yes yes
7 Colorado Mesa University Grand Junction, CO 92.48 $6,357 4 33% 22:133%yes no yes
8 Nazarene Bible College Colorado Springs, CO 91.00 $10,800 5 N/A 9:125%yes yes yes
9 Colorado State University-Global Campus Greenwood Village, CO 89.79 $8,400 25 N/A 30:1N/Ayes no yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

Rank University Location Score Annual Tuition # of Online Programs Financial Aid % Student-Teacher RatioGrad RateCredit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Lamar Community College Lamar, CO 100.00 $2,998 9 67% 22:1N/Ayes yes yes
2 Trinidad State Junior College Trinidad, CO 99.89 $2,998 5 58% 12:1N/Ayes yes yes
3 Otero Junior College La Junta, CO 98.76 $3,747 7 87% 17:1N/Ano no yes
4 Colorado Northwestern Community College Rangely, CO 98.20 $3,394 6 57% 12:1N/Ayes no yes
5 Morgan Community College Fort Morgan, CO 94.45 $2,998 3 24% 14:1N/Ayes yes yes
6 Arapahoe Community College Littleton, CO 94.04 $3,195 14 9% 20:1N/Ayes yes yes
7 Aims Community College Greeley, CO 93.51 $2,538 10 20% 16:1N/Ayes no yes
8 Front Range Community College Westminster, CO 93.48 $2,998 16 3% 19:1N/Ayes yes yes
9 Northeastern Junior College Sterling, CO 93.31 $2,998 11 43% 21:1N/Ayes no yes
10 Pueblo Community College Pueblo, CO 92.55 $3,096 5 2% 18:1N/Ayes yes yes
11 Community College of Denver Denver, CO 92.50 $2,998 5 15% 24:1N/Ayes yes yes
12 Pikes Peak Community College Colorado Springs, CO 92.49 $2,998 9 1% 22:1N/Ayes yes yes
13 Community College of Aurora Aurora, CO 91.16 $2,998 29 5% 21:1N/Ayes no yes

Tuition & Financial Aid in Colorado

Tuition costs increase nearly every year, making it essential for many students to find affordable options and cost-saving measures when attending college. Also, students who wish to attend a Colorado college from out-of-state face a steeper tuition bill. To qualify as a resident of the state for the purposes of in-state tuition, students must prove they have resided in the state for 12 continuous months prior to the first day of classes each semester. However, students in WICHE states may qualify to pay 150 per cent of in-state tuition rates rather than the full out-of-state fees. Here’s a recent look at tuition rates for both in-state and out-of-state students in Colorado:

In-state tuition: $9,124

Out-of-state tuition: $27,986

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2017

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Paying In-State or Out-of-State Tuition in Colorado

Like traditional colleges, students who attend Colorado public institutions online pay more if they live outside the state. However, colleges like University of Colorado at Denver offer discounted non-resident tuition rates for students who take all their classes online. Tuition for fully online out-of-state students is about half the regular non-resident rate. Out-of-state students have similar advantages at the community college level with rates only a few dollars more than their resident counterparts at Colorado Community Colleges.

Students who choose to take a hybrid approach to their education, with some courses on the traditional state college campuses, can take advantage of the state’s partnership with other states in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Students living in one of the partner states (which include Colorado, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wyoming and more, pay about 150 per cent of in-state tuition.

Quick summary on tuition:
  • 1.Non-resident student pay a higher tuition rate for their online education than in-state students.

  • 2.Students who take all their courses online or are part of the WICHE partnership have a discounted tuition rate.

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How do I receive financial aid in Colorado?

Financial aid is funded at both the state and federal levels and is available via individual institution and private sources. The first step in applying for aid is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine need. Aid that isn’t need-based is disbursed based on merit and other factors, so it’s recommended that students fill out the FAFSA as early as possible, by March 15 of the fall prior to enrollment. From there, the Colorado Department of Higher Education website has links to opportunities for a variety of educational goals and residency situations.

Once students receive financial aid, they must maintain certain standards to continue to receive it. First, when receiving state aid, students must prove residency in the state of Colorado by being domiciled for one year prior to the start of the student’s first class. Students who receive aid should also make satisfactory academic progress as measured by their grade point average or the college’s guidelines. Here are some of the criteria students receiving financial aid must meet:

  • GPA

    2.0 grade point average at the bachelor’s level or 3.0 at the master’s and doctoral level.

  • Time commitments

    In general, students receiving financial aid should plan to take at least six credit hours to be eligible for financial aid.

  • Military Exceptions

    Military personnel who are permanently stationed in Colorado, and their dependents, are eligible for in-state benefits regardless of how long they have lived in the state.

Colorado’s Scholarships & Grants for College

Many students seek out scholarships and grants to defer some of the cost of tuition. These awards are given by both federal and state entities as well as private organizations and individual institutions. Scholarships and grants are often merit- or need-based and unlike financial aid don’t have to be repaid after graduation. Students can often receive more than one award; however, applications should be well-thought-out as they are often competitive. Some of the most common questions about scholarships in Colorado are answered below:

Which scholarships and grants can I apply for in Colorado?

When it comes to scholarships and grants, Colorado students have many options, both public and private. The most important step students need to take is to start researching early. Databases are available, such as Scholarships.com and Niche.com, to help students navigate the many opportunities. Students should also search for degree-specific awards and those offered by their desired institution.

How do I apply for Colorado’s scholarships and grants?

Applying for a scholarship or grant in Colorado typically starts with having a FAFSA on file. Every scholarship and grant will have its own unique requirements, so be sure to review them carefully. The organization giving the award will need some background information about you and your goals. Some scholarships require a minimum grade point average, a formal application, an essay and other documents to determine your eligibility and level of award. Because scholarships and grants are competitive, review your application documents carefully before submitting.

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Choosing Between Colorado’s Online Colleges

Every student has different needs and desires when looking for the right online college. Affordability and program offerings usually top among those. But we’ve found that students tend to have similar questions when looking for the right online college. We listened and have answers to some of the most-asked questions to help you in your search for your online college in Colorado.

Will Colorado colleges accept my transfer credits and/or work/life experience?

Each college has its own policies when it comes to transfer credits, and these often depend on the type of institution and the degree program in which the students wishes to enroll. Colorado College requires a C grade or higher on any transfer credit, however transfer credit grades do not count toward the student’s grade point average. At University of Colorado at Boulder, each degree program determines the number of credit hours that will transfer from correspondence courses and from other colleges. The university does not accept transfer credits that are more than 10 years old.

Students seeking transfer credits should talk to an enrollment advisor about the best ways to earn military, life experience, or transfer credits for previous work completed.

Should I pick an online college in Colorado if I’m a resident?

One of the benefits of online education is that students can take classes from anywhere—even overseas. Colorado residents do not need to choose a college in Colorado. However, if you live outside the state, you should be prepared for a possibly higher tuition rate at the college you choose.

If I do want to attend an online college in Colorado, how do I choose the right one?

The first step in choosing an online college in Colorado is research. Know what type of educational and career goals you have and look for a college that offers the degree program you’re looking for. Affordability, student support services, accreditation, course delivery and other factors should weigh into your decision as well. The ranking tools on this page should help you get started in finding some viable options. Make a list of schools that meet your needs and then dive deeper. Talk to enrollment advisors, current and former students, and potential employers about the school’s reputation and job placement services. You’ll also want to look at financial aid opportunities and program start dates before making a final decision.