Online Colleges in Colorado

Updated on: 01/20/2020
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By 2020, nearly 75% of all Colorado jobs will require some form of postsecondary education, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. Whether you already live in the state or plan to move there, prepare for these careers by earning an affordable online degree in Colorado. Continue reading to learn more about the best online schools in Colorado, financial aid opportunities, and other important enrollment information.

Colorado's Top Affordable Online Colleges

This section reviews Colorado's top affordable online colleges and universities. This list considers much more than just online programs and tuition. Colleges and universities on this list have low student-to-teacher ratios, excellent financial aid packages, and high graduation rates. Even if none of the colleges on this list match your academic interests, note each college's qualities and compare them to other schools you research.

  • 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 Ratio Grad Rate Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Colorado Christian University Lakewood, CO 100.00 $20,435 16 98% 15:1 36% yes yes yes
2 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO 98.12 $7,868 29 51% 18:1 64% no yes yes
3 Adams State University Alamosa, CO 97.62 $5,160 17 68% 14:1 25% yes yes yes
4 University of Northern Colorado Greeley, CO 97.37 $6,024 11 69% 18:1 46% no yes yes
5 University of Colorado Boulder Boulder, CO 95.88 $9,048 4 47% 18:1 70% no yes yes
6 Metropolitan State University of Denver Denver, CO 93.88 $4,973 7 21% 18:1 26% yes yes yes
7 Colorado Mesa University Grand Junction, CO 92.48 $6,357 4 33% 22:1 33% yes no yes
8 Nazarene Bible College Colorado Springs, CO 91.00 $10,800 5 N/A 9:1 25% yes yes yes
9 Colorado State University-Global Campus Greenwood Village, CO 89.79 $8,400 25 N/A 30:1 N/A yes no yes
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2-Year Best College Rankings

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

Why Choose Colorado for Online Higher Education?

Colorado's 46 online degrees attract a mix of undergraduate and graduate students: just over 21,000 undergraduate and 13,000 graduate students earn their degrees entirely online. Online students represent many groups: working professionals, those who live far from college campuses, and single parents who could not otherwise juggle school and family. Colorado colleges and universities also serve over 400 international students who earn their degrees without having to spend thousands of dollars on travel, housing, and student visas.

  • Number of Programs Offered Completely Online in Colorado 46

  • Undergraduate Students Enrolled Exclusively Online in Colorado 21,279

  • Graduate Students Enrolled Exclusively Online in Colorado 13,102

  • Total International Students Enrolled Exclusively Online in Colorado 406

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Cost of Attending an Online College in Colorado

Like most states, Colorado requires students to live in Colorado for at least one year before starting school in order to be eligible for in-state tuition. Even for online programs, some colleges charge a higher tuition rate for out-of-state students. At the University of Colorado, out-of-state students studying online pay approximately 50% more per credit hour than in-state students. However, as shown below, out-of-state students pay nearly 300% more for their degrees than in-state students.

In-state tuition
$9,352 – public, four-year institution
$3,565 – public, two-year institution
Out-of-state tuition:
$28,986 – public, four-year institution
$10,152 – public, two-year institution

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2017

Online universities and colleges in Colorado typically charge students less in tuition than on-campus students. Plus, online students do not pay for on-campus housing, meal plans, and other expenses.

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Considering a Colorado School as an Out-of-State Student

Out-of-state students researching online programs in Colorado should determine whether a Colorado program offers them a quality education at a competitive price. Approximately 40% of undergraduate students and 30% of graduate students earning their degrees online in Colorado live out of state. In this section, learn more about potential tuition discounts and state authorizations for online learning.

Out-of-state undergraduate students studying exclusively online in Colorado 8,912

Out-of-state graduate students studying exclusively online in Colorado 5,961

Tuition Discounts

Colorado and 15 other states make up the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). WICHE member states share resources to improve their states' higher education programs. Undergraduates who live in WICHE states can participate in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). The WUE includes 160 schools that charge out-of-state students no more than 150% of the in-state tuition rate. WUE-eligible students save upwards of $9,000 per year on their tuition bills. Prospective students should use the WICHE and WUE websites to determine if schools and programs on their shortlists participate.

State Authorizations for Online Learning

Colorado participates in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). NC-SARA member states collaborate to create distance learning standards, allowing students to transfer credits between online schools. Not every top online college in Colorado participates in NC-SARA. To review the most current list of approved SARA institutions in Colorado, visit the NC-SARA website. Keep in mind NC-SARA schools may have additional regulations that impact out-of-state transfer credits.

Check with an admissions or financial officer

Tuition rates are ultimately program- and institution-based. Ask someone from a prospective program about what rates apply to you specifically as a potential member of a specific program.

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One-Stop College Research Resources for Colorado's Online Schools

This section covers common questions regarding accredited online universities in Colorado. If you have further questions, explore the embedded links for more information or contact programs directly.

Do online credits cost more or less in Colorado?

The per-credit tuition prices quoted earlier in this article do not reflect the tuition at all online schools in Colorado. Prospective students may find lower tuition by researching Colorado's online programs. Although earning credits in Colorado presents cost savings for in-state students, out-of-state students may pay more for their degrees.

Out-of-state applicants interested in Colorado's public colleges and universities should consider those that offer identical tuition to in-state and out-of-state students, such as Colorado State. At the same time, they should research affordable programs at private colleges and universities. Out-of-state students may discover more affordable tuition at private schools. The next section includes more information on how out-of-state students can save money on their educations.

Which Colorado schools accept transfer credits?

Each online college in Colorado sets its transfer credit policy. However, if you plan to earn your degree from a public college or university, you can maximize your number of transfer credits and save money on your degree by completing an associate degree from an online Colorado two-year college. Then, take your degree to a public college or university and apply it towards your bachelor's program. If in-state students select an affordable two-year college at which to earn their associate degrees, they can pay less on tuition for their first two years of college instead of paying the same higher rate for all four years.

Due to higher out-of-state tuition at Colorado community colleges, out-of-state students should consider earning their associate degrees at community colleges in their home states before transferring credits to an online program in Colorado. Out-of-state students should research whether Colorado schools accept credits or associate degrees from other states' community colleges. If credits do not transfer, students must retake courses, increasing their degrees' cost and their time in school.

Will any online colleges in Colorado accept a GED?

Admissions requirements vary by school. However, a GED fulfills high school graduation requirements for most public colleges and universities. Keep in mind schools that accept GEDs may require applicants to attain a minimum score. For schools that do not have a set policy, such as Colorado Christian University, contact the school to learn more about how they review applicants who do not meet minimum admissions requirements. Expect some schools, especially private ones, to require a high school diploma.

To ensure acceptance to the largest number of online programs, applicants with GEDs should strengthen their applications' other areas by raising their standardized test scores and polishing their essays.

How many academic terms per year do online colleges in Colorado offer?

At Colorado State University, new online students start school every month. St. Regis University, a top online university in Colorado, offers varying start dates for its programs. Some programs at St. Regis have as many as six start dates per year, while others have only one. As you review public and private online colleges, expect most to offer start dates in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. School websites and admissions counselors can answer your questions concerning application deadlines and start dates.

Which online colleges will accept FAFSA in Colorado?

The best online colleges in Colorado accept FAFSA results. Use this FAFSA link to search for schools on your shortlist. If a school has a Federal School Code, it accepts the FAFSA. Depending on your income, the FAFSA may qualify you for federally backed loans, grants, or work-study programs.

Like the federal government, schools use FAFSA results to award need-based scholarships, some of which may cover your entire tuition. However, a school's financial aid policies can differ for online students or those who live out of state. To determine your aid eligibility, fill out and submit the FAFSA; you can also research schools' websites or contact their financial aid departments. School officials can tell you what percentage of incoming students receive merit and need-based aid.

Are there any free online classes I can take from Colorado colleges?

Like other states, Colorado's colleges and universities offer students free massive open online courses (MOOCs). Colorado State University offers a MOOC program that uses two online learning platforms. Anyone can take these courses. As a result, the MOOCs at Colorado State do not confer college credit but help students acclimate to online learning and explore areas they may want to major in during their cheap online program in Colorado.

Although most MOOCs in Colorado do not confer college credit, that may change soon. In early 2018, the University of Colorado approved a MOOC-delivered master's degree that boasts lower tuition than traditional on-campus and online programs. If this program succeeds, more colleges and universities in Colorado may use MOOCs for undergraduate and graduate degrees.

How can I find the online program options at Colorado colleges?

CCC Online is a valuable resource for students planning to earn an associate degree. On CCC Online, students have access to all Colorado community colleges' online courses. Through this central portal, students can accomplish much more than earning credit; they can research how to make the most of transfer credits, plan their bachelor's program, and receive help from trained counselors.

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Colorado Scholarships and Grants

You may qualify for Pell Grants depending on your FAFSA results. Pell Grants help students who earn less than $45,000 per year, although most recipients earn less than $20,000 per year. If you do not qualify for Pell Grants or other federally backed financial aid, consider applying for scholarships like those listed below.

  1. Boundless Opportunity Scholarship

    The Boundless Opportunity Scholarship provides funding to adults returning to school to earn their associate or bachelor's degrees. Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah residents can apply. Scholarship recipients can use the award at over two dozen Colorado colleges and universities. Students may apply the scholarship toward tuition or other educational expenses.

    Scholarship Amount: Varies

  2. Celebrate the West

    High school students living in western states can apply for this scholarship. To apply, students submit one piece of two-dimensional artwork on a topic relevant to their states. Applicants must submit all application materials by April 30. Scholarship recipients can spend their awards on any educational expenses.

    Scholarship Amount: $200-$1,200

  3. Greenhouse Scholars

    High school seniors living in Colorado, Illinois, Georgia, or North Carolina may apply. All applicants must possess a minimum 3.5 GPA and show financial need. Submit all application materials by December 17. In addition to receiving funding, scholarship recipients participate in a summer symposium and internship.

    Scholarship Amount: $5,000 per year

  4. The Dottie R. Walker LEAD Foundation Scholarship

    The LEAD Foundation awards one scholarship each year to a student with learning disabilities living in Colorado or Nevada. To apply, submit the application, one recommendation letter, high school transcripts, and proof of disability by May 1. The scholarship does not renew, nor can recipients reapply.

    Scholarship Amount: $1,500

  5. Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarship

    The Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarship awards funding to Colorado applicants ages 17-40. The scholarship committee considers both academic merit and financial need. Scholarship recipients must maintain good grades and study full time for the scholarship to renew. To apply, submit all materials by March 31.

    Scholarship Amount: $1,000 per year

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