7.1 million Americans took for-credit classes online in 2013, with a large portion of these students completing their entire degree online. Online education is relatively new, but now it’s mainstream. There are more online colleges than ever, increasing competition, offerings, and overall value for students.
Skill-based learning is particularly on the rise online, and most employers now report that they don’t see any difference between degrees obtained fully online and those obtained through more traditional methods.
With the increased acceptance and range of high quality programs available fully online, we’ve decided to revamp our best online college rankings for 2015. Best College Reviews learned over the years what students value the most in online education: affordability, flexibility, and quality support and instruction. So over 400 institutions providing at least one bachelor’s degree fully online were surveyed and the findings gave birth to the ranking of 25 top best of them.
Best Online Colleges Methodology
- Affordability: the average cost of attendance for one semester taking 15 credit hours
- Flexibility: the number of bachelor’s degree-granting programs that may be obtained fully online, coupled with the flexibility with which students may obtain a degree
- Academic Rigor and Support: the strength and reputation of the online program’s parent institution as well as the range of support services for online college students.
Data from the Distance Education Council, Peterson’s, and the National Center for Education Statistics was used in compiling this list.
25. Colorado Technical University
Colorado Technical University currently offers 13 bachelor’s degree level programs fully online, and a total of 99 programs at every instruction level. The large majority of their online bachelor’s programs are in information technology, healthcare, security studies, and business & management. Colorado Technical University courses are presented with intellipath technology, that focuses on what you don’t know through a series of questions and adaptive technology, tailoring course materials accordingly. The current estimated per-semester tuition is $4,875, making the program the 12th most affordable of all surveyed.
24. Brandman University
Brandman University offers 33 bachelor’s degree level programs fully online through their schools of arts & science, business & professional studies, education, and nursing & health professions. Brandman University is a recognized leader in online course development and e-training and is regularly consulted by major corporations to craft quality educational opportunities online. The current estimated per-semester tuition rate is $7,500, making the program the 28th most affordable surveyed.
23. Ottawa University
Ottawa University offers 23 bachelor’s degree level programs fully online through their schools of arts & sciences, business, and education. Online programs at Ottawa boast a 4:1 student-faculty ratio, and an active personal academic advisor program. Unique offerings include degrees in addiction counseling, and actuarial science and social enterprise management concentrations. The estimated per-semester tuition is currently $7,200, making the program the 25th most affordable of those surveyed.
22. Regis University
Regis University World Campus offers 24 bachelor’s degree level programs fully online through three departments of the university: the college of computer and information sciences, professional studies, and the college of health professions. Online courses are offered in five- or eight-week accelerated terms and run alongside their classroom counterparts. Regis is a member of the Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities, which allows Regis students to take online courses at other schools if they aren’t offered at Regis. Currently, the estimated per-semester tuition for Regis University online is $6,900, making the program the 22nd most affordable of surveyed programs.
21. University of Maryland – University College
University of Maryland at University College offers 31 bachelor’s degree level programs fully online, for more than 95 online programs of any level. A number of online-specific support services are provided with the program including 24-hour technical support, online writing feedback, an online library, academic and career advising, and job search assistance. The main departments from which UMUC online degrees are offered include business & management, cyber security, education & teaching, healthcare & science, information technology & computer science, liberal arts & communications, and public safety. The estimated per-semester tuition for online programs is $5,737, making the program the 11th most affordable surveyed.
17. Waldorf College (tie)
Waldorf College offers 22 bachelor’s degree level programs fully online in a wide range of disciplines. Unique programs include bachelor’s degrees in health care management, homeland security, occupational safety, organizational leadership, and fire science. The current estimated per-semester tuition rate for Waldorf College online is $4,150, making the program the 9th most affordable of those surveyed.
17. Old Dominion University (tie)
Old Dominion University offers 27 bachelor’s degree level online programs, and a total of 70+ when all levels of instruction are counted. +ODU is a partnership between Old Dominion University and a large number of community colleges, allowing for cheaper courses through the associates degree level to be transferred to Old Dominion, where a degree may be finished online. Experiential learning and real world experience is pushed through practicums and internships for a number of programs. Currently the estimated per-semester tuition for the program is $8,527, making the program the 35th most affordable of programs surveyed.
17. University of Phoenix (tie)
University of Phoenix is a national university that currently offers 20 bachelor’s degree level programs fully online. Program offerings are comprehensive, and are available in the departments of arts & sciences, business & management, criminal justice & security, education, human services, nursing & healthcare, psychology, and technology. In a career-centered move, University of Phoenix is working with STEM industry organizations to develop a portfolio of degree and certificate programs that meet employer STEM talent needs. The current estimated per-semester tuition for University of Phoenix online is $6,000, making the program the 18th most affordable of those surveyed.
17. St. Catherine University (tie)
St. Catherine University currently offers 18 fully online bachelor’s degree programs under their evening/weekend/online program header. If you live close to St. Catherine University, you can also accelerate your learning through blended program delivery (some on campus, some online courses). For bachelor’s degrees, the university is women’s-only, and their online offerings are geared towards adult women. For many students, however, this is a good option. The estimated per semester tuition is $3,990, making the program the 6th most affordable of those surveyed.
16. Columbia College
Columbia College of Missouri currently offers 24 bachelor’s degree level programs fully online. Offerings are comprehensive, and include programs in business administration (with many specializations), computer information systems, management information systems, criminal justice administration, human services, general studies, American studies, history, political science, public administration, English, nursing, psychology, and sociology. Current estimated per semester tuition at Columbia College is $3,900, making the program the 5th most affordable of those surveyed.
14. Liberty University (tie)
Liberty University bills itself out as the largest Christian University in the world, and currently offer 26 fully-online bachelor’s degree programs, and over 200 programs of every level. Unique program offerings include degrees in aeronautics, biblical educational studies, Christian ministries, and evangelism. The current estimated per semester tuition rate for Liberty University is $5,625, making the program the 15th most affordable of those surveyed.
14. Bellevue University (tie)
Bellevue University currently offers 46 bachelor’s level degrees fully online, the 4th largest number compared to surveyed programs. Unique delivery methods include an accelerated cohort method, in which you’re placed with a community of peers who share similar educational and professional goals, and pushed through classes at an accelerated pace. On the other end of the spectrum, flex-paced learning is available for busy learners who have already completed 60 or more credit hours. The flex-paced program is unique in that you progress according to mastery, passing through topics you already know quickly, while taking your time on subjects you need more help with. Currently the estimated per semester tuition is $5,925, making the program the 17th most affordable of programs surveyed.
13. University of Arizona
The University of Arizona currently offers 23 fully online bachelor’s` level programs including some unique offerings in sustainable built environments (architecture/planning), meteorology, eSociety, administration of justice, and africana studies. The online program was established to offer a degree identical to an on-campus University of Arizona student from anywhere. Currently the estimated per semester tuition is $7,672, making the program the 30th most affordable of programs surveyed.
12. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University offers 40 bachelor’s degree level online majors, and a whopping 200+ online degrees at every level of instruction. Departments offering online bachelor’s degrees include business, liberal arts, education, culinary arts, design, and hospitality, and a number of programs can even be completed in 3 years. The current estimated per semester tuition for Southern New Hampshire University is $4,800, making the program the 11th most affordable surveyed.
10. Wilmington University (tie)
Wilmington University is a national university offering 21 fully online bachelor’s level degrees, and over 90 total online programs, concentrations, and certificates. Through portfolios, examinations, or transfer credits the credit for prior learning program allows students to accelerate their program. Co-op opportunities help students through experiential and real world experience by pairing them up with paid employment opportunities related to their field of study. Currently the estimated per semester tuition is $5,070, making the program the 13th most affordable of those surveyed.
10. Grand Canyon University (tie)
Grand Canyon University has the largest range of bachelor’s degree level offerings of the schools we surveyed, with a total of 52 programs available entirely online. Programs at Grand Canyon are built for busy or working adults, and students take one accelerated class at a time, so that their attention isn’t spread thin through multiple courses. While most online colleges use the same professors they use on campus to teach online classes, Grand Canyon University also has a team of full-time online-only professors and instructors. Currently tuition per semester is $6,975, making the program the 23rd most affordable of those surveyed.
9. Pennsylvania State World Campus
Pennsylvania State University allows you to take classes from a world class research university from the comfort of your home. Currently 22 bachelor’s degree granting options are available, from advertising & public relations, to labor & employment relations, to turfgrass science. The average per-semester cost is more expensive for the programs that we surveyed, coming in at $6,758, but much cheaper than attending Penn State on-campus.
8. Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University Online offers a full 24 bachelor’s level programs, including a number of business education courses, education specializations, management concentrations, and social sciences and humanities majors. The 2+2 program, in which established learning paths from other institutions are transferable to Fort Hays (where a student may finish their degree) are available from universities in many states. The estimated per-semester tuition is $3,247, making the program the third most affordable of those surveyed.
6. American Public University System (tie)
The American Public University System has long been a leader in continuing education for service men and women, as well as continuing education for corporate America. Today they offer 43 fully online bachelor’s level degrees. The most popular of which include: business administration, criminal justice, emergency & disaster management, history, homeland security, information technology management, intelligence studies, management, sports & health sciences, and transportation & logistics management. Tuition is low at an estimated $4,000 per semester, ranking the school as the seventh most affordable of all surveyed.
6. Oregon State University (tie)
Oregon State University’s eCampus currently offers 18 fully online bachelor’s level programs, as well as a special post-bacc computer science program. They even offer online chemistry and lab-based courses! Though Oregon State is a nationally ranked research university, their average cost per semester is low for online courses, clocking in at $4,065, or the 8th most affordable of programs surveyed. The University Exploratory Studies Program is a unique offering that enables students to explore several majors while working on core requirements, just in case you aren’t sure exactly what you want to study yet.
5. State University of New York / OPEN SUNY
OPEN SUNY is a collaboration between 19 State University of New York system institutions to provide high quality online degree-granting programs in a variety of disciplines. A full 50 bachelor’s level degrees may be completed entirely online, the second most of programs surveyed. OPEN SUNY also excels through the number of support services offered with programs, including day and night tutoring hours, experiential learning opportunities, and prior learning assessments that can accelerate your learning. Per-semester estimated tuition is currently $8,000, the 33rd most affordable of programs surveyed.
4. University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida is a national research university that offers 20 bachelor’s level programs fully online. Online program offerings are comprehensive at the University of Central Florida, with a greater availability of humanities and social science majors than many other online colleges. Per-semester tuition is affordable as well, coming in at $3,270, the fourth ranked rate of programs surveyed.
3. Granite State College
Granite State College offers 29 fully online bachelor’s level degrees that may be completed at full-time, part-time, or accelerated rates. Program offerings are comprehensive, ranging from digital and social media, to nursing, to education. Granite State College is a liberal arts school that is part of the University of New Hampshire system, and offers the 10th most affordable per-semester tuition rate of programs surveyed ($4,575).
2. Arizona State University
Arizona State University offers 47 bachelor’s degree programs fully online, and a full 80+ programs when specializations and non-bachelor’s level programs are included. Degree offerings are comprehensive, ranging from art, business, communications, culture, education, engineering, health, language, to STEM. 6 start dates are available per year, allowing students to start on their degree when it works best for them. Arizona State University is a national research university that offers affordable tuition online, with an estimated per-semester tuition cost of $7672.
1. Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University offers a full 45 bachelor’s level degrees that can be completed entirely online. Ranging from hotel & restaurant management, to liberal arts, to computer information technology, mostdegrees offered are skill-centered and geared towards your future career. Northern Arizona University is also one of the most affordable schools of those surveyed, with highly competitive costs for online degrees and NAU’s competency-based programs that are available for an estimated cost of only $2500 per semester. The competency-based is a flat rate subscription, allowing students to take an unlimited number of courses online for a six month period. There are no lab or course fees, and all materials required by the courses are available online.