The 30 Best Online Colleges

By Iris Stone

Badge - Best Value Schools Best Online Colleges 2014In this article, we highlight our picks for the all-out best online colleges.

A lot has changed about higher education in the last century – even in the last decade! More and more students are choosing the “nontraditional” route. This typically means that they return to school as adults, attend school part time while managing a professional career and/or family, or look for alternate ways to access course material. This includes enrolling in an online college, a convenient option that has become so popular in recent years that such universities are practically ubiquitous. These schools take advantage of 21st century technology innovations to bring motivated students into a virtual classroom, often characterized by video lectures, multimedia presentations, online discussion sessions, interactive modules, and more. If you are a nontraditional student or you just want to explore your choices, check out our list of the best online colleges in the United States for 2014.

Ranking the Best Online Colleges 2014

Our Methodology:

We started, of course, by compiling a list of all the accredited online universities in the country. When we say “online college,” we define such schools as institutions that either a) operate entirely online, b) have established a separate wing or division of their school (such as a “world campus”) for online students, or c) simply offer a large number of their degrees online. We then collected data on seven indicators:

  1. Freshmen Retention Rate (Weighted 14%)
  2. 6-year Graduation Rate (Weighted 18%)
  3. Student-to-Faculty Ratio (Weighted 16%)
  4. Number of Bachelor’s Degree Programs (Weighted 14%)
  5. Breadth of Subjects Available to Study (Weighted 18%)
  6. College Prowler Academics Rating (if available)(Weighted 9%)
  7. Percentage of ”Excellent” or “Strongly Agree” Student Poll Responses on College Prowler (if available) (Weighted 9%)

The last two indicators were given the least emphasis in the ranking because this data was not available for every school. It is worth noting that if College Prowler reviews were not available for a college, this absence did not help or hurt the school in our ranking. These schools were essentially given a “neutral” number of points. For the last indicator, the College Prowler student polls refer to surveys that ask attendees to respond to questions regarding professor performance, academic support, efficiency of technology, selection of online classes, and more.
Each of the schools were given a score based on its performance and how much we emphasized that particular indicator. For example, we gave the school with the highest 6-year graduation rate 200 points (high scores are better), while we gave the school with the best College Prowler student poll responses only 100 points. Depending on how we weighed a particular indicator, a low quality school could get points in the single digits for one or more categories. Theoretically, if a school had the highest possible score in each of the eight categories, it would garner a total score of 875. None of the schools reached this mark, but the University of Maryland University College came close (see below)! We included each school’s score along with their descriptions so you can see for yourself just how they measure up. We listed them from lowest score (#30) to highest score (#1 all the way at the bottom).
This detailed list is meant to help inform you about the right online college for you. You can read up about the majors each school offers, what kind of support you can get, the quality of professors, and more. You can also read through the long list of distinctions, honors, rankings, and awards that each school has achieved. It’s easy to see that these schools really are the best of the best!

30. University of Southern Mississippi Online

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi, located in Hattiesburg, began its eLearning initiative in 2009 in order to increase the availability of its online courses. The accredited online college now offers undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, certificate programs, and hybrid online/on-campus programs. Its seven undergraduate programs include Applied Technology, Library Science, Nursing, Tourism, Elementary Education, and Special Education, as well as the only online Construction Engineering program currently available!

The Elementary Education, Special Education, and Library Science degrees all lead to students becoming licensed in their field. USM offers programs available in dozens of different subject areas and at multiple levels, making it a prime choice for curious students. The University also offers a variety of graduate programs, with 18 degrees ranging from a Masters in Sports Management to a Doctorate in Human Capital Development. Students having trouble with the online class format can get help from the tutorials and training materials offered on the eLearning website.

As for students seeking academic help, the University’s eLearning initiative is constantly working to expand its offerings. USM’s freshman retention rate is recorded at 72%, and its 6-year graduation rate is 45%. With a student to faculty ratio of 17:1, classes are large enough to encourage discussion in the classroom but small enough to guarantee attention from the professor. Student reviews of the online college on College Prowler are usually positive. Many reviewers noted that the school’s registration process is easy to use, and said that they enjoy their classes and find the workload reasonable.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #145 in the South by Forbes
  • Ranked #204 in Research Universities by Forbes
  • The University’s Center for Writers was ranked in the Top 10 in the country by the New York Times Book Review
  • Listed as one of the “Most Popular Universities” by U.S. News & World Report
  • School of Communication ranked in the nation’s Top 10 by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Ranked #256 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of “Best Undergraduate Business Programs”
  • Ranked one of the most highly attended online colleges by OnlineU
  • Labeled a “Low Net Price School” by OnlineU
  • Ranked #1 Most Affordable Engineering Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked #3 Most Affordable Nutrition Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked #6 Most Affordable Online College in Mississippi by Affordable Colleges Online

Net Price: $12,145
Score: 557

29. Norwich University Online

Northfield, Vermont

Norwich University Online is a top online college for students with a background in the military or law enforcement. Its Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice is designed for students looking to start a career in the military, law enforcement, or security, and allows students to minor in public safety and law enforcement or intelligence and security management. The Bachelors degree in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis is offered exclusively to active duty, retired, reserve, and National Guard soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines within the U.S. Special Operations Command. Both programs offer credit for students’ past military experience.

Norwich also offers Masters of Arts degrees in subjects including Diplomacy, History, and Military History; and Master of Science degrees in Information Security, Leadership, and Nursing. Students can also earn a Master of Civil Engineering, Master of Business Administration, or a Master of Public Administration. Graduate level classes are capped at 15 students for the best possible educational experience.

Academic support is easy to find: each student has a student services advisor, and the program directors and technical support staff are also available when students need help. Both the undergraduate and graduate programs do not require students to purchase textbooks, instead choosing to mail students the materials for their courses once they register. Norwich’s virtual library is also open to all online students. NU’s freshman retention rate is 75%, and its 6-year graduation rate sits at 57%. Reviews of the online college are generally positive; students say the professors are passionate and there is a great selection of classes from which to choose.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #37 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #29 Best College for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #86 Best Undergraduate Engineering Program by U.S. News & World Report
  • Considered one of the most popular online colleges by OnlineU
  • Considered a “High Graduation Rate School” by OnlineU
  • Considered a “High Financial Aid Award School” by OnlineU

Net Price: $27,775
Score: 558

28. Robert Morris University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

With ten online undergraduate degrees and thirteen online graduate degrees to choose from, Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania is an affordable online college with a broad selection of classes to offer. RMU’s undergraduate programs include scientific subjects like Business Administration, Economics, Hospitality & Tourism, Cyber Forensics & Information Security, Health Services and Administration, Nursing, Psychology, and humanities subjects such as Leadership, English, and Writing. Graduate degrees cover a range of disciplines, such as Business Education and Internet Information Systems.

The University’s graduate Business program is AACSB accredited, which can only be said of 5% of business schools worldwide. The online college also offers certificate programs that go along with its degree programs. RMU’s online programs stand out for their flexibility. Classes are available on a full-time or part-time basis, and a new session begins every 8 weeks so that students can register at their own convenience. RMU also awards credits for the life and work experience of their students.

If students need academic help, personal advisors are available to students 6 days a week for 12 hours a day. As for career support, the Career and Leadership Center holds online career counseling and workshops and can give assistance to students looking for employment or internships. Robert Morris’ freshman retention rate is 81% and its 6-year graduation rate is at 56%. The student to faculty ratio is 20:1, and students on College Prowler say that the academic programs are good, and that the workload depends on the subject but is usually manageable.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #15 Best Online Colleges and Universities by SuperScholar
  • Ranked #6 Top 10 Smart Choice Schools for Online Master’s Degrees by SuperScholar
  • Top 5 Online Psychology Degree according to The Chicago School Reviews
  • Ranked #4 “Best Online Bachelor’s in Information Assurance and Security Degree Program” by
  • Ranked #15 “Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Psychology” by
  • Ranked #3 “Best Online Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality and Tourism” by

Net Price: $23,414
Score: 567

27. Saint Leo University

Saint Leo, Florida

Saint Leo University is a Catholic liberal-arts school located in Saint Leo, Florida, with a well-established Center for Online Learning. Saint Leo offers 16 undergraduate degrees in the School of Business, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Education and Social Services. Some of its more unusual online degrees include Project Management, Religion, Sociology, and Criminalistics. Students can also pair a minor with their academic degree, choosing from Accounting, Management, Human Resources Management, Hospitality Management, and Criminal Justice.

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The online college also offers a large variety of Graduate degrees, such as Marketing Research & Social Media Analytics, Social Work, and multiple Criminal Justice degrees. Associate degrees and Doctoral degrees are also available. A new term starts about every two months, allowing students to begin their classes when it best fits their schedule. Each online student is given an academic advisor, who stays in contact by phone or email. Students also have access to the University’s virtual library, which is made up of 290,000 eBooks, and free 24 hour online tutoring. Career services staff can help you practice interviews, draft your resume, and conduct job searches.

This top online college also works to make distance-learning students feel like part of the University community, through the iRoar social network, online clubs and associations, and peer mentoring. SLU has a higher-than-average freshmen retention rate and a graduation rate on par with other similar institutions. Students on College Prowler report that the small class sizes, the simple registration process, and the easy access to tutoring distinguish Saint Leo from other online colleges.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #65 Regional Schools of the South by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #27 Best Schools for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report
  • Listed as a “Military Friendly School” by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2010
  • 2011 Finalist for the Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award from the Association of Teacher Educators
  • Named to the 2010 Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)
  • Ranked #17 “Top Online School” by Guide to Online Schools
  • Undergraduate Business School given an “A” in Student Satisfaction by
  • Ranked #3 Most Affordable Law Degree according to OnlineU
  • Ranked #8 Most Affordable Forensic Science Degree according to OnlineU
  • Ranked #20 Most Affordable Religious Studies Degree according to OnlineU
  • Labeled a “Low Net Price School” by OnlineU
  • Ranked #5 “Best Online Bachelor in Human Resources Degree Program” by
  • Ranked #30 “Best Online College for 2014” by
  • Ranked #4 “Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Psychology” by
  • Ranked one of the “Best Tourism Degree Programs” by
  • Ranked #7 “Top Online Christian College” by
  • Ranked #14 “Best Online Bachelor of Criminal Justice Degree Program” by
  • Ranked #14 “Best Online Bachelor of Business Administration Degree Program” by
  • Ranked #15 “Best Online College” by
  • Ranked #4 “Smart Choice Best Online College” by SuperScholar

Net Price: $17,624
Score: 569

26. University of Central Florida Online

Orlando, Florida

The University of Central Florida began its online education program back in 1996, with the creation of the Center for Distributed Learning. The accredited online college now has 16 undergraduate degrees and 24 graduate degrees on offer, along with classes in a wide selection of subjects. The undergraduate programs are mostly liberal arts focused and range from Anthropology to International and Global Studies. However, the school does offer Bachelors of Science degrees in Health Services Administration, Nursing, Psychology, and Technical Education & Industry Training.

Minors are also available in a variety of fields for students who want to broaden their knowledge. Online students living outside of Florida should be aware that due to state regulations, some programs are not available in certain states, and no programs are available in Maryland or Minnesota. As for student support, the UCF First Year Experience is designed to help new students transition into the UCF community, online students included.

Students also have extensive access to the university library’s electronic resources, and can also have a physical book from UCF sent to a library near them through an Interlibrary Loan. Administrative support is available through the online service AskUCF, and technical support is offered 24/7. The online college has a high freshman retention rate of 87%, as well as a high 6-year graduation rate of 67%. Student reviews on College Prowler praised the flexibility of scheduling, the great resources for finding internships, and the cooperative student atmosphere.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #97 Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #24 Best Online Nursing Program by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #3 “Up and Coming” National University by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #42 “Best Value in Public Colleges” by Kiplinger
  • Ranked one of the “50 Best Value Public Universities” by both USA Today and The Princeton Review
  • Ranked one of the “Best Southeastern Colleges” by The Princeton Review
  • Listed as a Top 300 World University by the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities
  • College of Business Administration ranked the #1 public business school in the nation for ROI by Bloomberg Business Week
  • Ranked #8 among universities “least likely to leave graduates in debt” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Listed by Forbes as the 42nd most affordable university in the nation
  • Top school for awarding degrees to minority students
  • Considered a “Low Net Price School” by OnlineU
  • Labeled one of the most popular online colleges by OnlineU
  • Ranked one of the “20 Best Tourism Degree Programs” by
  • Ranked #9 “Best Hospitality Program in the United States” by

Net Price: $15,033
Score: 569

25. Florida Tech University Online

Melbourne, Florida

Florida Technical University, an affordable online college, focuses on mathematics, sciences, and technical education in order to help its students succeed in their future careers. The University’s 16 online Bachelor’s degrees educate students in subjects such as Applied Psychology, Business Administration, Human Resources Management, and many more. In fact, Florida Tech has the only accredited online undergraduate program in Aviation Management! The online college also offers eleven Masters of Business Administration degrees and four Masters of Science degrees.

Classes are usually small, thanks to a very comfortable student to faculty ratio of 9:1. The class layout also encourages collaboration between students and professors. Streaming lectures, online discussion boards, chat rooms, recorded MP3 lectures, and library access are just some of the learning methods online students experience. Online class terms start every two months, allowing students to complete classes quickly and flexibly. Students can also register for up to two terms of classes while the admission process is being completed.

Active duty and retired military students receive benefits including lower tuition rates and no penalties for exiting and re-entering the program in case of temporary duty assignments. As for academic support, each student has the help of an academic advisor, and non-academic help is accessible through Career Services and the student services representatives. Students typically report being attracted to FTU for the diversity of the student body and the “technical mindedness” of the students.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked Top Tier School by U.S. News & World Report
  • Named Best College for Return on Investment in Florida by Bloomberg Businessweek
  • Named one of Barron’s Best Buys in College Education
  • Ranked one of America’s Best Colleges in 2012 by Forbes magazine
  • Ranked #19 on OnlineU’s list of “Most Affordable Finance Degrees”
  • Rated a “Military Friendly School” by OnlineU
  • Labeled a “Low Net Price School” by OnlineU
  • Florida Tech appears on our list of the Top 7 Cheap Online Forensic Psychology Degree Programs (Bachelor’s) 2014.

Net Price: N/A
Score: 569

24. University of Nebraska at Kearney Online

Kearney, Nebraska

The University of Nebraska at Kearney is a medium-sized public university and one of four schools in the University of Nebraska system. Their accredited online college offers undergraduate degrees in a variety of areas, including Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Sociology, Early Childhood Education, and Organizational & Relational Communication. The school also offers 19 graduate programs, most of which are dedicated to Education. Certain minors, endorsements, and certificates are also available.

The classes are organized into fall and spring semesters in the traditional manner. The University emphasizes that its online classes are just as high in quality as their on-campus courses, and that students should expect to spend 9 to 12 hours per week on each class. The UNK’s freshman retention and graduation rates are about average, and classes are small with a 16:1 student to faculty ratio. Like on-campus learners, students attending college online have access to all the resources in the Academic and Career Services Office, which include academic advising, resume building, career assessments, and job databases.

Online students also have access to resources designed specifically for them. Research paper and computer tutorials, technology help, free antivirus software, and library access are just some of the materials offered. If necessary, students can get 24/7 research assistance and may order a book from the UNK library to be delivered to a library closer to home. UNK students said on College Prowler that there seem to be a lot of general education requirements, but that they enjoy the quality of the professors and the small class sizes.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #13 Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #54 Regional University of the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked a Top 10 Public Midwest Regional University for three consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #16 Most Affordable Early Childhood Education Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked #22 Most Affordable Teaching Degree by OnlineU

Net Price: $13,549
Score: 571

23. Philadelphia University Online

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia University is a top online college focused on giving students an education that will prepare them to work and compete in the real world. Their online courses are arranged in six two-month long terms each year in order to give students the best options for how to arrange their schedule. Students can also choose between taking classes full time or part time.

The University offers seven undergraduate Bachelors of Science degrees, which range from Behavioral and Health Services to Professional Communications and Law Enforcement Leadership. The school also offers graduate degrees in unique topics like Innovation, Disaster Medicine & Management, Midwifery, and Sustainable Design. Philadelphia University’s statistics demonstrate that the school regularly retains and graduates a majority of its student body, at least in part due to its small a student to faculty ratio of 14:1.

If online students want to get the study-abroad experience while completing their degree, but don’t have the time or money to spend on long-term travel, they can take advantage of the Short Courses. Short Courses are 1 to 3 week international educational experiences that count as full three-credit courses. Furthermore, students attending college online have access to all the same resources that on-campus students do. These include academic advising, the library, and Career Services, as well as the Entrepreneurship Center to help students get started with their business goals. Philadelphia University professors are highly experienced and tailor their curricula to prepare college attendees for the real world.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #79 Best Regional Schools in the North
  • Ranked #29 Best Midwifery Program
  • Ranked #11 “Best Online Bachelor’s in Business Management Degree Program” by

Net Price: $28,159
Score: 572

22. Mercy College Online

Dobbs Ferry, New York

Mercy College has the lowest tuition rates in New York State, making it perfect for students who want to attend college online. Mercy offers 16 undergraduate degrees entirely online, including Business, Behavioral Science, Corporate and Homeland Security Management, Computer Science, Nursing, and Psychology, among others. For students living close by, degrees in Criminal Justice, Paralegal Studies, Spanish, and History are available partly online and partly on campus. Mercy also provides options for numerous Master’s Degrees, which focus mostly on Business, Education, and Health Services. The freshman retention rate is high 70%, a strong indication of the positive impression Mercy makes on its students.

This cheap online college offers classes in 96 total subjects, which makes it perfect for someone who is interested in getting a broad and interesting education rather than solely to advance their career. The Center for Social and Criminal Justice is an excellent resource for students looking to going into the legal system or criminal justice fields.

Students also have access to the Career Services office, which provides help with resumes, interviews, networking, and job hunting. If online students need help from the library while studying, they always have access to its electronic resources and can speak to a librarian through email and online chats for as long as the library is open. And just because the courses are online doesn’t mean you’ll miss out on a typical college experience; students frequently report that they enjoy the small class sizes and feel like professors really care about their students.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked#148 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #95 Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • Mercy academics recognized as “competitive” by Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges
  • Recognized for Online Excellence by U.S. News & World Report and the Sloan Consortium
  • Named a “Best Return on Tuition Investment” college by
  • Named a “Best Lifetime Return on Investment” college by
  • #6 highest starting salary for graduates according to
  • Recognized for its superior commitment to community service by the Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Ranked #148 “Best Online Bachelor’s Program” by U.S. News & World Report’s
  • Considered a “Low Net Price School” according to OnlineU
  • Ranked one of the most popular online colleges by OnlineU

Net Price: $15,622
Score: 574

21. Thomas Edison State College

Trenton, New Jersey

Thomas Edison State College is unique among online colleges in that it only serves adults, making it fitting for those who are committed to their careers and want to learn along with others who feel the same way. With 27 online Bachelor’s programs, Thomas Edison provides an above-average selection for long distance students. These undergraduate degrees cover fields such as Nuclear Engineering, Electronic Systems, Entrepreneurship, Organizational Leadership, and Operations Management. Graduate degrees are also offered in 8 fields, including Educational Leadership and Public Service Leadership. Associate degrees and Graduate Certificate Programs are available as well.

There are usually only about 20 students per class and a new term starts every month, allowing students to get a degree on their own schedule. Experienced students do not gain “Life Experience” credits, but can get credit for their knowledge in other ways – for example, by taking the final exam in a course covering material they already understand, thereby earning valuable credits. It is also possible to earn credit for previously gained professional training and licenses, military training, classes taught, or by putting together a portfolio of previous work and submitting it for consideration.

Students attending college online have access to the Academic Advising office five days a week, and can call the Advisement Expressline if they need to speak to an advisor right away in an emergency. Online reviews of Thomas Edison are overwhelmingly positive and note the flexibility of the programs and the helpfulness and knowledge of the professors.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Deemed “One of the Brighter Stars in Higher Education” in 1994 by The New York Times
  • Listed as one of the “Top 20 Colleges and Universities in the Nation” in the use of technology to create learning opportunities for adults by Forbes in 1997
  • Technology Network in 2011 for the development of its FlashTrack® course delivery system
  • In 2013, TESC graduates had the highest pass rate on the CPA exam in New Jersey
  • Called “The College that Paved the Way for Adults” in 2013 by The New York Times
  • Named a top school for veterans and military personnel
  • Ranked #234 Best Nursing School by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked a “Best Buy for an Online Accredited Business Degree” by
  • Named to Forbes’ list of “Top 20 Wired Degrees”
  • Psychology, Social Sciences, and Sociology Bachelor’s Degree Programs ranked “Best Buys” by
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration rated a Top 5 “Best Buy” by

Net Price: N/A
Score: 595

20. Full Sail University

Winter Park, Florida

Full Sail University is a popular choice for students who want to attend college online. The school offers a “creative approach to online learning” and seeks to build its programs around education for the real world. The school’s distance education programs feature a variety of interactive tools and creatively designed content, and unique multimedia options. Everything students see online is designed by Full Sail’s own Instructional Design Team, which allows students to enjoy a customized experience tailored directly to their needs. You will also benefit from easy access to professors and classmates, as well as podcasts, animations, videos, and other media that make getting your degree easy.
As one of the best online colleges in creative media, Full Sail offers more than a dozen bachelor’s degree programs in areas such as computer animation, digital art and design, film, game development, music business, recording arts, and simulation and visualization. Students definitely won’t miss out just because they’re not attending class face to face; “Live Sessions” and collaborative sharing tools recreate the virtual classroom and give learners the personal touch required to be successful.
Upon enrolling at this top online college, students also gain access to a host of student services. An entire team is standing at the ready to help you create a portfolio and resume, conduct a job search, and network with industry professionals. Other advisors provide academic support, troubleshoot technical issues, and even provide a framework for virtual student organizations. It’s no wonder Full Sail’s graduation rate is nearly 80%!
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • 21st Century Best Practices Award from the United States Distance Learning Association in 2011
  • Outstanding Leadership Award from the United States Distance Learning Association in 2011
  • Silver Award Winner from the United States Distance Learning Association in 2012
  • School of the Year in 2013-14
  • Ranked “One of the Top Music Business Schools with Buzz” by the Hollywood Reporter
  • Labeled a “Best for Vets” College in 2013 and 2014 by Military Times Edge
  • “Compositing and Scene Finishing” Course named “Top of the Class” by Animation Magazine
  • Ranked as a Top Audio Education Program for Live Sound Curriculum by Mix Magazine
  • Ranked nne of the “Best Universities for Aspiring Game Developers” by Electronic Gaming Monthly in 2012
  • New Media Consortium Center for Excellence Award in 2011
  • Apple’s Innovators in Education Award in 2010
  • Dubbed the “Harvard of Game Schools” by Tips and Tricks Magazine in 2007
  • Ranked one of the “Top 5 Film Schools in the Country” by UNLeashed Magazine in 2005
  • Ranked “One of the Three Best Music Business Departments” in The Rolling Stone College Guide in 2005
  • Ranked “One of the Five Best Music Programs in the Country” by Rolling Stone magazine in 2005
  • Ranked “One of the Top Five Game Design Programs in the World” in Electronic Gaming Monthly in 2003
  • Ranked “One of the Top Ten New Media Schools” by Shift Magazine in 2000

Net Price: $29,790
Score: 596

19. Park University Online

Parkville, Missouri

Park University was founded in 1875 and has had a relationship with the U.S. military since 1889. Over the past 50 years it has grown to be one of the largest campus and online colleges attended by military personnel. It has since added 40 branch locations to its main campus in Missouri, most of which are located next to military bases, and offer online degrees to students worldwide. Blended online/campus learning is also available. It is non-profit, private, and regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Two support services set Park apart as one of the nation’s best online colleges. First, its Academic Support Center offers a variety of course assistance free of charge to all students, including tutoring, writing aid, time management skills development, mentoring, and more. Second, the Career Development Center offers both online and campus students a full spectrum of career assistance, including career advising (available in person, by phone, and online), mock interviews, workshops, job hunting strategies, resume writing, and career interest tools like StrengthsFinder.

Park’s library houses nearly 140,000 ebooks and more than 40,000 journals, available online with librarian support through email, by phone, or by chat. You can often obtain non-electronic materials through one of Park’s inter-library sharing agreements. The eCollege Help Desk is also ready to offer IT support 24/7. Courses are offered on shortened eight-week terms with five start dates throughout the year. An extremely low student-faculty ratio of 11:1 affords students more interaction with professors than most top online colleges, allowing learners to get more out of their studies in one of 21 online Bachelor’s programs, such as Business, Criminal Justice, Education, Humanities (including military History and Military Studies), IT, Public Administration, Nursing, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences.
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #164 in Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #7 in Most Affordable Private Universities/Colleges in the U.S., and #1 in the Midwest region by U.S. News & World Report
  • Park’s School of Business Ranked #8 in “Best for Vets Business School Programs” by Military Timesmagazine
  • Ranked among the Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics by Hispanic Outlook in Higher Educationmagazine
  • Listed as a College of Distinction for three consecutive years
  • Ranked the “Top Value” in U.S. in private universities and colleges by Parents and Colleges website
  • Ranked a “Military Friendly School” for five consecutive years by G.I. Jobsmagazine
  • Ranked #2 among private institutions and #24 overall among “Most Affordable Online Colleges” by Affordable Colleges Online
  • Ranked #10 for online program quality by Guide to Online Schools
  • Awarded 33 spots in the Top 100 rankings for Bachelor’s degrees awarded to minority students, including five in the top 10, by Diverse Issues in Higher Education
  • Ranked #10 in military tuition assistance funds received by Military Times EDGE
  • Ranked a top “Military Friendly University” for five consecutive years by Military Advanced Education
  • Ranked one of the 50 Colleges with the Lowest Out-Of-State Tuition by
  • Ranked #27 in “Best Online Criminal Justice Bachelor’s Programs” by
  • Ranked #28 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Management Degrees” by
  • Ranked #32 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Psychology, Human Services” by
  • Ranked #33 in “Best Online IT Bachelor’s Degrees” by
  • Ranked the #10 Top Online College by OnlineU

Net Price: $11,859
Score: 599

18. Herzing University Online

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Herzing University consists of a number of different campuses, including an online division that describes itself as “Career Focused. Convenient. And Caring.” These three C’s symbolize much of what online college learners seek in a degree program – education that won’t interrupt their daily lives while preparing them for advancement in the professional world. Herzing offers over 50 degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree level in areas spanning from criminal justice to IT to healthcare management. All of the online college’s more than 20 B.S. degrees are available entirely through distance education, eliminating the need to make costly and time-consuming trips to campus.
Classes are meant to be flexible and convenient without sacrificing personalized attention; students work closely with professors, complete hands-on coursework, and benefit from a “student first” approach – all of which separate Herzing from other top online colleges. All of this accredited online school’s programs are approved by the Higher Learning Commission, and it is also a member of the North Central Association.
Herzing has also made a name for itself as an incredibly affordable online college option. The university maintains a very low overall net price due to the prevalence of financial aid programs. Applicants can work with an Educational Funding Advisor to assist them in funding their education. Advisors can help you complete the FAFSA, look for alternate grants and scholarships, take advantage of military benefits and tuition assistance, and/or secure alternative lending.
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked a “Top Online Bachelor’s Program” in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #35 “Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Degree” by
  • Ranked #11 Most Affordable Human Resource Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked #15 Most Affordable Marketing Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked #19 Most Affordable Accounting Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked #17 Most Affordable Information Technology Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked #23 in “Best Bachelor’s in Legal Studies” by
  • Ranked #8 “Best Graphic Design Online Bachelor’s Program” by
  • Ranked #18 “Best Bachelor of Information Technology Degree Program” by
  • Ranked #19 “Best Online Bachelor of Criminal Justice Degree Program” by

Net Price: $19,199
Score: 606

17. University of Memphis Online

Memphis, Tennessee

The University of Memphis delivers online degrees through its eCampus, which is composed of courses through UM Online and RODP (Regents Online Degree Program), both of which are regionally accredited online college programs. UM Online classes are taught by UM professors solely for UM students, while RODP classes may be taught by professors from other universities. The RODP is a cooperative program leveraging the teaching from some of the best online colleges in Tennessee: six universities and a number of community colleges and technical schools.

No matter who teaches your eCampus courses, the University of Memphis will issue your diploma, which is fully equivalent to a campus degree. UM Online offers a broader range of Bachelor’s degrees than does RODP, in areas of arts and sciences, business, nursing (RN to BSN), and communications. UM Online courses are identical in content to campus courses. While tuition is lowest for in-state students, there is a special eRate available to out-of-state students who take only online courses (no campus courses). This rate is significantly lower than UM’s usual non-resident tuition.

Once enrolled, you can enjoy taking courses in a large number of subject areas. The student-faculty ratio is 14:1, and 87% of College Prowler survey respondents report professors’ general knowledge as above average. The learning management platform, Desire2Learn, is available for both PCs and Macs and is supported by the IT Services Department and the Center for Teaching and Learning. When you’re ready for an internship or post-graduation employment, take advantage of UM’s Career Services department for exploring career interests, writing resumes, searching for jobs online, and more.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #219 in research universities by Forbes
  • Ranked #557 in America’s Top Colleges by Forbes
  • Considered one of the most popular online colleges by OnlineU
  • Considered a “Low Net Price School” by OnlineU
  • Ranked among the highest for online schools in number of online degrees

Net Price: $12,060
Score: 611

16. Granite State College

Concord, New Hampshire

Granite State College is a regionally-accredited public school with a specific focus: to meet the needs of adult learners in New Hampshire who wish to attain further education and to meet the workforce priorities of New Hampshire’s employers. Its aim is to make education as attainable as possible for adult learners through flexible delivery of courses, campus availability throughout the state, and very low tuition rates that help to place GSU on many lists of affordable online colleges. About half of students attend part-time, 93% are in-state, and more than half of students are online-only learners.

The average age of students is 34, though 26% of undergrads are in the traditional 18-24 age range. Eighty percent of students have attended some college classes previously. Those who have at least 60 credits of previous work in a traditional or online college might qualify for the DIRECT Pathway program to accelerate their Bachelor’s degree. Other students can also speed up or slow down their course load to match their schedules. Those with experience outside the classroom will appreciate the opportunity to receive credit for their learning from job experience, training classes, self-study, volunteer work, and other means through GSU’s Prior Learning Assessment, a rare offering – even from other top online colleges.

Professors are experts in their fields and teach with a focus on applying theory to the real world, with an impressive student-faculty ratio of 11:1. Respondents to College Prowler student polls rate academics extremely favorably at GSU compared with other schools in our study, giving high marks on 91% of the aspects surveyed. GSU offers 29 Bachelor’s degrees, including Operations Management, Digital and Social Media, Service and Hospitality Management, and Communications Studies, among many others. Can’t find the prefect degree? Create an (approved) Individual Studies degree that suits your unique professional goals.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #48 in Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked the #1 Least Expensive College in New England by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Ranked #1 for “Social Mobility” among liberal arts colleges in New England, and #2 for public liberal arts institutions nationally by Washington Monthly
  • One of 14 schools to be part of the Competence Based Education (CBE) Jumpstart program selected by The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning
  • Ranked #19 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Management” by
  • Ranked #20 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Psychology, Human Services” by
  • Ranked #1 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs” by
  • Ranked #10 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Business Management Degree Programs” by
  • Ranked the #4 Most Affordable Accounting Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked the #15 Most Affordable Business Degree by OnlineU

Net Price: $14,025
Score: 611

15. Penn State World Campus

University Park, Pennsylvania

Penn State World Campus, first opened in 2009, is the online college campus of Penn State, a nationally recognized university with one of the largest alumni networks in the nation. Graduates from the World Campus take the same high-quality and rigorous courses as traditional students, except with the convenience of an online classroom. Furthermore, there is absolutely no difference between diplomas earned by traditional students of Penn State and those who take part in the online program.

Once you join Penn State World Campus, you will be part of a community of extraordinary adult learners from all 50 states and every continent. Students can also access exceptional student services, including new-student orientation, academic advising, career counseling resources, a nationally recognized research library, help desk, and tutorials. World Campus offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree options in addition to certificates and minors for students. Fields include education, health care, business, engineering, technology, and literature. Classes are taught by the same esteemed faculty who teach on-campus classes at Penn State. In fact, The Wall Street Journal named Penn State the best college in the nation for producing the best-prepared, most well-rounded graduates who are most able to succeed once hired.

World Campus understands the needs of distance-learning students and offers courses designed around best practices for online colleges, taught by faculty who are experienced in teaching courses online. This top online college also takes the approach of employing innovative technologies to support learning outcomes, rather than just for convenience.
This affordable online college is accredited through the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and many of the college’s individual programs have additional accreditation through governing bodies of those specific areas of study.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #3 in “Best Online Degree Programs” in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #1 in “Best Colleges for Veterans” in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report
  • A Wall Street Journal survey ranked Penn State #1 nationwide for “producing the best prepared, most well-rounded graduates who are most able to succeed once hired”
  • Ranked the #1 “Best Online College” by
  • Ranked the #1 “Best Online IT Bachelor’s Program” by
  • Ranked the #2 Best Online Program in Homeland Security by
  • Ranked in the most favorable 25% for cost of education by OnlineU
  • Ranked in the top 25% for number of Bachelor’s degrees by OnlineU

Net Price: $18,565
Score: 619

14. King University Online

Bristol, Tennessee

King University Online is dedicated to offering a first-rate college education to working professionals who wish to learn from an excellent faculty in a supportive and flexible learning environment. Students often enroll hoping to start a new career or advance their current careers after graduation. Courses are transferable and exactly the same as those delivered on-campus. King University is a Presbyterian institution whose mission is to educate students in an academically rigorous environment.

KU puts an emphasis on Christian faith and in doing so helps to encourage students’ scholarship, service and career goals. This accredited online college’s goal is to lead students toward “meaningful lives of achievement and cultural transformation in Christ.”
The university offers an associate of art degree; bachelor’s degrees in the fields of business, English, communications, health care, applied science, information technology, criminal justice, psychology, and religious studies; and two master’s degree options: Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Nursing.

Full-time students may take five-week courses and earn an associate degree in only 20 months or a master’s degree in only 15 months. King University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Active duty military and veterans are especially valued at this military-friendly institution, which is committed to embracing these students and offering affordable quality educational opportunities even when military service can make schedules unpredictable.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Recognized by G.I. Jobs as a Top 20% military-friendly school in 2014
  • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the Nation in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Named by The U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS) to the “President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll” in 2012
  • Ranked #10 “Best Online Bachelor of Information Technology Degree Program” by
  • Labeled a “Low Net Price School” by OnlineU
  • Labeled a “High Graduation Rate School” by OnlineU

Net Price: $18,108
Score: 624

13. National American University Online

Rapid City, South Dakota

National American University Online opened its virtual doors in 1998. Its Distance Learning program provides students all over the world 24-hour-a-day access to a quality education, offering technical and academic undergraduate and graduate degrees in addition to corporate training. Subject areas include Accounting, Information Technology, Paralegal Studies, Business Administration, Nursing, Organizational Leadership, Veterinary Technology, and many others.

NAU Online is an affordable and flexible online college program for all degree-seekers but offers a reduced military tuition rate to active duty military, spouses, dependents, and veterans as a way of honoring their service to our nation. NAU is an accredited online college, with curriculum approved by the Higher Learning Commission. Its business programs have also received specialized accreditation through the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education – an indication that it is a top online college for business majors. NAU is committed to helping working professionals achieve a balance in their professional and personal lives. The school maintains its reputation as one of the nation’s best online colleges in part because of its caring and supportive environment, dedicated learner support services, highly qualified faculty, and enriching academic programs. All these qualities help to promote student success.

Students in the Distance Learning program also have access to learning resource center services, academic counseling, tutoring, and computer support through a student portal. The university’s Associate to Bachelor’s degree program (2 + 2) allows students to transfer up to two years of coursework from their local community college or technical school and complete their bachelor’s degree at NAU within two years.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • NAU was listed among the 2104 Military Friendly Schools®
  • Named a “Military Friendly School” by Victory Media
  • Labeled one of the “Most Affordable Colleges” by OnlineU
  • Labeled a “Low Net Price School” by OnlineU
  • Ranked one of the most popular online colleges by OnlineU

Net Price: $19,858
Score: 627

12. Washington State University Global Campus

Pullman, Washington

Washington State University Global Campus is a public, non-profit university that began its life with a land-grant mission in 1890 to help students, no matter where they live. To be “a new campus, for a new world,” Washington State University Global Campus offers the true campus experience plus extracurricular activities, online career fairs and events, a digital pavilion where students can showcase their research, as well as webinars from university experts and a Common Reading book club to help students connect with one another.

This online college division of WSU also has an online student government to represent the interests of its distance education students. Central to the Washington State University Global Campus experience is Global Connections, a virtual learning space available for students. Additionally, Washington State University Global Campus courses have Virtual Mentors to offer personal assistance.

As a top online college, WSU Global offers undergraduate degree, graduate degree, and certificate programs to students wherever an internet connection is available. These programs are designed by the same faculty who design the programs at the physical campus in Pullman, a clear demonstration of how the Global Campus is dedicated to providing a top-quality education, no matter the delivery method. This fully accredited online college is certified by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #21 in Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked in the “Top 10 Best Undergraduate Programs for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report in 2014
  • Ranked #12 for online university graduation rates by Online School Center
  • Affordable Colleges Online listed WSU in its “top five online programs in the state to strike the best balance between cost of attendance and lifelong earning potential”
  • Ranked in the top six for military friendliness in 2012 by Guide to Online Schools
  • Ranked #39 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice” by
  • Ranked #48 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Psychology, Human Services” by
  • Ranked #69 in “Best Online Bachelor’s in Business” by
  • Ranked #9 “Best Online College” by
  • Named the top online college in Washington State by

Net Price: $16,278
Score: 631

11. University of North Carolina Charlotte Online

Charlotte, North Carolina

University of North Carolina Charlotte Online is an online college that offers a wide variety of baccalaureate completion programs, master’s degrees, graduate certificates, and teacher licensure programs. Areas of study include Engineering, Kinesiology, Education, and Nursing, among others. The program uses online, site-based, and interactive television for delivery, assuring busy students maximum flexibility in their educational experience.

The university’s Distance Education programs are taught by the same dedicated faculty who teach their on-campus programs, using the same content and working toward the same objectives and outcomes. Classes are offered in both synchronously (there is a planned meeting time on the computer) and asynchronously (students log in at their convenience).
Distance Education students at the University of North Carolina Charlotte Online are supported by a toll-free Technical Help Desk that offers evening and weekend as well as weekday hours, a librarian assigned specifically to work with Distance Education students, and Distance Education Program Managers who provide administrative and logistical support to the students enrolled in each program.

As an accredited online school, UNC Charlotte’s curriculum is approved by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The university is committed to ensuring quality in the design and delivery of its Distance Education programs, frequently requesting a review of its services through the United States Distance Learning Association. The USDLA recently recognized the college for its commitment to provide quality service to the institution’s distance education students.

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Top-notch faculty member received 2014 Bank of America award for teaching excellence
  • Recipient of the 2013 WCET Outstanding Work award for innovative uses of technology in higher education
  • Labeled a “Low Net Price School” by OnlineU
  • Labeled a “High Graduation Rate School” by OnlineU

Net Price: $10,506
Score: 651

10. University of Phoenix

Phoenix, Arizona

The University of Phoenix is not only one of the most popular online colleges in the nation, it is also the largest – the online division has more than 200,000 students! The university also has campuses in nearly 40 states and has both school-wide and individual program accreditations, including those for the business, nursing, teacher education, and counseling programs. Because it is such a large school, the online college also has one of the widest selections of education programs. Bachelor’s degree students can choose from over 100 majors in eight main areas: Arts and Sciences, Business and Management, Criminal Justice and Security, Education, Human Services, Nursing and Healthcare, Psychology, and Technology.
The university also has a smaller-than-average student to faculty ratio – at just 12 professors to every one student – which makes successful learning outcomes more accessible to all students. Not only will you get plenty of one-on-one attention from teachers, but you’ll benefit from instructors who also work in their field of specialty.
This online college also works to make itself more affordable by offering a number of unique funding and scholarship opportunities, such as the Scholarship Reward Program, which can help undergrads save over $10,000! Students can work with an enrollment advisor to help them through the process, and the assistance doesn’t end there. Everyone is assigned an entire Graduation Team that will help them navigate their academic career.
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Received an Arizona State Quality Award in 1999
  • Awarded a 2002 Global Achievement Award for Innovation from Economist Intelligence Unit
  • Recipient of the 2005 Western Cooperative for Education Telecommunications WOW Award
  • Recipient of the Crescordia Award for excellence in sustainability and communication efforts in 2008
  • Recipient of the Most Valued Employer for Military Award in 2009 from
  • Rated a “Military Friendly School” by OnlineU
  • Labeled one of the most popular online schools by OnlineU
  • Labeled one of the most affordable online schools by OnlineU
  • Ranked the #1 “Most Popular Online College” by”
  • ranked it #14 on its list of “Top 25 Online Teacher Education Programs”
  • ranked it #24 on its list of “Very Best Online Nursing Programs

Net Price: $18,743
Score: 652

9. Upper Iowa University Online

Fayette, Iowa

Online learners at Upper Iowa University benefit from the resources available to students at a large public institution – except they never need to leave the house! UIU offers online college classes in seventeen majors to students all around the world – plus a number of certificate and master’s degree programs. Students have six different opportunities to enroll throughout the year, which serves as just one example of the flexibility this affordable online college provides. You can also transfer up to 90 credits from a previous program, meaning that you can spend less time in school and secure that coveted degree even sooner!
All classes are available in a web-based platform, and students even have the opportunity to test out a demo class to find out if Upper Iowa University is right for them. In keeping with its commitment to affordability, UIU offers military education programs to benefit our nation’s veterans and military personnel. In addition, professionals who want to attend college online may qualify for the Corporate Advantage Program, which provides benefits and tuition discounts to employees at several companies.
Students can choose from majors ranging from Accounting to Sociology, as well as more unusual degrees, such as Agricultural Business and Mortuary Science. Programs within the top online college are self-paced, which means you can study at the speed that is convenient for you while enjoying one-on-one interactions with instructors and proctored exams. Student polls on College Prowler suggest that most greatly enjoy their experience at UIU; common reports include “There are plenty of good online course options,” “Classrooms incorporate new technology effectively,” and “Professors put a lot of effort into teaching their classes.”

List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked a “Best Online Bachelor’s Program” in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Fayette County ranked 26th Best Place to Live in the Midwest
  • Considered a “Military Friendly College” by Military Advanced Education Magazine
  • Top Military Friendly School according to G.I. Jobs magazine
  • Member of the Yellow Ribbon Program
  • Listed on’s ranking of “Best Online Bachelor’s Psychology, Human Services
  • Ranked a “Best Online Bachelor’s in Healthcare” according to
  • Ranked a “Best Online IT Bachelor’s Degree” by
  • Ranked a “Best Online Bachelor’s in Business” by
  • Ranked a “Best Online Bachelor’s in Management” by
  • Rated a “Best Buy” for its online programs in 2007 by
  • Ranked a “Best Buy” since 2007 by Online Education Database Online College Rankings
  • #12 Most Affordable Human Services Degree according to OnlineU
  • Offers more online degrees than 75% of online colleges, according to OnlineU
  • Best online school in Iowa according to
  • Ranked #9 on list of “Best Online Bachelor’s in Human Resources Degree Programs
  • Ranked a “Military Friendly School” in 2014 by Victory Media
  • Ranked #109 in “Regional Universities (Midwest)” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #40 in “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Given a “Smart Rating” of 85 by FindTheBest

Net Price: $17,654
Score: 668

8. Troy University

Troy, Alabama

Troy University’s innovative “eTROY” system serves as the cornerstone of its online college division. Online learning at Troy is characterized by unbeatable student support from qualified advisors, high quality courses that mirror students’ experience in the traditional classroom, and web platforms designed for maximum user-friendliness. More than anything, Troy is committed to reducing barriers to getting a college degree so that adult learners and other nontraditional students can achieve their goals, regardless of their location or time constraints.
eTROY has nearly 100 undergraduate programs available to students, such as Criminal Justice, Information Systems, Political Science, and Tourism Management. Online college students at Troy also benefit from a plethora of student services, such as individual advising, career placement/exploration help, college/advanced placement testing, and student counseling. You’ll also gain access to a library with online public access (WEBCAT), which lets you search more than 10,000 full-text journals and 40,000 online full-text books.
These and many more reasons contribute to eTROY’s status as one of the best online colleges. It boasts an impressive 74% freshmen retention rate and a student-to-faculty ratio of only 19:1 – low for an online college. Students tend to “strongly agree” that there are plenty of good online course options, that they are encouraged to explore a wide range of course options and interests, and that professors are passionate about the subjects they teach.
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #74 in “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked a “Best College for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #15 in Best Online Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice by
  • Ranked #16 in Best Online Bachelor’s in IT by
  • Ranked #19 in Best Online Bachelor’s in Psychology, Human Services by
  • Ranked #21 in Best Online Bachelor’s in Management by
  • Ranked #25 in Best Online Bachelor’s in Business by
  • Ranked #11 Most Affordable IT Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked #15 Most Affordable Education Degree by OnlineU

Net Price: $10,292
Score: 692

7. Western Carolina University Online

Cullowhee, North Carolina

Western Carolina’s comprehensive online college degree programs are ideal for a wide variety of learners, including people seeking undergraduate, graduate, certificate, and teacher licensure degrees. WCU also offers off-site and hybrid programs, and even has an international program marketed specifically to aspiring Jamaican teachers, which provides options for Special Education; Early Childhood; Administration; and subject specialties in Math, Science, and Literacy. WCU’s online programs for undergrads are highly competitive, a quality that sets this top online college apart from the idea that distance education schools will just “take anyone.”
Most of the school’s undergraduate options are degree completion programs; possible majors include Criminal Justice, Emergency and Disaster Management, Emergency Medical Care, Engineering Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Nursing (RN-BSN). Admission to undergraduate programs is a two-step process, and the administration encourages interested applicants to get started early. You can also check out the Catamount Online Readiness Experience (CORE), which can help you decide if online learning is for you.
As additional evidence that WCU is one of the best online colleges on this list, the university offers a range of student resources for admitted students, including advising and registration help, online tutoring, technology resources (including Blackboard, free software downloads, and a student self-service web portal), career services, and an extensive online library. These resources, along with the school’s impressive 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, no doubt contribute to its above par freshmen retention rate of 79%.
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked #34 Best Online Bachelor’s program, and spotlighted as veteran-friendly, by U.S. News & World Report
  • Named one of the “Best Regional Universities” in the South and ranked #15 on the list of public southern universities by U.S. News & World Report
  • Online Criminal Justice program ranked #1 “Best Buy” by
  • Environmental Studies and Computer Science students won grand prizes at the 2014 Appalachian Energy Summit in Boone, N.C.
  • Named Top Adventure College by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine
  • Listed by The Princeton Review as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in North America for the fourth consecutive year
  • Rated one of the most popular online colleges by OnlineU
  • Ranked #21 on OnlineU’s list of “Top Online Colleges”
  • Labeled a “Low Net Price College” by OnlineU
  • Ranked the #1 “Best Buy” for online bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice by
  • Ranked #1 on’s list of “Best Affordable Online BSN Degrees”
  • The fourth institution of higher education in North Carolina to be designated a “National Merit Sponsoring” university
  • Labeled one of the top schools for offering opportunities to women

Net Price: $11,978
Score: 730

6. American Public University

Charles Town, West Virginia

There’s a reason 95% of seniors at American Public University say they would choose to attend the school again. APU welcomes students from all walks of life, including new undergrads, transfer students, and online college learners seeking graduate degrees. Classes start monthly, which means that you can find programs all year long that fit your (no doubt) busy schedule. Perhaps most unique about APU is its commitment to involving online students in social activities; students can join online “communities” and talk to classmates about anything from homeland security to how astronomy helps improve critical thinking skills.
Bachelor’s degree programs at this top online college (ranked 6th on our list) include standard options like English, Psychology, Philosophy, and Political Science, as well as career-prep oriented programs like Emergency and Disaster Management, Transportation and Logistics Management, Electrical Engineering, and even something called Space Studies! Most B.S. and B.A. degrees require completion of 120-124 semester hours, and students must have a high school diploma (or equivalent) to be admitted to the school.
Students attending college online participate in asynchronous learning formats and interact with professors through visual presentations, message boards, and recorded videos. The learning tools are very similar to in-person experiences and are available to students around the globe. APU attendees come from multiple countries and range from 20 to 40+ years of age, ensuring that everyone benefits from a diverse learning experience. Students overwhelmingly enjoy their experience at the school and return for a second time nearly 85% of the time.
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Recipient of the Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality Online Education in 2009
  • Recipient of the Sloan Consortium Effective Practice Award from Sloan in 2009/2010
  • Recipient of the Environmental Excellence Award for Clean Energy from West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in 2013
  • Recipient of the Association for Continuing Higher Education Award in Creative Use of Technology
  • Ranked #34 “Best Online Bachelor’s Program” by U.S. News & World Report’s
  • Ranked on the list of “Best Online Bachelor’s in Psychology, Human Services” by
  • Ranked #8 on list of “Best Online Bachelor’s in Information Assurance and Security Degree Programs”
  • Rated the 2nd most popular online college by

Net Price: $8,839
Score: 765

5. Kaplan University

Davenport, Iowa

Kaplan University is a popular choice for undergraduate and graduate students alike. And at only about $6,000 a year (net price), it’s hard to find a more affordable online college! Kaplan first opened its doors in the 1930s and quickly expanded across the country, and it now serves the needs of thousands of nontraditional learners every year. As a comprehensive online college, Kaplan offers degree programs in eleven main areas: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Business, Criminal Justice, Education, Fire Science, Health Sciences, Legal Studies, Nursing, Technology, Special Military Programs, and General Courses.
Kaplan’s productive and flexible online learning platforms feature a myriad of online tools and resources complemented by a unique human touch. Real-world professionals teach classes through interactive modules, seminars, and even web field trips! Some programs will even allow you to participate in an externship in your hometown for course credit. Kaplan constantly updates its technology to ensure that you get access to the best academic resources, student support services, and interactive programs.
Kaplan has a 75% freshmen retention rate and nearly the same graduation rate – a rare occurrence in the online college circuit. The university also boasts a lower-than-average student faculty ratio of 17:1, while the vast majority of students report that their education “is applicable to the real world,” “will advance my career,” and helped them “learn a lot of new things,” while 0% of students complained that Kaplan was a waste of their time or didn’t help them learn anything.
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked the #56 “Best Online Bachelor’s Program” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Online nursing program ranked among the Top 100 in the country by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #22 on’s list of “Best Bachelor’s in Legal Studies Degree Programs”
  • Ranked the 10th most popular online college by
  • Ranked the #15 “Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Program in Early Childhood Education” by
  • Ranked the #9 “Top Online Teacher Education Program” by
  • Ranked the #10 “Top School for Online Nursing Degrees” by
  • Given an 8.43 out of 10 by TopTenReviews

Net Price: $18,975
Score: 791

4. Southern New Hampshire University

Hooksett, New Hampshire

Southern New Hampshire University offers a wide range of degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate level, including nearly 100 online bachelor’s programs! Options include Accounting, Business Studies, Communication, Creative Writing and English, Criminal Justice, Environmental Science, Fashion Merchandising, Graphic Design, Healthcare Management, Information Technologies, Mathematics, and much, much more.
Classes start in six terms throughout the year and each last about two months. This schedule is ideal for nontraditional online college students who need maximum flexibility in order to maintain their career and family commitments. Students can learn using a Windows or Mac computer, and those in upper-level IT courses can often obtain temporary licenses for software through SNHU’s special partnerships. Online students also benefit from a virtual bookstore, 24/7 tech support, and the Shapiro Library – an extensive collection of books, journals, and business databases online.
This top online college has above-average freshmen retention and graduation rates, as well as several high grades on College Prowler. Speaking of College Prowler, several student polls reveal that, “there are a variety of interesting courses to take,” “there are plenty of good online course options,” and “professors care about their students’ success.” SNHU is a great choice for motivated students, as nearly 100% of poll respondents report that always do all of their homework and attend all lectures. As evidence of this top online college’s great reputation, student polls further divulge that SNHU was their top choice for school.
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Distinction for MS-HRM and BS-Business with HRM concentration programs from the Society for Human Resource Management
  • Ranked a “Best Online Degree Program” in New Hampshire Business Review’s 2014 Best of Business poll
  • Online Psychology Degree ranked a “Best Buy” in 2014 by
  • Named a “Top 20 Online Bachelor’s Degree Program” in 2012 by
  • Rated the 12th most innovative company in the world by Fast Company
  • Rated the #8 “Best Online College” in 2014 by
  • One of the ”Best Online IT Bachelor’s Degrees” according to
  • One of the “Best Online Bachelor’s in Business” according to
  • One of the “Best Online Bachelor’s in Management” according to
  • Rated a “Best Buy” by in 2006
  • Rated the best online college in New Hampshire by
  • Named by the Chronicle of Higher Education as “One of the Best Colleges for which to Work”
  • Community Economic Development Program given the 2007 New England Higher Education Excellence Award for outstanding academic program

Net Price: $28,095
Score: 791

3. Liberty University Online

Lynchburg, Virginia

As the school with the third highest score according to our rankings, Liberty University Online is clearly one of the best online colleges available to students. Liberty offers associate, bachelor’s, graduate, postgraduate, and even high school programs spanning more than 100 different subjects. Online college students interested in B.S. or B.A. degrees can choose from such majors as Aeronautics, Business Administration, Education, Engineering and Computational Sciences, Government, History, IT, Nursing, Psychology, and Religion, many of which can be customized through concentrations and applicable minors.

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Other online features of LU Online include tuition credits for prior learning and experience, Intensive Courses for those who want to accelerate their progress, and Degree Completion Programs that serve as a convenient “roadmap” of your progression through your major. It’s important to note that ambitious online college students who want to participate in an Intensive may be required to visit Liberty’s Lynchburg, Virginia campus for a short time (i.e. a week or so).
This fully accredited online college also provides students with an impressive range of services and resources, such as an online library featuring interlibrary loans and top databases; an online writing center with web resources; and study aids that can help with goal setting, reading comprehension, note taking, test anxiety, exam, prep, and time management skills. Students can also take English and Math assessment tests online to ensure that they are placed in the courses appropriate for their skill level. Liberty touts a freshmen retention rate of nearly 70% and a notable A- grade in Academics from College Prowler (as well as an “A” overall).
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Ranked a “Top Military-Friendly Online College” by
  • Ranked 17th Most Influential College on Instagram by
  • Ranked in the Top 30 Most Engaged Social Media College Community by
  • Ranked a “Best Online Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, Human Services” by
  • Offers more online degrees than 75% of online colleges, according to OnlineU
  • Online of the most popular online schools, according to OnlineU
  • Rated the #15 Most Affordable Online Counseling Degree by OnlineU
  • Rated the #5 Most Affordable Human Services Degree by OnlineU
  • Ranked the Best Online University in Virginia by
  • Ranked #7 on the list of “Best Online Bachelor’s in Information Assurance and Security Degree Programs” by
  • Ranked the 3rd most popular online college by
  • Ranked the 5th on the list of “Best Conservative Colleges in America” by
  • Rated #16 on list of “30 Best Online Colleges for 2014”
  • Ranked the #1 “Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Psychology” by
  • Ranked the #1 “Top Online Christian College” by
  • Ranked the 3rd “Best College for Studying the Bible” by
  • Ranked #3 on list of “Top Online Teacher Education Programs” by
  • Rated #21 on list of “25 Best Online Colleges”
  • Rated the 8th “Best Online Nursing Degree” by
  • Ranked #89 “Best Regional University (South)” in 2013 by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #23 “Best College for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked a “Best Online Bachelor’s Program” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked one of the “Top 10 Most Conservative Colleges in the Nation” by Young America’s Foundation
  • Labeled a “Competitive College” in 2005 by Barron’s Profile of American Colleges
  • Liberty’s Center of Worship was ranked the best in the world for two consecutive years by Worship Leader Magazine
  • Ranked #180 in Regional Universities (South) by Forbes

Net Price: $23,191
Score: 792

2. Indiana Wesleyan University Online

Marion, Indiana

Attending Indiana Wesleyan University Online is a unique experience characterized by significant student collaboration, capped class sizes for an “intimate learning experience,” and customized online college course curriculum designed specifically for adults. IWU insists that online students receive the same treatment and rigor of material as traditional, campus students, with the only difference being where they hold class discussions and how they submit their assignments (online, obviously).
This incredibly cheap online college describes itself as a “well-respected, evangelical Christian university” committed to providing top-notch liberal arts programs. You can choose from majors at seven different degree levels, including more than a dozen fully online bachelor’s programs. Options include Business Information Systems, Marketing, Addictions Counseling, Criminal Justice, General Studies, and Nursing (RN-BSN), to name a few. Nontraditional learners can also benefit from a number of continuing education programs, which will accelerate your studies and help you become an expert in Business, Educational Leadership, or Service and Leadership even faster.
IWU is near the top of our list due to its freshmen retention rate of nearly 80%, graduation rate topping 65%, and comfortable student-to-faculty ratio of just 15:1. Students who completed polls on College Prowler overwhelmingly reported that, “professors care about their students’ success” and are “passionate about the topics they teach,” that, “there are a variety of interesting courses to take,” and “there are plenty of good online course options,” as well as that “classrooms incorporate new technology effectively.”
List of Rankings/Awards:

  • Partnership with Wesley Institute in Sydney, Australia, as part of global Christian outreach initiative
  • IWU professor awarded Fulbright grant
  • Recipient of the 2012 Quality Matters program award for service to online students
  • Ranked #26 of “Best Regional Universities (Midwest)”by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked #7 “Best Value School” by U.S. News & World Report’s
  • Ranked #11 of “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ranked as a Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Management by
  • Designated as “Military Friendly” by OnlineU
  • Considered one of the most popular online colleges by OnlineU
  • Ranked #3 by on its list of “Best Online Bachelor’s in Marketing Degree Programs
  • Ranked #19 by on its list of “Top 25 Schools for Online Nursing Degrees
  • Ranked one of the “Top Ten Conservative Colleges” in the U.S. by Young America’s Foundation for five consecutive years
  • Holds the title as the largest adult education program in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Net Price: $24,546
Score: 823

1. University of Maryland University College

College Park, Maryland

The University of Maryland University College stands alone as the best online college we researched. The school boasts an astounding 87% freshmen retention rate and a 65% graduation rate, as well as a smaller than average student-to-faculty ratio of 18:1. UMUC also offers nearly 100 online bachelor’s degree programs sweeping across more than 70 topics of interest. You could major in just about any traditional major you can think of, as well as unique subjects like Biotechnology, Cybersecurity, Environmental Management, Gerontology and Aging Services, or Investigative Forensics, plus exciting minors like African American Studies, Contract Management and Acquisition, Diversity Awareness, Fire Service Administration, Fraud Investigation, or Terrorism and Critical Infrastructure. The possibilities are practically limitless!
This top online college also has plenty of opportunities for Experiential Credit, such as prior learning, workplace experience, alliances with community colleges, or credit by examination. As a military-friendly school, UMUC also has special programs available to our nation’s veterans and military personnel. Students will also benefit from more support services than they will probably ever use, such as writing help through the Effective Writing Center, free tutoring and mentoring, online academic clubs and honors societies, and 24/7 technical support.
According to College Prowler, student surveys reveal that, “the academic advisors are helpful,” “there are plenty of good online course options,” “teaching assistants are used effectively,” and “classrooms/labs are up-to-date with the best technology.” Students also give professors very high marks in all categories and report being extremely motivated (as evidenced by regularly attending classes, completing homework, and taking notes).

  • Awarded the 2010 Learning Impact Award by the Global Learning Consortium
  • Rated Best in Category, “Faculty Development Network” from the IMS Global Learning Consortium in 2010
  • Rated Best in Category, “Online Laboratory” from the IMS Global Learning Consortium in 2010
  • Labeled a “Military and Veteran Friendly School”
  • Recipient of the 2011 “Institution Award” from the Council of College and Military Educators for its quality education programs for the armed services
  • Labeled a “Low Net Price” School by OnlineU
  • Ranked a “Most Affordable” school by OnlineU
  • Ranked #23 “Most Affordable Marketing Degree” by OnlineU
  • Ranked #22 “Most Affordable Finance Degree” by OnlineU
  • Ranked #19 “Most Affordable Teaching Degree” by OnlineU
  • Rated the Best Online College in Maryland by
  • Ranked #17 “Best Legal Studies Bachelor’s Degree Program” by
  • Ranked #12 “Best Online Bachelor’s in Human Resources Degree Program” by
  • Ranked #12 “Best Online Bachelor’s in Marketing Degree Program” by
  • Rated the 9th most popular online college by
  • Ranked #18 “Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Psychology” by
  • Ranked #17 “Best Online Bachelor’s of Criminal Justice Degree Program” by
  • Ranked #19 “Best Online Bachelor’s of Business Administration Degree Program” by

Net Price: $9,489
Score: 827


U.S. News & World Report
Regents Online
College Prowler
College Navigator
Guide to Online Schools
Online Colleges
Affordable Colleges Online

About the Author:

Iris Stone got her start in the industry when she began working as a freelance writer and researcher in 2011. Her freelance business soon took off and she now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Despite the time it takes to run a business she still does much of the writing herself, and her work has included a variety of content related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and graduates’ careers. Check out her Google+ profile.

Also see: 30 Best Affordable Online Colleges 2014

This concludes our ranking of the best online colleges 2014.

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