Online colleges are more popular than ever. Even traditional programs have had to move their courses online in recent years to help accommodate the demand for online degrees by remote and non-traditional students.
Most schools and distance education programs have, in recent decades, opened their virtual doors to students from all 50 states and in many, several other countries. These pivots to distance learning have helped make it easier to get a degree from anywhere while balancing other work and life priorities.
And, students who attend these universities or colleges aren’t sacrificing education quality for convenience, either. These schools make use of the best that technology has to offer – using tools such as video lectures, group chats, multimedia presentations, and interactive software – to provide distance education students with a quality of education that mirrors the traditional experience.
Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
Have Questions About Online Colleges? We Have Answers.
How much does it cost to attend college online?
Tuition will vary depending on the college, where you live, and the degree you’re pursuing. If you’re looking for cheap online schools, tuition ranges from about $6,000 and $20,000 per year. If you opt for one of the most affordable online colleges, you may be able to save a ton of money on tuition compared to what you would spend at other universities or colleges.
Are online college degrees legitimate?
Yes, online colleges are legitimate, as long as they are accredited colleges. A legitimate online college should display its accreditation agency on the website. If that accreditation is associated with the US Department of Education or Council for Higher Education, the college is legitimate.
Is it harder to get a job with an online degree?
No, it’s not. Getting a degree online should not impact its value in the eyes of an employer. There are plenty of incredibly reputable colleges that offer online education, and that reputation is likely to matter more to your employer than the delivery method of your education. It will depend on your particular field and career path too.
Do online degrees say online on the diploma?
No, online degrees generally do not say “online” on the diploma. If the university does not have “online” in its name, the diploma will probably not indicate that you earned your degree via online education.
At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs.
We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates
Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid
Admission and enrollment rates
Number of program options
Online Enrollment Score
Portion of learners taking at least one online course
You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.
Undergraduate online degrees will require a high school diploma or GED. The program requirements may also ask for SAT scores and a minimum GPA, but it will vary depending on the college and the admissions requirements for each degree. Most programs will require at least a 2.0 GPA, but some may have higher requirements.
To graduate from a bachelor’s degree program, you’ll generally need to complete at least 120 college credits, including both core classes and degree-specific courses. The courses you’re required to take will depend heavily on your chosen major.
If you’re applying for a graduate degree program, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Many programs also ask for GRE or GMAT scores, and a minimum GPA — though that will depend on the admissions requirements for the specific program you’re applying for. You’ll also likely be asked to submit letters of recommendation.
Common Courses for an Online Degree
Each university and program will have varying curriculum. If you choose an online AA or BA program, those degrees will require some general education courses in addition to your major. Graduate programs will generally focus solely on the major or field you’re planning to work in.
It’s common for general education requirements to include a course that teaches quantitative and problem-solving skills. That could be a precalculus, algebra, calculus, or a statistics class. And, if you achieve a high enough SAT score, some colleges will waive the requirement.
No matter your degree, you’ll be taking some level of advanced communication in college. Writing papers and essays are a part of nearly every discipline. Most online programs will ask you to complete a writing or English class to build analysis and communication skills.
A science-based course is often a general education requirement. Classes like biology, geology, chemistry, and natural sciences can help build perspective and exploratory skills.
Scholarships & Financial Aid
There are plenty of scholarships available for students who complete their degree online. Distance learning scholarships can be found for each level of degree and across all majors. Individual colleges often have financial aid specifically for their online students as well.
Get Educated Online College Scholarship
This scholarship is geared toward students attending an accredited online university degree program. Awarded based on academic merit and financial need. No restrictions on residency or university, but you will need at least a 3.0 GPA.
AFCEA Undergraduate STEM Major Scholarship
This organization offers a variety of scholarships for STEM undergraduate students. Must be a second year college student at time of application and have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: $2,500 to $5,000 Deadline: May 31
AAUW Re-Entry Woman Scholarship
This scholarship is for women over the age of 23 returning to school. You must be enrolled or accepted to a degree program in order to apply. Applicants must also be engaged in leadership activity and have completed at least 20 college-level credits.
Amount: $2,000 Deadline: May 1
Popular Online Degrees
Online education is becoming an increasingly popular choice for students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly 7 million students are enrolled in distance education courses. Some majors are better suited for online education than others. Here are some of the most popular online degrees:
The University of Florida has one of the best online education programs. In addition to its satisfied students (who maintain retention rates of nearly 90%), UF also boasts an affordable tuition rate and a robust selection of online programs. This includes over two dozen majors and minors across in-demand fields like computer science, environmental management, health education, and telecommunication media. And on top of all that, the university has created UF OneStop, a dedicated support team that exists solely to answer questions from distance learners about everything from registration to financial aid.
The Baptist College of Florida supports a wide range of secular undergraduate programs. BA degrees are available in biblical, Christian, and ministry studies, but you can also major in a liberal arts field such as history/social studies, psychology, and english. BCF also offers accredited online college degrees in career-focused subjects like business leadership and education, plus several minors that let you mix and match areas of expertise. And through its membership in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), BCF ensures that its distance education coursework is accessible to undergraduates all across the nation.
Admittedly, Hobe Sound Bible College won't win any awards for the breadth or variety of its online degrees, but if you're looking for a Christian institution with a strong track record for quality (including average retention of 79%), HSBC is likely the way to go. When it comes to academic options, Hobe focuses on two main areas of study: religion and education. More specifically, you can earn your BA in general Christian studies (with several minor options), ministerial studies, or elementary/secondary education.
East Carolina University focuses on providing degree completion pathways for students from nearby community colleges. In fact, all of ECU's undergraduate options (of which there are nearly two dozen) require applicants to have already completed two years worth of transfer credits. But that doesn't mean you can't attend ECU if you live outside of North Carolina; rather, you'll simply need to work with an online advisor to make sure your prior coursework meets the requirements for your desired bachelor's degree program.
With dozens of online degrees and hybrid programs coordinated through more than 20 campuses across Arizona, NAU is redefining accessibility in education. Especially for in-state students, the university's network of campuses makes it easy and convenient to earn your degree without sacrificing face-to-face learning. If travel isn't an option, NAU's array of web-based support services makes for a uniquely engaging virtual classroom environment. Its tools include online tutoring, technical support, and library access. As one of the top colleges online, Northern Arizona University also prides itself on "personalized learning." Using this approach, you'll be able to work through your degree at your own pace while getting credit for your real-world experience
Located in a tiny town up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian State has extra motivation to expand accessibility to its programs through distance learning. In fact, ASU doesn't just offer online courses. It also provides face-to-face classes at satellite campuses throughout the state. ASU offers degrees in three primary areas: education (e.g. child development, special education), healthcare (nursing), and professional studies (such as communication and social work).
Oregon State's eCampus counts more than 21,000 students worldwide - a clear testament to the enduring quality and popularity of its online programs. Undergraduates in particular have access to an uncommonly broad yet unique set of cheap online college degree options. For example, you could choose a traditional major in liberal studies, business administration, or psychology, or opt for the atypical like a degree in agricultural sciences or environmental economics and policy. OSU is known for its dedication to environmental issues — online programs in this area include horticulture, fisheries and wildlife science, natural resources, and sustainability.
National University is home to more than 150 online college programs spanning numerous areas of study. Teaching and education, engineering and technology, arts and humanities, healthcare, social sciences, criminal justice, business, and math. Over the two-plus decades that National has been developing its online campus, the school has consistently worked to improve the distance education experience. Today, it offers interactive classes and tools that are accessible 24/7 to ensure that you get the most out of your studies.
If you're looking for resources and support, note that few schools can match the strength of Missouri State University's impressive online infrastructure. Distance education student services include career counseling and degree exploration, off-campus test proctoring, an online learning self-assessment, library navigation assistance, and more. And to ensure that faculty provides the best online college experience possible, MSU also provides instructor-specific resources like a computer services help desk and a specialized distance educator handbook. In addition to nearly a dozen bachelor's degrees in fields like criminology and finance, MSU also offers a handful of 100% online certificates and minors to complement your studies.
Even as online learning becomes more popular, some students still worry about the stigma associated with distance education. Fortunately, UCF is working hard to overcome these preconceived notions by developing accredited online college programs that meet the same high-quality standards as their traditional courses. The university also stands out for its range of online options, which includes more than a dozen bachelor's degrees in nearly as many subjects. Whether you want to earn your B.A. in creative writing or anthropology or your B.S. in health informatics or criminal justice, the University of Central Florida has you covered.
Westfield State University boasts an 88% student retention rate, affordable tuition, and award-winning programs. However, it's worth noting that WSU primarily offers bachelor's degree completion programs, so you'll need to have a fair number of undergraduate credits under your belt before transferring. The university's partnerships with several Massachusetts community colleges offers local students a seamless shift over to Westfield to finish their degrees. WSU has programs in history, liberal studies, criminal justice, and more. Nurses with some flexibility might also appreciate the RN to BSN degree, which Westfield offers in hybrid form.
York College stands out as another strong option for Christian students. This Nebraska institution lets you earn an accredited college degree online while taking courses from professors who share your faith. You can focus all your attention on a single subject (e.g. criminal justice, psychology) or build your own program with a B.A. in General Studies. With the latter option, you'll work with an advisor to select two content area concentrations and a series of electives that create a well-rounded degree. But regardless of their path, all undergrads will benefit from the school's flexible scheduling and impressive 12:1 student-faculty ratio.
Florida International University has created several thoughtful initiatives to ensure that distance learners have a college experience that mirrors that of their on-campus peers. First, an online orientation introduces you to the tools you'll use to connect to the web and explains how the school's curriculum connects to the broader global community. You'll also benefit from "high-impact opportunities" that nurture your leadership skills, and you might even consider joining the school's honors college. Apart from those extracurricular opportunities, FIU shines for its breadth of affordable online college degrees, including hard-to-find options such as a B.A. in Asian studies, a B.A. in religious studies, and a group of targeted B.S. programs in hospitality management.
The University of Cincinnati is dedicated to supporting its online students with resources like a student success advisor team and flexible degree programs. UC's degrees also earn top spots on various online rankings for academic excellence. The college has degree programs available in every area of study: athletics, behavior analysis, criminal justice, education, engineering, fire science, health care, human services, humanities, information science, instructional design, nursing, paralegal studies, and pharmacy.
Washington State University might be the only institution on this list to facilitate a student government dedicated solely to online learners. As you attend this top college online, you can seek a position in the Global Senate, join a committee, or simply attend the Senate's events. It's a unique way to get involved outside of the classroom and help shape your experience as a distance learner. Beyond the Global Senate, WSU shines for its robust career support services. The office provides interview help, one-on-one advising sessions, and will even help arrange an internship if you want to incorporate hands-on learning into your degree.
Although Colorado State University - Fort Collins offers only a handful of online college programs, it more than makes up for its sparse quantity with superb quality. For example, the B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies is a versatile option that incorporates multiple disciplines and will prepare you for success in a variety of occupations. It even includes in-person field experiences and professional skill development courses. Plus, you can customize your studies by adding a minor in gerontology or pursuing a credential as a family life educator or director. This thoughtfully designed program embodies the trait that helps CSU stand out: a true commitment to providing online learners with strong programs that lead to successful careers.
While Penn State developed its World Campus to help adult learners continue their education, students of all kinds will find plenty to love about this top online college. Not only does it offer bachelor's degrees in many fields, but the school also runs a free nine-week course to help working professionals transition back into the learning environment. If you qualify, you'll also get access to special resources for financial aid and general college planning. The school also has a chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honor society for adult undergrads, letting you network with your peers and join a community of like-minded learners.
For more than 30 years, Old Dominion University has offered quality education to distance learners, and this commitment manifests in the school's numerous top online college programs. Not only will you find ample resources that cater to nontraditional students (such as tips to help you mesh your studies with a full-time career) but you'll also appreciate the school's efforts to engage online learners with the larger undergraduate community. For example, you can read a fun primer on the school's traditions or join a live course to interact with your peers in real-time.
Davenport University offers primarily career-focused online degree programs. This includes a sizable distance education component within the college of business, where you could earn anything from a BBA in accounting to a BS in leadership and organizational performance. But the school really shines for its healthcare programs. In addition to a BS in nursing (completion option), you can earn degrees in health information management, medical case management, and similar programs that will leave you well-placed for a role in the burgeoning field of electronic health records.
Despite Carolina University’s roots as a private Christian college, it offers a wide variety of online degrees. You can major in everything from biology or computer engineering to criminal justice or nursing. Christian students can also choose from faith-based options on offer — like pairing a B.A. in biblical studies with one of more than ten minors, including North American church planting, children's ministry, and church education. Plus, many of CU’s programs are a great value — the school boasts an average annual tuition under $15k.
Central Washington University is so committed to online learning that it developed a Multimodal Education Center specifically to provide "instructional and multimedia technologies, support, and training" for distance ed students and staff. This facility underscores the level of dedication it takes to earn a spot on this college program online ranking. At this center, prospective students will find a detailed list of resources, including a quiz that helps you evaluate whether you're ready for online classes. If you are, be sure to check out some of CWU's more unusual degree options, such as the B.S. in aviation management and B.S. in paramedicine (note: the latter program requires some in-person training).
Believe it or not, the University of Memphis has an entire webpage devoted to awards for its distance education services. The school boasts dozens of accredited online college programs that earn accolades for both their price and their quality. That's because the school has thoughtfully designed its web-based degrees to meet non-traditional students' needs, including a strong reliance on flexible, asynchronous classes. The university also maintains a wide variety of online programs for undergrads, from career-focused business degrees to an impressive selection of less common social science and humanities options. For example, you can earn a B.A. in political science, english, or even philosophy entirely online.
If cost is important to you, you'll want to consider Minot State University. However, the trade-off for attending this affordable school is that it offers a relatively small selection of college degrees, most of which focus on business. MSU also provides quite a few minors and concentration options to sharpen your expertise in select areas. Plus, the highly customizable Bachelor of General Studies degree lets you design a course of study that meets the needs of nearly any career goal, from practicing law to entering the real estate market. As a BGS student, you'll work with a dedicated advisor to plan a laser-focused curriculum that both meets your needs and satisfies the school's graduation requirements.
Dickinson State University offers a whole suite of tools to enhance your online learning experience. In addition to common platforms like Moodle and Blackboard, you'll also have access to NetTutor (a live online tutoring system that supplements the school's own Tutoring center), Tegrity (which records live classes for you to view later), and more. You'll also benefit from a fantastic 10:1 student-faculty ratio, a broad array of programs, and affordable tuition. DSU even encourages distance ed grads to walk in their graduation ceremony - if you can make it to the school's North Dakota campus, of course.
The students attending Fort Hays State University's virtual campus come from more than 20 countries, and they all benefit from the school's strong support network. As you pursue an affordable online college degree from this Kansas institution, you can take advantage of advising, tutoring, a career center, and more. Before enrolling, you can even attend a demo course that introduces you to online learning and the Fort Hays experience more broadly. And once you've enrolled, you'll have access to a wider social network of online learners who can provide support and encouragement as you earn your degree.
If you think that attending an accredited college online will limit your options, Arizona State University stands ready to prove you wrong. With over 30 undergraduate distance education programs, ASU has something to offer every potential student. Whether you want to pursue a traditional liberal arts-focused degree (such as a BA in global studies) or a more career-focused option (like a BS in information technology) you can do so completely online at ASU. And your studies will pay off: According to the school's surveys, 87% of its graduates receive a job offer within three months of graduation.
Christian students in particular will want to consider Mid-America Christian University for their online learning needs. MACU also offers some of the best college degrees online for veterans. Plus, it provides dedicated veteran specialists, flexible scheduling, and generous tuition discounts exclusively for service members.
Given that Ohio University maintains an extensive eCampus website just for distance learners, it's no surprise that many of its online degrees rank among the best in the country. When you enroll in one of OU's accredited college programs online, you'll find support not only through the eCampus, but also through a dedicated Office of Instructional Innovation. Some of those innovative initiatives include a strong experiential learning program, which awards college credit based on life experiences, and a Success Center that lets you consult with staff online or by phone.
SUNY College of Technology at Canton earns a spot on this online college program ranking thanks in part to its 85% retention rate. And it's easy to see why students choose to stick around. For starters, the global campus offers 13 degrees, from the common (e.g., management, legal studies) to the unusual (like homeland security and agribusiness management). Plus, online learners can access all the same resources as their on-campus peers, including career services, tutoring, and a robust first-year advising program. You can even take advantage of the broader SUNY system's many study abroad programs, whether you want to explore public administration in Peru or business in Belgium.
For more than 150 years, Wilberforce University has provided high-quality educational opportunities to students of color. Today, this Episcopalian-associated HBCU is also one of the top online colleges in the country. With more than 20 online programs, a noteworthy student-faculty ratio of 9:1, and eminently affordable tuition, Wilberforce has plenty to offer distance learners. It's also a great choice if you want to escape the primarily white and Western canon in your field. That is, the school is deeply committed to addressing non-Western "intellectual, cultural, and artistic traditions" in its coursework.
Danika Miller is a staff education reporter at Best Value Schools. She graduated from Western Washington University with a BA in creative writing. Danika has since specialized in education and finance writing as a reporter at Affordable Colleges Online, The Simple Dollar, Her Campus, CreditCards.com, Reviews.com, and elsewhere.
Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.
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