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Best Online Colleges and Universities

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Best Online Schools

Students increasingly turn to online colleges for flexible course scheduling, career-centered degrees, and affordable tuition rates. According to the Online Learning Consortium, a higher education research organization, the number of distance learners increased 3.9%. Currently, 6% of all U.S. students take at least one online class. Remote academic programs provide not only low tuition prices that often disregard residency status, but also distinct scholarships and grants. Furthermore, by pursuing distance education, you cut down on housing and transportation costs. Online college courses are generally asynchronous, facilitated through learning software like Blackboard, Canvas, and Moodle. This structure enables you to study at your convenience, all the while maintaining work and family obligations. While distance education may seem disconnected from university support, you actually benefit from the same resources as on-campus students, including one-on-one academic advising, faculty mentorship, and career services. This guide contains details on 50 of the best online colleges in the United States.

The following programs are ranked solely according to their affordability. See below for the best colleges online, ranked from least to most expensive, according to their per credit hour online rate, along with several useful facts about each program. In the case of a tie on hourly tuition, schools were ranked in order of decreasing faculty to student ratio.

Top 25 Online Colleges and Universities

  1. Brigham Young University-Idaho
    Location

    Rexburg, ID

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Located in Rexburg near the Snake River Valley, BYU-Idaho enrolls over 15,000 distance learners annually. The university offers seven online associate degrees, 11 bachelor's pathways, and more than 350 individual courses. Four-year programs include business management, software engineering; and marriage and family studies. BYU-Idaho also operates an RN-to-BSN track. Students can further bolster career prospects by earning an online professional certificate in such areas as social media marketing and agribusiness. To apply, candidates need to earn at least 15 transfer credits from one of BYU's partner institutions. Those who do not can still enroll, but they must complete the school's PathwayConnect program before pursuing degree work. BYU-Idaho operates start dates in January, April, July, and September.

  2. The University of Texas at Arlington
    Location

    Arlington, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UTA has been delivering flexible distance education since 1998. Today, students benefit from more than 700 online classes, three graduate certificates, and 26 degree programs. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in public health, university studies, criminal justice, or nursing. Graduate candidates enjoy such options as business administration, mechanical engineering, social work, and public administration. On top of conventional online programs, UTA offers accelerated degree completion pathways for students with prior college experience. Remote learning operates through an online consortium, enabling students to take classes at any of the UT campuses. Distance learners pay tuition based on residency status. All students can apply for financial aid.

  3. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Considered one of the best online colleges for its affordability and innovative degrees, UFL offers 19 bachelor's programs. Options include anthropology, environmental management, biology, public relations, psychology, and computer science. The distance education catalog also includes master's, doctoral, and specialist programs. Students can take as few as three credits or as many as 18 each semester, tailoring degree work to fit their busy schedules. Distance learners get opportunities to engage with campus activities. They may also join the Gator Nation, which comprises over 100 global student clubs. Admission opens for fall, spring, and summer terms, with respective deadlines set for October 1, March 4, and June 10.

  4. Fort Hays State University
    Location

    Hays, KS

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    FHSU operates distance education through Blackboard, providing more than 50 online degrees. These include undergraduate programs in applied technology, organizational leadership, political science, health studies, and agricultural business. Students may also enroll in master's programs like educational administration, history, and clinical mental health counseling. Furthermore, FHSU operates continuing education tracks for professionals who want to advance their careers without pursuing another college degree. Admission criteria include a minimum 2.0 GPA for Kansas residents and 2.5 for non-residents. Undergraduate applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores, unless they rank in the top third of their high school graduating class. All distance learners benefit from low tuition rates and student services like career guidance and academic tutoring.

  5. Peru State College
    Location

    Peru, NE

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Peru State enrolls over 2,500 students every year, many of whom earn their degree through affordable distance education programs. The university provides undergraduate degrees in either business administration or criminal justice, with specialization options for both fields. Graduate degree seekers pick from a master of science in education or organizational management. Peru State operates asynchronous online college courses through Blackboard. Students can pick from either conventional 16-week courses, or they can accelerate degree completion with eight-week sessions. Peru State offers an exceptionally low online tuition price and financial assistance. Students can also cut costs by transferring up to 90 credits toward degree completion.

  6. Minot State University
    Location

    Minot, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1913 as a normal school, MSU now offers 70 degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students. The academic catalog includes distance education options. Bachelor's degree candidates pick from such fields as criminal justice, management information systems, and human services. MSU offers graduate programs in areas like sports management and special education. The university also provides a nursing degree completion track for registered professionals. With adequate work experience, students can earn their bachelor of science in nursing in as few as 12 months. MSU facilitates distance education with Blackboard. Online students benefit from career services, multicultural support, and tutoring through the Smarthinking platform.

  7. Mayville State University
    Location

    Mayville, ND

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Mayville State operates online academic programs centered on education and business. Students pick from undergraduate degrees in fields like administration, management, mathematics, early childhood education, and special education. They may also enroll in the master of arts in teaching program. The university offers synchronous and asynchronous classes through Blackboard Learn and Moodle. Students can earn their degree entirely online, or they may pursue hybrid learning by incorporating flexible on-campus classes. Admission criteria include minimum 2.0 GPA, recommendation letters, personal statement, and standardized test scores. Prospective students also undergo a personal interview process. Distance learners enjoy low tuition prices regardless of where they live.

  8. Oregon State University
    Location

    Corvallis, OR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Oregon State enrolls more than 23,000 students worldwide. As a leader in distance education, the university offers 1,200 online classes and 100 comprehensive academic programs. The undergraduate catalogs contains degrees in economics, psychology, sustainability, computer science; and human development and family studies. Master's degree candidates enjoy options like public policy, data analytics, and business administration. Oregon State also provides 14 graduate certificates to help experienced professionals advance their careers. Students can enroll in fall, winter, or spring terms. Application requirements include minimum 3.0 GPA and standardized test scores. Oregon State delivers asynchronous online classes through Canvas. All students may access financial support, including awards like the Ecampus Financial Hardship Grant.

  9. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
    Location

    Odessa, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UTPB provides distance education through asynchronous and live classes powered by Canvas. Students pick from 12 bachelor's and nine master's programs. Undergraduate options include criminal justice, industrial technology, political science, sociology, and nursing. UTPB offers graduate degrees in business administration, English, education, and kinesiology. Most of the online programs run on accelerated tracks, enabling students to earn their bachelor's in two years and a master's in one. To apply, candidates need a minimum 2.0 GPA. UTPB facilitates fall, spring, and summer sessions, with respective deadlines set for July, November, and April 15. On top of affordable tuition, distance learners benefit from scholarship opportunities, including awards for high-achieving transfer students.

  10. Metropolitan State University
    Location

    Saint Paul, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Minnesota's Twin Cities, Metro State provides distance education opportunities through Desire2Learn. Students pick from undergraduate programs in areas like marketing, finance, industrial management, and law enforcement. They can also craft their own major by pursuing individualized studies. Master's degrees include business administration, information systems, and nonprofit administration. Metro State also offers graduate certificates for students seeking specialization. Admission criteria includes a minimum 2.0 GPA and standardized test scores. Metro State opens enrollment for fall, spring, and summer semesters, with priority deadlines set at June 30, November 15, and March 30, respectively. The university facilitates direct transfer pathways for community college graduates within the Minnesota State system. These students enjoy an accelerated admission process and distinct financial support.


  • Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools


    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.

    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%

    You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.


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