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% from 2015-2017. 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.
#1 – Brigham Young University-Idaho
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 – University of Texas-Arlington
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 Online
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
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
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
Minot, North Dakota
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
Mayville, North Dakota
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
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
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
Saint Paul, Minnesota
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.
#11 – Champlain College
Champlain enrolls approximately 2,200 students annually and offers more than 60 distance learning programs. The catalog includes four associate and 11 bachelor’s degrees in fields like software development, healthcare administration, and accounting. Champlain sets itself apart from other online colleges by offering a bachelor of science in economic crime investigation leading to Certified Fraud Examiner designation. Graduate students pick from such fully online master’s programs as early childhood education and executive leadership. Champlain powers online learning with Canvas, offering classes at an accelerated eight-week pace. Students can start degree work at six points every year. Application requirements include minimum 2.5 GPA, resume, and short essay responses. Candidates also need to demonstrate online learning aptitude.
#12 – University of Illinois Chicago
UIC facilitates distance education through the Canvas platform, offering synchronous and asynchronous online classes. Students may also pursue hybrid learning by adding flexible on-campus courses. While distance learners can find undergraduate programs in business administration and nursing, the majority of UIC remote programming centers on post baccalaureate degrees and certificates. Options comprise master’s tracks in engineering, health informatics, public health; and statistics and assessment. Students can also purse education certificates and endorsements in areas like early childhood special education, ESL, and research methodology. Students who complete stackable certificate programs may apply those credits toward a graduate degree. Admission criteria vary drastically by program, but generally include standardized test scores.
#13 – Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Located between Manchester and Hooksett, SNHU enrolls over 73,000 students every year. Many of whom pursue distance education through one of 200 career-relevant degree programs. Undergraduate students choose associate degrees in areas like information technologies and fashion merchandising. Bachelor’s programs include sports management, criminal justice, and business administration, with further options through specialization areas. On top of graduate and post-graduate certificates, SNHU provides 15-month master’s programs. Stand-outs among this group consists of clinical medical health counseling and creative writing. To apply, graduate students need a minimum 2.75 GPA. Undergraduate GPA vary by program. The higher a student ranks, the more scholarship opportunities they enjoy. SNHU does not require standardized test scores.
#14 – Florida International University
Powered by Canvas, FIU Online provides accessible certificate and degree programs to over 54,000 students. Undergraduate options include computer engineering, early childhood education, finance, English, and international relations. Students pick from graduates programs in areas like construction management, forensic science, and public health. Furthermore, FIU is one of the few online colleges to offer a master’s program in real estate. Admission criteria differ by degree level: undergraduate candidates need to submit standardized test scores, while graduates must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. FIU guarantees admission for students who earned their associate degree from a partnering institution. All distance learners benefit from low tuition rates and financial assistance, including the Bright Futures Scholarship for Florida residents.
#15 – University of Massachusetts Amherst
Founded in 1863, Amherst is the flagship campus for the UMass system. Today, the school offers more than 230 degree programs, including distance education options. Online students may pursue bachelor’s programs in fields like business administration; hospitality and tourism management; and sustainable food and farming. UMass Amherst also operates an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing track. The online graduate degree catalog comprise 17 programs, including historic preservation, public health, and nutrition. Furthermore, UMass Amherst provides certificate and professional development opportunities. High school students can jumpstart degree work by enrolling in an online pre-college program. Distance learners pay per-credit tuition based on individual class rates. Online financial aid is available, including the David A. Cole Scholarship based on financial need and employment status.
#16 – Troy University
As one of the best online colleges in Alabama, Troy offers fully remote certificate and degree programs through the Canvas platform. Undergraduate students pick from 14 associate degrees in general education, with concentration options like military operations, global business, and aviation. For bachelor’s degree seekers, options consist of applied computer science, social work, anthropology, and resource and technology management. Graduate programs include six specializations in public administration and seven tracks for adult educators. Troy also provide online dual enrollment tracks for high school students who hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Distance learners benefit from a flat tuition rate regardless of where they live, with steep discounts for military personnel.
#17 – Utah State University
Founded in Logan in 1888, USU provides 30 fully online degree programs. Undergraduate options include an associate in criminal justice and bachelor’s degrees in areas like psychology and agribusiness. USU stands out from other online colleges by offering a bachelor of science in communicative disorders and deaf education. The distance education catalog also consists of master’s degrees, including programs in business administration, rehabilitation counseling; and instructional technology and learning sciences. USU Online operates accelerated seven-week courses through Canvas, enabling students to earn their degree in about half the time of conventional programs. The university offers affordable tuition based on residency status and degree level. Online student resources include e-tutoring, career services, and software discounts.
#18 – Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico
ENMU enrolls over 6,000 students annually, many of whom pursue one of the 30 fully online degree programs. Undergraduate students choose from such options as computer science, sociology, social work, and economics. For students with an associate degree in a vocational or technical field, ENMU offers intensive bachelor of applied arts and sciences programs. The distance education catalog also includes graduate tracks in fields like sport administration, educational technology, and financial planning. To apply, undergraduate students need a minimum 17 ACT score or 810 SAT score. Similarly, graduate candidates must submit GRE or GMAT results. ENMU facilitates online learning through Blackboard.
#19 – Dakota State University
Madison, South Dakota
Based in Madison, South Dakota, DSU operates online education through the Desire2Learn platform. The catalog consists of associate programs in web development and health information technology. Bachelor’s degree seekers pick from fields like marketing, accounting; and cyber leadership and intelligence. DSU also provides graduate certificate, master’s, and doctoral programs. Degree options vary by individual state, so online students should confirm that their chosen program is available based on residency status. Admission criteria include standardized test scores. Undergraduate candidates need a minimum 2.6 GPA, while graduate applicants must hold at least a 3.25. All students benefit from financial aid, including the Transfer Champion Scholarship for high-achieving applicants.
#20 – University of South Dakota
Vermillion, South Dakota
USD enrolls more than 10,000 students every year. In addition to a comprehensive list of on-campus programming, the university provides 40 online degrees and certificates. The undergraduate catalog contains an associate of arts in general studies and bachelor’s programs in areas like addiction studies and criminal justice. Students pick from such graduate tracks as social work, sport management, and music. USD also offers a master’s of business administration with five specialization options. The school facilitates asynchronous online college courses through Desire2Learn. To apply, candidates need to submit standardized test scores. All distance learners enjoy a flat and affordable tuition rate. USD accepts transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions.
#21 – Northern State University
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Located in Aberdeen, South Dakota, NSU operates 14 distance education programs. These include associate and bachelor’s degrees in fields like accounting, international business, management, and Spanish. Graduate students pick from four programs: music education; teaching and learning; leadership and administration; and banking and financial services. The Desire2Learn platform delivers asynchronous and synchronous courses. Unlike other online colleges, distance learners at NSU benefit from hands-on training through faculty-led study abroad trips. Online students enjoy the same funding opportunities as their campus peers, including business awards and the Wolfpact Scholarship for first-time freshmen. Graduate candidates need a minimum 2.75 GPA, while undergraduates must hold at least a 2.6. Undergraduate students can make up for inadequate GPA with exceptional standardized test scores and/or high school ranking.
#22 – Colorado State University
Greenwood Village, Colorado
CSU Global enrolls over 19,000 students every year. Bachelor’s programs include communication, marketing, and information technology. Students can fully customize their major with the interdisciplinary studies degree. CSU operates graduate programs in fields like data analytics, healthcare administration; and teaching and learning. The university also offers diverse degree specializations and certification, so students can acquire the training that most benefits their careers. Through eight-week courses powered by Canvas, students can earn their degree or certificate entirely online and in less time than traditional programs. CSU is one of the best online colleges in terms of cost, offering not only comprehensive financial support, but also an affordable tuition guarantee. The university ensures that, as long as a student maintains good academic standing toward degree completion, their tuition will not increase.
#23 – Chadron State College
As one of three public institutions in the Nebraska State College System, CSC provides affordable and career-centered distance education programs. The online catalog includes bachelor’s degrees in geoscience, psychological sciences, and family consumer science. CSC offers master’s in education, business administration, and organizational management. Each degree comes with specialization tracks, enabling students to find the program that aligns with their career goals. Blackboard powers online learning at CSC and select courses run on accelerated eight-week sessions. Distance learners benefit from in-state tuition rates and financial assistance. To apply, graduate candidates need a minimum 2.75 GPA. CSC does not state GPA minimums for prospective undergraduates.
#24 – Saint Leo University
Saint Leo, Florida
Founded in 1889, Saint Leo provides over 70 online academic programs. Undergraduate students can pick from associate and bachelor’s degrees in fields like liberal arts, computer science, healthcare administration, and religion. Saint Leo also delivers graduate programs to distance learners, including a master of business administration with 10 specialization options. Furthermore, the school offers doctoral degrees in criminal justice and school leadership. Online students can earn their credentials entirely online through asynchronous courses powered by Canvas. They may also opt for hybrid learning, mixing in classes on campus or at one of the university’s 40 education centers. Saint Leo accepts applications on a rolling basis and students can begin classes at six points during the year.
#25 – University of Nebraska, Omaha
Powered by Canvas, online learning at UNO enables students to earn degrees at every level. On top of conventional undergraduate programs, the school operates bachelor of multidisciplinary studies tracks specifically designed for nontraditional students like military personnel and transfers. Here, degree candidates pick from 13 concentrations, including aviation studies, gerontology, criminal justice, and library science. Master’s students pick from such programs as public administration, social work; and special education, behavior intervention specialist. UNO sets itself apart from other online colleges by offering undergraduate/graduate endorsements and certification. To apply, undergraduate students must rank in the upper half of their high school graduating class or submit adequate SAT/ACT scores. Graduate candidates also need to send in standardized test results.