Fifteen-hundred years after indigenous peoples lived in Alabama, the Spanish were the first Europeans to enter the area, sometime in the 16th century. It was the French, however, who founded the state’s first city, Mobile, in 1702. Like many states in the South, Alabama saw a severe economic downturn in the early 20th century, following the Great Depression, but has witnessed significant progress over the last few decades. In particular, the automotive industry has gained a major foothold, with Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing all located in the state. (Alabama now ranks fourth in the country for vehicle exports.) In addition, healthcare, regional banking and finance, construction, and tech are growing in the state. Unsurprisingly, education opportunities are on the rise, as well — in particular, online education, which offers affordable prices and flexible scheduling to accommodate today’s college student.
In-state tuition is often applied to public schools offering online programs. Many online programs require some face-to-face time, or more numerous support services at their brick and mortar locations. Intensive study experiences–often on the weekends or in several week long bouts–enable many online students to accelerate their time until graduation. And students looking at online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where degrees can be taken partially, or mostly online). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.
There are 15 public schools in Alabama offering online degrees. The largest of these is Troy, which offers the most online opportunities in the state at 38, including 13 associates (Business and Education concentrations), 6 bachelors (Business, Nursing, Management), 18 masters (MBA, MPA, etc.), and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. The second largest provider is The University of Alabama — 10 bachelors, 14 masters, and a doctorate — with a wide variety of options in Business, Healthcare, Education, Law, Management, and more. From there, UAB, Jacksonville State University, and University of West Alabama each offer 20+ online degrees. UAB’s graduate programs are worth highlighting, with several Engineering concentrations (among the few in the state), a half dozen MEd concentrations, and a Master of Public Health Maternal & Child Health Policy & Leadership. Outside of Troy’s 13 associates, the next-largest offering is from Northwest-Shoals Community College, which has 5 pre-professional tracks in Business, Law, and Education.
There are 6 private schools in Alabama that offer online degrees. Amridge University is the largest, with 31, and is the second largest provider in the state. Undergraduate tracks are available in Business, Management, Communication, and Criminal Justice; and masters include an MA in Behavioral Leadership And Management, MS in Leadership And Management, and MA in Professional Counseling. Amridge also offers numerous Christian Ministry, Divinity, and Biblical Studies degrees, including 6 online doctorates, the most in the state. From there, Faulkner University offers 14 online degrees. Highlights include an Executive MBA, MS in Counseling, BS’s in Business and Criminal Justice, and 2 doctorates in the Humanities and Biblical Studies. Remington College’s Mobile campus offers 9 online tracks — 2 associates, 7 bachelors — and Oakwood University offers a Bachelor in Organizational Management.
Featured Online Schools
For a variety of reasons, a student may look to move to the state of their online college program whether specifically required by the program or not – be it for a job, location desirability, school benefits, etc. Different states have different policies, however, and some of them can be rather demanding. Fortunately, Alabama’s are relatively straightforward and are outlined by Alabama’s registrar. In sum, a school will assume non-resident status if any any out-of-state information is received (including transcripts, addresses, or other items included in the admissions application). For independent students to declare in-state tuition, they will need to demonstrate either: full-time employment in Alabama; membership or veteran status in the United States Armed Forces; or permanent residence/domicile in Alabama at least one year immediately preceding the first day of classes of the academic term.
Four-year public university tuition in Alabama clocks in at $10,040, or in the middle of the pack in terms of national higher education prices. Technically this rate is around $1,000 more than the national average, but still well below the most expensive states of Vermont and New Hampshire (over $15,000 a year average public school tuition). For students looking to relocate, some portion of educational expenses will most likely be lower than their prior location due to low living expanses in Alabama. Alabama’s average private four-year nonprofit university tuition, however, is lower than the national average, with the pair being $23,950 and $32,410 for published total prices, respectively. Coupled with lower living expenses, this makes Alabama one of the most affordable states to attend private universities in.
Birmingham is the largest city in the state of Alabama, with close to 1/4th of the state’s population residing in the surrounding metropolitan area. Initially booming in the late 1800’s as a railroading, iron, steel, and mining hub, Birmingham has come into its own as a unique and vibrant 21st century city of late. Among a number of smaller schools, the city is home to the University of Alabama Birmingham as well as Samford University, the first of which is a particularly noted online degree provider. UAB is a particularly good choice for in-state (and more specifically in-town) students, offering 22 fully online degrees at affordable in-state pricing. Other nearby online degree offering institutions include the University of Montavello as well as the University of Alabama (in Tuscaloosa). For potential students looking to relocate to an Alabaman city, Birmingham has many things to offer, including a large number of festivals, large academic and scientific employers, and vibrant art and music offerings. One such offering is Joe Minter’s African Village in America, a half acre visionary art installation close to downtown Birmingham. Constructed of discarded goods, the installation is a folk art masterpiecepaying homage to the history of African-Americans and his vision of the continent from which they came.
Montgomery is the capital and second largest city in Alabama, claiming 375,000 residents within its metropolitan area. Recent downtown revitalization efforts, as well as many cultural events have lent Montgomery the title of “Alabama’s happiest city” in recent years. Coupled with a number of higher education offerings, as well as a wide variety of high tech and manufacturing employers, the city is a great place to relocate or start establishing roots in for potential online students. Currently four institutions of higher education offer online degrees in Montgomery: Alabama State University, Faulkner University, Amridge University, and Auburn University at Montgomery. Amridge an Faulkner Universities are particularly good choices for online students, providing a total of 45 fully online degrees (Amridge offers the second most online degrees of any university in the state). The largest employers in the area offer a large range of opportunities as exemplified through their diversity. In descending order the largest employers in the area include Maxwell-Gunter Airforce Base, the State of Alabama, Montgomery Public Schools, Baptist Health, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, and Alfa Insurance Corporation.
Mobile is the third largest city in Alabama, and the largest city behind New Orleans in the culturally distinct French gulf coast. This lineage is expressed today through unique cultural, artistic, and culinary offerings, as well as the distinction of being the first city in America to celebrate Mardi Gras (a tradition that continues with exuberance today). Other unique cultural offerings in the city include the Mobile Museum of Art, the National African American Museum and Archives, the Battleship Memorial Park, the Mobile Carnival Museum, as well as many smaller home-based museums of the Antebellum south. Located in Mobile Bay, a saltwater bay located off of the Gulf of Mexico, many recreational and economic opportunities exist in the region. Three online-degree granting institutions are close or in Mobile, including the United States Sports Academy, Remington College’s Mobile Campus, and the University of South Alabama. 25 fully online degrees are offered in total from these three institutions. More degree offerings are also offered directly across the state line to Florida in Pensacola. For potential online students looking to relocate to a culturally unique portion of Alabama, close to Florida, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Louisiana, Mobile is a great option in which to pursue an online education.
Huntsville is the fourth largest city in Alabama (and second largest metro), and noteworthy for its access to nature, vibrant high tech, science, and research economies, and online learning opportunities. Just south of the some of the southwesternmost foothills of the Appalachains, and just north of the Tennessee River, Hunstville has a wide range of outdoors opportunities available. For students pursuing degrees in the sciences or business, Huntsville is a great location due to its being the largest center of research for rocket propulsion research for Nasa and the military. The metropolitan area is regularly the top ranked area in the United States for engineers per total employment, largely due to the rocket propulsion research in the area. Three online degree granting institutions are available within city limits, including the University of Alabama at Huntsville, Oakwood University, and Alabama A&M University. Additional degree options are available in neighboring Athens Alabama, as well as in nearby Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Cost of Living: 0.726
Top Industries: Medicine, Research, Trade, Finance, Government
Local Online Degrees: 25
Cost of Living: 0.808
Top Industries: Government, Education, Health Care, Auto Manufacturing
Local Online Degrees: 56
Cost of Living: 0.839
Top Industries: Aviation/Aerospace, Chemicals and Maritime
Local Online Degrees: 20
Cost of Living: 0.914
Top Industries: Aerospace/Defense, Information Technology, Advanced Manufacturing and Bioscience
Local Online Degrees: 19
Cost of Living: 0.951
Top Industries: Education, Auto manufacturing
Local Online Degrees: 27
Cost of Living: 0.845
Top Industries: Agribusiness, Technology, Aerospace
Local Online Degrees: 0
The Best Online Colleges in Alabama
1. The University of Alabama
Online Programs: 25
Founded in 1831, The University of Alabama has a total enrollment of about 37,000; 32,000 are undergraduates. Alabama has been ranked highly by US News, Washington Monthly, and Forbes, among others. It is also the only university in Alabama to offer doctorates in Metallurgical Engineering, Anthropology, Romance Languages, Communication and Information Sciences, Music, and Social Work. With 25 degrees available online, it’s the third largest distance education provider in the state, including 10 bachelors, 14 masters, and a doctorate in a wide variety of disciplines: Business (with MBA concentrations), Healthcare (with several nursing tracks), Education, and Law, among others. For a school of its size, classes remain intimate: 40% consist of less than 20 students, and only 20% consist of more than 50. 42% of full-time students receive some form of financial aid, and the average need met is over half.
2. University of Alabama at Birmingham
Online Programs: 22
Founded in 1969, The University of Alabama at Birmingham has an enrollment of approximately 18,500, including students from 100 countries across the world. UAB is particularly known for its research efforts, ranking 20th in the country and 1st in Alabama for federal research and development funding, which has produced high marks from the Princeton Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, and US News. With 22 online degrees available, UAB is the fourth largest distance education center in the state, offering 5 bachelors, 16 masters, and 1 doctorate. Undergraduate options include Business/Finance/Economics tracks, a Healthcare Management BS, and a BS in Information Systems. Graduate highlights include several Education degrees (MEd, EDs, etc.), Master of Engineering concentrations, and Public Health options. The doctorate is in Interdisciplinary Engineering. UAB’s student-to-faculty is 18:1, and 40% of classes have less than 20 students.
3. Troy University
Online Programs: 38
Troy University, founded in 1887, has a total enrollment of 20,000, and has been highly ranked by Forbes, Washington Monthly, the Princeton Review, and US News, which ranks it among the best universities in the Southeast region. It has also been ranked the 25th best school in the country for international students by the Institute of International Education. Its 38 online degrees make it the largest distance education center in Alabame: 13 associates, 6 bachelors, 18 masters, and 1 doctorate. Its pre-professional division is especially robust, including degrees in Criminal Justice, Aviation Operations, Computer Science, Human Service, and Global Business, among others. Graduate highlights include an MBA, MPA, MSN, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Troy’s student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1 creates a vibrant and engaged learning community; 60% of classes have less than 20 students, and less than 5% have 50 or more. Financial aid opportunities are available as well, and 62% of full-time students receive some form of aid.
4. University of Alabama in Huntsville
Online Programs: 15
The University of Alabama Huntsville, founded in 1950, has a total enrollment of 7,900, most of which are undergraduates. Ranked among the best public schools in the region, Huntsville offers 15 online degrees. Highlights include MEd tracks (in Autism Spectrum Disorders, English Speakers of Other Languages, Reading Education), Master and Doctor of Engineering tracks (in Engineering Management, Industrial Engineering, and Systems Engineering), and an MSN and DNP. The school’s 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes a collaborative, intimate learning environment, and 45% of classes have fewer than 20 students. Financial aid opportunities are available, as well: over half of full-time students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 60%. Through a variety of online learning platforms (Canvas, Panopto, and Blackboard), students can take advantage of group discussion boards, live chat rooms, videoconferencing, and more.
5. Auburn University
Online Programs: 12
Founded in 1856, Auburn University has an enrollment of over 27,000 students and has been ranked among the top 50 public universities for more than two decades. In addition to US News, Forbes, Washington Monthly, and Peterson’s Guide give Auburn high marks. While it offers one BS in Business, the rest of Auburn’s online offerings are master tracks, including an Executive MBA, Executive Master of Real Estate Development, MS in Hotel And Restaurant Management, Master of Science in Information Systems, and MS in Agriculture in Agronomy & Soils, among an exceptionally diverse range of degrees. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 19:1, the university supports a collaborative, intimate learning environment, and a third of all classes have fewer than 20 students; less than 15% have 50 or more. Auburn has an extensive alumni network of nearly 300,000 students, and distinguished alumni include the likes of Apple CEO Tim Cook, Wikipedia Co-Founder Jimmy Wales, actress Octavia Spencer, and a number of politicians, professional athletes, and writers.
5. Amridge University
Online Programs: 31
Amridge University, founded in 1967, is a small school of just 600 students, affiliated with the Churches of Christ in Montgomery. For a school of its size, its online offerings are impressive: 31 total degrees, making it the second largest provider in the state. (Distance education at Amridge has been available for more than 20 years.) Highlights include 3 undergraduate Business concentrations, a Master of Arts in Behavioral Leadership And Management, a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and five doctorate tracks in Family Therapy. As a religious college, Amridge also offers several undergraduate and graduate degrees in Divinity, Pastoral Studies, and Biblical Studies. Through the Blackboard learning platform, students benefit from group discussion boards, live chat rooms, video-conferecing, and more, creating a vibrant, dynamic educational atmosphere. The student-to-faculty ratio is just 10:1, and 92% of students receive some form of financial aid.
7. Jacksonville State University
Online Programs: 20
Founded in 1883, Jacksonville State University has an enrollment of about 8,300, most of which is undergraduate. Ranked among the top public schools in the Southeast region, JSU offers 20 online degrees, including 3 bachelors, 16 masters, and a Doctor of Science in Emergency Management. Highlights include an MBA; MPAs in Administrative Management, Criminal Justice, Education; MEd concentrations in Collaborative K-6, Early Childhood, Special Ed, Instructional Leadership; and Eds concentrations in School Counseling, Teaching Leader, Community Agency Counseling, and Library Media, among others. JSU’s 18:1 student-to-faculty supports an intimate, dynamic learning community, and over 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students. Jacksonville also has an excellent financial aid program: 89% of students apply for need-based aid, and 88% receive some form. Online students have access to tutoring, 24/7 tech support, and more.
8. University of West Alabama
Online Programs: 21
Founded in 1835, The University of West Alabama has an enrollment of 4,000, split between undergraduate and graduate students. UWA’s distance education program is over a decade old and today offers 21 online degrees, consisting of 6 bachelors and 15 masters. Undergraduate highlights include 4 Business concentrations, and a BS in Early Childhood Development. West Alabama’s graduate offerings all cover Education: MEd concentrations in Special Education, Elementary Education K-6, Instructional Leadership, and School Counseling; Continuing Education concentrations, and more. The 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio is a major draw, and over half of classes consist of fewer than 20 students. Further, 76% of students receive some form of financial aid; all have access to technical support, career services, and counseling.
9. Faulkner University
Online Programs: 14
Faulkner University, founded in 1942, has an enrollment of 3,200 and offers 14 online degrees — 2 associates, 3 bachelors, 7 masters, and 2 doctorate. Its graduate tracks are particularly of note: an Executive MBA, Master of Justice Administration, MS in Counseling, and PhD in Humanities. Also note that, as a Christian university, Faulkner offers several degrees in degrees in Ministry and Biblical Studies for those interested. The student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1, and the school has 74.4 percent of its classes with fewer than 20 students. Financial aid opportunities are available, as well: 63% of full-time students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 60%. All course work is designed for maximum flexibility, and students have access to a writing center, tutoring, disability services, career services, registration support, and more.
9. Athens State University
Online Programs: 14
Established in 1822, Athens State is a two-year/junior-senior school with a total enrollment of about 3,000. All of its 14 online degrees are bachelors: Management, Accounting, Acquisition And Contract Management, Enterprise Systems Management, HR Management, Logistics And Supply Chain Management, Management of Technology, Computer Information Systems, and Information Assurance, among others. All course work is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate adult learners and working professionals, and over 70% of full-time students receive some form of financial aid. By utilizing the Blackboard learning platform, Athens State supports a collaborative, dynamic educational environment, with group discussion boards, live chat rooms, videoconferencing, and more. Students also have access to the career development center, disability services, tech support, and online tutorials.
11. University of South Alabama
Online Programs: 13
The University of South Alabama was founded in 1963 and today enrolls over 16,200 students. Ranked highly by US News, Forbes, and Washington Monthly, South Alabama offers 13 degrees online, including 4 bachelors in Business and Information Systems, 8 masters in Education and an MSN, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. (Education concentrations are available in Instructional Specialist, Childhood Education, Educational Media, Elementary Education, Secondary Education, Special Education, and Instructional Design and Development.) The school’s 20:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes an engaging, intimate learning atmosphere, and over 40% of classes consist of fewer than 20 students. Financial aid opportunities are also available: 63% of students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is 53%. Additional resources include career services, tech support, advising, and counseling.
12. Remington College
Online Programs: 9
Remington College in Mobile dates to 1940, with additional campuses in 16 cities across the United States. The school began offering online degrees in 2009, with 2 associates and 9 bachelors available through Mobile, covering Law, Healthcare, Criminal Justice, Organizational Management, and several Business concentrations. All courses are highly flexible, hands on, and promote an experiential learning philosophy that emphasizes real-world skills; further, small class sizes guarantee individualized instruction and one-on-one student-teacher relationships. More than 80,000 alumni across the country provide recent graduates with excellent networking support and career opportunities. Additional resources include financial aid, academic advising, career services, and more.
13. University of Montevallo
Online Programs: 1
Founded in 1896, The University of Montevallo has a total enrollment of about 3,000, most of which is undergraduate. Among the top public schools in the region and a member of Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, Montevallo has also been ranked as a top value college. (note that there are only 27 public liberal arts colleges in the U.S. and Canada.) With a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1, Montevallo emphasizes a tight-knit, community-oriented educational environment with small class sizes and individualized instruction; half of all classes consist of less than 20 students, and less than 1% have more than 50. Montevallo also offers a generous financial aid program: 65% of all full-time students receive some form of aid, and the average need met is over half. (Nearly 20% of students have their needs fully met.) There are more than 21,000 Montevallo active alumni, working in business, politics, entertainment, journalism, and elsewhere.
13. Auburn University at Montgomery
Online Programs: 6
Founded in 1967, Auburn University at Montgomery has a total enrollment just under 5,000, most of which is undergraduate. Its diverse online offerings include an Rn to BSn, MS in Homeland Security & Emergency Management, MS in Justice And Public Safety, MS in Instructional Technology, MLA, and Master of Science in Nursing, among others. The university’s 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio highlights a commitment to intimate, individualized instruction and collaborative learning; 43% of classes have fewer than 20 students, and just 1% consist of 50. Plus, through the Blackboard learning platform, students can communicate with teachers and peers through group discussion boards, live chat, and videoconferencing. 67% of full-time students receive some form of financial aid, with many receiving full funding. Additional resources include tech support, academic advising, counseling, and enrollment services.
15. Oakwood University
Online Programs: 1Founded in 1896, Oakwood University in Huntsville has a total enrollment of 1,700 and is owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Ranked among the top HBC and public universities in the region, its listed core values are: respect, compassion, integrity, excellence, service, innovation, and collaboration. All online course work is designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate adult learners and working professionals, and faculty are experienced experts in their field, committed to intimate, individualized instruction combined with a collaborative, community-oriented education. Notable alumni have gone on to careers in the military, business, politics, Church affairs, music, entertainment, and government. Sister schools include Andrews University, Griggs University, Loma Linda University, Southern Adventist University, and Union College.
Monitoring the accreditation of a university you are interested in attending is incredibly important. Accreditation ensures your credits can transfer that you can receive Federal financial aid, and most importantly that certain standards of educational quality are during your schooling. The highest accreditation standard for most programs in the United States is provided by regional accreditation agencies. The regional accrediting agency for Alabama is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Latin America (Extraterritorial).
Making sure that a University you’re hoping to attend is regionally accredited — or accredited by a real and respected accrediting agency — is one of the most important choices you can make in ensuring the quality of your education.
Three Steps for Securing Financial Aid
- Submit your FAFSA.
- Check to see if additional forms are needed at your university of choice.
- Search and apply for private scholarships.
Through the previous three steps most students find themselves offered some sort of federal grant, work study, private grant, scholarship, or stipend.
Great Alabama Higher Education Resources
- Alabama State Department of Education
- The ASDE includes resources for students, teachers, and parents, with the latest news in education and college core standard information.
- A+ Education Partnership
- The A+ Education Partnership is a non-profit dedicated to improving public education across Alabama.
- Alabama Community College System
- The ACCS promotes community colleges in the state; site includes the latest news, reports, and more.
- Alabama Commission on Higher Education
- Click here for info on financial aid, a net price calculator, workforce development, and other hot topics.
- Alabama Possible
- Alabama Possible’s site includes up-to-date data and how-to guidance on obtaining grants for higher education.
- Alabama Possible
- KHEAA-Alabama provides college- and career-planning information to Alabama students and adult learners.
- Central Alabama Community Foundation
- The CACF, established in 1987, holds $54 million in charitable assets and distributes $3.7 million per year to more than 400 grants and scholarships.
- Community Foundation of South Alabama
- The CFSA is forty-years-old; visit for grant information, financial planning, and more.
- Southeast Alabama Community Foundation
- For residents of Coffee, Dale, Henry, Geneva, and Houston counties, the SACF site houses 25 funds which annually award more than $15,000.
- Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham
- The CFGB covers five counties, with 478 grant-making funds and $17.9 million grants authorized.
- Black Belt Community Foundation
- The Black Belt Community Foundation’s site includes information on grants and scholarships available, plus reports, news, and more.
- Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County
- Residents of Greater Huntsville visit for information on funding and financial planning.
- Community Foundation of West Alabama
- The CFWA site includes grant applications, application guidelines, and scholarship information.
- Walker Area Community Foundation
- The WACF has dedicated over $15 million in grants to the community.
- Southern Regional Educational Board
- Providing policymakers with the data to improve education across the region, with a particular focus on affordability, college and career readiness, and teacher feedback. Read for more on post-secondary and adult education opportunities.
- Southern Association of Institutional Research
- The SAIR promotes improvements in post-secondary education in the region. Visit the site for the latest news, reports, and conference information.