A Guide to Online Colleges in Colorado

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While the origins of Colorado’s name is linked to the Spanish word for red in reference to the color of the muddy Colorado River, Colorado offers an abundance of colors and diverse beauties. The state is most well-known for its enchanting snow-topped mountain ranges and winding mountain streams, its beautiful rivers and massive forests, and its thriving city-metropolises such as Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Boulder. Between the countless marvels of the natural world that could entrance any outdoor enthusiast and its nationally renowned cities that charm the more urban-minded, Colorado has something to offer everyone. And so it has unsurprisingly maintained immense popularity throughout the decades with people of all ages. As the 8th largest state in size and the 22nd most populous, Colorado offers an enormous variety of living options ranging from the densely populated cities, to the sparsely inhabited counties of vast wilderness, to the sprawling neighborhoods and farms that tastefully blend rural life and urban benefits.

While one of the most notable perks of online education is the ability to complete schooling from anywhere, Colorado offers a number of reasons for both residents and prospects to seek online education within its borders. For instance, in-state tuition is often applied to public schools that offer online programs. Also, 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 reduce overall tuition costs. And a factor that can often make the most impact is that students seeking online education can drastically expand their educational options if they also look to hybrid degrees (degrees where coursework is completed partially online with required courses or events on campus). Finally, one of the most common stipulations in scholarships is that students be from a certain state or region, and so often more funds are available to students seeking degrees in-state.

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Featured Online Schools

Top Public Offerings in Colorado

Colorado’s top online degree programs come from a variety of public institutions. Among these is the four-year University of Colorado, Denver (UCD), which pioneered online higher education as one of the first universities in the country to offer online degrees in 1996. Colorado’s largest research university and is ranked among the top 200 national universities by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Northern Colorado’s (UNC) Extended Campus program focuses on delivering high quality, rigorous online degree programs to self-motivated adult-learners. UNC offers more than 50 online degree, licensure, and certificate programs that can be completed on an asynchronous schedule, meaning students can progress through coursework on a schedule that best accommodates their needs. Colorado State University Pueblo also offers a Division of Extended Studies, which offers an array of on-campus, online, and hybrid degrees. The Division also offers career-building opportunities, professional networking, and other educational events utilizing virtual learning technology in conjunction with on campus resources. The Community College of Denver is a great option for students seeking professional development in the area. The College offers 100 affordable certificate and associate degree options with an emphasis on its 200 business partnerships with the city of Denver.

Top Private Offerings in Colorado

The top private institutions in Colorado offer students online degree options at the associate, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate level with many schools offering professional licensure and certification tracks as well. Though it offers relatively smaller number of fully online programs, the University of Denver is one of the state’s most prominent public universities. Its collaborative and experiential teaching philosophies emphasize elements peer group projects, real-world learning experiences, and group-based research. Regis University is a well-known name in online education and offers above 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs that can be completed entirely online. Students interested in hybrid learning options will be able to choose from an even wider array of degree tracks and specializations. While Remington College focuses mainly on Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees, this focus allows program curriculums to stay inline with college’s career-centric mission: to prepare new students, returning students, and professionals looking to start new careers for accelerated professional success.

Potential Resident

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, Colorado’s requirements are relatively simple: the student (or parent/guardian) must have proof living in a full-time domicile in the state for at least twelve months, as well as proof that the student has relinquished legal ties to previous states in which they have lived. These legal ties include other properties appearing to be full-time domiciles, payment of state income taxes, and a number of other conditions. In general, proof of this second condition may be provided with a Colorado voter registration card, payment of state taxes, proof of ownership of a residential property state, among other conditions. Check out the conditions necessary to establish in-state tuition at Colorado State University here.

Students endeavoring to earn a college degree will inevitably face the challenge of tuition costs, which unfortunately continue to rise year after year. Fortunately for Colorado students, however, the state’s tuition costs are below the national average — the benefit of which is further increased by the lower tuition costs associated with in-state tuitions. In 2015 the average tuition costs for full-time in-state college students was $ 5,964 and $15,852 for out-of-state. Beyond tuition rates, students must also face a college’s fees and the cost of living. Today the fees to attend college in Colorado average at about $1,000. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition including such fees for the 2015–2016 school year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

Depending on which program students enroll in, what services their tuition fees cover, and where they choose to live the cost of living can vary dramatically. While Colorado’s cost of living is just 1% higher than the national average, housing costs rise dramatically as you approach certain cities. For instance, the housing market is about 97% more expensive in Glenwood Springs than in Pueblo, Colorado where the housing market is about 28% lower than the national average. So in Colorado it may be particularly beneficial for online students to live in a more affordable part of the state, even if it means a longer occasional commute to campus. Students should also take note that the cost of tuition in Colorado varies by degree type, and often by the length of the degree, which in many cases can be shortened by accelerated learning options or credit transfers.

Nicknamed the “Mile-High City” for its elevation of exactly one mile above sea level, Denver is Colorado’s capital and also its most populous city. Denver ranks as the country’s 19th most populous city, and with a 2.8% increase in 2015, it is also the country’s fastest growing major city. And according to U.S. News & World Report, Denver is the best place to live in the United States. With seemingly endless recreational activities of all types, a booming economy, and a mecha of higher education — where 42.2% of residents over 25 hold at least a bachelor’s — it is certainly easy to see how Denver earned this distinction. Denver’s booming economy is due largely (or mostly) to its geographic location. Because it is the largest city within 500 miles and nearly equidistant from the large cities of the Midwest, Denver naturally became a hub for regional transportation and a de facto storage location and distribution point for goods from surrounding areas. Denver is also home to 32 universities, colleges, and post-secondary trade schools which combined serve a student body of over 80,000.

Fort Collins is the fourth most populous city in the state, and according to the visitor’s center, “offers the convenience of a small town with all the amenities of a larger metropolitan city.” Founded as military outpost for the United States Army in 1864, Fort Collins sports a rich history entwined in our country’s national narrative. Fort Collins is also home to Colorado State University (CSU), a public research university, which serves a student body of over 32,000. CSU is the state’s land grant university, and the flagship university of the Colorado State University System. In the early 2,000’s CSU was the largest employer in Fort Collins with 6,948 employees, doubling the next employer Hewlett Packard’s 3,182 employees. Today, the strongest industries in Fort Collins include a mix of manufacturing, service-related businesses, and tourism. Due to CSU’s resources and research facilities, many high-tech companies have relocated to the city, or opened up offices in the area.

Colorado Springs is located 60 miles south of Denver on the eastern edge of the Southern Rocky Mountains. Nestled between Fountain Creek and Pikes Peak, one of the most famous American mountains, Colorado Springs offers its residents a constant view of natural splendor. The city’s high elevation of over 1 mile above sea level also makes it an excellent place for intensive athletic training. Thus Colorado Springs is home to 24 national governing bodies of sport, the United State Olympic Committee, and the United States Olympic Training Center. With an estimated population of about 465,568 it is the second most populous city in the state, and 40th most populated city in the country, making it a thriving center of culture and industry. The most thriving areas of industry are military, high-tech, and tourism — with the defense industry playing the most impactful role on the economy. Several prominent institutions of higher education are also in the area such as Colorado College, University of Colorado Springs, Colorado Technical University, Remington College and Colorado State University.

Denver


Population: 663,862
Cost of Living: 110.7%
Top Industries (Male): Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Construction; Retail Trade
Top Industries (Female): Healthcare and Social Assistance; Educational Services; Retail Trade
Local Online Degrees: 95

Colorado Springs


Population: 445,830
Cost of Living: 97.9%
Top Industries (Male): Construction; Retail Trade; Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
Top Industries (Female): Healthcare and Social Assistance; Accommodation and Food Services
Local Online Degrees: 13

Aurora


Population: 353,108
Cost of Living: 108.2%
Top Industries (Male): Construction; Retail Trade; Transportation and Warehousing
Top Industries (Female): Healthcare and Social Assistance; Accommodation and Food Services; Retail Trade
Local Online Degrees: 8

Fort Collins


Population: 156,480
Cost of Living: 98.8%
Top Industries (Male): Accommodation and Food Services; Manufacturing; Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
Top Industries (Female): Educational Services; Healthcare and Social Assistance; Accommodation and Food Services
Local Online Degrees: 0

Thornton


Population: 130,307
Cost of Living: 108.4%
Top Industries (Male): Construction; Manufacturing; Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
Top Industries (Female): Healthcare and Social Assistance; Retail Trade; Educational Services
Local Online Degrees: 0

Pueblo


Population: 108,423
Cost of Living: 92.6%
Top Industries (Male): Construction; Accommodation and Food Services; Retail Trade
Top Industries (Female): Healthcare and Social Assistance; Retail Trade; Accommodation and Food Services
Local Online Degrees: 18

Arvada


Population: 113,574
Cost of Living: 108.4%
Top Industries (Male): Manufacturing; Retail Trade; Construction
Top Industries (Female): Healthcare and Social Assistance; Retail Trade; Educational Services
Local Online Degrees: 0

Westminster


Population: 112,090
Cost of Living: 108.4%
Top Industries (Male): Manufacturing; Construction; Retail Trade
Top Industries (Female): Healthcare and Social Assistance; Retail Trade; Educational Services
Local Online Degrees: 18

Centennial


Population: 107,201
Cost of Living: 101.2%
Top Industries (Male): Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Retail Trade; Construction
Top Industries (Female): Healthcare and Social Assistance; Educational Services; Retail Trade
Local Online Degrees: 0

Boulder


Population: 105,112
Cost of Living: 120.2%
Top Industries (Male): Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Educational Services; Manufacturing
Top Industries (Female): Educational Services; Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Healthcare and Social Assistance
Local Online Degrees: 0

The 7 Best Online Universities in Colorado

  • 1. University of Denver

    Online Programs: 20
    Type: Private
    Website

    Founded in 1864 — just a few years after the city of Denver itself was founded — the University of Denver (UD) is one the state’s most reputable private universities with online degree options. The university offers over 100 undergraduate programs and over 120 graduate and professional programs. Despite the program of study, UD employs an emphasis on hands-on, collaborative, experiential learning. This emphasis distinguishes it from other online degree programs, as these areas are usually associated with the inherent shortcomings of online education. Students will work closely with their peers, faculty members, and community members to complete group projects, field research, and community outreach. UD offers a large number of hybrid program options, making it an ideal choice for the Colorado resident online student.

  • 2. Regis University

    Online Programs: 49
    Type: Private
    Website

    Located in the Mile High City with the Rocky Mountains as the backdrop, Regis University offers students a wonderfully atmospheric campus. While online students may not necessarily benefit from this, Regis employs an impressive number of hybrid course options, professional development workshops, and networking events where online students can enjoy the campus aesthetics and its on-campus educational opportunities. Whether you’re a residential or online student, Regis remains true to its Jesuit Catholic teaching tradition. While this belief system is neither expected nor imposed on students, degree curriculums are rooted in this tradition and convey a duty to self-betterment and community service. Both on-campus and online class sizes are kept small along with smaller student to faculty ratios in order to create engaging, collaborative, and personalized learning environments.

  • 3. University of Colorado Denver

    Online Programs: 20
    Type: Public
    Website

    The University of Colorado Denver (UCD) is an exceptional school with flexible learning options for both online and traditional students. Particularly motivated high school students can begin earning course credit to apply towards their degree before they even graduate high school — an excellent opportunity to save on both time and money. The university further offers incentives for exceptional online students through the availability of honors programs where students learn among highly talented and motivated peers, gifted teachers, and advisors committed to bringing out the best in their students. With over 450 online courses, distance-learners have an impressive array of options, many of which involve hybrid learning options where students choose when and how they take advantage of on-campus resources.

  • 4. University of Northern Colorado

    Online Programs: 24
    Type: Public
    Website

    The University of Northern Colorado offers students innovative degree programs designed around teachers with research-intensive backgrounds and passions. UNC offers students over 200 undergraduate and graduate programs on-campus, off-campus, and online through the Extended Campus program. Online students can enjoy the benefits of online education while also participating in their teacher’s research on-campus, choosing times that are most conducive with their schedules. The distinguishing feature of UNC’s Extended Campus program is the combination of the research-intensive teaching philosophy and its student-centric curriculums. In other words, students have a freedom of choice in coursework, degree specialization options, and research opportunities where they can pursue topics relating to career goals and personal interests.

  • 5. Colorado State University-Pueblo

    Online Programs: 18
    Type: Public
    Website

    Colorado State University-Pueblo is located along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, nestled between Denver and Colorado Springs. The university’s geographic location provides an ever-present backdrop of vibrant beauty, including Pikes Peak and blue skies. Online students can expect smaller, personalized classrooms where they interact with peers and instructors on a daily basis. Outside of online coursework, distance-learning CSU-Pueblo’s students are defined by a love of the outdoors, and so online students are encouraged to visit campus to enjoy any of the countless outdoors events and trips scheduled year round. While sporting some of the most affordable housing and living costs in the state, Pueblo, Colorado has ranked as one of America’s best places to live. This makes the school an excellent choice for working students, who wish to enjoy the flexibility of online education while living and working in an excellent city.

  • 6. Front Range Community College

    Online Programs: 18
    Type: Public
    Website

    Front Range Community College (FRCC) is Colorado’s largest community college, and serves as an excellent springboard to transfer into other more demanding programs. The college is designed to bring out the best in its students, so that that they have the competitive academic profiles required to gain enrollment or scholarships to higher tier colleges. The success of this is evidenced by the college’s rank as the #1 Transfer Institution for universities in the state such as the University of Northern Colorado, MSU Denver, University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and CSU Global. And in many ways, the university’s demographics speak for themselves with 23.5% of students being minorities, 79% part-time students, and 49% are first in the family to graduate from a four year institution. The College also boasts impressive student satisfaction rates. 92% of students would recommend FRCC to a friend.

  • 7. Colorado State University-Global Campus

    Online Programs: 14
    Type: Public
    Website

    Colorado State University-Global Campus is the nation’s first 100% online state university, and its earned this distinction through establishing a powerful reputation of academic rigor and quality in its accredited degrees. Despite its global reach and aspirations, CSU-Global Campus is highly focused on expanding Colorado’s economy while also making use of the state’s resources to build a professional network in the state. CSU-Global’s career-centric focus means that students can expect degree curriculums to mirror the real world demands of the job market. 95% of alumni reported that CSU-Global Campus contributed to their professional success with a 19% increase raise in salary just one year after graduation. This school is ideal for students in Colorado who are uninterested in on-campus or hybrid options and instead seek the authentic fully-online learning program.

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 Colorado is the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional accrediting agencies responsible for accrediting schools in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

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 Colorado Higher Education Resources

  • Colorado Department of Education The Colorado Department of Education provides official news, reviews, and promotion of materials and information relevant to the success of Colorado students pursuing higher education. The site also showcases an impressive number of other programs, services, and sites relevant to student success.
  • College Invest CollegeInvest manages Colorado’s tax-advantaged College Savings program with options to fit the needs of any Colorado family. The company’s mission is “to be Colorado’s trusted resource in breaking down the financial barriers to attaining a higher education through tax-advantaged college savings plans, scholarships, and matching grants.”
  • College in Colorado On this free website you can explore resources to help you determine your best college path and design your plan to best navigate this path according to professional support, training, and support.
  • Study Colorado Study Colorado is a site with great resources and infographics filled with information concerning Colorado’s colleges, job markets, and other facts relevant to prospective or current students.
  • Colorado Gear Up Colorado Gear Up is a program that serves minority, low-income, and those first in their families to go to college. The program also advocates for the removal of remedial classes in middle school and high school, so that all students receive an education that is truly preparatory for college.
  • College Opportunity Fund The College Opportunity Fund is a Colorado state-based program where students can earn college cash stipends through attending participating colleges in the state.
  • Degree Within Reach This program creates a process which allows students to be considered for an associate’s degree who started at a community college and transferred to a four-year institution of higher education before earning a degree.
  • Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative This program serves as a middleman between the state of Colorado, private investors, and educators to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of investments in order to deliver more rewards to students.
  • Colorado Department of Education This site offers numerous tools, news coverage, guides, and advice for students of all ages. There are also a collection of excellent resources on the site for anyone seeking out more information on education in Colorado.
  • Colorado Initiative for Inclusive Higher Education This program works in collaboration with local colleges and universities in Colorado to create and fund the development of inclusive post-secondary education opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities.
  • Colorado Succeeds This organization unites business leaders, educators, and government representatives to improve the state of higher education in Colorado. They offer awesome opportunities to students and provide resources for making the best choices in higher education.
  • History Colorado History Colorado is a historical society under the Department of Education that facilitates scholarships, learning opportunities, and community initiatives.

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