Online colleges hold considerable appeal for students seeking flexibility, convenience, and cost savings. Schools typically use asynchronous formats to deliver their online college courses, posting pre-recorded lectures and other instructional materials online. Learners can log in at their convenience to complete coursework, allowing them to keep up with personal and professional commitments.
Since online learners save institutions time and money, some schools offer lower tuition rates and rebates to students enrolled in exclusively online programs. Either way, learners who take college classes online reduce their overall expenses since they do not incur room-and-board or commuting costs. Online degree-seekers also retain the freedom to work as they earn their degree, further easing the financial undertaking of higher education.
Thanks to these and other advantages, the number of learners taking online college courses continues to soar. In 2017, more than 6.6 million U.S. college students took at least one fully online class. The number of students enrolled exclusively in distance education programs also reached new peaks by exceeding 3.1 million.
Best College Reviews for 2020 — Best Online Colleges
#1 – University of Florida
The University of Florida combines name recognition with affordability and program variety to lead the list of the best online colleges in the United States. As of the 2019-20 academic year, UF offers 24 mostly or fully online programs leading to bachelor's degrees. Many of the school's online programs, including those in the fields of business, communications, fire and emergency services, public relations, and nursing, also hold optional programmatic accreditation from highly regarded independent agencies.
The university's online students enjoy enhanced flexibility thanks to policies that support customized course loads and study schedules. The school supports the success of online learners by pairing every learner with a dedicated academic advisor and offering complete access to the university's Career Connections Center. There, degree-seekers can sign up for one-on-one career coaching, degree-specific networking opportunities, and advanced job search support.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $11,313
#2 – University of Central Florida
At the University of Central Florida, online undergrads benefit from a favorable combination of program choice, affordable tuition rates, and excellent institutional support for nontraditional degree-seekers.
An early adopter of emerging educational technologies, UCF has accrued more than 20 years' experience as a leading online innovator. As of the 2019-20 academic year, UCF one of the lowest cost profiles of any regionally accredited institution in the country. Learners can pursue 24 different paths leading to bachelor's degrees in areas such as the liberal arts, social and physical sciences, and humanities.
Every degree-seeker in an online UCF program also receives exclusive access to a dedicated academic success coach. These coaches guide students through each step of their educational journeys, beginning with the admissions process and continuing through graduation. They develop personalized degree-completion plans, connect learners with program-specific resources and support, and help students craft winning career development strategies.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $5,004
#3 – LeTourneau University
Longview, Texas-based LeTourneau University brands itself as the Christian polytechnic university, combining a Christian worldview with a practical, innovative approach to online education.
Distance learners can choose from more than 20 online bachelor's programs in subject areas ranging from traditional arts and sciences to business, education, psychology, and theology. LETU ranks among the national leaders in aviation and aeronautical science education, and features five blended or fully online undergraduate programs in related disciplines.
LETU counts hundreds of transfer students among its body of about 3,175 enrolled degree-seekers. As such, it maintains inclusive transfer credit policies. Learners with relevant college-level courses can transfer their credits with ease. Eligible students can waive up to 75% of their degree requirements. The school also maintains scholarship programs exclusively for transfer students, making the school a particularly strong option for those seeking to parlay their existing education into a practical degree.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $5,004
#4 – Keiser University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Founded in 1977 by Arthur and Evelyn Keiser, Keiser University operates campuses in 21 locations throughout Florida. The school's founding mandate seeks to provide practical, affordable, and convenient career training to adult learners looking to expand their career horizons. This objective remains the school's guiding principle today, and defines the 25 different fully online bachelor's programs the school offers.
Keiser ranks as Florida's third-largest nonprofit university system. The school currently serves more than 20,000 students and hosts an alumni network with more than 66,000 members. Keiser holds the relatively rare Level VI designation as a school that awards degrees at every level, from associate to doctorate.
Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, this military-friendly school also ranks among the top providers of career-focused education in the American South region. Keiser's health sciences programs have earned particularly strong accolades. Online students can earn bachelor's degrees in health fields including nursing, health information management, health sciences, and health services administration.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $16,690
#5 – Drexel University
Philadelphia's Drexel University has assembled an extensive and diverse collection of online bachelor's programs, with 19 options across 10 subject areas including behavioral sciences, business, and criminal justice. Accomplished instructors lead the school's wide-ranging selection of online courses, engaging students through their enthusiasm and advanced expertise. These factors contribute to the school's freshman retention rate of 88%, which functions as a critical gauge of student satisfaction.
Founded in 1891, Drexel has emerged as one of the country's largest research universities. Online degree-seekers enjoy the ability to customize their study schedules and degree paths. Flexible policies allow learners who have completed previous college coursework to transfer up to 120 quarter credits or 80 semester credits. This can significantly reduce degree-completion timelines, helping students earn prestigious Drexel University credentials on compact timeframes.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $13,016
#6 – Maryville University
Saint Louis, MO
Missouri's Maryville University was founded in 1872 as an academy for underprivileged and female students at a time when women remained underrepresented in higher education. The university became accredited in the 1920s. In the 1960s, the school expanded its service outlook and welcomed its first male students. Maryville embraced flexible learning policies much earlier than most schools, launching a "Weekend College" initiative in the 1980s designed to help working adults improve their academic credentials and qualify for better jobs.
When online education became feasible, Maryville eagerly embraced its potential. The school offers 31 online programs leading to bachelor's degrees in fields such as forensic psychology, exercise science, and organizational leadership. The school maintains partnerships with multiple major companies, such as IBM, offering graduates a direct line to appealing professional opportunities.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $27,649
#7 – University of Arizona
Online students at The University of Arizona enjoy the best of both worlds, as the large school ranks among the most recognizable in the country while maintaining affordable tuition rates. All students in online programs pay in-state tuition rates regardless of their actual location, and surveys indicate high satisfaction levels.
According to a 2018 poll of the school's online learners, 93% said they would recommend The University of Arizona. Meanwhile, PayScale data from 2018 placed the school first in a statewide review of earning potential among graduates of public Arizona colleges.
Undergraduate degree-seekers can choose from 33 online bachelor's programs as of the 2019-20 academic year. The school welcomes online transfer students, matching incoming learners with previous college credits with dedicated advisors to help them navigate their transitions. Those transferring from Arizona community colleges also qualify for valuable, renewable bridge scholarships.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $36,727
#8 – Florida International University
Miami-based Florida International University specializes in online learning, offering more than 1,000 fully online courses taught by a highly qualified faculty that includes more than 1,400 instructors. In 2014, FIU launched a unique student success coaching program, matching online degree-seekers with dedicated advisors to help them navigate the unique opportunities and challenges of internet-based learning. The initiative paid immediate dividends, as the school graduated more than 2,000 fully online learners in 2015.
This top-ranking military-friendly school counts 45 bachelor's programs among its fully online offerings. FIU's list of unique study opportunities includes topics in Asian studies, exceptional student education, and hospitality management. The school offers multiple program start dates throughout the year. FIU's Career Engage certification program boosts graduates' career prospects by offering paths to appealing optional professional credentials that enhance their employability.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $16,295
#9 – Eastern New Mexico University
Online students at Eastern New Mexico University can choose from 22 bachelor's programs in traditional academic disciplines along with innovative subjects such as aviation science, communication disorders, and sports management. ENMU supports distance learners with low tuition rates for out-of-state and international students. For the fall 2019 semester, the school implemented a bold plan to roll back out-of-state tuition fees to 1999 levels. This marked a reduction of nearly 40%, which remains in place as of the 2019-20 academic year.
ENMU backs up its excellent affordability with extensive support services for online students. The school's advising center matches online degree-seekers with counselors who help learners form tailored degree-completion plans. Transfer students also benefit from flexible policies that allow eligible learners to complete their bachelor's degrees in as little as two years.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $11,244
#10 – Bay Path University
Founded in 1897, Longmeadow, Massachusetts-based Bay Path University offers an array of online bachelor's degrees for undergraduate female students. The school offers more than 28 mostly or fully online programs through The American Women's College of Bay Path University.
Programs primarily focus on subject areas with high job-growth rates, including business analytics, digital marketing, food industry management, and human resource management. Learners embrace community-oriented social sciences through study paths such as community health and counseling, offender rehabilitation and victim advocacy, human services, and drug and alcohol abuse counseling.
At The American Women's College of Bay Path University, degree-seekers benefit from compact degree-completion schedules that aim to arm students with bachelor's degrees in as little as one year. Thanks to a liberal transfer credit policy and six program start dates throughout the year, Bay Path University expedites learners' paths to rewarding and stable careers.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $26,540
#11 – Peirce College
Established in 1865, Peirce College is a small private institution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Peirce enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students in multiple programs that learners can take at the school's City Center campus or online. One of the nation's first schools to embrace women as learners, Peirce now serves as Philadelphia's only online higher education institution dedicated to exclusively serving adults.
The school offers most college classes online. Learners can pursue online bachelor's degrees in areas such as accounting, business administration, and technology management.
Peirce offers one of the nation's most flexible transfer credit policies. Students can apply up to 102 transfer credits toward their bachelor's degree. Learners also gain access to advisors and counselors who help them on their educational journey. Individuals who need financial aid counseling can work with one of Peirce's dedicated financial aid specialists to understand the financial aid process.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $10,212
#12 – University of Alaska Southeast
At the University of Alaska Southeast, online students can earn bachelor's degrees in elementary education, special education, general social sciences, and various business administration and liberal arts disciplines.
The school features a favorable 12-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio and applies identical admission and quality control standards to its online and traditional classes. Since its 1972 founding, UAS has earned a particularly strong reputation for the quality of its education and liberal arts programs. Online degree-seekers can pursue multiple study paths in both areas. UAS also hosts the only business programs in Alaska endorsed by the prestigious Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
UAS constantly innovates its online course delivery methods, integrating multiple and emerging technologies to improve learners' experiences. Current media include the internet, audio and video conferencing, and satellite broadcasting. Online students can access admission counselors, academic and faculty advisors, site counselors, financial aid services, tutoring services, and administrative and library support staff via a toll-free telephone number.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $20,217
#13 – Kansas State University
Kansas State University brands its e-learning branch as K-State Online, where bachelor's students can earn degrees in 16 academic disciplines. Learners can explore online bachelor's programs in animal science, business, education, food sciences, human development, nutrition and health, and the social sciences.
Most programs feature asynchronous structures, allowing learners to proceed on self-paced timelines for accelerated or decelerated degree completion options. The same experienced, highly qualified faculty members who teach traditional on-campus classes lead K-State Online's courses, delivering an education that effectively recreates the in-class experience.
K-State Online uses the Canvas learning management system to deliver its online courses. Multiple parties, including departmental faculty and quality assurance coordinators, review every teaching plan to ensure that online classes meet the school's demanding standards. Degree-seekers also benefit from regional accreditation, as K-State Online holds the same prestigious North Central Association of Colleges and Schools credentials as Kansas State University's physical campuses.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $48,447
#14 – Mercer University
Established in 1833 and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Georgia-based Mercer University has grown to become one of the state's premier higher education institutions. With campuses in cities including Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah, the private nonprofit school enjoys an excellent reputation and ranks alongside Emory University as one of Georgia's leading private colleges.
Distance learning counts among the school's top educational priorities. Undergraduate learners can enroll in 21 online programs leading to bachelor's degrees.
In 2018, the college's trustees approved a new long-term development plan that called for more than $200 million in facility investments and a dramatic increase in research spending. These policies bode well for students in the school's many research-oriented online and hybrid programs, which include majors in healthcare, human development, informatics, social sciences, and mental health-related fields.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $18,932
#15 – Mary Baldwin University
Online learners at Virginia-based Mary Baldwin University can choose from more than 30 programs while benefiting from some of the state's most advantageous tuition rates. Bachelor's degree-seekers can pursue 14 fully online and hybrid options, including high-growth fields such as marketing, healthcare informatics, and nursing.
Students with existing college credits enjoy added advantages, as MBU supports up to 84 transfer credits. This figure represents nearly three-quarters of some programs' course requirements, enabling eligible learners to graduate in as little as one academic year. In some cases, incoming learners can also receive credit for volunteer service, career and life experience, military service, and other forms of specialized training.
A military-friendly school, MBU supports the academic success of online learners with a generous lineup of support services. Academic advisors, financial aid counselors, and professional networking and career-planning services remain available to distance students at every point during their educational journeys.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $15,594
#16 – Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Saint Mary of the Woods, IN
Established in 1840, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College ranks as Indiana's oldest Catholic higher education institution. Initially founded as one of the nation's first colleges for female students, SMWC welcomes students of all backgrounds and genders in its rich and fast-growing online community. The school boasts a long pedigree as a leading distance education innovator, having introduced alternative and independent study paths leading to degrees in the early 1970s.
Today, SMWC engages online degree-seekers with flexible programs featuring multiple start dates throughout the year. Online students qualify for the school's full set of scholarship and financial aid programs as well as tutoring and mentorship opportunities. Self-pacing defines SMWC's online learning experience, and distance learners can enroll in programs across 14 traditional and emerging academic disciplines. Available online bachelor's degree study areas include business, education, the humanities, the social sciences, healthcare, technology, and theology as of the 2019-20 academic year.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $9,180
#17 – George Washington University
Based in the nation's capital, George Washington University offers students exceptional access to major federal and international organizations thanks to the school's extensive list of agency and business partnerships. The institution's inclusive, community-oriented alumni network counts among its most valuable assets, enhancing networking and career development opportunities for graduates. These advantages extend to online learners, who can pursue nine bachelor's programs through the university's School of Medicine and Health Science, School of Nursing, and College of Professional Studies.
Already known for its small class sizes, GW Online courses typically feature even more advantageous student-to-instructor ratios. This helps degree-seekers in online programs benefit from personalized attention and one-on-one faculty interactions, both of which play important roles in academic success. Online tuition fees vary by program, but are set at special rates designed to deliver significant savings compared to the cost of on-campus attendance.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $22,966
#18 – Indiana University
In his 2017 annual address, Indiana University president Michael McRobbie described the school's IU Online platform as "the state's online education powerhouse." Since 2014, IU Online has expanded its program offerings by 77%. One-third of the college's entire student body now takes at least one online class.
Learners profit from a teamwork-based approach to online education, as instructors and pedagogical stakeholders from multiple campuses cooperate to share their knowledge and ideas when designing online programs and courses. As of the 2019-20 academic year, the university enrolled nearly 33,000 students in at least one online class and more than 8,500 learners in fully online programs.
IU Online supports 25 bachelor's programs, 24 of which occur fully online. The school allows incoming learners to apply up to 64 credits of existing coursework toward their degrees.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $39,935
#19 – Eastern Florida State College
Eastern Florida State College supports an inclusive, growth-oriented online learning environment that emphasizes skills development and learning outcomes that perfectly align with the college's renowned traditional programs. A participant in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements oversight program, EFSC proudly offers online degree access to learners based in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
For the 2019-20 academic year, EFSC expanded its lineup of online bachelor's programs to include 13 degree paths in four primary subject areas: nursing (RN-to-BSN), organizational management (business), computer science and information systems, and applied health sciences. Online degree-seekers enjoy extra flexibility, as EFSC offers five course start dates throughout the calendar year. Distance learners also benefit from complete access to the college's extensive academic support, advisement, and learning resources and services.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $10,918
#20 – Point University
West Point, GA
Founded as Atlanta Christian College in 1937, Point University has grown into one of Georgia's premier faith-oriented universities. Integrating the moral and ethical values of Christian leadership into its acclaimed academic programs, Point University offers many online bachelor's degrees. Study options include a long list of practical disciplines in enterprise and healthcare fields, including accounting, business, and entrepreneurship.
Learners can also pursue multiple options in the humanities and social sciences through bachelor's programs in child development, criminal justice, and organizational leadership. Theology programs round out Point University's online offerings, with degrees in Christian ministry and youth and family ministry.
A military-friendly school, Point University participates in the Yellow Ribbon program. Point University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, with additional endorsements from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $21,100
#21 – Chaminade University of Hawaii
Renowned for its diversity and excellent student life, Chaminade University of Hawaii serves as the state's only Catholic university. Definitive features of the school's Honolulu campus include average class sizes of just 18 students and a learner-to-instructor ratio of 11-to-1. These benefits extend into the college's online bachelor's programs, which include 10 study paths in such subject areas as business administration, English, history, and management.
Online degree-seekers at Chaminade University enjoy an unprecedented set of support resources, including full access to professional and peer tutors as well as generous financial aid programs. More than 95% of the college's undergraduates qualify for funding that totaled nearly $12 million in the 2018-19 academic year, giving students added incentive to attend this already-affordable school.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $10,396
#22 – Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN
Indiana's Purdue University system boasts some impressive numbers: as of fall of 2018, the school had a 91.6% freshman retention rate and a 60.6% graduation rate. Both figures handily outpace national averages. Comparing Purdue University to other Big Ten schools also reveals cost advantages: for the 2018-19 school year, Purdue had the third-lowest tuition rates for in-state students and the second-lowest for nonresident students. These statistics speak to a positive student culture and excellent affordability profile that extend to Purdue's many online bachelor's programs.
Online learners can work toward bachelor's degrees at three Purdue institutions: Purdue University Fort Wayne, Purdue University Northwest, and Purdue University Global. The global campus offers the most choice, supporting more than 175 online programs — including ones with accelerated completion timelines. Students can pursue majors in 10 categories, including the arts and sciences, business and economics, and communication.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $43,799
#23 – Oklahoma State University
Founded in 1890, Oklahoma State University prioritizes positive community initiatives and brands itself as America's Healthiest Campus ®. The college currently includes more than 35,000 students at its five campus locations, and has graduated nearly a quarter of a million degree-holders since opening its doors. In-state students and those who qualify for in-state rates via reciprocity enjoy some of the lowest online tuition rates of any major school in the United States.
Bachelor's students can choose from 22 degree paths across six departments: the institution's renowned Spears School of Business; the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Human Sciences; the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology; the College of Education, Health, and Aviation; and the College of Agriculture Science and Natural Resources.
Degree-seekers can lower their costs even further by taking advantage of the school's block-rate tuition discounts. In-state, out-of-state, and international students also qualify for multiple dedicated scholarship programs exclusively open to online learners.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $6,395
#24 – Concordia University-Saint Paul
Saint Paul, MN
Ranking among Minnesota's most affordable private colleges, Concordia University-Saint Paul sports encouraging statistics for career-minded students. According to the school's website, CSP graduates earn 44% more money than the national average.
They also enjoy the highest average salaries among graduates of private colleges four years after leaving school, giving added value to the 20 different bachelor's degrees online learners can earn. CSP took a strong career focus in designing its online programs, creating relevant degree paths in emerging and high-growth fields.
Transfer students can take advantage of a unique financial aid plan that delivers a $2,000 scholarship to incoming learners with an associate degree from partner institutions. Eligible learners enjoy easy credit transfers and advanced program standing leading to degree completion in two years or less. CSP holds 10 optional and programmatic endorsements.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $17,845
#25 – McKendree University
Based in Lebanon, Illinois, McKendree University is the state's oldest college and the nation's oldest Methodist university. Founded in 1828, MCK now counts about 2,500 students in its community. Its class sizes average just 14 students, a trend that carries over to the college's thriving e-learning platform. Learners enjoy an intimate educational environment backed by decades of experience. MCK first embraced flexible learning in the early 1970s, giving it nearly half a century of history in this regard.
As of the 2019-20 school year, bachelor's degree-seekers can enroll in five fully online programs: psychology, sociology and criminal justice, computer information systems, nursing, and business administration. Students in business tracks can select from nine innovative concentrations, including a newly launched cyber defense specialization and a supply chain management and logistics concentration.
AVERAGE NET PRICE: $9,252
In compiling this list of the best online colleges of 2020, reviewers considered multiple criteria including both objective and subjective data. Institutions received scores based on many factors, including student satisfaction rates, student retention rates, earning potential of graduates, applicant selectivity, and attendance cost.
In gauging student satisfaction levels, evaluators used resources such as PayScale and Rate My Professors. Retention rates drew on hard data and considered the percentage of students enrolled beyond their first year. Earning potential of graduates accounted for 30% of each school's total score, while the National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator tool provided insights into acceptance rates and affordability.