According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly three million students were finishing their undergraduate or graduate degree entirely online in 2015.
Inside HigherEd reported that this number continued to grow, and it is likely that it will still do so. This is likely due to several causes. First, many students are able to work full- or part-time while taking online classes because they can complete their coursework at their convenience.
Some classes and programs do require that students log in at a certain time for a live lecture, but many allow students to view these at their leisure. Distance education also sometimes helps students to finish more quickly depending on the length of a school's term.
When looking at online programs, students should first consider what services are most important to them. Some universities give students access to online tutoring services that can help with assignments. Others allow online students to use the facilities on-campus whenever they wish, and while this may not affect many students, it can be helpful for those who live in the same area but are not able to attend classes on-campus during the day or on a consistent basis due to professional obligations.
More often than not, online programs welcome their students to campus if students wish to utilize campus facilities. Most, if not all, programs also allow students to graduate with their on-campus peers when the time comes as well. With all of this in mind, check out the 25 Best Colleges Online 2020!
Best College Reviews provides degree rankings, such as the 25 Best Colleges Online 2020, from carefully researched data sets published from government and non-profit organizations across the United States. Five primary factors affect how we rank degrees:
- 25% Student Satisfaction
- 30% Earning Potential
- 15% Retention Data
- 20% Affordability
- 10% Acceptance Rates
For an in-depth breakdown of how we calculate each ranking, check out our Methodology page.
#25 EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY WORLDWIDE
DAYTONA BEACH, FL
Students can choose from more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. Embry-Riddle has over 125 worldwide campuses, giving students the opportunity to travel and explore in a location that best works for them. Some examples of locations include Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Because the school specializes in aviation and aerospace, it has built connections with partners like the Federal Aviation Association, NASA, the National Science Foundation and the United States Air Force, as well as other private industry corporations. Students can use this network to build their resume and eventually find jobs. They also have the flexibility to choose between in-person, online, and hybrid course deliveries. In terms of degrees, students can earn their bachelor's in fields like Aviation Business Administration, Homeland Security, Project Management, Engineering, and Communication, among many others. The university also has master's programs in similar fields.
#24 UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is located just 90 miles from Boston and 175 miles from New York City, offering students a rural collegiate experience with readily available access to two of the United States' urban centers. UMass Amherst is home to just about 30,500 undergraduate and graduate students, who come from all 50 U.S. states and 71 countries. The university promotes both scientific research and the arts, with both the Center for Data Science and the Fine Arts Center right on campus. Students can also choose from 104 degree programs, including areas of study like Management Information Systems, English, Public Administration, and Marketing. UMass Amherst is also an NCAA Division I institution, with former athletes now playing for teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Colorado Avalanche.
Tuition: $15,411 (In-State)/$33,477 (Out-of-State)
#23 UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT SPRINGFIELD
The University of Illinois at Springfield was founded in 1969 as Sangamon State University, but in 1995 it became a campus of the University of Illinois, taking the name it still holds today. The university has more than 35,000 alumni, offering 52 different degree programs, 23 of which can be completed online. The most popular majors at UIS are Computer Science, Business Administration, Psychology, Biology, and Criminology and Criminal Justice. The college also prides itself on its small class sizes and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. UIS is also an NCAA Division II school with baseball, soccer, tennis, basketball, golf, cross country, track and field, softball, and volleyball teams. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UIS as No. 4 in Top Public Schools, No. 25 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, No. 33 in Regional Universities Midwest, and No. 41 in Best Value Schools.
Tuition: $11,413 (In-State)/$20,938 (Out-of-State)
#22 UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY
Students can complete an undergraduate and/or graduate degree from Utah State University. It was founded in 1888, and USU has a student-to-faculty ratio of 21:1. The most popular majors at the university are Economics, Psychology, Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education, Mechanical Engineering, Human Movement Science, Biology, Elementary Education, and Computer Science. USU is also an NCAA Division I school, and its mascot is Big Blue the bull. There are 16 varsity teams, and their nickname is the "Aggies." With approximately, 27,932 students, there are alumni in all 50 states and in more than 110 countries. The school's online programs also have built up a strong reputation. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranked USU as No. 3 on its list of Best Online Graduate Education Programs and No. 15 in Best Online Bachelor's Programs. To be admitted to an undergraduate program, students should submit their online application, an application fee, and official test scores from the SAT or the ACT. For graduate students, students need to have a 3.0 GPA or higher GPA, three letters of recommendation, and a bachelor's degree.
Tuition: $7,870 (In-State)/$21,520 (Out-of-State)
#21 WESTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY
BOWLING GREEN, KY
Western Kentucky University was founded in 1906, and it offers associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. WKU also has a Silver rating from the Associate for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Approximately 20,000 students are enrolled at the university. The average class size is 24 students. In terms of online learning, WKU offers bachelor's and master's degrees in an online format. These programs include areas of study in Organizational Leadership, Biology, Engineering Technology Management, Health Sciences, and Sociology. Students can also utilize the Online Writing Center, Online Tutoring, and Career Services, allowing them to find support remotely. As a whole, the university has 23 USA conference championships, and members of the community have completed 4,000 hours of community service each year.
Tuition: $10,202 (In-State)/$25,512 (Out-of-State)
#20 LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO
One of 27 Jesuit universities in the United States, Loyola University Chicago was founded in 1870 as St. Ignatius College. It is also home to approximately 17,000 students, and despite this enrollment, it still maintains smaller class sizes with a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The university has over 150,000 alumni, 85,000 of which live in Chicago. For students looking to complete their degree online, they can choose from majors like Applied Criminal Justice Leadership, Applied Psychology, Information Technology, and Management. Loyola Chicago also has an online registered nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program as well as 16 master's programs and three doctoral degrees. All courses are taught by faculty members who have experience teaching in an online program, and the university provides support services for students online to help them succeed in their coursework. The school also holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, the American Bar Association, the Council on Social Work Education, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, among others.
#19 WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY
Washington State University emphasizes its history as a land grant institution that wishes to promote service to society. There are 96 majors for undergraduate students, and 80 master's degree programs in addition to the 64 options for doctorates at WSU. Students can also earn their degree online, choosing from 19 different undergraduate degrees and 12 graduate degrees. These include majors like Accounting, Economics, English, History, Integrated Strategic Communication, and Psychology. Many of those working toward a degree through WSU's Global Campus are working professionals. If students want to engage with their peers, there are virtual clubs, meet-ups, a student government, and live webinars that enhance the online learning experience. WSU's school colors are crimson and gray, and the mascot is Butch T. Cougar. Students have come from 48 states and 98 countries to study at WSU, and there are now more than 200,000 alumni.
Tuition: $11,391 (In-State)/$25,817 (Out-of-State)
#18 INDIANA UNIVERSITY-PURDUE UNIVERSITY INDIANAPOLIS
Indiana University-Purdue University began as two separate institutions, but these merged to form IUPUI in 1969, together prioritizing research in a city setting. Within the university, there are 17 schools, offering over 450 academic programs. Bachelor's programs include Applied Science, Business Administration, Communication Studies, Health Information Administration, History, and Nursing. IUPUI also emphasizes experiential learning, giving students a chance to take what they are learning out of the classroom and into the field. Almost 9,000 students are enrolled in an online program, and over 2,500 online classes are offered each semester. The coursework is designed so that students can work on their assignments based on their schedules. The graduate nursing program at IUPUI has also been ranked at No. 23 on U.S. News & World Report's Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs list.
Tuition: $9,334 (In-State)/$29,806 (Out-of-State)
#17 TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
With just under 39,000 students, Texas Tech University has a hearty enrollment, and many graduates have received Fulbright fellowships and Goldwater Scholarships both during and after their time at the institution. Students can choose from one of 150 undergraduate programs, 100 graduate degrees, and 50 doctoral degrees when considering their course of study, with majors spanning across the fields of media and communication, the arts, business, and the sciences. Some examples of online fields of study include Communication Studies; Human Sciences; Wind Energy; and Restaurant, Hotel, and Institutional Management. For those studying online, Texas Tech ensures that students receive the same education that they would on campus. Online students also have access to the Texas Tech University library system, and they can work with a personal librarian to get access to whatever materials they might need for their classes.
Tuition: $8,860 (In-State)/$18,652 (Out-of-State)
#16 UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
Interestingly, the University of Arizona came before the state of Arizona itself, having been founded in 1885, long before the state was established in 1912. At the university, students can choose from a wide variety of bachelor's, master's, and graduate certificate programs. Fields of study include Administration of Justice, Africana Studies, Business Administration, and Electrical and Computer Engineering. Students utilize a tool called VoiceThread to allow them to leave voice comments on assignments and lectures, making them more interactive and individualized when faculty members give feedback. Students also have access to libraries and tutoring services to help them to succeed in their coursework.
Tuition: $11,877 (In-State)/$35,307 (Out-of-State)
#15 UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
At the University of Florida, students can earn their degrees in fields like Criminology, Digital Arts and Sciences, Environmental Management, Nursing, Sports Management, and Psychology online. Bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees are all available online. Students can also engage with their peers and faculty members at regular events in Gainesville as well as through Gator Clubs, which are opportunities for students to network at events around the world. Some are even more fun, like football and basketball viewing parties, encouraging students to feel like they are Florida Gators. With 400,000 alumni across the world, it is easy for students to connect with another UF student no matter where they are. Students can start their studies at the beginning of the summer, fall, and spring semesters, each of which has a different application deadline.
Tuition: $3,876 (In-State)/$16,580 (Out-of-State)
#14 UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA
The University of Georgia endeavors to provide quality education to those who may not be able to otherwise access it because of work or personal conflicts; UGA's online programs provide the flexibility for students to do so, at both the bachelor's and master's level. Students utilize the e-Learning Commons to access their coursework. Instructors in these programs are also more than willing to help students to access and understand their material. Students can pick from programs like the Bachelor of Science in Special Education, the Master of Fine Arts in Narrative Media Writing, and the Master of Education in Learning, Design, & Technology. At the start of each program, students are connected with their advisors, whom they are able to work with on ensuring that they are on track to graduate and are completing coursework at a pace that works well with their lifestyles.
Tuition: $11,818 (In-State)/$30,392 (Out-of-State)
#13 UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
The online programs at the University of Arkansas have earned much acclaim from U.S. News & World Report, placing at No. 13 in Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans and No. 18 in Best Online Bachelor's Programs overall. Students in these online programs are given the flexibility to finish their degree at a pace that works best with their lives. At UA, online students pay in-state tuition. The university also offers self-paced online courses in additional traditional semester-based classes. Self-paced courses allow students to move through the coursework at their own speed. Finally, when students finish their degree, they are treated the same as an on-campus student, and all graduates of the University of Arkansas are carved into the Senior Walk, which is a set of sidewalks into which more than 175,000 alumni have their names carved. This tradition is over a hundred years old, beginning with the class of 1876.
Tuition: $9,062 (In-State)/$24,308 (Out-of-State)
#12 UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA WILMINGTON
At the University of North Carolina Wilmington, students can opt to complete their online coursework in one of three ways. First is the traditional online program, in which students take their coursework entirely online. In this format, students take both asynchronous and synchronous classes. Asynchronous means that assignments and lectures can be watched based on a flexible schedule, while synchronous indicates that students will have to log in at certain times for virtual lectures. Students can also finish their degree in a hybrid format, in which some classes are taken on-campus. Lastly, there is an onsite option in which students and their faculty members meet at sites that are off-campus for their coursework. Sites include Coastal Carolina Community College and the Marine Corps Base Camp at Lejeune. Options for degrees include both bachelor's and master's, and students can pick from fields of study like Clinical Research, International Studies, Exercise Science, and Nursing.
Tuition: $7,000 (In-State)/$21,065 (Out-of-State)
#11 UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA
The University of Oklahoma Extended Campus has been providing students access to distance education since 1961, allowing students to freely express themselves, pursue their academic interests, and progress in their career no matter their location. UO offers bachelor's and master's degrees in addition to a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies: Organizational Leadership. Examples of the bachelor's and master's fields of study include Museum Studies, Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum, Aviation, and Lifespan Care Administration. To be admitted to an undergraduate program, students must submit an application, and they should have already completed 24 credit hours of college coursework. It is also recommended that students have a 2.0 GPA. They can choose to start at five different points throughout the year.
Tuition: $11,538 (In-State)/$26,919 (Out-of-State)
#10 UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS LOWELL
Over 25,000 students are enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Lowell's online programs. Students looking to complete their studies online can choose from 60 programs. UMass Lowell allows students to finish certificates, bachelor's, and master's degrees, choosing from disciplines that include Education, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Business, and Information Technology. The university also has certificates in Java Development, Paralegal Studies, Security Management & Homeland Security, and Website Design & Development. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the university at No. 5 in Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs, No. 6 in Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs for Veterans, and No. 25 in Best Online Bachelor's Programs.
Tuition: $14,800 (In-State)/$31,865 (Out-of-State)
#9 GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
At George Washington University, students can become citizen leaders, per the university's mission, without ever stepping foot on campus. They are able to earn degrees of all levels at GW, from associate's to doctoral. There are many fields in which students can complete their degree, including Business Administration, Health Sciences, Clinical and Translational Research, Nursing, International Policy and Practice, and Cybersecurity Policy & Compliance. While working on their coursework, students are able to take advantage of the GW VPN, which connects them directly to GW's network. WebEx is also a helpful web conferencing platform so that students can still have effective group meetings even from miles away. Students also have access to the GW library, and they are able to have books sent to their homes if they are conducting research.
#8 UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA BIRMINGHAM
The University of Alabama Birmingham offers three formats through which students can graduate with their degree. The first is entirely online, in which students never need to come to campus to complete their coursework. The next is the distance-accessible format, which is primarily online, though there are a few on-campus requirements. Lastly, students can work toward their degree in a blended format in which half of their coursework is online and half is completed in person. At UAB, students can study Accounting, Community Health, Finance, Marketing, Psychology, and several other disciplines to earn either their bachelor's or their master's degree. UAB also allows students to complete a minor online so that they are able to complement their curriculum with an additional area of interest. UAB is also accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and is a member of the Online Learning Consortium.
Tuition: $8,328 (In-State)/$19,032 (Out-of-State)
#7 FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
Florida International University is one of the largest universities in the United States with almost 54,000 students. Because of this size, the school has built up a network of over 200,000 alumni. Additionally, once in a program, students are connected with a success coach to help progress through their programs, and they can also take advantage of tutoring services to assist them with difficult concepts or to read through an assignment before handing it in to their professor. They can also take part in the Academy of Leaders, which is a leadership development certification program so that students are able to grow their leadership and management skills. This can add to a student's resume and prepare them further for graduation. Lastly, students can complete their bachelor's or master's degree in Asian Studies, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Hospitality Management.
Tuition: $6,556 (In-State)/$18,954 (Out-of-State)
#6 UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
The University of Central Florida emphasizes a positive learning experience that is customized for each student and is flexible so that students can work full-time and advance toward their degree. UCF offers over 80 programs that can be finished online, and they are taught by the same faculty members who teach classes on campus. Students in these programs benefit from online tutors and academic advising, as well as from the community that is built in each online class. The top five majors for undergraduate degrees are Psychology, Nursing, Health Services Administration, Criminal Justice, and English, while the most popular programs for graduate students are Social Work, Nursing, Healthcare Informatics, Nonprofit Management, and Criminal Justice. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UCF as No. 14 in Best Online Bachelor's Programs and No. 16 in Most Innovative Schools.
Tuition: $6,368 (In-State)/$22,467 (Out-of-State)
#5 UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO
The University of Illinois at Chicago ensures that its online degree and certificate offerings are flexible but do not compromise the integrity of a UIC education. Students can earn their Bachelor of Business Administration, Master of Public Health in Community Health Sciences, and Master of Science in Patient Safety Leadership, among others. UIC also provides support for these courses by ensuring that students can get technical assistance. They also have tutorials to walk students through the online learning platform. Students can access their course materials at their convenience, and most courses include online discussions and assignments. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UIC as No. 5 in Best Online Bachelor's Programs.
Tuition: $13,704 (In-State)/$26,560 (Out-of-State)
#4 OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
Oregon State University offers more than 65 programs online, building on its tradition of academic integrity and success since 1868. There are over 1,300 online courses to choose from, and students can even add a minor to their online degree program. Certificates are also available. Some of the undergraduate programs include Economics; Human Development and Family Sciences; Psychology; and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. OSU also offers both doctorates and master's degrees in fields that include Data Analytics, Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, Business Administration, and Radiation Health Physics. In all of these programs, the university endeavors to bring material to life through its eCampus. Students can utilize a virtual microscope lab, animations, and augmented reality technology to better understand the material in their classes. Oregon State also follows a quarter-term system, which offers four start dates throughout the year.
Tuition: $10,967 (In-State)/$29,457 (Out-of-State)
#3 SUNY Buffalo
Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a State University of New York institution. It is a member of the Association of American Universities. Students are able to earn their degree in a number of different formats, choosing to come on campus for classes if they would like but without needing to if they want the flexibility of working on their coursework remotely. There are both masters and doctoral options for degrees. Some of the programs that UB offers include a Master of Science in School Librarianship, a Ph.D. in Information Science, and a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling, among many others. There is also an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program that is entirely online, allowing students to further their studies in nursing to earn their bachelor's; the program was created to help students keep in accordance with New York's law that registered nurses must go on for their BSN within ten years of licensure.
Tuition: $9,828 (In-State)/$29,696 (Out-of-State)
#2 THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
The Ohio State University makes its online programs accessible to all by allowing students in their programs to pay in-state tuition regardless of their location. All campus fees are also waived for online students, and students are eligible for a variety of scholarships and financial aid opportunities. Each course offered online is also designed with the knowledge that many of OSU's students are working on a full- or part-time basis. All students are assigned an advisor to help guide them through their program. Students can also take advantage of the Center for the Study of Teaching and Writing, which offers online sessions. OSU also allows its online students to study abroad in several different countries.
#1 ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
U.S. News & World Report has ranked Arizona State University as No. 1 in Most Innovative Schools, No. 9 in First-Year Experience, and No. 2 in Best Online Bachelor's Programs, among other top ten rankings for its graduate business, criminal justice, and engineering programs. U.S. News has also given ASU favorable rankings in terms of suitability for veterans. In total, ASU has over 200 online degree programs, and 87% of graduates have a job offer within three months of graduation. Students can also choose from six start dates per year, making it easy to begin their degree at a time of the year that works best for them. Interestingly, ASU is also home to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which allows eligible partners to get a scholarship to help their tuition. Students can also be reimbursed for any tuition costs not covered by need-based aid. Once at ASU, students can utilize tutoring services and will work with an academic advisor to support their pursuit of academic success.