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Best Online Universities and Colleges for Students

Jun 22

Best Online Universities and Colleges for Students

Many of the country's top-ranked colleges and universities allow students to earn online associate degrees, online bachelor's degrees, and online master's degrees. Our list ranks the best online colleges using a rigorous, student-centred methodology.

Why choose an online degree?

The flexibility of online colleges and universities appeals to students balancing school with personal and professional responsibilities. Online colleges offer convenient learning formats that often let students complete assignments on their own schedule without set login times for classes.

Additionally, online degrees allow learners to attend top-ranked programs around the country without relocating. Online students also typically save money on many of the expenses that on-campus students incur, such as housing and commuting costs. Plus, many online programs allow out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition rates.

Each online college and university listed below is a regionally accredited, nonprofit school offering a range of online degrees, including online associate degrees, online bachelor's degrees, online master's degrees, and online degree-completion programs. We strive to identify and review the top accredited online colleges to help you receive the best education possible.

Top 10 Best Online Colleges of 2020

  1. University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN
  2. University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
  3. University of Missouri Columbia, MO
  4. Arizona State University – ASU Online Tempe, AZ
  5. University of Massachusetts – Amherst Amherst, MA
  6. Indiana University – Bloomington Bloomington, IN
  7. The University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL
  8. University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM
  9. Oregon State University Corvallis, OR
  10. Ohio University Athens, OH

Online College Accreditation

What is Accreditation?

Academic accreditation functions as a seal of quality for online college programs just as it does for traditional on-campus programs. In the US, private non-profit accrediting organizations take on the task of accrediting schools by evaluating faculty, resources, curriculum, competency, and credibility. These impartial third-party organizations officially recognize accredited schools as providing reputable programs and degrees.

A degree from an accredited institution comes with the approval of and recognition from the US Department of Education, which means your degree will be recognized by other schools and future employers as being of good quality.

Why is Accreditation Important?

A degree from a non-accredited institution comes with the risk of potentially not being viewed as a "real" degree by other schools or employers. Many regionally accredited colleges and universities, like state universities, will not accept credits from nationally accredited schools. If you ever want to transfer credits or earn a graduate degree after attending a non-accredited school, you may have to redo coursework — not fun!

Bottom line: Regional accreditation is the gold standard in higher education. When seeking the best online education, you want to compare regionally accredited online schools.

Online College Ranking Methodology

Our ranking methodology includes a blend of data analysis and research (in areas such as academic excellence, the strength of faculty, reputation, affordability, and range of degree programs), as well as the combined professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board. All of the online colleges and universities listed are regionally accredited, nonprofit, and offer a range of online degree programs. Our goal is to identify and rank the best accredited online colleges available to ensure the greatest satisfaction among online students.

Using the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) for objective measures, plus years of accumulated information in our database, we’ve ranked schools based on the following.

  • Academic excellence (based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline)
  • Strength of faculty scholarship
  • Reputation
  • Tuition costs/financial aid
  • Range of online bachelor’s degree programs
  • Strength of online instruction


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