The best online colleges make higher education convenient and affordable.
Technology has paved the way for a much more convenient higher learning experience. The best online colleges make it easy to take courses no matter where you are, and even from the comfort of your home. All you need is a computer and internet access in order to finish your degree or get started on a new one, and many online programs let you learn at your own pace.
If you’re worried about not having any personal connection during your college experience, don’t be. The best online colleges connect you with professors and students via online chat, message boards, and other internet-based mediums.
Beyond having the ability to learn at home, online colleges can also be especially affordable, which can help prevent building up extravagant debt. Not only can you save money by not having to live on campus or drive back and forth to attend classes in-person, but some online schools with lower overhead are able to charge lower tuition and fees.
Best Online Colleges of 2021
Which online college should you choose? Selecting an online institution of higher education can be difficult unless you have plenty of time to research schools and their history, their offerings, and their accreditation standards. Fortunately, we did most of the research for you in this piece, separating the best online colleges from ones that offer inferior programming.
Before you apply for a web-based college program, consider this list of the best online schools of 2021:
- University of Florida
- University of Oklahoma
- Colorado State University Global
- Arizona State University
- Pennsylvania State University — World Campus
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Liberty University
University of Florida
The University of Florida lets students pursue valuable degrees in 21 different college majors from the comfort of their homes via UF Online. Like other top online colleges, the online degrees from this school are the exact same accredited UF degrees you would earn if you attended courses on campus instead.
Online bachelor’s degrees you can pursue from home include anthropology, business administration, computer science, health education, and nursing. The University of Florida is also renowned for offering surprisingly affordable tuition and fees, and even lower tuition for Florida residents. The school also promises to connect students with an array of student aid options that can make finishing your degree fit with your budget and lifestyle.
University of Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma is another reputable institution of higher education that is paving the way in terms of online degree opportunities. Undergraduate degrees offered online include organizational leadership, criminal justice, aviation, and more, but you can also pursue graduate studies in health and human services, human relations, international relations, and a variety of other career fields.
Also note that you can pursue a variety of engineering degrees through the school’s engineering school, Gallogly College of Engineering. Online options include civil engineering, data science and analytics, and environmental science. If you’re interested in attending a school that has proper accreditation and more than 100 years of tradition to share, the University of Oklahoma should be on your list.
Colorado State University Global
Colorado State University Global is another reputable institution of higher education with a robust online learning platform. Online bachelor’s degrees you can earn remotely range from computer science to project management and accounting. You can also pursue graduate studies in fields of interest such as information technology management, healthcare administration, and data analytics.
CSU Global consistently performs well in college quality rankings, and students can take advantage of the school’s tuition guarantee, meaning your tuition rate will be locked in from when you start classes as long as you remain an active student in good standing. You can study online and from wherever you happen to be, and financial aid is available for students who qualify.
Arizona State University
Arizona State University made our list due to the fact they offer more than 200 quality degree programs that can be completed entirely online. Online students earn the exact same degrees as ASU’s on-campus students, and you may be able to transfer some or all of your existing college credits to this institution.
Undergraduate degrees are offered in subjects such as business, language, and technology, but you can also pursue high-quality graduate degrees in career fields such as liberal students, law & public policy, and information systems & data analytics.
Pennsylvania State University — World Campus
Penn State World Campus is renowned for its online offerings and the quality of its virtual degree programs, and it’s easy to see why. This school is fully accredited like all schools on our list, and you can choose from more than 150 degrees and certificates offered in an online format.
The school currently boasts more than 14,000 online learners who are pursuing degrees in areas of study such as business administration, criminal justice, and accounting. Also note that Penn State World Campus offers online associate degree programs, which isn’t the case with all online universities.
Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University offers more than 200 career-focused online degree programs in areas of study like accounting and finance, business, technology, social science, and engineering. Online associate degrees are offered along with bachelor’s degrees, graduate degrees, and career-oriented certificate programs.
One feature that helps SNHU stand out is its affordable tuition rates, which are some of the lowest in the nation. Southern New Hampshire University’s online campus also offers an array of online learning tools and opportunities to connect, including an online library, tutoring, and 24/7 online tech support.
Finally, don’t forget to check out Liberty University and its high-quality online degree program. This school lets you choose from a broad range of associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, graduate degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees that are offered fully online. Programs are offered in an eight-week format with eight different start dates per year, so you aren’t tied down to traditional college quarters or school years, either.
Liberty claims you can transfer up to 75% of your college credits from another program and still earn one of their online bachelor’s degrees. Also note that you’ll qualify for a range of online support services including virtual tutorials, live webinars, study aids, tutoring, and an online library.
How We Picked the Best Online Colleges
The best online colleges stand out for a variety of reasons, but some of them are considerably more important than others. Here are the main factors we considered when compiling this list of the best online colleges of 2021.
Accreditation and Rankings
All the online colleges we’ve profiled are fully accredited, which is crucial if your goal is earning a degree you can use. Each of the schools on our list were also listed in various college quality rankings by third parties such as U.S. News and World Report.
If you’re considering earning an online degree, we strongly suggest you only consider schools that are regionally and/or nationally accredited and given high marks in ongoing college ranking studies.
We focused on affordability in our study since the cost of higher education is a huge factor for students. All the schools on our list offer college tuition for reasonable rates. Some schools that made our list even offer some of the most affordable tuition and fees available nationwide.
While all online schools were considered, we focused our efforts on colleges with a large selection of online degree programs. Online colleges that offer associate, undergraduate, and graduate degrees were given preference.
Finally, we looked for schools that offer a range of online support for students who might crave a personal connection while they’re completing their studies. Specifically, we looked for schools and programs that let students communicate through online chat, online tutoring, message boards, and virtual connection with college professors.
Benefits of Earning a Degree Online
If you’re on the fence about pursuing your degree online, it’s important to understand that virtual learning isn’t for everyone. Some students need to live on a college campus and attend classes in-person in order to stay on track, and there are also students who need in-person assistance and tutoring you can typically online get on-campus.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to choose an online degree over on-campus higher education. Here are the main benefits to consider as you decide on your next steps:
Earn the Same Degrees
The most important benefit to understand about online degrees is that, by and large, you’re earning the exact same degrees schools offer on-campus students. Once you graduate from college and start looking for a job, you’ll have the same piece of paper and education as any other student.
In other words, you don’t have to worry about your online degree holding you back from the career you want. Employers won’t know whether you earned your degree online or not, and they have no reason to care.
Choose from a Broader Range of Schools
Another benefit of online education is the fact that a broader range of schools become available to you. Where you once had to move to attend the college you wanted, online education has made it possible to earn nearly any degree from any school without ever leaving your home.
This means you can pursue higher education at a school thousands of miles away if they happen to offer the degree program you want at a price you can afford.
Maintain the Same Living Situation
Pursuing higher education at home comes with the unique benefit of being able to live at home, or to simply carry on with whatever your current living situation is. You don’t have to uproot your life to move to a college campus, nor do you have to pay outrageous prices to live in a tiny dorm. You can stay where you are, whether that’s at home with parents, with a partner, or in an apartment with friends.
Financial Aid is Available
Also, note that the same financial aid opportunities will be available to you whether you choose to pursue your degree online or at a physical college campus. All college students should fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form each year, which can help you see whether you qualify for scholarships, grants, or work-study programs.
You might also qualify for institutional aid depending on the school you choose and whether you meet their criteria.
Continue Working to Pay for School
Another huge benefit of online higher education is the fact that you don’t have to stop working to pay for your degree. This factor is crucial for parents who have kids to support and career professionals who want to earn a graduate degree in their spare time.
You can continue to work while you study during nights and weekends or around your schedule, which might even make it possible for you to pay for college as you go.
Study at Your Own Pace
Finally, keep in mind that some — but not all — online degree programs let you study at your own pace and complete your degree on your own timing. With self-paced programming, you can push through your degree program quickly to put it behind you or take your time and work through slowly as you stay on top of work and other responsibilities.
If you’re someone who likes to complete projects on your own time, looking for a self-paced online degree program can make a lot of sense.
The Bottom Line
If you’re considering higher education, you should explore the possibility of pursuing online learning opportunities. The coursework and degree programs are ultimately the same as their on-campus counterparts, yet you’ll have more freedom to live and study how you want along the way.
As you compare online schools, make sure to check whether your school is accredited and if they are listed under quality rankings by third party agencies. Also, make sure the schools you’re considering offer degree programs or certificates that fit with your area of interest. Finally, check online to find out about tuition and fees charges to in-state and out-of-state students so you can determine whether the online school you want to attend fits within your budget.
The best online college for you is one that offers the degree you want at a price you can afford. With enough research, you’re sure to find it.