Home » Best Online Schools: List of Accredited Online Colleges & Universities

Best Online Schools: List of Accredited Online Colleges & Universities

Our compiled list of accredited schools and colleges includes more than 36,834 completely online degrees. These degrees include associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels. All these online schools and colleges are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Their average annual tuition is $24,634. All the higher education degrees are offered by the schools. You can easily find more detailed information about that on the accredited schools’ and colleges’ websites. The schools and colleges we’ve recommended are based on data collected by former students and verified online student reviews. To help future students make the best possible career choices, we’ve offered rankings for the best online colleges. 

In this guide, you’ll find a pool of information ranging from how to get a degree online, to accreditation, applying to a school, and getting financial aid for online college students. 

Affordable SchoolsNon-Profit SchoolsMilitary-Friendly Schools
California Coast UniversityAbilene Christian UniversityGeorgia State University
Shiloh UniversityAdams State UniversityUniversity of Arizona
Columbia Southern UniversityAdelphi UniversityNorwich University
Western Governors UniversityAlbany State UniversityIndiana University – Bloomington
Kansas Christian CollegeAlvernia UniversityUniversity of Alabama

Best Online Schools by Degree Level

Best College for Associate DegreesBest College for Bachelor’s DegreesBest College for Master’s DegreesBest College for Doctoral Degrees
Excelsior CollegeUniversity of VirginiaFordham UniversityJohn Hopkins University
Columbia Southern UniversityNortheastern UniversityUniversity of California – BerkeleyUniversity of Southern California
Southern New Hampshire University OnlineCapella UniversityJohn Hopkins UniversityUniversity of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Campus
Weber State UniversityExcelsior UniversityNorthwestern UniversityUniversity of Wisconsin – Madison
Thomas Edison State UniversitySUNY Empire State CollegeColumbia University in the City of New YorkRush University

Top Accredited Online Universities

1. California Coast University

California Coast University or CCU offers an online study program that includes 13 undergraduate degree programs, 14 graduate degree programs, and 16 certificate or diploma programs. 

The completely accredited, and online degree and certificate programs have no fixed times or group projects. As the course is fully online, students don’t need to come to campus or take exams based on a fixed schedule. The university has a low tuition fee for both undergraduate and graduate programs. The best part is that you can access interest-free payment plans starting at just $100 per month. 

Students can prepare themselves for a variety of professions based on getting degrees in business administration, criminal justice, healthcare administration, education, and general studies. There’s no fixed period for completing the degree. The time varies widely because CCU offers self-paced programs, you have flexibility as long as you complete one course every six months.

Based on online student reviews, our recommendation rate for this university is 90%. CCU also offers academic credit if you want work experience or training for professionals who’re looking to get an undergraduate degree. 

2. Columbia Southern University

Columbia Southern University or CSU offers a wide array of study modules for students. You can choose from 28 online undergraduate degrees and 12 online graduate degrees. You can find some programs that span across several levels. Some primary examples include AS, BS, and MS in Criminal Justice, or a BA, MA, and doctorate in Business administration. 

We went through over 150 online student reviews, and based on the feedback, our recommendation for Columbia Southern University is 75%. Unlike CCU, CSU offers just 3 schedule tracks to provide maximum time flexibility for the students.

CSU also offers a Veterans Flexible Enrollment Program, which is similar to term enrollment but only available to students using Veterans Administration education benefits. The tuition is a bit hefty, it costs $225 per credit hour for undergraduates and $300 per credit hour for graduate courses. This fee also includes textbooks. CSU has also partnered with more than 2,000 organizations throughout the USA to offer a 10% tuition fee discount for working individuals. 

3. Georgia State University

Georgia State University (GSU) also offers online learning programs including associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels. A lesser-known accredited online college. The majority of the programs contain associate and master’s degree levels, with 21 associate and 14 master’s programs. 

In the online learning format, GSU also offers seven certificates that allow individuals to earn professional credentials, one bachelor’s degree, and one doctoral program. Students can choose either a fully online program or a hybrid program as per their needs. Some programs offer students complete flexibility in choosing to come to campus or to learn remotely. 

Georgia State University offers several other education options for students with specific professional goals such as becoming teachers, or educators. They can follow this dream by pursuing an associate degree in secondary and special education and master’s degrees in educational research, science education, and teaching English as a second language. 

The online master’s degree from GSU offers the student with the greatest level of flexibility, especially for working professionals with hectic schedules. Georgia State University is also one of the best military-friendly online colleges you can find throughout the nation. 

4. Iowa Central Community College

Iowa Central Community College commonly known as ICCC has 9 flexible and affordable online associate learning programs in the field of criminal justice, healthcare administration, and accounting. 

All the online courses start on six dates throughout the year, with two 8-week class schedules making up one semester. Each program takes almost 2 years to complete if a full-time student takes two classes at the same time. Students also get access to support to make sure students’ success rate is high. ICCC also offers a unique tutoring service through a program known as Smarthinking. The school’s Online Enrollment Representatives offer academic advising for the duration of the program picked by the student. 

Moreover, students can consult the Iowa Central Career Services for internships and job postings, networking options, and career coaching options. The counseling service can advise students on how to continue their higher education levels. Tuition is $315 per credit hour + $30 per credit hour for renting e-books. Students can even rent computers and other needed hardware. As ICCC is accredited online, students can apply for federal financial aid alongside some state grants for Iowa residents. 

5. Norwich University

Norwich University (NU) offers 9 online bachelor’s programs and 15 online master’s degrees spanning over several specialized concentrations. Based on online student feedback, the university gets a 71% recommendation from us. NU is one of the oldest private military colleges in the United States, and their dedication to service members has made them one of the Top Military-Friendly Online colleges. 

Two of the bachelor’s degree programs are available only to selected members of the military and intelligence communities. These courses are:

  • BS in National Security Studies
  • BS in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis

Other famous programs that they offer are degrees in criminal justice, business administration, and computer science and information systems. Norwich has designed the programs so that a student can take only one program at the same time and most students can complete their degrees in 18-24 months. 

Tuition rates aren’t fixed and the prices vary based on the program you choose and active-duty military members receive discounts on undergraduate tuition rates. NU also offers students with advisers, distance learning librarians, a technical support team, and a Graduate Writing Center for help. 

6. Park University

Park University (Park) offers one of the biggest ranges of online learning modules. They offer 54 undergraduate degrees and 50 master’s degrees online. Some of their most famous programs include a master’s degree in business administration, two bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice administration, and a certificate program in public accounting. 

We give Park University a recommendation rate of 75% based on 20+ online reviews we found. All the courses have an 8-week term, with 5 starting dates throughout the year, thus offering a little bit of flexibility. Most full-time students take up 2 courses at a time and can access all course materials at their convenience. The one limitation of degrees is that the learning isn’t self-paced, students have to meet assignment deadlines.

The annual tuition for online undergraduate students is $11,572 and $5,917 for online graduate students. Park University does try to help out the students to a great extent by offering support services for online learning, remote tutoring, access to online research databases, mentoring programs, and job-search help. 

7. Southern New Hampshire University Online

The Southern New Hampshire University Online or SNHU has an even larger collection of programs than Park. Students can choose from 8 associate degrees, 99 bachelor’s degrees, and 86 master’s degrees. Students can choose to study in several fields ranging from businesses to criminal justice to liberal arts to education. Based on student feedback, our recommendation level is 64% for SNHU. 

SNHU offers students a generous transfer policy that allows students to apply up to 90 credits for an undergraduate program. The starting dates for online learning programs are spread throughout the calendar year, and all the courses are self-learning based. SHNU Online also offers student resources to make the learning process easier for online students. These resources include an online library, bookstore, tutoring service, and tech support. 

8. University of Arizona

The University of Arizona (UA) has several accredited online degree programs for potential students to choose from. There are learning options spanning across every level, with 53 bachelor’s and 99 master’s degrees, 6 doctorates, and 43 certificate programs. Some of the most prominent and most chosen fields are business administration, cyber operations, engineering management, special education, and public health. 

UA is a highly ranked university on several platforms and it’s famous for low tuition fees and high mid-career salaries for graduates. Some of the highest-paying programs at UA are geographic information systems, environmental science, and nursing.

UA was ranked number 2 in the list of military-friendly online schools in 2020 across the USA. Students with a tight budget and a need for quality education should definitely give UA a try. Classes start every 7.5 weeks and they have a pay-per-credit tuition model. The rates are similar for all the students enrolled in the same program. In addition to the federal financial aid, students transferring from community colleges in Arizona can also apply for the Bridge Scholarship to reduce costs. 

Moreover, their huge network of support for students includes academic advisers, tutors, coaches, and alumni mentors. 

9. University of California – Berkeley

The University of California – Berkeley more famously known as UC Berkeley has a highly reputed accredited online learning program. The UC Berkeley offers 61 distance-learning certificates for students, spanning over several fields including professional writing, paralegal studies, web design, and accounting. 

Graduate students looking to pursue a Master’s can apply for degrees in:

  • Information and cybersecurity
  • Information and data science
  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Public health and many more.

In 2020, UC Berkeley earned the top ranking for “Best Online Master’s Public Health Degrees”. Students can rely on synchronous and asynchronous learning and seek aid from top faculty members and alumni mentors. 

Most of the online learning programs offer 3 different tracks for flexibility, this time frame ranges between 12-32 months. 

10. University of Virginia

Online learning programs at the University of Virginia (UVA) are known to provide a great return on investment for several students. UVA offers some of the top-rated online learning programs. The University’s online Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies offers 12 available concentrations and a high tuition-to-salary ratio for alumni.

Some of the top-rated online master’s degrees from UVA include:

  • Master’s in Data Science
  • Chemical
  • Electrical
  • Aerospace Engineering

The School of Education and Human Development offers a huge number of online graduate degree programs. This includes a doctorate in curriculum and instruction with 5 potential specializations, and several other master’s degree and certificate programs. 

Working educators get discounts on tuition rates on these programs, and all students can try to get financial aid and other methods to make the program more affordable. Most of the UVA’s online courses are asynchronous, with recorded lectures so students can self-learn. The course schedules on the other hand follow the on-campus semester timeline, and online students need to complete the same assignments and other requirements as offline students. 

11. Waldorf University

Waldorf University students can choose from 15 associate degrees, 86 bachelor’s degrees, and 17 master’s degrees including criminal justice, public relations, emergency management, and more. 

The healthcare management program is one of the most comprehensive ones, containing all 3-degree levels and featuring 4 specializations for master’s students. Waldorf also offers the opportunity to get online certificates for extra credentials in specific fields such as homeland security, human resources, and occupational safety. Waldorf offers a certain level of flexibility to students as courses start on six different terms throughout the year. Each online learning program lasts 8 weeks. 

Waldorf has a stunningly high recommendation rate, standing at a whopping 95% based on student feedback. The school has a special program named “Start Point” that allows students aged 15 or older to enroll in online learning programs while still studying in high school. 

The tuition is on a pay-per-credit basis and it costs $290 per college credit hour students can access all the textbooks for free via the Waldorf Grant and Loan-a-Book program. As Waldorf is regionally accredited, students can also apply for federal financial student aid. 

12. Weber State University

Weber State University or WSU has a number of accredited degree programs for online students. Online students can choose from 4 associate degrees, 16 bachelor’s degrees, 4 master’s degrees, and 2 certificate programs. 

Tech-loving students can apply for the Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science program, which is one of the highest-rated programs offered by the university. The Dumke College of Health Professions is also well-reputed in WSU’s online education programs, including a 4-year bachelor’s degree. 

Students who don’t wish to restrict themselves can choose the interdisciplinary program leading to a Bachelor of Integrated Studies degree, selecting 3 out of the 7 areas of emphasis that offer online classes. 

Some online learning programs follow the semester schedule of the Weber State campus, while other programs offer a self-paced learning experience. Financial aid is available for students, regardless of the type of learning program they’ve picked. Although the application process for financial aid may be different for online students and in-person students. 

Earning a Degree Online

While the mindset regarding getting a college degree is changing, there are still many benefits of earning a college degree. Getting a degree online can help you get high-paying jobs, more benefits, and more security regarding the future. But as the tuition costs across the country are on a rise, most students find it hard to get a college degree. 

In the last 3 decades, the virtual learning landscape has changed a lot. Students all over the globe have been investing time and money into online learning. Especially in the last 2 years the pandemic around the world has put online learning in overdrive. Although, it’s not clear if this growth in the online learning industry will be permanent or not.

According to some data from a survey in 2018, 14% of undergraduate students and 31% of master’s students were pursuing their degrees completely online. 

Number of Accredited Online Colleges in USA

Based on data, 10% of all colleges in the US are completely online and 34% of colleges in the USA offer completely online courses. A 2019 report suggests that online education is on an upward trajectory and will keep on growing. However, it’s not yet known that the rise in the number of online courses because of the coronavirus pandemic will remain a permanent part of school education and college education. 

Is It Possible to Go to College Completely Online?

Several colleges and universities offer completely online courses spanning almost every possible field. Students can also choose hybrid programs, meaning that students can choose to come to campus or study online completely. You can get almost every level of college degree online such as associate level, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, as well as shorter certificate and diploma programs. There are also accelerated programs that allow students to earn their degrees faster.

If you’re interested in a fully online college degree, you’ll be able to find there are tons of subjects you can study. Online bachelor’s degrees are available in many popular fields, such as business, psychology, biology, and communications. Some courses have specific majors, such as social work, nursing, and other health fields are good examples. They require students to conduct in-person learning with the supervision of an approved professional. Many schools feature fieldwork coordinators who help online students make arrangements to complete the specialization courses at locations near their homes. 

Which Colleges are Fully Online?

There are several colleges out there that are just online and have no brick-and-mortar (physical) campuses. Some of the biggest examples of these are:

  • California Coast University
  • Grantham University
  • Siloh University

All of these colleges also rank high in the list of affordable online colleges. You can also find colleges that have switched over to completely new methods. These institutions include:

  • University of Phoenix
  • Southern New Hampshire University

Other major colleges that have started a separate section for online degree programs include:

  • Purdue University Global
  • University of Arizona Global Campus

Some of these colleges are non-profit while others are for-profit, but all the schools are accredited online colleges. 

Can You Start Online College Anytime?

This is one of the biggest concerns for students looking for online colleges. The short answer is that start dates depend on the college of your choice. Some colleges offer exclusive online programs and they operate on a different schedule from offline colleges. Usually, most colleges offer short terms of 4-8 weeks that run throughout the years with many starting dates. Thanks to the unique schedule, these schools can accept applications and accept students throughout the year. Which is great for students who are also working individuals and have a hectic schedule. New students are then given the starting dates for the next term, which usually start in the next few months. 

Other schools that operate both online and in-person, follow the common semester study model. Students who apply to these colleges may have to wait for months to hear back from the college regarding their applications. Newly enrolled students may have to wait till the start of a new semester to start studying.

How Much Time Do Online Programs Take?

One of the biggest misconceptions regarding online colleges is that they take less time and don’t require as much effort as an in-person college. While it is true that online students don’t have a fixed lecture schedule, they still have to devote a particular amount of time each week to their studies. 

According to data, a general undergraduate, three-credit online course will need at least 8 hours per week. This may also include reading assignments, research, and submitting papers. There can be other homework assignments as well that need a fixed schedule.

How Do I Know If an Online College is Accredited?

If you’re looking to start learning via an online degree program, then you’ll want to make sure that the college has been accredited by a government-recognized agency. This is the primary sign that the school is legitimate. All the schools that we’ve mentioned on our website are accredited by legit agencies. 

During your research, you may come across several schools that aren’t accredited, but try to trick students. These schools try to disguise themselves among the legit schools, but most of them are accredited by a fake agency that’s not approved by the US government. Other signs of fake institutions include:

  • Easy to obtain degrees for flat fees
  • Lack of detailed information about programs
  • No information about financial aid and student support

Is an Online Degree Recognized by Employers?

As more and more students are turning towards virtual learning and respected colleges globally offering online courses, employers have now started accepting the value of online degrees. Online bachelor’s, master’s, and associate degrees are considered equal to traditional degrees. Ph.D. students may still face some scrutiny, but times are surely changing. 

If you earn your degree from a college that only offers online programs, hiring managers may not even know that you earned the degree online. Colleges that only offer online courses provide degrees that don’t state whether the programs are delivered online. 

What Is the Best Accreditation for Online Colleges?

When choosing online colleges or a university, institutional accreditation comes from a regional agency or a national agency. Regional accreditation is the preferred type, this indicates that a school has met the highest possible academic standards. However, as there are several online schools around the US, they often try to find accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). If you don’t know, DEAC is a nationally recognized agency. DEAC was founded in 1926 to review initial forms of distance learning, DEAC is recognized as an official accrediting agency by the U.S government. 

Apart from institutional accreditation, a lot of colleges have earned accreditation for just specific online programs. If students want to be eligible for federal and state financial aid programs, they need to pursue degrees from accredited programs. The difference between institutional and programmatic accreditation can also act as a factor when obtaining a license or credentials for a certain job. 

Students need to think carefully about the college and university programs before they enroll in a program. 

Process of Applying to an Online School

In general, the admissions requirements and applications are mostly similar to on-campus applications. To start your application program, you need to submit an online application, either directly through the school’s website or using the universal college application portal. Most colleges charge an application fee, the range of fees is between $25 – $90. Some schools only charge the fee if you’re accepted, and some don’t ask for any type of application fee for low-income students. 

After you submit the application, you’ll be given some time to submit the rest of the requirements. If you’re applying for an associate, bachelor’s degree program, additional items include:

  • High school or GED records
  • SAT or ACT test scores (not required at all schools)
  • One or more letters of recommendation from former teachers or other adults
  • A personal essay or statement

Are There Free Online Colleges?

If you just Google about free online colleges and universities, you’ll find several options. Before you find a program and sign up, we advise that you go through the terms and conditions carefully. Even schools that offer free online courses have other types of fees that are usually referred to as enrollment fees, assessment fees, and other different fees that make up for the cost of offering the degree for free. The complete fee at the end may be equal or more to other accredited affordable online colleges.

Should You Choose Online Education?

Attending colleges online can be an ideal choice for a lot of students. One 2019 survey including current and ex-online students suggests that over 80% of all students claim that getting their degree online was worth the time and money. 

Virtual learning offers students the flexibility to get a college education as per their time and preference. Online learning also provides students with an opportunity to find a program that is best for achieving their goals. Based on the type of program you choose, online education can allow students to earn their degrees faster and find the jobs of their preferences sooner. 

Despite the many positive qualities, online college isn’t for everyone. The students who thrive on in-person connections and study better with their peers may not pick an online college. Many younger college students want to experience life on their own by going to college. There they can build new friendships, earn life skills and become self-sufficient. 

If you’re thinking about getting an online college degree, you should first get an idea of what it offers first. There are several short-term programs that you can take to get a feel of the program. You can spend limited time and effort, you’ll get a clear idea of how well you perform under an online learning model and if online learning is ideal for you.

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