Regionally accredited online colleges and universities have exploded in popularity in the past couple decades. Many offer open enrollment, offer credit for professional or military experience, and allow students to study at their own pace, making online programs an attractive alternative to traditional two- and four-year institutions. Depending on the institution, students can study for associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as professional certification.
Whether you’re planning to complete a degree you began years ago or want to attend for the first time, this guide to online colleges can help you narrow your options. Some are online extensions of prestigious public and state institutions such as Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts, while others are online-only. All are regionally accredited, the most widely accepted form of accreditation in the United States.
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American InterContinental University is a regionally accredited college system with six campuses, both in the United States and abroad. Its virtual division, AIU Online, offers accelerated associate, bachelor, and master degrees.
A.T. Still University of Health Sciences has built its online program on the strength of practical healthcare disciplines for college graduates. Distance learning revolves around a quarter system, enabling attendees to earn a master’s degree in 1.5 years (at the rate of two classes per quarter) in Still’s Arizona School of Health Sciences.
Baker College Online bills itself as a career-focused college. While the school’s Blackboard system is online 24 hours a day for students to listen to lectures, discuss content, and complete assignments, the school sets regular deadlines for students to get the work done.
Bellevue University Online offers liberal arts and vocation-focused programs year-round, with all-day online access. Students can take classes, discuss lessons and complete research, earning a degree at their leisure within a prescribed timeframe.
Originally founded as Chicago’s St. Procopius College in 1887, Benedictine is now an academically diverse university located in Lisle, Ill. The online branch offers graduate degrees geared toward professionals who are serious about advancing their careers, so the admission standards and tuition are both fairly high.
When studying at Boston University Online, students can complete the coursework at their own speed, as long as they meet deadlines designed to push them along at an acceptable pace. Dedicated students usually have enough time to take two courses per semester, one course after the other.
Bryant and Stratton, a workplace-focused college, has distilled more than 150 years of teaching experience into its online program. Students use software called TopClass to navigate the 7.5-week classes, all conducted in a virtual classroom.
While Champlain College Online touts the flexibility it offers in its career-focused online education, the college says students should be willing to dedicate 13 to 14 hours per week to classes and doing assignments. Distance-learning classes are spread over six sessions per year.
The California University of Pennsylvania, part of Pennsylvania’s public higher-education system, launched its Global Online campus in 2004. The university offers a variety of online master’s degrees and certifications as well as two undergraduate programs.
With over 20,000 students enrolled and over 100 online degree programs to choose from, Capella University is one of the largest for-profit alternative learning colleges in the nation. Students may transfer previous credit from college courses and certification programs.
Eastern Kentucky offers degree and certificate programs in nearly two dozen fields of study, including homeland security. EKU was named one of the best online bachelor’s degree programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2018.
Blended distance-learning supports Cambridge College’s mission to reach out to working adults. The school offers courses both in-person and online and has branch campuses in California, Massachusetts, and Puerto Rico.
Charter Oak State College is one of the “big three” non-traditional colleges offering flexible degree completion opportunities. Charter Oak allows students to earn personally-tailored degrees by transferring credits from regionally accredited schools, taking exams, proving life experience, and taking online courses.
Fielding Graduate University seeks to attract adults in mid-career for master’s and doctorate programs in the schools of psychology, human and organization development, and educational leadership and change.
Franklin has a full catalog of undergraduate majors in practical disciplines such as business and computers, plus a master’s business track. Classes are offered from 15 weeks in duration down to a speedy three weeks.
Colorado Technical University is a private, for-profit college opened in 1965 to offer career-oriented education. Students are encouraged to attend live lectures that feature online student discussions, but class sessions may also be viewed later.
The ability to handle two three-credit courses per semester can enable Gonzaga University Online students to make steady progress toward a highly regarded master’s degree. This institution only offers graduate degree programs in five areas, including nursing and theology.
A two-year school that focuses on providing job skills and laying the foundation for a bachelor’s degree, Iowa Central allows students to complete an associate degree online in one of seven fields.
DeVry University Online
DeVry offers courses taught by industry professionals to help students improve their employment prospects. Up to 80 credit hours can be transferred from qualifying institutions. Associate and bachelor’s degrees, as well as certifications, are offered in 20 areas of study.
Keiser University’s online program caters to students hoping to quickly parlay their degrees into better positions in the workforce. Nearly two-dozen associate and bachelor’s options, plus three graduate degrees, are available online. They’re aimed at fields that are often in high demand such as computers, business, and healthcare.
Fort Hays State University Virtual College is part of the Kansas state university system. While this means the schedules and programs are more traditional, it also means the tuition is lower than that of many of its competitors. Both undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered.
The George Washington University online distance-learning program is a relatively small part of this established private university. The online program’s emphasis is on its wide variety of graduate and certificate health science programs, including a healthcare MBA.
Marist College focuses its online programs on master’s degrees and degree-completion for undergraduates. The school’s eCourses are open to qualified students around the world.
Kaplan allows students to transfer credit from prior coursework, and also offers credit based on professional work or military experience. Students can also take exams to qualify for academic credit. The university offers degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, as well as certificate programs, in more than 100 areas of study. In addition, Kaplan offers new students a three-week trial period when they enroll.
National American University’s broad curriculum and inclusive entrance standards provide a welcoming platform for most students. Attendees must finish the work within the eight- and 11-week courses. Courses are offered both online and in person in nearly 20 cities.
A small liberal arts institution with a flexible admissions policy, New England College has incorporated distance learning into the majority of its programs. Its exclusively online format is aimed largely at graduate students who tend to be working professionals.
Norwich University’s online graduate studies focus on peer interaction at a brisk pace. A basic load for students to take is one six-credit seminar every 11 weeks, putting them on pace to complete their master’s in 18 to 24 months.
With a full menu of associate degrees plus select options for a bachelor’s degrees, Rasmussen College Online devises the curriculum to suit the working world. Degrees and certificates are offered in seven fields of study.
Many of Saint Leo’s associate, bachelor’s and master’s studies are primarily aimed at building professional competence. Students can study online or attend classes at one of more than 40 branches worldwide.
National University is a private, non-profit university system offering dozens of online programs in addition to courses held on its California campuses. Programs at National University are designed for adult learners with five or more years of work experience.
Ohio-based Tiffin University welcomes scholars, students who have yet to prove themselves, and established adults alike. Its schools of arts and sciences, business, and criminal justice and social sciences generate degree opportunities for distance learners at the associate and master’s levels.
A master’s certificate in business program highlights Tulane University’s distance-learning options. Students receive streaming-video lectures from the same faculty that teaches at Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, ranked among the best business schools by U.S. News and World Report.
The University of Cincinnati launched its distance-learning program in 1984 and offers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level, as well as certificates. It has been named one of the best online bachelor’s programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2018.
With no set class times, Northcentral students work with a mentor to complete coursework according to their own schedules. Students may earn bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as certificates of education in more than 40 areas. Up to 60 credits may be transferred.
The New School is an established college with a focus on creativity and social justice. Online courses are offered at the Parsons School of Design, as well as through the New School of Public Engagement.
Villanova offers professional certificates, undergraduate, and graduate degrees online. Fields of study include law, business, nursing, engineering, liberal arts, and engineering.
The University of Massachusetts Online offers virtual degree programs from respected and established traditional colleges. Students can enroll in online classes from UMass branches in Dartmouth, Amherst, Boston, Lowell, and Worcester.
Online graduate students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute follow the same semester schedule as their on-campus counterparts. The school’s Advanced Distance Learning Network programs offer degrees in the fields of business, technology, engineering, and fire safety.
Western Governors University
Western Governors University is a non-profit virtual college founded by the governors of 19 western states. Unlike most colleges, Western Governors University has no required courses. Instead, students prove their understanding through writing assignments and exams.