Our top degree pages for different areas of study have been well-received so we thought it would be helpful to come up with a ranking of top online schools.
We spent many hours of research to find out the best online institutions in the nation. To evaluate them, we looked at the following factors:
- selection of online degrees
- programmatic accreditation
- special features
- academic awards
Also, we made sure to only choose regionally accredited institutions, since regional accreditation offers the most benefits and is the most respected form of accreditation in the workforce and the higher education community.
We included sample degree costs to help you compare tuition rates. The degree costs are estimates based on tuition prices compiled in 2010. The costs do not include any transfer credits.
1. Kaplan University
Kaplan University is based in Davenport, IA, and has campuses in three other states, but it is primarily known as an online school of higher education. With more than 3,600 faculty and staff members and over 66,000 online and campus-based students, Kaplan is a major provider of adult education in North America.
Kaplan is actually a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company, and provides a variety of other educational services to individuals and institutions.
Kaplan University’s areas of specialty include business, education, information technology, nursing, criminal justice, and health sciences. Students can obtain associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees and professional certificates in over 80 programs.
If you are interested in law, you can earn Juris Doctor degrees from Kaplan’s Concord Law School (request information).
Kaplan is a fully accredited institution and its Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is accredited by CCNE.
Thanks to its connections with the Washington Post Company, the school offers a wide array of library services through LexisNexis.
It also collaborates with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. Their extensive collection is available to Kaplan students, including over 60,000 ebooks. Physical books may be checked out from the library remotely and are delivered to your doorstep.
Career advisors are readily available for all online students of Kaplan. Services provided include resume reviews, interview preparation, professional networking, and job recruitment.
To foster beneficial interactions with other students, Kaplan has clubs and organizations you can join. These clubs reflect students’ interests and can help you stay motivated to excel in your studies.
2. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers undergraduate and graduate certificates and degrees in over 50 programs. Its business programs have received accreditation by the European Council for Business Education (ECBE), a recognition given to only a few programs in the United States. The school is also accredited by ACBSP.
SNHU also recently received a tier one school ranking from U.S. News and World Report in 2011, two ranks higher than 2010, when it was a tier three school.
Over 95 percent of its graduates gain employment upon graduation and its special partnership with the Navy gives military personnel access to higher education.
You can expect to receive attention from a helpful, student-focused staff. You will have access to advisors, a bookstore, library resources and tutoring. The virtual software called Blackboard has online and phone support available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The SNHU online classes are small with an average of 20 students per class. About 2000 online students are enrolled at SNHU. The school recognizes the need for academic advising in areas including program evaluations, course selection and registration, CLEP testing, courses outside SNHU, and changes in majors or minors.
Financial aid is also available, with ninety percent of students taking advantage of financial assistance in the form of work-study, commuter and academic scholarships, loans and need-based grants. Also, SNHU has low tuition rates compared to most online schools.
3. Northcentral University
Northcentral University (NCU) offers online degrees from the bachelor level all the way up to the doctoral level. The school uses the faculty mentoring approach in order to deliver individualized attention to students. NCU faculty members are trained to teach online so you will receive the support you need in a strong virtual learning environment.
All NCU business degrees are accredited by ACBSP. NCU uses communication tools like bulletin boards, chat rooms, and email messaging and does not require face-to-face sessions or location specific residencies.
The NCU online bookstore gives you a convenient way to purchase textbooks for your courses. You can locate the required books by searching with your course number and then pay online with a credit card. The books are shipped directly to you via FedEx, UPS, or USPS. The bookstore also has many used books that cost less than the new books. At the end of a course, you can often sell back the textbooks to NCU.
Academic Advisors at NCU help you select courses and stay on track towards your degree goals while Ambassadors, or previous graduates, provide practical guidance in both the online education experience as well as future career paths.
NCU is the first 100% online University to offer accredited doctoral degrees. It is also the only 100% online institution accredited by ACBSP that offers bachelor, master, and doctoral business degrees.
4. Grand Canyon University
In 2009, Grand Canyon University (GCU) was ranked 7th by the Online Education Database in its overall rankings of online schools. The organization also recognized GCU for its small class sizes. On average GCU only has 13 students per faculty member.
GCU has popular online programs with an enrollment of over 10,000 online students. These students are spread across GCU’s 45 bachelor, master, and doctoral programs in fields such as business, liberal arts, education, nursing, and health sciences.
The university has been regularly featured in the Student Guide to America’s 100 Best College Buys. The total tuition for the MBA program is lower than average at $20,400. The Master of Science in Nursing is $20,160, which is less expensive than most other online schools.
GCU’s bachelor’s degree in nursing is accredited by CCNE and its business programs are accredited by ACBSP. The university’s business school, Ken Blanchard College of Business, was recognized by Fortune magazine as a top five school for an online entrepreneurship degree. All business majors are taught entrepreneur skills to help their companies succeed.
GCU does not charge an application fee and fully completed applications are typically processed in 1-3 business days. Within this time period, your application will be reviewed and then you will be notified about your acceptance status.
5. Ashford University
You can transfer up to 90 credits from previous schools and apply them to a bachelor’s degree.
The university offers convenient online courses that can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The classes are comparable to email. You can submit class work anytime by just logging in.
Unlike typical semester based systems in traditional university settings, classes run continuously. Ashford provides weekly courses so you don’t have to wait long to start on your classes. After you finish a course, typically you can take another course right away without a break.
With over 40 programs ranging from associate’s degrees to master’s degrees, Ashford has a good selection of degrees to choose from. Areas of study include early childhood education, business, accounting, communication, history, health care administration, English, psychology, and criminal justice.
Adult learners are the target demographic at Ashford. Its classes were built intentionally with their needs in mind. Also, you will not be left with unanswered questions. Ashford assigns you an academic advisor to guide you throughout the whole process – from registration to graduation. Your instructors are easy to reach and you have unlimited access to academic coaching and tutoring. Certain program restrictions may apply to residents of Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, and non-US residents.
Ashford University® is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association (www.ncahlc.org). For more information about on-time completion rates, the median loan debt of students who completed each program, and other important information, please visit: http://ashforddisclosures.com/
6. Walden University
Walden University offers over 50 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a number of academic fields including: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Master of Public Health, Education Specialist (Ed.S.), Master of Public Administration, Master of Business Administration, Master of Science, and Bachelor of Science.
The school’s master degree in Educational Change and Technology Innovation was the nation’s first completely online master’s program in education.
Walden’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is accredited by CCNE, a national accrediting agency honored by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education.
The Online Education Database ranked Walden University 14th overall in 2009 in its online school rankings. Walden also ranked 2nd it the “Peer Web Citations” category and 4th in the “Scholarly Citations” category.
Walden offers Mobilelearn-enabled classes, which allows you to learn on the go, online, or offline. The school draws on the knowledge of instructional designers and experienced practitioners in the work force to create a relevant curriculum.
Over 42,500 students are enrolled in Walden’s programs and Walden has a network of over 38,000 alumni across the globe.
Walden’s Student Support Team provides real-time technical assistance via online chat, phone, or email. This team also assists students with scheduling and new student orientations.
7. Saint Leo University Online
Saint Leo University’s Center for Online Learning provides higher education for students from over 33 countries. The school offers over 25 degree programs from the associate level to the master level in a variety of fields including business, criminal justice, psychology, and social work. Saint Leo also offers 5 graduate certificates.
The Center was founded in October 1998 to provide education for the growing computer savvy adult learners familiar with multimedia presentations. It offers the best attributes of traditional classroom instruction combined with the new innovations in technology.
The same educational degrees conferred to on-campus students are available to online students. Upon graduation, your degree will not have an online distinction.
Saint Leo provides an online tutoring service called “Smarthinking,” which has the convenience of 24/7 accessibility.
Online classes are kept small and are only taught by full-time faculty members. Saint Leo does not employ teaching assistants to teach its online courses.
Saint Leo University bears the title of a “Military Friendly School,” according to G.I. Jobs magazine’s list of top schools in 2011. This yearly list recognizes community colleges, trade schools and universities who rank in the top 15 percent of those who cater to the nation’s student-veteran and military populations. Today, Saint Leo is in the top 10 of enrollment for military personnel.
8. Colorado Technical University Online
Colorado Technical University (CTU) has five physical campuses and a robust online program. CTU Online offers all levels of degrees in a variety of industries including information technology, engineering, health sciences, business, and criminal justice. CTU also works closely with the Project Management Institute in providing project management related courses and experience.
CTU differs from many universities in that it offers at least half of its degree programs online. In 2009, Sitecore named the school’s web site the Best Education Site in North America.
CTU’s Department of Military Education focuses on helping active military personnel, veterans, and their families obtain their higher education goals. CTU Online is a perfect vehicle for active-duty personnel working towards an academic degree as they can take classes from wherever they are deployed.
CTU is a DANTES-affiliated university and a member of the Servicemembers Opportunity College.
While most university educations result in a degree only at the end of one’s coursework, CTU’s program emphasizes achieving incremental certificates. Many programs at the university allows you to add credentials to your qualifications as your education proceeds.
Another differentiating factor for CTU Online is its single-price approach. All required books and course materials are included in the cost of the program. This makes it much simpler to gauge the overall cost of your online education.
Also, CTU provides each online student a dedicated financial aid advisor. The advisor will personally guide you through the financial aid process.
9. American InterContinental University
American InterContinental University was founded in Europe the year 1970. For more than 40 years, AIU has offered an innovative approach to education at its campuses. Its virtual, which was launched in 2001 and recognized as a separate campus in 2002.
While its locations are centered in North America, online programs are accessible in many countries. Students can obtain degrees in more than 100 different programs, at all higher education levels, including doctoral. The school also offers a wide variety of professional certifications, ranging from health care to criminal justice. It boasts an impressive online library, a helpful supplement for online learners.
American InterContinental University has an open enrollment admission policy. All you need is a high-school diploma, GED, or its equivalent to quality for admission. Its Prior Learning Assessment process allows many students to obtain credits by applying practical life experiences, work expertise, and professional education towards course requirements.
The university also possesses a variety of programs that are all accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.
American Intercontinental University has an alumni groups for students who want educational and career guidance from previous graduates. The school’s alumni association has grown tremendously over the past few years and alumni have shown interest in becoming a mentor.
10. Western Governors University
An article published by Time recognized Western Governors University (WGU), an accredited and exclusively online university, as “the best relatively cheap university you’ve never heard of.”
WGU has a flat rate, affordable tuition plan that allows you to finish as much of your program each term as you can manage. Instead of the traditional, credit earning system, you progress by finishing evaluations in the form of assignments, tests and papers which measure aptitude and comprehension.
Competency Units (CUs), which are comparable to credits, are acquired by successfully completing the evaluations. If you focus enough time and energy to understanding a subject, you can acquire CUs quicker than the regular course method. In addition, if you are already proficient in a subject, you can finish the related course quickly.
The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) awarded WGU with the Best Practices in Distance Learning award because of its web technology. It also honored WGU as the first national online university to offer a competency-based curriculum, recognizing its success in delivering higher education to employed adults.
Well-known organizations like Microsoft, Oracle, and Google comprise the National Advisory Board. Such businesses endorse WGU, seeing that WGU graduates have pertinent skills needed in the job arena.
WGU excels in education degrees. It is the only fully online school in the nation accredited by NCATE.
Also, WGU has CCNE accreditation for its nursing programs.
11. Capella University
Capella University offers a wide selection of degrees online, starting with bachelor’s degrees and moving up to graduate degrees in the master and doctoral level. Capella has 114 concentrations and 15 certificate programs in fields of study such as public safety, public health, human services, psychology, information technology, education and business.
The majority of Capella’s student body consists of graduate students (46% MS/MBA and 36% PhD/PsyD), with only 18% of students in an undergraduate program and only 1% working towards a certificate program. The average student age is 39.
Capella was one of the four schools in 2010 to receive an award from The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for Outstanding Institutional Practice in Student Learning Outcomes.
Also, Capella was the first online school to participate in the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) of the North Central Association back in 2000. The schools involved in this program dedicate themselves to continuous quality improvement initiatives like the ones in the business workforce.
AQIP involves a different method of accreditation review. Instead of being reviewed every ten years, AQIP schools are reviewed every year.
The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) has accredited Capella University’s MS programs in Marital, Couple, and Family Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, and School Counseling.
Capella’s bachelor and master degrees in Information Technology with a concentration in Project Management were both given accreditation by the Project Management Institute (PMI) Global Accreditation Center for Project Management (GAC).
12. Strayer University
Strayer University has two types of online classes to choose from: asynchronous and synchronous.
In asynchronous classes, you can log in to the virtual classroom at any time of the day, 7 days a week, to work on your assignments. This option gives you the most flexibility in your schedule.
If you work better with a set schedule and appointments, you can choose the synchronous classroom format. Synchronous classes meet weekly at the same time, usually at night or on the weekend. You will interact with the instructor and other students in real time as you would in a traditional physical classroom.
The professors at Strayer come armed with experience in the realities of the workforce and have expertise in their areas of study. Also, they have received specialized training for creating a stimulating online education environment.
Online tutoring is offered for free to all Strayer students in the introductory courses of informational systems, math, business, English and accounting.
Strayer offers degrees and certificate programs in the following academic disciplines: education, public administration, health services, information systems, management, criminal justice, economics, accounting, and business.
The average age of a Strayer student is 34 and most students hold full time employment while taking classes. Because of this, working adults with similar backgrounds can feel at ease with classmates that are progressing towards comparable life and professional goals.
13. DeVry University
DeVry University is widely recognized for its excellent online programs in growing industries. The university offers over 30 degrees in three educational levels: associate, bachelor, and master.
You can choose from five different colleges within DeVry: Business and Management, Engineering and Information Sciences, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Media Arts and Technology.
The courses at DeVry are designed with industry standards in mind. DeVry holds relevant accreditation with CAHIIM for its health information degrees. Its Project Management major and concentration are accredited by the Project Management Institute’s Global Accreditation Center.
With DeVry’s year round classes, you can dedicate extra hours and finish programs on an accelerated pace. For example, you can complete an associate degree in just over a year, a bachelor degree in three years, or master’s degree in one year.
DeVry helps many students out financially with 7,500 scholarships that total up to $25 million. Also, over 85% of the student body receives financial aid including federal, state, and local loans and grans.
You can speak with a DeVry qualified financial advisor to explore your education funding options.
DeVry complements its education and financial aid with an active career services department. Over 90% of its graduates are employed in their area of study within six months of degree completion.