According to the latest survey of online higher education by the Sloan Consortium, titled “Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States,” about 33.5% of college students now take at least one course online. This is the highest percentage yet. Though the increase from last year’s online student population is smaller than that of previous years, online education is still showing tremendous growth.
In addition, 65.9% of academic leaders surveyed agreed that online education is critical to their schools’ future strategies, and only 9.7% of the schools surveyed disagreed with that statement (the remainder neither agreed or disagreed). All of this goes to show that online education is slowly and steadily becoming part of the higher education standard.
The Advantages of Online College and University Degrees
There are many reasons for the dramatic increase in online degree program enrollment. More and more adults are returning to school to upgrade their skills and gain some advantage in an increasingly competitive job market. A high school diploma no longer holds the same value that it used to. Having a college degree is now more necessary than ever for securing a decent job or advancing in a career.
The flexibility and relatively low cost of online colleges and universities make them an especially attractive alternative to traditional brick and mortar schools, particularly for working adults and students with children. Moreover, students pursuing an online degree from a top ranked online college or university can rest assured they are getting an education that is every bit as good as one they would receive in a traditional classroom setting.
Top 15 Online Colleges and Universities of 2016
This Minneapolis-based higher-learning institution first opened its doors in 1993, and today they enroll more than 36,000 students (the majority of whom are earning advanced degrees). Capella offers 145 degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level, as well as 22 certifications; roughly 1,700 online courses are also available. The university also operates learning centers in 48 states and eight countries outside the United States.
AIU Online is the virtual campus of American InterContinental University, which has been providing higher education to professionals for more than 40 years. Students can study at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree level, choosing from programs in the Schools of Business, Criminal Justice, Design, Education, or Information Technology. Courses are tailored to provide applicable, industry-specific information for whichever area you’re interested in pursuing.
Full Sail University was founded in 1979 as Full Sail Recording Workshop, an institution dedicated to the fields of video and film production. Audio, computer animation, and other forms of electronic media were later incorporated into the school’s offerings. Thirty-five associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs (and two graduate certificates) are available to the roughly 17,000 students enrolled at the university.
Herzing has built a supportive community of faculty, staff, and fellow learners. Founded in 1965 by Henry and Suzanne Herzing, the family legacy continues with their daughter, Renée Herzing, as Herzing University’s president. A private, nonprofit institution, Herzing University is once again recognized as a member of the GI Jobs List of “Military Friendly Schools” for 2016 and is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs” for the third consecutive year.
Kaplan University attracts students from all over the world to its undergraduate, graduate, and continuing professional education. Students have their choice of more than 170 graduate, undergraduate, certificate, and diploma programs in fields ranging from business and technology to health sciences, fire sciences, legal studies, nursing, and education. The school also has campuses and learning centers nationwide, so you can take courses on site, online, or a combination of both.
Earning an online degree at Post University isn’t just a convenient option, it can also be a fast-track to your career. The school’s online degree courses are offered in eight-week modules, six times a year, so you can earn your bachelor’s degree in as little as 18 months, and a master’s degree in 14 to 24 months. There are more than 60 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs to choose from in such areas as business, marketing, and education.
Rasmussen College now offers a more flexible way to earn your degree-your way. Simply enroll in our faculty-led courses and take optional online self-paced courses at no additional cost. The more ambitious your schedule, the more you can save. When you choose the Flex Choice option and take advantage of the maximum number of available self-paced courses for your program, you can save thousands on your tuition. We offer more than 54 programs across seven schools of study in a variety of convenient learning options. That’s how we prepare our students to succeed in the real world.
Today’s creative economy needs people with new ideas, and the ability to express those ideas. At The Art Institute of Pittsburgh-Online Division, we help students explore opportunities as they prepare to launch careers in the areas of design, media arts, fashion, and culinary. Our collaborative, hands-on education is designed to mirror the way things work in the real world from industry-grade hardware and software to the relevant experience of our faculty.
This university’s history dates back to 1890, when it opened as the first Catholic college in Florida, providing a mix of liberal arts and commercial courses. Today, it remains a Catholic, liberal-arts based university open to people of all faiths and none. It’s been serving online learners since the 1990s, with more than 40 associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees offered in a range of disciplines, including business, criminal justice, and health-care management.
Named Mount of Praise Bible College when it was founded in 1948, Ohio Christian University has gone by its current name since 2006. In addition to traditional associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs, 10 to 20% of the university’s roughly 3,600 students earn their degrees via weekend, evening, or online courses. The ‘Trailblazer Academy’ also allows high school students to earn college credit. Degree programs are managed through seven academic departments: School of Business & Government, Disaster Management & Relief, Interdisciplinary Studies, Ministry & Religion, Music, Social Sciences, and Teacher Education.
Southern New Hampshire University has been offering online programs for over 15 years and graduating successful professionals for over 75 years. As a private nonprofit university with over 150 undergraduate and graduate programs, SNHU delivers a quality, student-centered educational experience providing the critical analytical skills needed to compete in a global economy. The programs at SNHU prepare you not only for today’s challenges but tomorrow’s as well.
Western Governors University is a 100-percent online university founded in 1995 by the governors of 19 western states to provide higher education opportunities to their constituencies. Today, it serves more than 30,000 students from all 50 states through its online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. In 2010, it was awarded Sloan Consortium’s Ralph E. Gomery Award for Excellence in Online Education. It also is the only online school to have accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the U.S. Department of Education-approved professional body that certifies teacher-preparation programs.
Keiser University has been offering career-oriented education for over 25 years and now offers a variety of online associates, bachelors and masters degrees in business, healthcare, education and other fields. Keiser University has an outstanding graduation and retention rate, indicating high student satisfaction. Tuition is high, but almost three quarters of Keiser University students receive financial aid.
This private Christian institution was founded in 1949. They currently offer both campus-based and online education in fields like theology, education, fine arts, and nursing. Students can also earn advanced credentials from the Ken Blanchard College of Business, the Colangelo School of Sports Business, or the School of Doctoral Studies. The university has particularly been touted for its programs aimed at entrepreneurs.
CTU treats its online campus much like its traditional campus â€“ there are live interactive classes, student advising, and even instructor office hours. Students can choose from more than 100 associate, bachelorâ€™s, masterâ€™s or doctoral degrees in the areas of business and management, engineering and computer science, health sciences, information systems and technology, and security studies. Its Smartphone app also lets you receive your online training in the palm of your hand.
Why Use Our Online College and University Rankings
With the rise in popularity of online degree programs, the number of online colleges and universities has exploded in recent years. Students seeking an online degree now have an unprecedented variety of online schools and degree programs to choose from. The quality of these online schools and degree programs vary widely. Some are high- quality and accredited institutions of higher education, whereas others are worthless diploma mills looking to exploit people’s desire for education. Others fall somewhere in between.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of the 20 best online colleges and universities for 2016. We’ve done the research to determine which online colleges and universities offer students the best, most reputable online degrees for their money so you don’t have to. Unfortunately, there are many online college and university rankings out there that are really nothing more than paid advertisements for certain schools and make no attempt at providing an objective, data-driven analysis. We strive to provide the most authoritative, objective, comprehensive and transparent analysis of the top online colleges and universities available, so you can be confident in making one of the most important decisions of your life: where to invest in your education.
How to Use our Online College and University Rankings
That said, only you can make the decision about which online college or university is best for you. Every student is different. Our list of the top 20 online colleges and universities for 2016 is offered as a guide, a place to start in your personal journey towards choosing the online degree program that is right for your unique needs and situation.
How We Calculated Our Online College and University Rankings
We’ve relied on the following criteria to generate our online colleges and universities rankings: student satisfaction (as measured by graduation and retention rates), peer and instructional quality (as measured by acceptance rate and student-teacher ratio), affordability (as measured by tuition costs and availability of financial aid), and credibility (as measured by years of accreditation, reputation and awards).
Data was gathered from objective, independent sources like The National Center for Education Statistics, as well as from school websites and direct conversations with school representatives.
Statistics were calculated using the lowest representative tuition per credit hour and assuming full-time status. Tuition may vary depending on the degree program and full-time vs. part-time status. Where a school operates multiple campuses, statistics from the flagship or largest campus were used. Where a difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs exist, the out-of-state tuition cost was used. Only schools that offer undergraduate degrees were considered.