Why This Matters

  • MOST COLLEGE STUDENTS TAKE AT LEAST ONE ONLINE COURSE

    Education is now more accessible than ever. According to the most recent data, 75% of all undergraduate students have enrolled in at least one distance education course.

  • MANY STUDENTS ONLY TAKE ONLINE COURSES

    Depending on your major, you may be able to complete your entire degree program online. 44% of undergraduate students exclusively take distance education courses.

  • BUT EMPLOYERS STILL WANT REASSURANCE

    Employers still view online degrees with some wariness; 39% believe online degrees are generally of lower quality than degrees earned in-person. Earning a degree from one of the best online colleges can boost your diploma’s credibility.

Our Research

This list features some of the best online colleges and universities across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each school on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online colleges and universities to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 50 Online Colleges

Best Colleges and Top Universities 2023
01
Most Affordable
Southern New Hampshire University
01
Best Faith-based Institution
Liberty University
01
Best Research Institution
Florida International University
01
Best for Graduate Students
University of Central Florida
01
Best Admissions Process
University of Florida
01
Best for Undergraduate Students
Arizona State University
01
Best for Doctoral Students
University of West Florida
01
Best for Transfer Students
Thomas University
01
Best For Adult Learners
Thomas Edison State University
01
Best for Military and Veterans
Embry - Riddle Aeronautical University
01

Saint Louis University
01

Kennesaw State University
01

Trine University
01

Oklahoma State University
01

Indiana University Bloomington
01

University of Missouri
01

UA Little Rock
01

Franklin University
01

Brenau University
01

Franciscan University of Steubenville
01

Campbellsville University
01

University of Minnesota
01

University of North Texas

 

This Degree Isn’t For Everyone

The largest caveat to earning a degree online is to not underestimate the amount of work required — and knowing that it’s largely isolated work. While there are programs which incorporate online students into live class sessions, many require you to study independently. Being able to study at any time is a perk for online learning, but it means that your education requires perhaps more self-motivation than average — and you won’t get the networking or teamwork experience of an in-person class.

Taking a moment to identify what you’d like to get out of a degree program can help you decide whether an online college is the best option for you. If networking, tutoring, and group study sessions are important, see which colleges offer an online equivalent.

What’s Next?

As you hone in on the specific degree and the best online college that’s right for you, there are a few details to keep in mind. All of the universities on our list have regional accreditation, which means that the university itself has been recognized to provide quality education. However, there are accrediting organizations on the degree-level, too. Researching if there is an accreditor for your specific degree (whether business, social work, or otherwise) and then checking if a prospective school has that accreditation adds another stamp of approval to your degree.

Additionally, the professors at a given university will be an even larger part of your academic experience than with an on-campus program. Taking a closer look at a department’s faculty, the courses they’ve taught recently, and the research they’re interested in can help you identify whether a program meets your specific interests.

Finally, you’ll want to keep an eye on each prospective university’s state authorizations. Different states can have different requirements for higher education, and this can translate into one state not recognizing another’s authority for awarding a diploma. If you live in a different state than the university, you’ll need to make sure your home state has authorized the university to grant degrees. Most universities have a specific webpage for their information, but you can also check with the admissions office or your local Board of Education for more details.

Find the Best Online Colleges in Your State

Other Online College Rankings