Online Schools

Online schools are growing in popularity, quality and accessibility. The best online schools are transforming education and creating new learning opportunities for students at every level. Online high schools and online colleges create educational inroads for underserved populations, offer flexible degree programs for adult learners and expand the geographical reach of traditional high schools, colleges and universities.

These top online schools have improved the quality and credibility of online education by advancing proven, effective and innovative online education strategies.

Read on to learn more about online schools, and see which schools are the very best in the educational landscape.

To learn more about online colleges and online high schools, jump to:

What Is Online School?

Online school is school that instruct students primarily over the internet. With the introduction and expansion of internet access, distance education is now possible for many students who previously had no access to it.

Some online schools offer hybrid learning opportunities that include both online courses and on-campus requirements. Other online schools offer fully online degree programs. Many of the best online schools are directly affiliated with traditional colleges and universities, and the truly great online schools are distinguished by their faculty and curriculum. The top online schools will usually offer the very same courses as their on-campus counterparts. Furthermore, each on-line course is usually taught by the same professor who teaches the on-campus counterpart.

While online schools use a variety of strategies to reach students — video-conferencing, chat-forums, pre-recorded lectures, etc. — most online education falls into two broad categories:

To learn more, check out Synchronous Versus Asynchronous Courses and Programs: What’s the Difference?

What Kind of Online Degrees Can You Get?

Online learning has become commonplace at every level of education. Today, online schools provide students with many options:

Whether you plan to earn an online high school diploma or you want to attend an online college to earn a degree, certificate or certification, read on to learn why online schools are growing rapidly in availability, accessibility and affordability.

If you’re ready to start your search, feel free to jump right to our list of The 50 Best Online High School Diplomas or dig into this year’s list of The 50 Best Online Colleges.

Top 10 Online Colleges

Online college schools are the fastest growing segment of the online school sector. As more top universities and colleges offer online degree programs, online colleges continue to advance in quality, credibility and availability. As a result, there are new opportunities for diverse populations like non-traditional students, adult learners and students from underserved regions or demographics. Compared to traditional schools, online college schools offer both greater flexibility and a wider range of affordable degree programs. If you want to quickly earn a degree without disrupting your life or career, then you can take advantage of online colleges’ accelerated degree options.

Each year, we rank the very best online colleges. Below are the top 10 online colleges for this year. To create our rankings, we use the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) for objective measures as well as the years of accumulated information in our database. We’ve ranked schools based on the following criteria:

  • Academic excellence (based on a school’s general or discipline-specific curriculum)
  • Strength of faculty scholarship
  • Reputation
  • Tuition costs and financial aid
  • Range of online bachelor’s degree programs
  • Strength of online instruction

1. Penn State World Campus

Parent Institution: Pennsylvania (Penn) State University
Founded: 1998
Enrollment: 14,000
Status: Public, nonprofit
Highlights: Penn State is among the top 10 programs in over 30 of our degree-specific rankings!

Online Degrees from Penn State

Penn State World Campus offers more than 200 online programs, which include an array of undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as online certifications. Penn State’s World Campus awards degrees in virtually every field, such as engineering, education, healthcare and business.

Penn State offers the following degrees:

  • 72 online certificates
  • 11 online associate degrees
  • 48 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 78 online master’s degrees
  • 1 online doctoral degree

Key Student Features

STUDENT TESTIMONIAL
In a traditional school, I was used to having administrative hours end at 5:00 pm. But at Penn State World Campus, I had a question about my registration and was able to talk to someone at 7:00 p.m. This may sound like a small event, but to me it showed the school understands my situation. I have been treated as if I was an incoming traditional student. All of my questions and problems have been addressed. I feel like I am a part of something bigger, even from behind my computer screen.

 

Online students receive instruction from the same world-class faculty members who teach Penn State’s on-campus students. Online students also have access to academic advisors, career services, online tutoring and library services.

Online courses are asynchronous, so students can complete coursework at their own pace. However, readings, assignments, discussions and exams must be completed by set deadlines. Some graduate degree programs require a residency period that can range from a few days to two weeks in length.

World Campus graduates earn the same highly-respected degree as traditional Penn State students; World Campus graduates also become members of the nation’s largest alumni network.

Accreditation

A member of the Association of American Universities (an association of excellent North American research universities), Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Penn State’s Smeal College of Business also holds programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).

Find Penn State’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

Penn State World Campus; 5100 Innovation Boulevard #128; University Park; PA 16802, USA

2. University of Florida Distance Learning

Parent Institution: University of Florida
Founded: 1853
Enrollment: 52,000
Status: Public, nonprofit
Highlights: UFL consistently ranks among the top universities in the United States

Online Degrees from the University of Florida

University of Florida Distance Learning offers over 250 undergraduate and graduate online degree programs that lead to bachelor’s, bachelor’s completion, master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees. The University of Florida ranks among the Top 10 Online Colleges in over 40 of our degree-specific rankings, which includes the #1 rank on our list of Best ROI Online Colleges.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 92 online certificates
  • 48 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 109 online master’s degrees
  • 7 online doctoral degrees

Key Student Features

STUDENT TESTIMONIAL
Online degrees have a multitude of benefits compared to traditional degrees. For me, the benefits that stand out the most are the quality of the professors and the flexible scheduling. At first I was wary of how online professors would stack up compared to in-person professors. To my surprise, some of the same University of Florida in-person professors also taught online. I got top quality teaching at a pace I enjoyed without having to spend 3–4 hours in a small classroom. I could plan out and schedule around my life as I pleased; this has been the biggest blessing of my life.

 

Online students can access a variety of support services, such as an online course management system, library resources, career services and an online registration system. University of Florida Distance Learning graduates can also join the school’s robust alumni network.

Accreditation

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and holds programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).

Find University of Florida’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

University of Florida Distance Learning; 4211 Southwest 23 Street; Gainesville; FL 32603, USA

3. UMass Online

Parent Institution: University of Massachusetts (UMass)
Founded: 1863
Enrollment: 74,000
Status: Public, nonprofit
Highlights: One of the nation’s best online colleges and the recipient of the Excellence in Distance Teaching Education Award from the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA)

Online Degrees from UMass Online

Through its various satellite campuses, UMass ranks among the Top 10 Online Colleges on more than 40 of our degree-specific rankings.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 21 online certificates
  • 1 online associate degree
  • 22 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 14 online master’s degrees
  • 6 online doctoral degrees

Key Student Features

Online students receive instruction from the same faculty, earn the same degrees and attend the same graduation ceremony as on-campus students. UMass Online students also have access to a host of support services, including library assistance, fellowship advising and academic counseling.

Accreditation

The University of Massachusetts is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) provides programmatic accreditation to the University of Massachusetts branches in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell.

Find UMass Online’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

UMass Online; 785–809 North Pleasant Street; Amherst; MA 01002, USA

4. Northeastern University

Founded: 1898
Enrollment: 21,000
Status: Private, nonprofit
Highlights: Has 9 colleges and schools, with campuses in North Carolina and Washington state

Online Degrees from Northeastern

With nearly 200 online programs, Northeastern is a leader in distance education. It ranks among the Top 10 Online Degree Programs on more than 30 of our rankings, which includes a #1 ranking among The Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Human Services.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 43 online certificates
  • 15 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 135 online master’s degrees
  • 6 online doctoral degrees

Key Student Features

Online students at Northeastern University enjoy access to online library services, career services and asynchronous course delivery.

Accreditation

Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Northeastern University’s D’Amore–McKim School of Business also holds programmatic accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).

Find Northeastern’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

Northeastern University; 360 Huntington Avenue; Boston; MA 02115, USA

5. Indiana University — IU Online

Parent Institution: Indiana University (IU)
Founded: 1820
Enrollment: 43,000
Status: Public, nonprofit
Highlights: Over 580,000 alumni

Online Degrees from IU Online

IU Online offers hundreds of online classes as well as more than 100 online degrees and academic certificate programs. Indiana University also ranks #1 on our list of The Best Online Colleges in Indiana.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 55 online certificates
  • 1 online associate degree
  • 16 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 30 online master’s degrees
  • 5 online doctoral degrees

Key Student Features

IU Online students enjoy access to the school’s libraries, databases, educational support services and technology resources.

Accreditation

Indiana University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) also provides programmatic accreditation to Indiana University — Bloomington and Indiana University — Indianapolis.

Find IU Online’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

Indiana University–IU Online; 107 South Indiana Avenue; Bloomington; IN 47405, USA

6. Arizona State University — ASU Online

Parent Institution: Arizona State University
Founded: 1885
Enrollment: 51,000
Status: Public, nonprofit
Highlights: Ranks #1 among our Best Online Colleges in Arizona

Online Degrees from ASU Online

ASU Online offers over 150 entirely online degree programs and ranks #1 among the Best Online Master’s in Education Degree Programs.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 22 online certificates
  • 81 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 72 online master’s degrees
  • 2 online doctoral degrees

Key Student Features

STUDENT TESTIMONIAL
As a high school assistant principal, I am required to devote many nights and weekends to school functions. With an online program, I can complete my work and interact with my peers at any time since I am not confined to a few weekly class hours. Online school lets me and my fellow students authentically interact and have meaningful dialogue. We are able to analyze and evaluate our thoughts before posting them on discussion boards. Sometimes people are not comfortable speaking in front of others or take time to think through their answers; an online platform solves both of these issues. So far, my peer interactions have been rich and insightful while also allowing for multiple perspectives.

 

ASU Online students have access to enrollment counselors, academic advisors and success coaches. ASU Online offers six start dates each year, and many of its online courses utilize an asynchronous delivery model.

Accreditation

Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) provides programmatic accreditation to Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

Find ASU Online’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

Arizona State University–ASU Online; 1151 South Forest Avenue; Tempe; AZ 85281, USA

7. University of Minnesota — Twin Cities

Parent Institution: University of Minnesota (U of M)
Founded: 1851
Enrollment: 51,000
Status: Public, nonprofit
Highlights: The U of M — Twin Cities has a top 10 program on more than 10 of our degree-specific ranking lists

Online Degrees from U of M

The University of Minnesota — Twin Cities ranks #1 among the Best Online Colleges in Minnesota and offers over 50 highly-regarded online programs, which include:

  • 13 online certificates
  • 17 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 14 online master’s degrees
  • 13 online doctoral degrees

Key Student Features

Online students have access to financial aid, technical support and library resources.

Accreditation

The University of Minnesota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Find U of M’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities; 3 Morrill Hall, 100 Church Street SE; Minneapolis; MN 55455, USA

8. University of Arizona

Parent Institution: University of Arizona (UA)
Founded: 1885
Enrollment: 43,000
Status: Public, nonprofit
Highlights: Consistently appears on our Best Universities in the World Today

Online Degrees from UA Online

Through UA Online, the University of Arizona offers 100 online degree programs, which include:

  • 32 online certificates
  • 32 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 30 online master’s degrees
  • 6 online doctoral degrees

Key Student Features

UA students can earn their degrees entirely online and they have access to online coursework 24/7. UA Online students benefit from technical support and an online orientation. Some courses follow an asynchronous format, although others may require scheduled discussion sessions or online meetings.

Accreditation

The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Several of the university’s programs have also received specialized or programmatic accreditation that includes recognition from the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Find UA Online’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

University of Arizona; The University of Arizona; Tucson; AZ 85721, USA

9. Oregon State University — OSU Ecampus

Parent Institution: Oregon State University (OSU)
Founded: 1868
Enrollment: 30,000
Status: Public, nonprofit
Highlights: Ranks #1 on our list of the Best Online Colleges in Oregon

Online Degrees from Oregon State Ecampus

The university offers more than 80 online degree and certificate programs through OSU Ecampus, and it has a top 10 program on more than 10 of our degree-specific ranking lists.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 13 online certificates
  • 50 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 21 online master’s degrees

Key Student Features

OSU Ecampus allows students to earn the same degree as OSU’s on-campus students. Online students can access course materials whenever they want. Online students also have access to a host of student services, such as library resources, career services, 24/7 tutoring services and counseling services.

Accreditation

Oregon State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Oregon State University’s College of Business is also accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).

Find Oregon State Ecampus’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

Oregon State University — OSU Ecampus; 104 Kerr Admin Building; Corvallis; OR 97331-2106, USA

10. Drexel University — Drexel Online

Founded: 1891
Enrollment: 24,000
Status: Private, nonprofit
Highlights: Has one of the nation’s largest cooperative education programs

Online Degrees from Drexel Online

Drexel University offers more than 250 online degree and certificate programs and it has a top 10 program on more than 30 of our degree-specific ranking lists.

Online degree offerings include:

  • 87 online certificates
  • 15 online bachelor’s degrees
  • 143 online master’s degrees
  • 12 online doctoral degrees

Key Student Features

STUDENT TESTIMONIAL
Attending an online program has distinct advantages. For me, the most valuable benefit is that I am able to spend more time with my family at home. I am able to listen to lectures and presentations at hours that do not conflict with family time. I have not missed important events or activities with my children because I have class. I can still make memories with my family and even go on vacation. I have attended class in the car, in the airport, at the beach and even on a cruise ship! Since attending online school, I have an improved sense of self-reliance and direction. I was anxious that I wouldn’t be successful at first. While it took a great deal of self discipline to meet my goals, I have gained both knowledge and confidence!

 

Online students receive instruction from the same faculty who teach the on-campus courses. Online students also earn the same degrees as on-campus students. Drexel University is a recipient of the Sloan-C Award for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Education.

Accreditation

Drexel University is accredited by the Middle State Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Drexel University’s Breech School of Business Administration and Economics is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).

Find Drexel Online’s online degree programs, admissions information,
school stats and more…

Drexel University — Drexel Online; 3141 Chestnut Street; Philadelphia; PA 19104, USA

More Resources

For a complete listing of the Best Online Colleges, check out The 50 Best Online Colleges for 2019.

Top 10 Online High Schools

Online schools create distance learning opportunities at every level; this is especially true of online high schools. Through online high schools, underserved populations, non-traditional students and adult learners have a better way to get a respected education. Individuals with a high school diploma enjoy significantly better career prospects and have a greater earning potential than those without a diploma. Online high schools help more students reach for a better future and achieve their goals. Find out how by checking out our list of the very best online high schools.

Our list is based on an array of factors, such as accreditation, student success and affordability.

If you have more questions, jump to our Frequently Asked Questions about Online High School.

1. Stanford University Online High School

Image of Stanford Online High School logo

Affiliation: Stanford University
Cost: $22,850 for full-time enrollment (4–5 classes)
Status: Private
Accreditation: WASC, CAIS
Need to Know: Stanford OHS operates on a traditional school calendar; interested applicants need to apply in the fall semester prior to attendance

Stanford OHS is a private, independent school that offers a rigorous college prep program. Stanford OHS serves academically gifted students in grades 7–12. Prospective students face tough competition for admission to the program.

Stanford OHS offers over 24 post-AP and university-level courses. More than 65% of the faculty members hold doctoral degrees in their fields. According to the school’s profile, their students’ mean SAT score is 1490 and their students’ mean composite ACT score is 32.1.

In addition to academic studies, the school sponsors the following activities:

  • Events
  • Meetups
  • Online clubs
  • Weekly virtual homeroom
  • Science colloquium assemblies

2. GW Online High School

Image of George Washington University Online High School logo

Affiliation: George Washington University
Cost: $12,000/year
Status: Private
Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools

George Washington University Online High School is a private, college-preparatory high school that operates entirely online. It is one of the nation’s first virtual high schools to be affiliated with a major research university. GWUOHS offers a 24-credit diploma for collegebound students.

GWUOHS uses K12’s best-in-class curriculum. K12 is renowned for its:

  • Rigorous and research-driven design
  • Compelling interactivity
  • Ease-of-use
  • Integrated blend of online content with hands-on materials and outstanding books

Courses contain asynchronous readings, activities, assessments and videos. Teachers also conduct live sessions at preset times. Upperclassmen can either design their own concentration or pick from preset concentrations, such as science and technology, entrepreneurship or liberal arts. All students participate in the unique, four-year-long Journeys Symposium.

Students are encouraged to take Advanced Placement classes. GWUOHS supports AP students with their AP Coordinator, their Summer AP boot camp and their assigned faculty AP mentors. Additional programs and initiatives include:

  • College planning and preparation
  • 1:1 Orientation
  • Peer Mentoring
  • Dual college credit courses
  • Student interest clubs and activities

100% of graduates have been accepted to universities that range from Harvard to UC Berkeley (there are too many top-tier schools that accept GWUOHS students to fully list here).

3. University of Missouri High School: Mizzou K–12

Affiliation: University of Missouri
Cost: $500/class (half-credit)
Status: Public
Accreditation: Accredited by AdvancED and the NCA CASI
Need to Know: After course enrollment approval, a 50% tuition scholarship rate may apply for students with a permanent Missouri address or US students admitted into the University of Missouri High School Diploma Program

The University of Missouri High School: Mizzou K–12 is part of the University of Missouri’s College of Education. The school enjoys the distinction of being the only program in the country supported by a consistently well-ranked College of Education at a research-intensive flagship university. The program aligns with both national and Missouri standards.

Students may choose from one of two diploma program options: the Standard Path (24 credits) or the College-Prep Diploma Path (25 credits). Course options include AP, honors, special topics and NCAA-eligible classes. Graduates have been accepted into some of the most prestigious and traditionally selective institutions in the United States, such as:

  • Princeton
  • MIT
  • Dartmouth
  • Cornell
  • Rice
  • Carnegie Mellon
  • Wake Forest
  • The University of Michigan

Beyond academics, the school hosts student clubs, such as NHS and Math Club.

4. Mother of Divine Grace

Image of Mother of Divine Grace logo

Affiliation: Catholic Church
Cost: $820 when using one of the three payment plans; otherwise, a one-time payment of $720. There are extra fees for different courses, Adobe labs, support, etc.
Status: Private
Accreditation: ACS WASC
Need to Know: For families with special needs children, MODG provides a Special Services Program as a supplement to their Teacher Review Program

Based in Ojai, CA, Mother of Divine Grace (MODG) is a private school that was founded in 1995. The school’s purpose is to provide parents with the information, resources and support necessary to educate their children in the classical, catholic tradition.

Students have the option to earn dual enrollment credits by enrolling at their local community college.

Recent graduates of MODG have been accepted at:

  • Princeton
  • Stanford
  • MIT
  • Penn
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Dartmouth
  • Northwestern
  • Vanderbilt
  • Notre Dame
  • Rice
  • UC-Berkeley
  • Georgetown
  • UCLA
  • Carnegie Mellon

To earn a diploma, MODG requires completion of 22.5 credits (225 units).

MODG also promotes the fine arts with courses in music, visual arts and performing arts. MODG offers families three program types based on the level of independent learning desired: assisted, directed and enhanced directed. Mother of Divine Grace also offers:

  • Supplemental course attendance
  • Apprenticeships
  • Homeschooling assistance
  • Teacher services
  • Learning support

5. University of Texas High School

Image of University of Texas High School logo

Affiliation: University of Texas
Cost: $2,700 for full-time enrollment ($225/course)
Status: Public
Accreditation: Texas Board of Education
Need to Know: Many courses are textbook-free; all courses and exams are designed by expert teachers and approved by NCAA and College Board

UTHS offers online classes for high school students. At present, the school serves more than 300 full-time students and has partnerships with over 250 school districts around the globe. Part-time and full-time students have access to coursework 24/7.

Qualified UTHS students can select a dual-credit program through University Extension (the University of Texas at Austin online college program). The University Extension offers courses and exams in over 60 subject areas. Students may also choose to take online AP classes, NCAA-approved classes or classes for credit recovery. Since the state of Texas requires students to earn 26 credits for a high school diploma, students typically enroll in 6–7 courses per semester; this allows them to graduate in four years.

6. Oak Meadow School

Image of Oak Meadow School logo

Cost: 1,800/course for the 10-month year or $1,080/course for the 5-month semester; 10% military discount; Option for a 40% down followed by monthly payment plan
Status: Private
Accreditation: MSA, NCA CASI, WASC, NAAS, SACS and NEASC; Oak Meadow is the first distance-learning school ever to receive such recognition in NEASC’s prestigious 130-year history
Need to Know: Many classes are NCAA-approved; has a thriving National Honor Society program

Based in Brattleboro, VT, Oak Meadow School was founded by a group of parents and teachers that wanted to reignite their children’s spark for learning. The school takes a progressive, compassionate and child-centered approach to education.

Students must complete 22 credits for a diploma. Oak Meadow School provides plenty of unique pathways to earn these credits. For instance, the school offers credit for both students’ work experiences and extracurricular participation (music, sports, arts, etc.). The Life Experience Elective Credit program permits enrolled students to earn up to one full elective credit per year for extracurricular involvement. Students may earn up to four credits towards their diploma through this program.

The school accepts credit for Advanced Placement, computer science and technology courses taken through Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth online program. Oak Meadow School also accepts transfer credit from CYTOnline as well as offers dual enrollment credits from both Berklee College of Music Online and from Cornell’s challenging home study course, Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology. Oak Meadow School also offers credit recovery.

In order to promote independent learning, Oak Meadow School requires juniors and seniors to participate in a self-directed, credit-earning Advanced Study Project over the course of a semester.

7. International Virtual Learning Academy

Image of International Virtual Learning Academy logo

Cost: $6,030/year, with a $150 yearly registration fee and $125 for each AP course; 10% military or multi-student discount; pay in 3, 5, or 10 installments
Status: Private
Accreditation: AdvancED
Need to Know: Adult learners welcome; many core classes at International Virtual Learning Academy are NCAA-approved

International Virtual Learning Academy (IVLA) is a year-round, online and private K–12 school based in California. Students may enroll and begin courses at any time. All course materials are delivered online; this provides students and their families with optimal flexibility.

The self-paced coursework accommodates a diverse learning environment. IVLA offers six different curriculum options:

  • Accelerated
  • Alpha Omega’s Ignitia
  • Apex Learning
  • GradPoint
  • Odesseyware
  • Plato Learning

The school also offers five different diploma plans:

  • Standard
  • College Prep
  • Honors
  • STEM
  • Career

IVLA offers AP and Honors courses. Their elective courses let students earn elective credits through a wide range of life learning experiences; students can earn a maximum of two credits this way.

IVLA welcomes adult learners; in fact, the school offers an entire Adult High School online program specifically for non-traditional students.

8. Laurel Springs School

Image of Laurel Springs Online High School logo

Cost: $725/semester course or $1040/yearly course; honors and AP courses carry increased costs; various additional fees; 10% military or multi-student discount
Status: Private
Accreditation: WASC, AdvancED, SACS CASI
Need to Know: Students who notify their admissions coordinator and school counselor that they plan to attend a University of California college will receive an academic plan tailored for UC’s standards

Founded in 1991, Laurel Springs School is an online private school that focuses on a college preparatory experience with a vast range of academic offerings. Since 1998, Laurel Springs School has offered courses approved by the University of California for transfer credit.

Laurel Springs School delivers instruction through a series of asynchronous courses. Their interactive grade book provides 24/7 access to a student’s progress; it also archives past quizzes and tests so that students can review them online at any time.

The Upper School at Laurel Springs School for grades 9–12 has a unique range of core and elective courses. Laurel Springs encourages students to shape their education with Laurel Springs School’s 25-plus electives.

Laurel Springs Online High School has a Gifted and Talented Academy that accommodates students with exceptional learning needs. This program’s students study major topics in greater depth and engage in problem-solving that integrates knowledge from many disciplines. The school also offers AP classes and has a chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS). Laurel Springs School emphasizes college preparation by providing students with a personal coach to guide them along the college selection, readiness and application process; students meet with their coaches once a month.

Laurel Springs requires 23.5 credits for a standard diploma.

9. Christa McAuliffe Academy School of Arts & Sciences

Image of Christa McAuliffe Academy School of Arts & Sciences

Cost: $3,495–$3,995/semester or $5,495–$8,495/year; $150/semester or $25/year enrollment fees; 10% military discount; 10% discount for subsequent students when friends and family enroll two or more students
Status: Private
Accreditation: AdvancED, NWAC, NCAA-Approved

Inspired by Christa McAuliffe’s life, Christa McAuliffe Academy School of Arts and Sciences (CMASAS) was founded to honor her memory. The schools seeks to not only educate the next generation of leaders, scientists, philosophers, artists and others, but to prepare them for the dynamic world of the 21st Century. CMASAS opened in July 2009 and is headquartered in Lake Oswego, OR.

CMASAS implements a personalized educational philosophy through its use of curricula and teaching methods based on current neuroscience and educational research. The academy also offers several high school diploma options: standard, college prep or career prep. Many extracurricular activities are available, such as language clubs, a student newspaper and a technology club. CMASAS also offers honors and AP coursework, adult high school completion, service promotion and a global adventure program. For a diploma, students must earn 24 credits.

CMASAS is a year-round school with asynchronous instruction. Instructors and educational facilitators are available for live interaction and assistance. Instructors host weekly discussions in their online classroom; they are also available by appointment.

The school has an active and thriving National Honor Society as well as a credit recovery program and counseling services.

10. International Connections Academy

Image of International Connections Academy Online High School logo

Cost: $6,880/year; monthly payment plans with 0% financing available; 8% discount if paid in full; military, sibling, early enrollment and early decision discounts available
Status: Private
Accreditation: MSACS, AdvancED, NCAA-Approved

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Columbia, MD, International Connections Academy is an online school that serves students around the world.

This school is the winner of numerous awards in the field of educational technology, such as:

  • The Cool Tool Finalist Award from EdTech in 2015 for IVA’s Virtual Music Tools
  • The Visionary Award in 2014 for IVA’s education management system
  • The CODiE Award from the Software Information Industry Association
  • ComputED Gazette’s Education Software Review Awards (EDDIE and BESSIE)

Students may choose between honors and AP courses or dual enrollment classes through ICA’s College Acceleration program. This program allows students to complete a high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time. The school reports an average ACT composite score of 25 and an average SAT combined score of 1159. In ICA’s 2015 class, 100% of students graduated on time, and 100% of students who applied to college were accepted.

ICA has a partnership with Connections Academy schools. ICA also offers weekly National Counseling LiveLesson® programs that teach students and families about academic, social development and career topics. During these real-time sessions, students can ask guest speakers questions about their career choices and experiences.

For a complete list of the very best online schools at the high school level, check out The 50 Best Online High School Diplomas./

Frequently Asked Questions About Online College

Is online college right for me?

Online college is right for you if you are committed to your education. Online college success requires discipline, effective time management and the ability to take control of your own education. It will be your responsibility to make time for study, to complete coursework and to schedule time to speak with an instructor or work with classmates. The most successful online students are self-starters. If this sounds like something you can do, or something you can learn how to do, then online college may be right for you.

To find out why real students like you chose to attend an online school, check out Why Go to Online College?

Is online school more affordable?

Online school is typically affordable. However, prices vary based on location, degree level and whether you plan to attend a private or public online school. As a general rule, public institutions are more affordable than private schools and undergraduate courses are less expensive than graduate courses. Like traditional public colleges, online public colleges — including community colleges and four-year public schools — will typically offer lower tuition rates if you live in-state. In other words, the price of online college will vary based on the decisions you make. Online schools will most likely save you money because they do not have the major expenses of a traditional school, which include residential housing, transposition costs, meal plans, etc.

If affordability is your top concern, take a peek at the Most Affordable Online Colleges.

To take advantage of in-state rates, search for Online Colleges By State.

Are online degrees accredited?

The best online colleges are regionally accredited. Accreditation is the educational stamp of approval that guarantees your selected academic institution has attained certain standards of operational, procedural, financial and academic practice. There are two primary types of accreditation: regional accreditation and national accreditation.

Regional accreditation is the more rigorous of the two, and a stronger indication of a college or university’s quality, credibility, student outcomes, faculty qualifications and more. All of the online colleges that we rank at TheBestSchools.org are regionally accredited. This is the gold standard in online college accreditation.

National accreditation is typically affiliated with religious institutions as well as technical, professional and certification programs. Some nationally accredited programs may offer you an accessible path to practical training. However, the national accreditation landscape also presents you with the risk of enrolling at a less-than-reputable institution. If you go this route, shop with caution.

Is online college respected?

Online college is respected by most employers. They have come to view online degrees in much the same way as they view traditional college degrees. In fact, many employers in today’s workplace prize online college graduates for their demonstrated ability to work independently, balance responsibilities and remotely collaborate with others. Many of the best online schools are either part of or affiliated with top colleges and universities. Both online colleges and online high schools are guided by the same curriculum and instructors as their on-campus counterparts.

To learn more, check out Will Employers Take My Online Degree Seriously?

What are the best online degrees?

The best online degrees are the ones that meet your personal and professional needs. Naturally, you should start by choosing a degree that interests you and furthers your professional goals. But it also helps to choose an online degree that offers a wide range of employment opportunities. The best online degrees are widely available from many online colleges. The most popular online degrees — such as business, computer and information technology, healthcare, social work and criminal justice — may be offered by a variety of online schools; these schools will have different educational models and price points.

To get started, we suggest checking out The 25 Best Online Degrees.

How fast can I expect to finish an online education?

You may finish an online education more quickly than a traditional education. Many online colleges are distinguished by their flexibility. Some of the best online programs let you shape your own experience. Online schools offer a wide variety of educational experiences; these include accelerated online degree programs and dual degree programs that let you quickly complete your studies. If you don’t have the time for full-time enrollment, many online colleges will allow you to enroll part-time so that you can complete your studies without disrupting your work or family responsibilities. If you enroll part-time, it will likely take you longer to earn your degree. Many online colleges also offer flexible enrollment that gets you started on your program without waiting for the beginning of a traditional semester.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online High School

What is the difference between a high school diploma and a GED?

The difference between a high school diploma and a GED is future salary and employment opportunities. Individuals with a high school diploma routinely earn high salaries and gain access to greater opportunities than those with just a GED. Online high schools create new opportunities for diploma completion that have been previously unavailable to non-traditional students, student athletes and others who require flexibility.

For more information, see our High School Diplomas versus the GED.

Why should I go to online high school?

You should go to online high school if you have an unconventional situation. Are you thinking of going back to high school after a lengthy delay? Did you fall behind in your classes due to a lapse in attendance? Are you a excellent student or athlete who is looking for a way to accelerate graduation? Each of these is a good reason to consider online high school, and there are plenty of other reasons!

For more information, see our Why Go to Online High School?

How can I succeed at an online high school?

You can succeed at online high school if you are committed to yourself. Online high school may be convenient, but it may also require a lot of adjustment. If this is your first time taking classes online, you may want to consider a few new strategies for managing your time, balancing your responsibilities, staying on task and creating a suitable learning environment for yourself.

For more information, see our Tips for Succeeding at Online High School.