The Best Online Colleges and Universities of 2022

by TBS Staff, Nalea Ko
TheBestSchools.org

thebestschools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Best Online Schools and Unviersities

Many of the country's top-ranked colleges and universities offer online programs. Many students choose online college because of the schedule flexibility. Rather than commuting to class on campus, online schools let students complete coursework from anywhere. In many cases, this makes online programs a more accessible pathway to a degree. Students can enroll in the best schools online without needing to relocate or quit their jobs.

The best online colleges are the ones that build the knowledge and skills necessary for career advancement and offer student services especially for online learners, including online tutoring, career services, and academic advising. The top online programs also offer strong alumni networks and connections with prospective employers.

This page covers the basics of online education and ranks the best online schools. You can use it to find the right program to help you reach your professional goals.

Common Questions About Online Colleges

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Degree Program?

Four years for a bachelor's degree and two years for a master's. Some online schools offer accelerated programs, allowing students to graduate sooner.

What Can I Do With an Online Degree?

Graduates with an online degree can pursue careers in fields like business, education, and healthcare. An online degree from an accredited institution meets the same licensure and certification requirements as an on-campus degree.

How Is Online College Different From On-Campus College?

Online courses let students complete coursework on their own schedules, though some online programs still have set class times. However, the material, instructors, and requirements are often the same in online and on-campus programs.

Are Online Courses Harder?

No, they cover the same material as in-person classes. However, students who have trouble focusing or staying self-motivated may find it harder. Many online schools offer resources to help students transition to an online learning format.

Are Online Degrees Recognized?

Yes. Online degrees earned at an accredited online college meet the same academic standards as on-campus programs. They also meet the same licensure requirements, unless otherwise stated.

Are There Year-Round Online Programs?

Yes. Many online schools have classes all year, including summer terms. Most online colleges offer multiple start dates.

Do My Credits Transfer to an Online College?

Yes. Credits earned from a regionally accredited institution usually transfer to online colleges. Some online colleges also offer credit for work experience or military training.

What Is an Online College?

Online colleges let students earn degrees through an online learning format, including associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and graduate degrees. Online students can pursue degrees in areas like business, education, healthcare, or engineering. During an online degree, learners complete coursework by watching recorded lectures, participating in discussion boards, and taking online examinations.

Attending an online program is a great way to build your skills or change careers while still working full time. You can plan coursework around your schedule. Students with family obligations may also prefer the flexibility of an online college.

Often, online degrees are offered through the same institutions as regular degrees and carry the same weight as an on-campus degree. So long you earn it through a regionally accredited school, your online degree will be taken seriously.

Featured Online Colleges

Campus vs. Online Programs

The biggest difference between online programs and on-campus programs is the schedule flexibility. In an asynchronous online course — meaning it doesn't have set class times — students can finish classwork whenever it is convenient for them. This flexibility appeals to working professionals and students who need to balance school with other responsibilities. Many learners can also save on transportation costs by choosing an online degree.

Some learners prefer the face-to-face experience of on-campus programs. But online programs allow students to connect through discussion boards, group projects, and other interactive elements. Plus, online programs with lab or practicum requirements often let students do those classes locally. For example, online nursing programs often use local health clinics. It's also common for online colleges to have on-campus orientations or residencies.

Choosing an Online Program

There are several factors to consider when evaluating an online college. For example, students should research the total cost of the degree, any on-campus requirements, and concentration options to find a program that fits their goals and needs. Learn more about how to choose an online degree below.

Top Online Colleges & Universities

  1. University of Arkansas at Little Rock
    Location

    Little Rock, AR

    Tuition

    $13751

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Public
    Online Degrees Available: Business, communications, criminal justice, education, health and social sciences, information science, interdisciplinary, writing

    Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    Founded in 1927 in Arkansas' capital, UA Little Rock is one of the nation's best online colleges. The school offers more than 400 online courses and dozens of online degree and certificate programs.

    Many weeklong classes require students to devote 2-3 hours of study per credit. A three-credit course requires 6-9 hours a week of studying time. Enrollees use Blackboard to access lessons and communicate with instructors and classmates. Ottenheimer Library provides digital journals and research materials. UA Little Rock's Online Writing Lab and Mathematics Assistance Center offer virtual tutoring.

    Online learners pay a standard tuition. First-year students must meet unconditional admission requirements. Undergraduates and graduate candidates submit transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Some programs require GRE scores.

    Available Scholarships: The Trojan Transfer scholarship offers $3,000-$5,000 for students transferring at least 12 college credits from an accredited school.

  2. Franklin University
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Private
    Online Degrees Available: Analytics, business, education, finance and accounting, healthcare, management, marketing and communications, nursing, public and social sciences, technology

    Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    Established in 1902, Franklin educates students online and on campus in Columbus, Ohio. The school's online degree and certificate programs run in 12, 15, and 16-week sessions. Students can earn a master's degree in 12-28 months. Learners can earn a doctorate in 36 months.

    This private college workswith worldwide partners, including 13 community and vocational schools. Franklin offers online associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Transfer students can transfer up to 94 credits. As one of the nation's best online colleges, Franklin also accepts credit by examination. Admission requirements vary by degree.

    Available Scholarships:Franklin offers more than 50 scholarships, including the Franklin University Undergraduate Scholars Program. The program offers awards from $500-$2,000.

  3. Brenau University
    Location

    Gainesville, GA

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Private
    Online Degrees Available: Elementary education, liberal studies, communication and media studies, finance, human resource management, marketing, elementary education, healthcare administration, psychology, organizational leadership, accounting, business, mediation and conflict resolution, nonprofit leadership, project management, public accounting, strategic thinking and innovation, leadership in higher education

    Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    With a main campus in Gainesville, Georgia, Brenau offers 12 online undergraduate programs and 66 graduate programs. One of the nation's best online universities, this private college has offered online programs since 1998. Online degree options include an associate in elementary education, a bachelor's in psychology, and a master's in business. Students can also pursue a postgraduate certificate in healthcare management.

    Learners complete online degrees and certificates at an accelerated pace. Sessions last seven weeks. Applicants receive an admissions decision about two weeks after applying.

    Available Scholarships:The school's Community Service Award recognizes community volunteers who have made a difference.

  4. Franciscan University of Steubenville
    Location

    Steubenville, OH

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Private
    Online Degrees Available: Theology, philosophy, management, clinical psychology, catechetics and evangelization, business administration, theology and Christian ministry, education, Catholic studies

    Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    Founded in 1946, Franciscan offers online degrees that incorporate Catholicism. Students can pursue degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Online learners use Blackboard to access weekly lectures and live webinars. They also use Blackboard to interact with classmates and instructors on discussion boards and blogs.

    Admission requirements vary by degree. Franciscan's online programs are accredited by the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Transfer students comprise 35% of Franciscan's population. These learners need a minimum 2.2 GPA with at least 24 credits.

    Available Scholarships: Transfer studentsneed at least 24 credits and a 3.7 GPA to receive the $10,000 St. Clare Scholarship.

  5. Ozark Christian College
    Location

    Joplin, MO

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Private
    Online Degree Available: Biblical studies
    Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    Founded as a biblical college in 1942, OCC offers an online degree that incorporates devotion. The bachelor's in biblical studies program emphasizes ministry field experience, professional lessons, and general education. Learners complete courses at their own pace. Courses include philosophy, psychology, and U.S. history.

    Online learners attend five eight-week modules and meet Thursday and Sunday deadlines. Graduates may work as student ministers, children's ministers, or preaching ministers.

    Students can access campus resources through Canvas. Resources include career services, spiritual counseling, and online tutoring services. OCC offers five start dates for online learners and a free online application.

    Available Scholarships: OCC's Online Learning Merit Scholarship awards students scholarships based on their GPA.

  6. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
    Location

    Indianapolis, IN

    Tuition

    $9807

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Public
    Online Degrees Available: Applied science, business, computing and technology, design, education, general studies, health and health sciences, humanities, informatics, labor studies, library science, mathematics, music, parks and recreation, philanthropy, physical education and tourism management, public affairs and administration, public health, science, social work

    Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

    Established in 1969, IUPUI is a four-year branch of Indiana University with Purdue University. One of the country's best online colleges, IUPUI offers more than 200 online degrees.

    Fully online classes run asynchronously with no deadlines. Hybrid programs include live classes and in-person meetings at specific times.

    Academic advisors coach online students. Learners can access free online math and writing support. Career services advisors help students prepare for post-college plans.

    Prospective students can submit a free online application. IUPUI accepts 64 credits from two-year schools and 90 credits from four-year institutions.

    Available Scholarships: Incoming students can receive IUPUI's Jaguar Excellence Award based on their GPA. This automatic scholarship does not require an application.

  7. Campbellsville University
    Location

    Campbellsville, KY

    Fast Facts

    School Type:Private
    Online Degrees Available:Business administration, Christian studies, criminal justice, education, elementary education, general business, general studies, leadership and missions, mass communication, pastoral ministries, social work, special education learning

    Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    Founded in 1906, CU offers more than 54 online degrees grounded in Christian faith. Students can earn online degrees in areas such as criminal justice, education, and nursing.

    One of the country's best online colleges, CU accepts up to 72 transfer credits for a bachelor's degree. Learners can apply up to 32 transfer credits for an associate degree. CU accepts nine credits for certificates and 12 credits for a master's degree.

    Prospective students speak with an enrollment counselor. CU offers six annual start dates.

    Available Scholarships:Transfer students pursuing a bachelor's degree can receive a $1,500 scholarship through the Transfer Scholarship.

  8. Marquette University
    Location

    Milwaukee, WI

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Private
    Online Degrees Available: Business administration, Christian doctrine, clinical mental health counseling, computing, corporate communication, data science, healthcare data analytics, finance, management, supply chain management

    Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    Established in 1881, Marquette offers online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Learners can also pursue an online certificate in data science.

    Online degree options include a bachelor's in business administration, a master's in computing, and a master's in finance. Students can earn their degrees fully online. However, learners pursuing a master's in supply chain management must attend in-person meetings.

    Out-of-state students need state authorization to attend Marquette's online programs.

    Available Scholarships:Students with a passion for social justice can apply for the Burke Scholarship. The late Richard A. Burke, who graduated from the College of Business Administration, created this award.

  9. Liberty University
    Location

    Lynchburg, VA

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Private
    Online Degrees Available: Accounting, apologetics, aviation maintenance management, business, computational mathematics, criminal justice, cultural engagement, elementary education, fashion merchandising, law and policy, religion, sports management

    Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    Liberty offers more than 450 online degrees with a biblical focus. Liberty University School of Lifelong Learning has offered distance learning since 1985.

    Online classrooms feature a student-to-instructor ratio of 17-to-1. Online degrees include an associate in accounting, a bachelor's in psychology, and a master of divinity.

    Liberty's Office of Online Student Life helps online learners meet other students in virtual forums. A personal advisor provides guidance during online studies at Liberty.

    Online courses run in eight-week semesters. Liberty offers multiple start dates throughout the year.

    Available Scholarships: Missionary Kid Scholarship awards Liberty students, born to missionary parents, with a partial or a full-tuition scholarship. Applicants need at least a 2.5 GPA.

  10. Brazosport College
    Location

    Lake Jackson, TX

    Tuition

    $5349

    Fast Facts

    School Type: Public
    Online Degrees Available: Adult education and literacy, business, chemical refining and industries, education, communications, fine arts and humanities, health professions, mechanical and construction technology, personal enrichment, social and behavioral sciences, science, technology, engineering, math

    Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
    Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

    Established in 1968, BC offers distance learning undergraduate courses and online associate degrees. Students can take general education core classes online. They can also study remotely to earn an associate in arts degree from one of the nation's best online colleges.

    Some programs offer fully online classes. Others feature hybrid formats. Students can earn a bachelor's in health services management completely online. Business programs offer transfer pathways directly to all public colleges and universities in Texas.

    Online learners can access resources such as tutors available through the Student Success Center and E-200.

    Available Scholarships: BC connects students to local scholarships such as the Lake Jackson Lions Club Scholarship. Graduates of Brazoswood and Brazosport high schools may apply. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA.

Online College Ranking Guidelines

Our ranking methodology combines data analysis with research into academic excellence, faculty, reputation, affordability, and range of degree programs. It is also reviewed by our Academic Advisory Board. All of these online colleges and universities are regionally accredited and nonprofit. Our goal is to list the best accredited online colleges to help online students.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Online Technology Degrees

The Best Online Colleges in Each State

Students considering an online degree can attend college in any state, regardless of where they live. Learn about the best online schools in every state.

State

Financing Your College Degree

Online learners can pay for school through scholarships, grants, and loans. Online students qualify for many of the same financial aid as traditional students, including federal financial aid. Students can also find scholarships and grants from their schools or use employee tuition reimbursement programs.

Learn more about how to apply for student loans or fill out the FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid.

Featured Psychology Programs

Expert Advice for Online College

Portrait of Dr. Joanna Bauer

Dr. Joanna Bauer

Preferred Pronouns: She/They

Dr. Joanna Bauer is vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer for Claremont Lincoln University. She believes in the value of learning and the intersection of ethical leadership, sustainable solutions, and social change. She teaches communication, leadership, critical thinking, and conflict resolution. She also teaches research, marketing, sociology, and behavioral science.

Bauer has held a variety of academic administrative positions, teaching on campus and online for 20 years. She has developed faculty mentoring programs, teaching and learning centers, and student success initiatives. She has received 15 awards, including Outstanding Faculty, Outstanding Public Service, Excellence in Curriculum Development and Classroom Innovation, and Excellence in Mentorship.

What unique opportunities are available to students who study online?

Online education that has a robust, peer-to-peer learning environment, such as what we provide at Claremont Lincoln University, gives students a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the content and participate in cohorts.

With the need of students to support work/life balance, yet engage in education that fits their schedules, online delivery is a superior choice. The flexibility of when and where to learn is literally at their fingertips. Students can travel, work, parent, set their own timelines and agenda, organize and prioritize their time, build relationships with classmates, and apply studies right away into professional and personal contexts.

What should students interested in studying online know or consider before applying?

Online learning allows students to earn the same credentials and degrees as they would with face-to-face learning and often helps to improve writing, critical thinking, and professional skills in organization, time management, and self-motivation.

Potential online students should research schools that develop courses based on sound online teaching practices (peer-to-peer exchanges, innovative course design, leveraging instructional design practices, etc.) instead of those that simply take the face-to-face course and convert it to an online format.

To be an effective online student, learners must have the ability to synthesize information individually, which happens predominantly through reading or watching videos. Some questions learners can ask themselves include: How much do I like being with other people? Do I need face time with my instructor? Am I self-motivated? How do I handle challenges? Am I comfortable building community in online spaces? Can I communicate well through email and Zoom?

It is important to note that whether online or face to face, students still have access to student and academic support resources, along with support from the faculty member.

What skills or habits help students who choose to study online be successful?

One of the best aspects of online learning is the flexibility and how busy people can mold their schedules to fit daily life. Other skills or habits include being able to self-start, even when things are boring or challenging; being able to connect while learning primarily with the written word; being willing to take creative/academic risks and learn new skills; and being willing to meet people with a wider diversity than in a given geographic or professional context.

For organization of the coursework, it is helpful to have a course calendar and add everything in the calendar with reminders (not forgetting reading and reflection time).

What makes online degrees valuable from an employer's perspective?

Beyond the programmatic content, there are specialized skills that online learners develop because of the increased diverse nature of the cohort, as well as the professional skills needed to be successful.

Online degrees show employers that students are patient, motivated, self-directed, independent, and self-disciplined. Online students need to be able to communicate in a variety of ways to diverse audiences, including written and presentation skills, and this translates directly to the workplace in meetings, emails, videos, and the like.

Another big one is collaborating with peers and teams in the workplace. They can also learn skills such as self-starting, encouraging innovation, willingness to embrace change, willingness to grow as a writer, willingness to be in community with diverse viewpoints, and a high motivation to follow through. All of these make for exceptional, creative, and collaborative team members, no matter the context.

Do students with an online degree have the same opportunities as students who study in traditional brick-and-mortar settings?

Definitely, and in fact probably more, in terms of participation, communication, and diversity.

Instead of a classroom with students from the same campus, online students have the opportunity to actively interact with a much broader group. This means developing and improving the skills of cultural competence, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, dialogue, collaboration, conflict resolution, embracing diverse ideologies, and new ways of thinking about law, policy, gender, education, and civic spaces. They also typically have access to a wider variety of faculty.

Additionally, in many brick-and-mortar classes, the emphasis is on "sage on the stage," or lecture learning, where a student can hide in the back of the large room and not participate. In online courses with discussions, students must participate in the discussion.

These communication skills are invaluable in the workplace and beyond. For job opportunities, brick-and-mortar students have to prove academic chops, plus digital and soft skills. Online students demonstrate mastery or near-mastery of both by virtue of how and where they studied.

In the past, online education was not accepted as widely as traditional academic institutions, but since COVID-19, online learning is gaining new support from many of those skeptics, who are now embracing it because it complements the work-from-home procedures that many had previously disliked.

Featured Online Bachelor's Degrees

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office