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Best 10 Online Colleges and Universities

Updated on March 12, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

 Edinburgh University Library
Edinburgh University Library | Source

Top 10 American Online Colleges and Universities

The correspondence school movement of distance education began as early as AD 1728. The Boston Gazette newspaper printed an advert stating: "Caleb Phillips, teacher of the New Method of Short Hand seeks students for lessons to be sent weekly."

About a hundred years later, distance education was developed in London, UK and from there it spread to other locales, all through the mail.

Hundreds of educational programs have been published online since the Internet became popular around AD 1996. Not all of these distance learning programs have endured, but many have developed into reputable options, offering dozens of useful degree programs as well as self-enrichment classes.

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Google Glass and similar systems may one day be an access point to online classes.Google "Sunglass"
Google Glass and similar systems may one day be an access point to online classes.
Google Glass and similar systems may one day be an access point to online classes. | Source
Google "Sunglass"
Google "Sunglass" | Source

Our 21st century students can actually complete grades 1-12 and post-secondary education at all levels online in accredited programs. Some college level courses require time on a physical campus, but many do not.

For advanced degrees above the bachelors, some subjects - like nursing and medicine - require internships and other educational experiences not available online.

Finding Time for Education

Working adults were the first individuals to take advantage of correspondence courses offered before the World Wide Web was invented.

The classes were all handled through snail mail, with some programs requiring classroom time or meetings with an advisor. Some people were able to complete high school and college in this way without interfering with their work hours.

Many schools at all levels have developed online classes, many with accredited degree programs.

The following list of online programs consistently appear in rankings of top colleges and universities in American guidebooks. At least 100 schools offer accredited online degree programs that are reputable and provide education that leading to a real job and career.


Six Myths About Online Education Debunked

  1. Online schools are inferior to classroom based schools and are offered only by cyber-schools that you cannot locate physically. This is false, because via the Internet, follow-up is even more regular between teacher and student and these schools list their p[physical addresses. If you cannot find one, don’t use that school. Check addresses with a Google search, making sure that they are not simply a box at a UPS store.
  2. Online faculty are under-qualified. I found this was true on a few occasions before 2005-2006. This is no longer true as schools have tightened up their teaching requirements. Community business professionals really have to have the correct skills when they teach classes or seminars as well.
  3. Online students suffer consequences of classroom activity. This is not true, with live conferencing, discussions rooms, e-mail, pod-casts, videos, and more. Sometimes, it’s more organized to be online than in a classroom.
  4. Online degrees is just computer based lessons that you download. Incorrect! Students can download assignments and lecture notes, but also watch streaming video lectures, hear pod-casts, chat in discussion rooms, and use live-conference features.
  5. Online degrees are not accredited and therefore, not accepted by employers. This was once true for some of these degrees, because not all online schools were accredited, but those have largely been closed down or upgraded to accredited in the last several years have been researching them. After 2005, this is just no longer much of a concern.
  6. Online students need to be highly tech-savvy. Wrong! You need to know how to navigate E-mail, pod-casts, and other user-friendly aspects. Directions are clear and easy to follow and a Help Desk feature is provided.

Fifteen years of success in 2013.
Fifteen years of success in 2013. | Source
Western Governors University:
4001 South 700 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84107, USA

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1. Western Governors University - Consistent Winner

Physical HQ in Salt Lake City Utah. This university was formed by the partnership among 19 different US state governors in the West. Phone: 1-866-225-5948.

This university offers a high-quality online education via low tuition rates, accelerated degree programs, and a wide array of bachelors and masters degree programs. These include 9 different MBAs, 9 IT degrees, 31 degrees in Education & Training, and 7 degrees in Nursing and Health.

WGU won the USDLA 21st Century Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning in 2008. Additional degree programs are added as developed, on a regular business. This school also won the Number One slot again in 2013. It continues to be the Number One Online School for advanced education.

Accredited by Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; Distance Education and Training Council (DETC); and NCATE.

Women in Afghanistan study online.
Women in Afghanistan study online. | Source

2. Capella University

Capella University -- HQ Office at 225 South 6th St, Minneapolis MN 55402. Phone: 1-888-227-2736.

AWARDS: WebCT Exemplary Course Award, National University Telecommunications Network (NUTN) 2006 Distance Education Innovation Award, WebCT Exemplary Practice Award, National Center of Academic Excellence designation from the National Security Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This well known institution is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) for online degrees readily available at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral (PhD) levels.

Over 70% of Capella U. students receive financial aid regardless of financial needs. Students can earn course credit for previous classes and training. Most exiting is that over 1,300 different companies and government agencies pay for some or all of their worker's tuition for Capella online degreen programsnd individual courses.

Programs toward a degree award include 28 MBAs, 11 IT degrees, 27 degrees in Education & Training, and 32 degrees in Nursing and Health. eleven (11) degrees are awarded also in Social and Criminal Justice through Capella U. Additional courses added regularly - check the website.

Walden University:
100 S Washington Ave #900, Minneapolis, MN 55401, USA

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3. Walden University - "A Higher Degree. A Higher Purpose"

Headquarters are located in Minneapolis MN. Located also In Baltimore MD and other cities.

Accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, this online university offers the Masters and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees and the online Bachelors degree in business administration.

This very well known online education firm began helping adults earn degrees through distance learning as early as 1970. This was a heyday of correspondence schools that made it possible for full-time workers to study in the evenings and on weekends. Walden was once listed in the classified ads in the back of various magazines and other publications, proved themselves as being able to deliver high grade education that leads to lucrative careers, and expanded into international venues and the cyberworld of online learning.

Walden U. Online programs towards a degree include 35 MBAs, 9 IT degrees, 37 degrees in Education & Training, 58 degrees in Nursing and Health, 2 in Science & Technology, and 19 degrees are awarded also in Social and Criminal Justice. Additional effective programs for high demand jobs are added regularly.

Northcentral University, Prescott AZ:
Prescott Valley, AZ 86314, USA

get directions

4. Northcentral University

This university is headquartered in Prescott Valley, Arizona. It is inexpensive, because Northcentral is a total cyber-university without classrooms, offering 120 Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees.

Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission, and the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs – ACBSP, recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation(CHEA).

Northcentral online programs grant degrees in the form of 35 MBAs, 13 IT degrees, 35 degrees in Education & Training, 16 degrees in Nursing and Health, and 10 degrees in Social and Criminal Justice. See the website for upadted information about regularly added new programs.

As of the final quarter of 2008, the entire bachelor's degree can be achieved for a cost of $33,000 that covers 120 credit hours. This translates to $275 per credit hour.

Santa Ana CA:
Santa Ana, CA, USA

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California Coast University:
925 N Spurgeon St, Santa Ana, CA 92701, USA

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5. California Coast University

Founded many yeaars ago in 1973, this school's physical location is in Santa Ana. Phone: 1-866-91-EDUCATE.

California Coast University offers decades successful classroom based and distance learning achievements to over 10,000 individuals per year that earn the online Associates, Bachelors, and Masters degrees in the fields of business, psychology, and education. Students are largely mid-career professionals looking to advance their responsibilities, pay, and benefits.

Online study programs leading to a degree include 6 degrees in Business, 2 degrees in Education & Training, and 3 degrees in PSychology, and 2 degrees in Social and Criminal Justice.

Market Street in Philadelphia
Market Street in Philadelphia | Source

6. Drexel University Online - "A Better U"

Drexel University Online is headquartered at 3141 Chestnut St, Philadelphia PA 19104. Phone: 1-877-215-0009.

Drexel is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Past Winner of the USDLA 21st Century Best Practice for Distance Learning Award. Drexel is still a top online school in 2013.

Programs toward a degree award include over 60 options in a variety of high demand occupational fields.

Franklin University
Franklin University | Source
Franklin University:
201 S Grant Ave, Columbus, OH 43215, USA

get directions

7. Franklin University

Franklin University was established primarily as a business school in Columbus OH in 1902.

Franklin University was ranked in the Top 20 Schools of the Online Education Database's 2008 Online College Rankings.

In four classroom campuses and online, the school educates 10,000 people annuallyas of the end of 2008. Franklin University is well known for its good reputation in education and placement assistance for students into lucrative long-term careers. Phone: 1-877-341-6300

Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Franklin University online degree programs offer 8 MBAs, 5 IT degrees, 2 degrees in Education & Training, 13 degrees in business, 2 degrees in Forensics, and 2 degrees in Nursing and Health. The school reports that over 90% of students in their programs begin with established transfer credit from other schools of higher learning.

Manchester NH:
Manchester, NH, USA

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Southern New Hampshire Unviersity:
2500 N River Rd, Hooksett, NH 03106, USA

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8. Southern New Hampshire Unviersity

This institution is located in New England in Manchester NH. Phone: 1-800-668-1249.

Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

Study programs for online degrees include 5 Masters degrees programs that lead to MBAs in business and marketing, including International Business. Newly added degrees are also available in Sports Management and Justice Studies, with dozens of undergraduate degrees to total 50 online degree options.

Union Institute & University in the Ohio Space Corridor

Union Institute & University:
440 E McMillan St, Cincinnati, OH 45206, USA

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Dayton OH:
Dayton, OH, USA

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Columbus OH:
Columbus, OH, USA

get directions

Cincinnati OH:
Cincinnati, OH, USA

get directions

9. Union Institute & University

Union Institute & University is a nonprofit school located at 440 E McMillan St, Cincinnati OH. 45206. Phone: 1-800-486-3116.

Accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

This school is particularly good, because it provides trained academic advisors that coordinate closely with each individual student to ensure success. This is also one of the few schools that offers a program in the Environment. This school is also one of the first universities to develop distance education for mid-careerists - working adults that need flexible learning schedules.

Degrees that can be earned via online programs through this school include 5 in Arts & Humanities, 1 in Education and Teaching, 3 in Health & Medicine that include Nursing, and 1 in Science & Technology (specifically in the Environment), and 5 in Social Sciences & Criminal Justice. Additional new programs are regularly added as well.


Additional Winners

For 2019, the best online accredited schools for bachelors degrees also included:

  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University--Worldwide
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus OH; tied with Oregon State University
  • Pennsylvania State University--World Campus in University Park PA, tied with University of Florida

In 2013, additional winners for the 21st century award included:

  • Booz Allen Hamilton, Corporate: Online Technology. Headquartered in Washington DC.
  • Stevens Institute of Technology - Webcampus Division; Online Technology: Higher Education. Hoboken NJ.

Recent winners of the Best Practices Award in online education:

  • University at Albany (NY), Rockefeller College: Professional Development
  • VUC Storstrom: Videoconferencing Technology in Adult Education (GED, BASIC Skills, and College).
  • The US Department of Veterans Affairs & IT Workforce Development in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


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