Online Colleges: Is It Right for You? 5 Key Considerations By Anna Helhoski
An online degree is an academic degree (usually a college degree, but sometimes the term includes high school diplomas and non-degree certificate programs) that can be earned primarily or entirely through the use of an Internet-connected computer, rather than attending college in a traditional campus setting.
Online colleges are growing in popularity, but which school is right for you.
Amelia Roberts, a nurse in Washington, D.C., knew she needed to return to college for a bachelor’s degree if she wanted to win a care coordinator position at her hospital. But attending college on a campus wasn’t a practical option for her.
“I was in the workforce, so traveling to a class in the evening wasn’t going to work. Everything pointed to online university,” Roberts says. She enrolled in a bachelor’s of science program in nursing online through Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey. Soon after Roberts got the promotion.
Roberts found the independent and self-paced style of online learning suited her well.
Millions of college students enroll in online courses every year. Nearly a third of all college students take at least one online course, and one in seven students take online courses exclusively, according to the most recent data available from Babson Survey Research Group, which conducts national surveys annually on online learning in the U.S.
But it’s not for everyone. If you’re considering an online degree program, ask yourself these five questions.
- Are You Self-Motivated?
You need to be a self-starter to succeed in any classroom, but it’s critical for online learning. Online degree seekers are often older than typical freshmen, and classes aren’t always the top priority.
“The majority of our students are working adults with full-time jobs, children and other commitments outside of the classroom,” says Joe Chapman, director of student services for Arizona State University Online. “Attending in class on campus is not an option for them, and it’s been several years since they last attended school. … It can be daunting and scary for some people.”
To thrive in an online setting, you’ll need self-discipline. You’ll also need a strategy to manage your time and energy to balance classwork with other responsibilities, experts say.
- Do You Have the Right Equipment?
You can take a course online at any time and place — that’s its primary appeal. Yet that doesn’t mean you should be using your smartphone to do it, experts say.
“You may have a phone, an iPhone or an iPad and you can access our classes that way, but to be effective, you really should have a reliable computer,” says Lynne M. Lander Fleisher, director of Clarion University Online.
You’ll need a desktop or laptop and regular access to Wi-Fi to complete coursework online. You may need to download software your school requires as well.
- Can You Adapt To Learning Online?
Learning in an online setting may not be the best way for you to absorb information. If you’re not a reader, then you probably won’t enjoy online courses, which tend to require a lot of reading. You’re unlikely to interact much with your professor or peers in an online course. A solo learning style may not be a fit if you rely on communicating with others.
“Everyone learns differently, so the people who can learn better by reading or hearing have an advantage,” says Megan Pederson, teaching specialist and online academic adviser for University of Minnesota Crookston. “People who learn by doing tend not to enjoy the online experience.”
- Is the School You’re Interested in Legitimate?
An online degree program’s quality will vary by institution. Programs offered by established, nonprofit public or private schools are usually safe bets. You should research the credentials of schools without a brick-and-mortar counterpart.
Start by finding top online colleges from “best of” lists by reputable publications. For an extra layer of quality control, inquire about accreditation , both institutional and program-specific, with the admissions department.
- How Will You Pay for Online College?
If you can’t afford to pay for your degree with savings and income, the financial aid process is the same as if you were attending a traditional college campus. You’ll need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Then you’ll receive a Student Aid Report detailing aid you qualify for.
The amount of aid you can get will depend on your enrollment status, dependency status and income. The rule of thumb is to accept any grants and scholarships, followed by work-study, before taking on a loan.
Schools that are accredited will offer financial aid. Be wary if your school does not offer federal financial aid or pushes its own loan programs.
The 25 Best Colleges Online For 2018 – Best College Reviews
As technology advances and modern life becomes busier and busier, the demand for online colleges and degrees continues to grow. To meet this demand, more and more colleges and universities across the country are developing and enhancing their bachelors degree online offerings. As a result, more working and nontraditional students are turning to distance education offerings as a way to complete their degrees and reach their career goals.
As widespread acceptance of online education surges among nonprofit institutions, the number of accredited online colleges – and their quality – will increase. This rapid growth can make choosing an online college feel intimidating. To develop a short list of options that make sense for you and your goals, you need to compare a wide range of components, such as accreditation, tuition and fees, support services, faculty, Flexibility of online programs, Quality of online programs and career preparation.
#25 – MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY
Missouri State University offers ten fully online bachelors degree programs including bachelor science degrees in communication studies, general business, health services, professional writing, and criminology. Certificate programs are also available in fire administration and writing for television and film. Missouri State offers its bachelors degree online students valuable resources such as career counseling and degree exploration, online tutoring, library services, and test proctoring.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $285
#24 – INDIANA UNIVERSITY
As a top distance education provider, Indiana University offers over 100 online degrees and certificates, many of them online bachelors degree programs. Some of the school’s more popular undergraduate degree offerings include the BS in Informatics, the RN to BSN in Nursing program, the BS in Health Information Management, and the BS in Criminal Justice. The school also offers dozens of online undergraduate certificates in areas such as e-commerce development, international leadership, technical communication, and events management. Degree completion programs are also available for those prospective students who already hold an associate’s degree or equivalent.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $310
#23 – UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS
The University of North Texas’ online bachelors degree offerings include 5 bachelors completion degrees as well as 2 undergraduate certificates. Areas of study include criminal justice, rehabilitation studies, applied technology & performance improvement, and information science. Undergraduate students may also earn certificates in rehabilitation studies and volunteer & community resource management. For those bachelors degree online students who wish to continue their studies after graduation, UNT offers 20 online graduate degree programs as well as many other certification opportunities.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $274
#22 – THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS OF THE PERMIAN BASIN
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin offers over a dozen online bachelors degree programs, many of which are accelerated offerings. Some of the school’s undergraduate options include the BA in Child and Family Studies, the BS in Criminal Justice, the BAAS in Industrial Technology, and the BBA in Marketing. Some online certifications and endorsements are also available for teachers such as the principle certification and the university certificate in autism and developmental disabilities in early childhood. Many of the school’s bachelors degree online programs are offered via accelerated formats.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $133
#21 – REGENT UNIVERSITY
Regent University offers an impressive lineup of online bachelors degree programs through its College of Arts & Sciences. Fields of study include Communication, Criminal Justice, Business, Education, Healthcare, Leadership, and more. Classes are taught by on-campus faculty members, and students collaborate with one another in a virtual classroom. Coursework is asynchronous, meaning students can set their own schedules at work at their own pace, but there are set deadlines, and students should expect to spend between 15 and 20 hours per week on their studies.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $395
#20 – FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
As one of the most prolific providers of online bachelors degree programs in our ranking, Florida International University offers over two dozen fully online undergraduate programs. Some popular degree options include the BA in Communication Arts, the BS in Early Childhood Education, the BBA in Finance, and the BHSA in Health Services Administration. Several online undergraduate certificates are also available, including certificates in conflict resolution, national security studies, and social media and e-marketing analytics among several others. FIU’s bachelors degree online students enjoy courses that are highly interactive and mirror the school’s on-campus offerings.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $329
#19 – LAMAR UNIVERSITY
Lamar University offers online bachelors degree programs from its Center for Distance Education and Division of Distance Learning. Topics of study include computer science, industrial engineering, entrepreneurship, communication, and sociology. Lamar’s bachelors degree online students have the option of completing their degree programs via a traditional, 15-week semester format or the accelerated, 8-week semester schedule. Multiple start dates throughout the year are also available, making it convenient for students to continue their education on their own time.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $248
#18 – UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS – AMHERST
The University of Massachusetts- Amherst offers traditional online bachelor’s degree programs as well as undergraduate degree completion programs. Areas of study include criminal justice, business studies, early care and education, health studies, and arts management among several others. Bachelors degree online students receive the same quality instruction from on-campus faculty members and earn an identical degree as well. Associates degree, certifications, and master’s degree programs are also available.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $385
#17 – UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
The University of Central Florida has an impressive distance education program, offering over 80 online degrees, many of them online bachelor’s degree programs. Some of these undergraduate offerings include a BA in International and Global Studies, a BS in Health Informatics and Information Management, a Bachelor of Applied Science, and a BS in Technical Education and Industry Training among many others. Online minors and bachelor certificates are also available. The university is also dedicated to providing resources for its distance education students, providing bachelors degree online students with academic advising, peer-assisted learning, online tutoring, and more.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $300
#16 – WESTFIELD STATE UNIVERSITY
Westfield State University’s online bachelor’s programs are degree completion programs. This means that students must hold an associates degree or equivalent from an accredited school in order to be accepted into the program. Areas of study include Business, Criminal Justice, History, Liberal Studies, Psychology, and Sociology. A few hybrid programs are also available, including an RN to BSN in Nursing. WSU has been offering online classes since 2002, and it has consistently been recognized by respectable publications for its academic rigor as well as its affordability.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $297
#15 – UNIVERSITY OF MAINE AT AUGUSTA
The University of Maine offers a dozen online bachelors degree programs, many of which offer various concentrations and areas of emphasis. Some popular undergraduate subject areas include business administration, computer science, criminal justice, social science, and cybersecurity. Minors and certificates are also available for bachelors degree online students. For those who want to continue their education in a post-baccalaureate program, the University of Maine offers several online graduate options as well.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $271
#14 – COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
Colorado State University offers regionally accredited online bachelors degree programs taught by the same faculty members who teach on the school’s Fort Collins campus. Among the eight fully online offerings are programs like the BA in Economics, the BS in Fire and Emergency Services, the BS in Horticulture, and the BS in Human Development and Family Studies. The curriculum is comprised of a blend of both synchronous and asynchronous video lectures, discussion forums, audio assessments, and proctored assessments. Certification options are also available for CSU’s bachelors degree online students.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $350
#13 – UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS
The University of Arkansas offers five online bachelors degree programs: a BA in Communications, a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, a BS in Business Administration, a BS in Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education, and a RN to BSN program. The curriculum for each program is designed by the respective academic department at the university’s Fayetteville campus, so online students receive the same quality education as their on-campus counterparts. Minors, certificates, and graduate programs are also available.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $284
#12 – SUNY – DELHI
SUNY- Delhi is a national leader in online higher education, offering several rigorous online bachelor’s degree programs, including a BBA in Hospitality Management, a BS in Criminal Justice, and an RN to BSN degree completion program among others. Although classes are asynchronous, meaning there are no specific meeting times for online courses, students are required to log in at least once a week. Online bachelor’s degree students have access to experienced faculty members, either via email or by phone.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $270
#11 – SAM HOUSTON STATE UNIVERSITY
Sam Houston State University offers nine online bachelors degree programs, including both a BA and a BS in Criminal Justice, a BBA in General Business Administration, a BSN in Nursing, and a BS in Psychology. Roughly half of the school’s online undergraduate options are offered entirely online while the remaining programs require some lab or classroom visits. Despite their convenience and flexibility, SHSU’s online courses mirror its on-campus offerings in terms of rigor, and they are taught by the same award-winning faculty. Professional certifications are also available for bachelors degree online students.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $216
#10 – OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
Ohio State University is one of the top providers of online bachelors degree programs for those students interested in working in the healthcare field. The school offers three healthcare related undergraduate degrees fully online: a BS in Dental Hygiene, a BS in Health Sciences, and a BS in Nursing. Classes are taught by the same faculty members who teach on campus, and bachelors degree online students will have comparable opportunities to communicate with faculty for advisement and feedback. A devoted team of instructional designers create the courses and curriculum, ensuring an engaging and dynamic learning experience.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $398
#9 – EMBRY-RIDDLE AERONAUTICAL UNIVERSITY
A pioneer in online learning, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has been offering distance learning options for its students since 1971. Today, the school is home to a wealth of online programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. Among its 15 online bachelors degree programs are popular offerings such as a BS in Homeland Security, a BS in Engineering, and a BS in Project Management as well as unique programs like the BS in Aviation Security, the BS in Aviation Business Administration, and the BS in Aeronautics. The school is known for its flexibility, allowing bachelors degree online students the opportunity to create their own personalized degree maps.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $365
#8 – UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY
Utah State University offers seven fully online bachelors degree programs in popular subject areas such as Economics, Liberal Arts, and Psychology. Students may also pursue unique online degrees in Agribusiness and Communicative Disorders & Deaf Education. The school also offers minors and certificate programs for undergraduates. Online bachelors degree students enrolled at Utah State benefit from a variety of resources, including e-tutoring, academic advising, testing services, financial aid, student software discounts, and more.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $310
#7 – CUNY SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES
CUNY School of Professional Studies offers nearly a dozen online bachelor’s degree programs, including unique offerings such as a Bachelor of Arts in Human Relations, a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Community Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in Disability Studies. Other more popular undergraduate areas of study include information systems, nursing, health information management, and business. CUNY’s bachelors degree online offerings are degree completion programs, meaning students are required to have a minimum of 24 credit hours prior to being admitted.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $275
#6 – SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY
Southeast Missouri State University State is home to a comprehensive distance education program, offering online bachelor’s degree programs as well as graduate degrees, minors, certificates, and specialist degrees. Some of the most popular undergraduate offerings include a BS in Computer Information Systems, a BS in Healthcare Management, a BA in Psychology, and an RN to BSN degree completion program. All coursework can be completed entirely online, and there are no campus meetings required. In addition, all online bachelor’s degree students are assigned a personal advisor.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $265
#5 – WEST TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
West Texas A&M University has a robust distance education program, offering a respectable list of online bachelors degree programs in a variety of different formats, including degree completion programs and hybrid programs as well as those offered 100% online. Some of the school’s most popular undergraduate offerings include a BBA with emphases in General Business, Marketing, Management, and Economics; a Criminal Justice degree with both BA and BS tracks; and an RN to BSN degree completion program. In addition to the bachelors degree online options, the school also offers half a dozen fully online graduate programs for students who wish to continue their education.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $295
#4 – CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
California University of Pennsylvania offers twelve fully online bachelors degree programs, including some unique offerings such as a BA in Arabic Language and Culture, a BS in Homeland and International Security, a BA in Land Management, and a BS in Wellness and Fitness. The school also offers in-demand programs such as the RN to BSN and the Bachelor’s in Computer Information Systems. Many certification options are also available for bachelors degree online students, and the requirements for most of these can also be met without the need for a campus visit.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $308
#3 – FORT HAYS STATE UNIVERSITY
As one of the most economical schools in our ranking, Fort Hays State University offers more than 50 online degrees, many of them online bachelor’s degree programs. Some popular undergraduate areas of study include Criminal Justice, Organizational Leadership, Political Science, Psychology, and Elementary Education. All programs have received regional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, and most classes are taught by the same respected faculty members who work on campus. Fort Hays State has been delivering quality online education for over two decades.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $207
#2 – OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
Oregon State University offers more than 20 online bachelors degree programs through its eCampus. Among the programs are unique offerings such as Agricultural Sciences, Human Development and Family Sciences, Sustainability, and Anthropology. For students who are undecided, the university offers an exploratory studies program, allowing them to sample classes before declaring a major. The school is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and the curriculum for all online programs is developed by OSU’s on-campus faculty.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $200
#1 – NEW ENGLAND INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
New England Institute of Technology offers several hybrid and fully online bachelors degree programs, including Automotive Service Management, Rehabilitation Services, Criminal Justice for Working Professionals, and an RN to BSN offering. Online students enjoy a wealth of resources through the school’s ecampus, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some of these resources include advising, library services and tutoring. In addition to its bachelors degree online programs, NEIT also offers associates and masters degree programs.
Cost Per Credit Hour: $230