A great way to limit costs of higher education is via online degree programs. Most learning institutions now offer online Associate degrees and online Bachelor programs that prepare students just as effectively as in the traditional classroom. Many junior and community colleges have adopted online learning resources and tools, allowing them to reach out to a broad range of students, from professionals busy with their daily jobs to stay-at-home parents. We provide information about the most affordable online colleges, benefits and drawbacks of attending the nation’s best online colleges, and the program volume, affordability, and availability of those colleges.
These Schools are ACCREDITED & Some of the MOST AFFORDABLE ONLINE COLLEGES Nationwide
Online College Majors
There has been an increase in the number of online learning options available across majors. Students have earned online degrees in criminal justice, business, nursing, and psychology. Each of these majors shares similar core elements, and yet have specifically targeted content that gives graduates the flexibility needed without compromising quality.
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Browse by State the Best Online Colleges
Some of the best online colleges, and most affordable online colleges have eliminated the barrier of time and place for more traditional universities. Local universities or colleges with online programs make it easier for students attending to utilize the physical resources available or enroll in a hybrid program (both campus and online and physical courses). Select a state below to find the best online colleges near you!
- AL Alabama
- NHNew Hampshire
- NJNew Jersey
BEST ONLINE COLLEGES: The Benefits & Drawbacks
Some of the benefits include:
- Lower tuition rates – some of the most affordable online colleges.
- Flexible scheduling – the class schedule is designed mainly for working professionals and their with families.
- Academic variety – students can choose from credit and non-credit programs in a wide range of disciplines.
- Credit transfers – credits earned in an associate degree program can be used to transfer into a four-year bachelor’s degree program.
Despite these benefits, some disadvantages to this option include:
- Fewer academic award choices – two-year colleges usually only offer diploma, certificates, and associate degrees.
- Fewer career options post-graduation – students with associate degrees are eligible for a narrow selection of careers. Some fields or career titles require a bachelor’s degree as the minimum requirement.
This option is best suited for:
- Non-traditional students, including adult learners returning to college.
- Those pursuing vocational or professional development skills specific to an occupational field.
- Those seeking additional training or certification.
- • Those seeking for the most affordable online colleges, and to save money on general education classes before transferring to a four-year college.
FOUR-YEAR PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
Some benefits include:
- Affordable tuition.
- A larger breadth of education – students can choose from a wide range of majors, minors, and academic specializations.
- Multiple degree options – students can earn a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree.
- Four-year public universities are also some of the best online colleges because of their dual-learning experiences.
Some of the disadvantages include:
- Limited class availability – the size of public universities limits the number of course offerings, classroom availability, and the opportunity of taking popular or in-demand courses as they may fill up quickly.
- Less individualized attention – class size makes it difficult for lecturers and professors to give students personalized care and guidance.
The four-year public university program is best fit for:
- Those who want a well-rounded education.
- Those who want a wide selection of degree options in a variety of academic disciplines.
- Individuals interested in pursuing more advanced degrees.
PRIVATE NOT-FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE
Benefits for this option include:
- Smaller enrollment – on average, the student population of private non-profit institutions is around 1,900.
- Shorter completion time – in private not-for-profit colleges, it takes students an average of four years to graduate, while taking about six years to graduate from a public university.
- More financial aid opportunities – private non-profit universities usually have competitive financial assistance packages, strong alumni donor support, and additional scholarship opportunities. Search for the most affordable colleges.
Some drawbacks include:
- Higher tuition rates.
- Stringent admissions requirements – the application process and admission to private colleges are typically more competitive and selective.
- Fewer online options
Private not-for-profit College is best for you if you’re:
- Students who want an education at a specialized institution – particularly from the best online colleges and/or campuses.
- Students who wish to attend a more selective institution that may have a greater reputation in the job market.
- • Students who are high academic achievers looking for a challenging program of study, as non-profit universities are also some of the best online colleges in the nation.
SELF-PACED AND REAL-TIME
Self-paced, or asynchronous, learning is a form of education that allows students to study at their own pace and time. This system of learning may not make it possible for students and teachers to communicate in real-time. This mode of instruction is through self-study. Some elements of self-study employed by the self-paced system may include pre-recorded lectures, individual assignments, and reading of course materials. This learning style is popular for the many of the best online colleges nationwide.
In the real-time, or synchronous, learning both the instructor and the students are present in real-time. The teacher facilitates the instruction in real-time using traditional classroom-based elements, such as team projects, group discussions, and lectures.
Email to communicate to peers and instructors.
Streaming audio and video for instructional material delivery.
Discussion boards to facilitate class dialogue.
Web-based learning applications and course management systems/platforms for student instruction and assignment delivery.
Wikis for student collaboration and communication.
Web conferencing to share information and conduct presentations.
Instant messaging to participate in quick, real-time conversations.
Video conferencing to conduct in-person discussions and lectures.
Audio conferencing for student and instructor discussions and meetings.
Campus and online whiteboard to share ideas and collaborate.
Students with the following characteristics and learning style may benefit most from self-paced online colleges and programs:
- Wants a slower learning pace
- Has strong time management skills
- Doesn’t want or need personalized instruction
- Requires flexible learning schedule
Students with the following characteristics and learning styles may find real-time instruction to be the best fit:
- Collaborative Learner
- Good interpersonal communication skills
- Wants peer-to-peer and instructor interaction
- Has strong time management skills
- Prefers regimented learning pace
Accredited & Most Affordable Online Colleges: Process and Importance
Accreditation, which is often an independent and voluntary process of review and regulation, reviews/audits higher education institutions to ensure that the programs offered meet established quality standards. In fact, accreditation is a core factor for determining the best online colleges and campuses nationwide. The Department of Education is vested with the responsibility of accreditation; however, it does not handle the actual review process.
Institutions seeking accreditation undergo a strict review process that includes inspection of elements such as planning of the curriculum, course offerings, graduation rates, available facilities, financial resources, faculty, and admission standards. Institutions and programs that receive accreditation must go through a continuous evaluation to ensure that they comply with the standards set by the accreditation body.
There are currently 15 accrediting agencies recognized by the Department of Education to carry out regional, national, and programmatic accreditation. There are specialized accrediting organizations in charge of a subject; and program-based reviews in such areas as healthcare, counseling, law, community and social services. It is important for students to choose an accredited program of study because assures the quality of education from the subject institution. Read our college information blog to learn more about accredited college degrees.
The following also makes it important to enroll in an accredited institution:
- Program accountability
- Program compliance
- Credits are transferable to other institutions
- Employers recognize academic credential or degree
Use our college search database to find the most affordable online colleges that are also nationally accredited.
The Rise of the Not-for-Profit
Online learning is transformational; it not only is altering the way students learn but revolutionizing how colleges and universities deliver instruction. Non-profit schools offering both two and four-year programs have been quick to embrace online education to enhance academic access for students. This is also important because non-profit colleges, in most cases, represent the best educational option for those who find it difficult to attend traditional campuses. In turn, non-profit schools are some of the best online colleges and higher education options for students.
According to research from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), more than 80 percent of public universities and at least half of private colleges offer campus and online programs. A 2014 study from the Babson Institute estimated that 71 percent of all public, degree-granting institutions provide distance learning opportunities to students.
Available data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that close to 2.6 million college students were enrolled in campus and online colleges. It also revealed that more than 5.5 million students were taking at least one class campus and online. AASCU data shows that about 65 percent of all campus and online students were enrolled in a nonprofit college. 45 percent of those students attended public colleges while 20 percent attended a private nonprofit institution.
Enrollment figures for both public and private not-for-profit campus and online colleges and universities have experienced continued increases. A 2013 research showed a 5 percent increase in public institutions’ enrollment and close to 13 percent increase for private nonprofit institutions.
The numbers clearly show that nonprofit campus and online colleges are moving in the right direction with their education programs. The best online colleges by far outperform their on-campus counterparts in many key areas, which is arguably why students are now turning their attention to online educational options.
Find your potential and search for the best online colleges today!
Fields of Study
Data from AASCU institutions show that healthcare-related fields of study and business-related courses are two of the most commonly offered academic programs by students enrolled in nonprofit universities. Search for the best online colleges and campus colleges that offer business and nursing degrees!
Market research shows that the bachelor’s degree is the most popular campus and online degree that students enroll in. A study by Edu Ventures reveal that 42 percent of students are enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program, 29 percent are enrolled in a campus and online associate degree program, and 24 percent are enrolled in a campus and online master’s degree program.
Not sure if the college you want to attend has your degree program, is one of the most affordable online colleges? Use our college search platform to find out!
To an extent, campus and online degrees and holders of such degrees have been discriminated as not being on par with degrees earned on-campus. Nevertheless, this trend seems to be changing as non-profit colleges (both private and public) have created campus and online programs that compete favorably with traditional degrees. In turn, schools that adopt both teaching styles are some of the best online colleges and campus universities in the United States.
A survey of academic leaders revealed that 76 percent of them agree that campus and online degrees are on par with degrees from on-campus institutions.
Campus colleges are now being recognized as some of the best online colleges because of their flexibility with online education. A student seeking to return to school, attend college in another state, or gain career advice can be easily done through online education. Also, online education allows a student to create a schedule that perfectly fits their lifestyle, which is usually not the case with traditional classroom-based programs. Online education allows schooling to be interlinked with the student’s working and home lives, making online education a top choice for students seeking to pursue higher education.
To learn more about some of the best online colleges, read our college resource blog.
Regardless of the state of residence, students can usually enjoy in-state tuition costs when enrolling at a campus or online college. Online education also allows students to make savings in the form of travel costs, dorm costs, as well as lower costs for class and study materials that can be received virtually.
Learn which universities are the most affordable online colleges by browsing our college search database!
Although students of some of the best online colleges may never find themselves on campus, that doesn’t mean they can’t access the same support and student resources available to on-campus students. Non-profit colleges offer an array of resources to their students regardless of if they’re on-campus or online students. Some of the commonly offered support services for students are:
- Student orientation
- Learning management systems
- Dedicated education websites and departments
- E-libraries and digital textbooks
- Student advising
- Counseling services
- Academic tutoring and support program