Check out our 2016 Top Online Colleges, a collection of 25 of the best schools offering online degrees. Schools were chosen based on ranking factors that reflect a school's selectivity and the strength of its student body. All institutions are accredited and offer a range of online degrees, including associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctorate, and certificate programs in 155 subjects.
Stanford, our #1 rated school, offers 54 online degrees, including master's degrees in Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Statistics. Four schools offer over 100 online programs, including Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University. Many of these schools provide excellent student support services, such as financial aid help, career placement assistance, military benefits, and tutoring services to aid and encourage their distance learning students.
|Rank||College||Annual Tuition||Acceptance Rate||Online Degrees|
|#1 Stanford University||Annual Tuition $20,100||Acceptance Rate 5.04%||Online Degrees 55|
|#2 Columbia University in the City of New York||Annual Tuition $31,437||Acceptance Rate 6.13%||Online Degrees 68|
|#3 Duke University||Annual Tuition $59,683||Acceptance Rate 9.50%||Online Degrees 22|
|#4 Northwestern University||Annual Tuition $23,219||Acceptance Rate 13.03%||Online Degrees 27|
|#5 Johns Hopkins University||Annual Tuition $47,903||Acceptance Rate 12.40%||Online Degrees 104|
|#6 Georgetown University||Annual Tuition $22,841||Acceptance Rate 16.44%||Online Degrees 20|
|#7 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||Annual Tuition $13,096||Acceptance Rate 12.39%||Online Degrees 42|
|#8 University of Southern California||Annual Tuition $35,842||Acceptance Rate 17.47%||Online Degrees 91|
|#9 University of California - Los Angeles||Annual Tuition $15,400||Acceptance Rate 19.00%||Online Degrees 80|
|#10 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Annual Tuition $35,406||Acceptance Rate 26.84%||Online Degrees 16|
|#11 Carnegie Mellon University||Annual Tuition $37,367||Acceptance Rate 23.67%||Online Degrees 10|
|#12 University of Virginia - Main Campus||Annual Tuition $13,410||Acceptance Rate 29.00%||Online Degrees 22|
|#13 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||Annual Tuition $35,096||Acceptance Rate 28.50%||Online Degrees 24|
|#14 Georgia Institute of Technology||Annual Tuition $15,927||Acceptance Rate 32.00%||Online Degrees 17|
|#15 New York University||Annual Tuition $40,002||Acceptance Rate 35.00%||Online Degrees 14|
|#16 Northeastern University||Annual Tuition $15,120||Acceptance Rate 32.00%||Online Degrees 88|
|#17 Lehigh University||Annual Tuition $20,500||Acceptance Rate 34.27%||Online Degrees 17|
|#18 University of Florida||Annual Tuition $16,578||Acceptance Rate 46.00%||Online Degrees 114|
|#19 Boston University||Annual Tuition $16,640||Acceptance Rate 32.00%||Online Degrees 48|
|#20 University of Wisconsin - Madison||Annual Tuition $29,664||Acceptance Rate 47.50%||Online Degrees 11|
|#21 University of Maryland - College Park||Annual Tuition $14,970||Acceptance Rate 48.00%||Online Degrees 117|
|#22 Case Western Reserve University||Annual Tuition $41,137||Acceptance Rate 38.00%||Online Degrees 13|
|#23 George Washington University||Annual Tuition $17,466||Acceptance Rate 45.50%||Online Degrees 111|
|#24 North Carolina State University||Annual Tuition $16,120||Acceptance Rate 49.80%||Online Degrees 80|
|#25 University of Georgia||Annual Tuition $22,217||Acceptance Rate 52.20%||Online Degrees 28|
Stanford University is the #1 top ranked online college with 55 online degrees offered at the master’s and certificate levels. Annual tuition rate averages at $20,100. Stanford holds regional accreditation amongst the Western states and programmatic accreditation in business, psychology, engineering and technology, medical and teacher education. Degrees in computer science, financial risk, and bio-research are also available. Students can apply for private scholarships, department funding, financial aid, and veterans benefits, managing aid status through a streamlined online system. Veterans benefit from unique financial aid specialists at Stanford’s Office for Military-Affiliated Communities (OMAC). Special family circumstances are also taken into consideration when determining financial aid.
Columbia University of New York offers the prestigious reputation as the oldest university in the state for the expected tuition of $31,437 per year. Ranked 2nd, Columbia boasts 68 online degrees, including a large range of master’s in engineering and social work, six online doctorates in engineering, and certificates in actuarial science, business, and the applied sciences. Engineering students can choose from a range of specializations, such as electrical, chemical, civil, environmental, and biomedical. Department-specific aid is available by way of grants, fellowships, teaching and research assistantships. Certificate students are not eligible for federal aid. Columbia participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program for veterans and provides need-based fellowships for online students.
Duke University is the top 3rd ranked online college offering 22 online degrees at the master’s, doctorate, and certificate levels. Annual tuition averages at $59,683; about 5% of students receive financial aid covering on average $40,412. A diverse range of master’s degrees are offered in Nursing as well as a doctorate degree, and other specializations include paralegal studies and executive education. Some online programs require short on-campus sessions for extra instruction, such as the Master of Environmental Management and the Master of Engineering Management. Interested students must contact each degree program separately for on-campus requirements, which are usually done in several week-long sessions throughout the mostly two-year programs. Duke is regionally accredited in the Southern United States and Latin America. Career advising and military benefits are readily available to students.
Northwestern University is ranked 4th and has an 80-year legacy in continuing adult education. Northwestern offers 27 online degrees, ranging from master’s in health systems, marketing, and public policy to certificates in accounting. The average tuition for online programs is $23,219 per year. In addition to accepting federal and state grants, Northwestern offers a range of internal scholarships and veterans educational benefits. With two local campuses in Evanston and Chicago, Northwestern records live lectures with full-time faculty and professionals in the field for online students to view at their convenience. Discussion is encouraged through online boards, student-professor video chat and phone calls, online cloud-based learning management with 24/7 support, papers and problem sets. Academic guidance and career counseling are made available to accompany each student in their educational and professional development.
John Hopkins University hosts about 4,000 online students per year in its 104 online degree programs. Online students at this 5th-ranked online university can expect to pay $47,903 in tuition per year, differing depending on the degree level and specialization. The many master’s degrees offered include a vast range of engineering specializations, master’s degrees in health science, government, education, and business. John Hopkins also offers a Bachelor of Arts in Mental Health and several doctorate’s in education, health research, and mental health. A vast range of certificate degrees cover mostly health and engineering related fields. Financial aid is available to all students, including military discounts. Online academic and career counseling is provided to guide students seeking networking and interviewing skills.
Georgetown University is ranked 6th and has an average tuition of $22,841 per year. Students can choose from 20 online degrees. Georgetown University is the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit University. The institution holds a strong emphasis on being military-friendly, making over $2 million in aid for U.S. veterans, servicemen, women, and their dependents, and also participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program in which the school makes additional funds available towards students’ education in addition to the GI Bill entitlement. Georgetown cannot provide online programs in all states, so students should make sure that their state accepts Georgetown’s degrees.
The University of Minnesota (UMN) offers 42 online degrees, launching its first online program in 1996. Many UMN digital campuses have been approved for funding under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), a federal program designed to provide financial aid to the underemployed or unemployed. UMN counted over 36,000 online course enrollments in the 2012-13 school year. Online undergraduate degrees include professional fields such as health and information technology, and a range of online graduate degrees are offered in engineering, nursing, education, and government. Post-B.A. certificates are available in business, clinical research, and therapy, among others. The University of Minnesota offers online degrees that are 100% off-campus and hybrid degrees in which students are required to come to campus for a limited number of sessions.
The University of Southern California boasts a range of 91 online degrees at the master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels for an average of $35,842 per year in tuition. Among its 40,000 students, about 4,120 choose to take online courses, making USC one of the largest online programs. A diversity of master’s degrees may be obtained in business and accounting, gerontology, social work, communication, and education, amongst other professional fields. Some featured programs for military students include master’s degrees in cyber security and geographic informational science. Online students have access to financial aid, military benefits, and career counseling.
The University of California - Los Angeles offers 80 online degrees at the master’s and certificate levels. Degrees are mostly offered in engineering, but also in creative and screenwriting, education, public policy, and web technology. UCLA's Fully Employed MBA allows business students to combine on-campus and online classes towards their degree. Master’s degrees in engineering cover a wide selection of certificate specializations, including aerospace, manufacturing, systems engineering, and integrated circuits. The average annual online tuition is $15,400. Need-based financial aid is offered to domestic students. Veteran students benefit from a Veterans Resource Office and certain military-specific scholarships.
The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor is ranked 10th in top online colleges, offering 16 online degrees. Several graduate engineering degrees are offered: automotive, energy systems, global automotive, and manufacturing. Online degrees are earned through UofM-Ann Arbor’s Division of Integrative Systems + Design (ISD). The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor first offered online degrees in 1996, with 95% of its students already being employed when they enroll. The average annual online tuition is $35,406. Loans, work-study, scholarships, grants, and alternative payment options are available to aid in tuition costs. Veterans benefits and services at UofM are available to veterans, national guard and reserve, spouses and dependents.
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is the 11th ranked top online college with an annual tuition of $37,367, offering 10 master’s and certificate level online degrees in computer science, engineering, business, and management. CMU makes financial aid literacy available to its students through the SALT Financial Literacy Program, and has been named a Military Friendly School since 2010. The Master’s in Software Engineering and in Information Technology are 16-month programs, requiring students to have at least two years former experience in the respective fields. Carnegie Mellon is regionally accredited in the Middle United States. Carnegie Mellon is also the home of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI), a grant-funded group which offers free online courses and materials to anyone interested in teaching or learning online.
The University of Virginia - Main Campus is ranked 12th in the top online colleges and offers 22 online degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. Average yearly tuition is a reasonable $13,410 and varies depending on the degree. The University of Virginia offers regional scholarships, offers education benefits to university employees and special credit-based tuition rates to students who are currently full-time teachers. UVA provides specific veteran’s administration resources, making a variety of GI Bill and educational assistance programs available to veterans, reserves, survivors and dependents. Military students choose the program that most benefits their case and study.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) offers 24 online degrees at the master’s, doctorate, and certificate level. Master’s degrees are offered with a variety of specializations in business, public administration, and accounting. Doctorate degrees are offered in health leadership and physical therapy, while certificate programs are available in business, health, and technology. The average annual online tuition is $35,096. Tuition fees are set by North Carolina legislature and are ultimately based on the student’s program enrollment. Partial tuition fellowships, veterans benefits, federal direct loans, and private loans are all available forms of financial aid.
Georgia Institute of Technology (GT) offers over 17 online master’s degrees in engineering, computer science, medical physics, and aerospace, as well as a certificate program in lean supply chain. Graduate student tuition varies depending on the program, but the average annual online tuition is $15,927. The GT Veterans Resource Center provides financial and academic support to military students, through the GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon, and other benefits. As an online graduate student, extra fees may be charged for proctored exams, which may be arranged at an Education Testing Service, universities or community colleges.
Founded in 1831, New York University is a private university located in Manhattan, offering 14 online degrees in the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate program levels. Concentrations in management, translation, financial planning, human resources, and real estate are among the degrees offered. The average annual online tuition is $40,002. NYU offers $25,619 in financial aid on average per year. Departmental scholarships and NYU payment plans are also available.
Northeastern University offers 88 online degrees. The average annual online tuition is $15,120. Ranked 16th in the top online colleges, Northeastern is a regionally accredited, private, research university. With campuses in Boston, Seattle, and Charlotte, Northeastern’s online programs include a range of degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate levels. Online students have the same financial aid opportunities as on-campus students, with financial aid counseling available. Military discounts are provided in addition to the students G.I. benefits through Northeastern’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which promises the student up to $25,000 per year, depending on the program. Each year, 250 military students attend Northeastern for little to no cost. Veterans and servicemembers boast a 90% job placement rate and 79% graduation rate.
Lehigh University is a 150-year old institution offering 17 online degrees at the master’s and certificate level. Master’s in Business Administration are available with various specializations, including international business, marketing, and supply chain management. The average annual online tuition is $20,500. Graduate tuition across programs changes per specific college. Graduate payment plans are available for a small fee to help students spread each semester’s payments in installments, as well as federal and state loans, departmental funding per program, veterans benefits, and external scholarships.
The University of Florida offers 114 online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Bachelor’s degrees are available in the arts, sciences, business administration, criminology, medical and health services. Many master’s degrees cover specializations in engineering, social work, arts, business, urban planning, and more. UF online also offers doctorate degrees in nursing, education, and pharmacy, as well as professional certificates in teaching. International Programs are also offered in International Construction Management, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Audiology. UF offers grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs on a need-basis, as well as academic merit and endowment scholarships per department.
Boston University offers 48 online degrees in art and music education, management, taxation law, criminal justice, management, computer information systems, and health communication. BU also offers doctoral degrees in musical arts and music education as well as in occupational therapy. At the bachelor degree level, BU offers online undergraduate courses as well as an undergraduate degree completion program for students who wish to finish their degrees online. Online graduate certificates range from data analytics and web design to financial markets and physical education. The average annual online tuition is a reasonable $16,640. Financial aid can be applied for through each school’s department; a Veterans Administration is dedicated entirely to orienting military students.
The University of Wisconsin - Madison offers 11 online associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate degrees, and professional certificates. Degrees can be earned in nursing, library science, and engineering. Credits earned in the past and students’ skills can be evaluated for credit value towards one’s online degree. The average annual online tuition is $29,664. Financial aid is available as grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study. For military students, a Wisconsin state grant program is offered to members of the Wisconsin National Guard. Other military benefits are available to members of the Reserves, military spouses and dependents, as well as former military members.
The University of Maryland - College Park (UMD) is a public, non-profit institution offering 117 online degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. The average annual online tuition is $14,970. Online students are eligible for financial aid, veterans benefits, tuition remission, the Terp Payment Plan (TPP) of monthly installments, and third party or sponsored billing for when the government or private agency covers the students’ fees. The University of Maryland holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Degrees are available in a wide range of specializations in the business, health, and social sciences.
Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) offers 13 online master’s degrees and certificates in health and computing. The average annual online tuition is $41,137. Case Western Reserve University boasts 15 diverse accreditations on the regional and programmatic level, authorized to operate in 40 of the 50 states. CWRU offers specialties in engineering, social administration, and health. CWRU also offers a wide variety of free massive open online courses (MOOCs) which can be used towards academic credit; 119,000 students from over 100 countries have already completed CWRU’s MOOCs. CWRU has separate financial aid offices for different graduate schools, as well as one branch specifically for continuing students. Need-based financial aid recipients must re-apply for aid every year.
George Washington University is ranked 23rd in the top online colleges, offering 111 degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and certificate levels. Online degrees are available in public security, nursing, business administration, and special education. Online programs maintain a lower student-professor ratio than on-campus courses, ensuring high interactivity with professors and classmates through real-time video seminars, discussion threads, customized assignments and projects based on professional goals. The average annul online tuition is $17,466. Each school has a specific financial aid office. Financial aid is available on a need and merit basis, and veterans are offered special consideration.
North Carolina State University offers 80 distance education degrees across the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. Master’s degrees range from computer science and business administration to animal sciences, nutrition, and family life. Professional certificates are available in horticultural science, textile fundamentals, and volunteer management, among others. NC State offers a special distance education rate for online students, who also pay an Education and Technology fee. Distance education varies per program and the student’s residency status, and is calculated per credit hour. The average annual online tuition is $16,120. Online students are eligible for federal aid as well as a limited amount of grant funding allotted specifically for distance education students, awarded based on academic merit, need and enrollment.
The University of Georgia ranks 25th in our 2016 top online colleges, and offers 28 online degrees across the bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. Programs offered cover many disciplines, including business, internet technology, pharmacy, and education with a variety of specialities. All online courses are taught by the same faculty as campus courses, ensuring the same quality of education. The average annual online tuition is $22,217. Online students needing tutoring assistance can utilize the UGA Academic Resource Center (ARC) in the Division of Academic Enhancement.
For our 2016 Top Online Colleges, only schools that are regionally accredited, non-profit, and offer a combination of at least 5 online bachelor's or master's programs were considered. Once meeting these criteria, schools were then ordered based on a proprietary formula involving acceptance rates, enrollment rates, and entrance exam scores. These ranking factors measure the strength of a student body, as well as the desirability and competitiveness of a school.
Available degrees, program data, and tuition rates were collected from the official school websites and reflect the 2015-2016 school year. All annual tuition costs are based on the rate for an online undergraduate degree when available, and in all other cases, the annual graduate rate was used. Acceptance rates, enrollment rates, and entrance exam scores were collected from the official school websites or from the National Center for Education Statistics and reflect the 2014-2015 school year. Accreditation and non-profit status were collected using the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics or from the official websites of the accreditation agencies.