To be considered for our 2017 Most Affordable Online Colleges, schools needed to meet the following requirements:
- Overall list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees with at least one bachelor's degree or master's degree
- Associate list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees at the associate level
- Bachelor's list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees at the bachelor's level
- Master's list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees at the master's level
- Doctoral list: offer at least three fully online degrees at the doctoral level
Annual tuition numbers for these schools were manually researched and represent the bachelor's degree level if the school offers at least one online bachelor's degree or the master's degree level if the school offers at least one master's degree but zero online bachelor's degrees. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Tuition was calculated assuming full-time status. Unless otherwise stated, bachelor’s programs were assumed to require four years to complete and master’s programs were assumed to require two years.
Fully Online Status
Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work was limited to less than two weeks worth of in-person requirements. This allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.
Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from schools' official websites, reflecting data for the 2016-2017 school year. Programmatic accreditation and profit status of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES is the primary governmental entity for gathering and presenting data related to education. The NCES data is updated annually as soon as it becomes available. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until it has been approved, so the most currently available data will not be for the most recent academic year.