Top 50 Most Reputable Online Colleges

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Does completing a bachelor’s degree at one of the most respected online colleges sound like a dream come true?

Most Reputable Online Colleges

Online degrees have become a reality for many students who value the opportunity to have both a high-quality academic experience and a flexible schedule.

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Now that dream can become a reality with the increasing popularity of online degree programs. If you previously felt that attending college was impossible because of a career or family obligations, online schools may be the answer you have been seeking. Choosing a most respected online college may be the first step to achieving your academic goals. 

Reputable Colleges Offering Online Degrees

Finding the right school is at the heart of having the best possible college experience. To do so, you can begin evaluating your needs and preferences and looking for reputable online universities.

There are many factors at play, but these are some of the key points to consider when researching these types of colleges.

In addition to the below factors, be sure to also consider the following important points:

  • Addresses: Check to see if the school lists an official campus or business address and if the website ends in .edu, both of which suggest that it is an actual academic institution rather than an online scam. 
  • Accuracy: While everyone makes errors, a college that has a website riddled with grammar or spelling mistakes is unlikely to be reputable. 
  • Unrealistic promises: A university that says that you can receive a bachelor’s degree in a matter of months or at a minimal cost may be a diploma mill that awards credentials with little to no actual value. 
  • Cost: College tuition is generally expensive, but an exorbitant price for an online school may be a red flag.  

Doing research, contacting the admissions office, and reading online reviews of the most credible online colleges can help identify whether you’ll be attending a school or falling for a scam.

Accreditation

Reputable Colleges offering online degree programs

You may be wondering what are the best accredited online colleges and that is a great question. Accreditation is an essential component of a reputable online education.

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When a school is accredited, it means that they have gone through a voluntary review process by a recognized accrediting agency to ensure that its curriculum meets high-quality standards.

A few of the top accrediting agencies across the country include the following:

  • Regional accrediting agencies
  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission
  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools

Different degrees often have specific accrediting agencies that review curricula for that particular field. The United States Department of Education’s website is an excellent starting point for researching which agencies are nationally recognized.

Professional Reputation

    College student taking her bachelor degree online

    Knowing that your college has an accredited, quality curriculum is a major step toward selecting a reputable online college. However, it is also important to research the peer and professional reputation of the university that you are considering.

    Steps you can take to research the academic reputation of your online university include:

    • Checking reputation rankings through quality resources such as the Times Higher Education World Reputations Rankings.
    • Considering data from reputable research, such as the rankings found in S. News and World Report
    • Looking into student and alumni reviews through various websites
    • Listening to opinions and first-hand experience from professionals and colleagues within your field of interest

    Attending a college with a solid academic reputation will likely provide you with a greater potential to land a professional position after graduation. Employers often consider the background of the education you have received, and a degree from a reputable university can go a long way in the competitive job market.

    Faculty Credentials

    Student attending her online class, listening to professor

    A quality curriculum is only as good as the instructors that are teaching the material, and knowing the background of your future professors is an important step in determining which college you would like to attend.

    Factors that you can consider when looking into the qualifications of your school’s faculty include:

    • Professional experience
    • Educational background
    • Academic achievements
    • Prior teaching history

    Most colleges have a “Faculty” section on their school’s website that can be a useful tool for prospective students. Here you are typically able to look at the biographies of the faculty, as well as see their professional qualifications, history, and achievements.

    Student Services

    Online college student and mentor during in-person advisement

    The purpose of attending college is to gain the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a professional career, and having the support of your school can make a big impact on your educational success.

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    Many of the top accredited universities offer a variety of student services to their distance education students that may include the following:

    • Virtual academic advisement services
    • 24/7 technology support teams
    • Online mentoring and tutoring with peers or instructors
    • Advanced technological platforms that allow students to interact throughout their courses
    • Options for flexible scheduling of any in-person degree requirements
    • Access to extensive online research and library resources

    When comparing online colleges vs. traditional ones, it’s important to keep in mind that online college courses can be as highly challenging as traditional ones, and many students find that they need to reach out for additional support at some point during their educational journey. The availability of online-focused student services is a way for reputable universities to help ensure their students reach their full potential.

    Student to Faculty Ratio

    Students who are attending online class

    Most students prefer the personalized attention of a small, traditional college class, but having a low student to faculty ratio is just as important in online learning.

    When a college is committed to keeping class sizes small, the instructors are able to give students the individualized support they deserve to succeed in the class. In small online classes, professors can connect with their students through a variety of means, including:

    • Live lectures through a virtual classroom
    • Online discussion boards
    • Email and phone calls
    • Online classroom platforms

    These smaller online classrooms nurture the cooperative atmosphere needed for students to push themselves to their highest potential. Some colleges publish information regarding student to faculty ratio their websites, and statistics can also be found by speaking with your school’s academic advisor

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Education

    When choosing an online education, it’s important to consider all pros and cons to ensure it is the right choice for you.

    Advantages of an Online Education

    College student studying on his laptop

    Pursuing your degree through online education is a personal decision, and there are many things to consider when choosing a school that will provide you with a reputable education and degree.

    There are several advantages to earning a degree through an online program, and these benefits include:

    • Potential for lower tuition costs
    • Flexible scheduling that allows you to log on to classes anytime and anywhere
    • Ability to accelerate your degree program
    • Access to the same quality curriculum as traditional students
    • Online resources and services to support you throughout your education

    The flexible nature of online learning is one of the biggest draws for adult students looking for a way to balance their busy schedules with pursuing their degrees. In many cases, students also have the opportunity to take accelerated classes or a heavier course load to graduate in a much shorter timeframe than traditional on-campus students.

    Disadvantages of an Online Education

    Student attentive to her online class

    Online education can be more accessible, flexible, and affordable for students, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone. There are some disadvantages to online degrees. 

    • In order to take online courses, you will need to have a higher level of proficiency with technology as well as access to the necessary devices and a stable internet connection. 
    • Online courses may feel more isolating, which can be problematic if you thrive in a social environment.
    • Although the number of online schooling programs grows every day, there are still some degrees and disciplines that must be completed in a face-to-face environment. 
    • Online classes often require a higher level of self-motivation and time management. 
    • Opportunities for direct interactions with your instructors may be more limited in an online class. 

    As you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of online education, think about your past classroom experiences and how they might relate to the skills that you will need to succeed online.

    How to Choose an Online School

    Man choosing for an online school

    No matter whether you are attending online or in-person, choosing a college can be stressful and overwhelming. Higher education is a financial, emotional, and intellectual investment, so it is important that you get a valuable and rewarding experience in return. 

    When evaluating possible schools, these are some areas that deserve your attention. 

    • Degree programs: If you have chosen a major, or if you have one in mind, it’s important to verify whether the college offers that particular program and whether it aligns with your interests and goals. 
    • Curriculum: Comparing two or more schools in terms of curriculum can help determine how challenging and engaging a program will be. 
    • Faculty: Your course instructors will be your key point of contact throughout your college experience. Researching the qualifications of the faculty for your degree program can help determine whether the school is a good match. 
    • Student services: There may be occasions when you need to seek support outside of your instructors. It is worthwhile to see what services each college has available, such as tutoring, success coaching, and career counseling. 
    • Accessibility: Many students require accommodations while attending college, so checking to see if the school has an accessibility resource center and how they respond to students with disabilities is an important step. 
    • Tuition and fees: Some schools are much more expensive than others, and many students are operating under a budget. It’s crucial to compare the tuition and fees for every school that you consider.  
    • Delivery format: Many online courses are asynchronous, meaning that there is no specific meeting time, and you complete the work whenever is best for you. Others are synchronous and less flexible in terms of scheduling. Review the delivery format of your desired program to determine which best meets your needs. 
    • Financial aid: Tuition assistance may also factor into your decision. Once you have been accepted, one college may offer you a better financial aid package than another. 

      Choosing a college is a highly personal decision, so do not hesitate to take your time, ask a lot of questions, and seek outside input on these aspects of your potential schools. 

      Online College Programs Accreditation

      University offering online college degrees

      There are many legitimate and reputable online universities to choose from, but some schools meet higher standards than others. 

      Accreditation status is a good indicator to consider when researching the quality of a college. Schools that are regionally accredited have gone through an extensive evaluation process to determine whether they are offering high-quality academic programs.

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      Attending an accredited school is also beneficial because most courses will transfer to other colleges should you need to change programs in the future. If a university states that it is accredited, you can confirm the accreditation status by searching through an official database. 

      Financial Aid and Scholarships

      Financial Aid for online colleges

      College can be expensive, and many students do not have the means to pay for tuition, textbooks, housing, and other fees out of pocket. Fortunately, there are many available opportunities for financial aid. 

      • Federal aid: You will need to complete a FAFSA, which requires information like your household income, to determine your eligibility for federal loans. 
      • State aid: There are many state programs that offer aid based on student need and academic achievements. 
      • Employer assistance: If you are already employed in the field, your employer may be willing to pay part of your tuition costs.
      • Scholarships: There are thousands of scholarship opportunities for students based on defining criteria, such as your major, racial background, and whether you are a first-generation college student. 

      Contacting the school’s financial aid department is a good first step. The representatives there can often give you information about possible aid opportunities, deadlines, and requirements. It is also generally good practice to do your own research into other options that may be available. 

      How to Apply to an Online University

      Two friends looking to apply to an online university

      These are some of the steps that are frequently required to apply to an online degree program. 

      1. Complete an online application with your personal information and education history. Some schools may also request SAT or ACT scores. 
      2. Write a statement of purpose or personal essay explaining your future goals and interests. 
      3. Request references from former teachers or employers who are familiar with your abilities. 
      4. Submit transcripts from any prior high school or undergraduate coursework. 
      5. Pay an application fee. 

      While these steps are standard, it’s important to pay close attention to the school’s instructions as some colleges and programs have additional requirements. 

      Are Online Colleges Legit?

      Student applying for online university

      Online colleges are no different from other schools or businesses in that it is important to research the legitimacy before enrolling. There are online colleges that are little more than degree mills, offering credentials with very little effort on your part as long as you pay. 

      There are also online schools that are just as reputable as traditional ones. To evaluate the quality of a school, it is helpful to research whether it is accredited, whether there are student services available, and when it was founded.

      Many of today’s online degree programs are offered by schools that also have physical campuses. This is another potential signal of whether the program is legitimate.  

      Are Online Degrees Respected by Employers?

      Applying for job with an online college degree

      In the past, some students have been reluctant to enroll in online degree programs because they fear that employers will not regard the degree as high as one completed in a traditional program. 

      The reality is that most employers do not have a strong preference for degrees that are earned in traditional formats. They are more likely to consider the reputation and quality of the school, whether you graduated with honors, and what courses you took during your program. 

      If you attend a school with both traditional and online programs, potential employers may not even be aware of how you completed the degree. 

      How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree Online?

      Group of online college students during their meet up

      There are many variables that go into determining how long your bachelor’s degree program will take. For example, if you completed dual enrollment courses while in high school, you may be able to complete your degree more quickly.

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      As a general rule, a student who attends full-time and follows a traditional schedule with 16-week semesters can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years. Students who are enrolled part-time may need a longer completion period. Others who enroll in summer courses or accelerated programs may be able to complete their degrees more quickly. 

      What Are Some of the Highest Paying Online Degrees?

      Some of the Highest Paying Online Degrees

      While there are many online degree program options to choose from, some have the potential to help you prepare for more lucrative careers. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), these are some of the degrees that are associated with high-paying positions.   

      Degrees Careers Annual Median Salaries
      Information Technology Computer and Information Systems Managers $159,010
      Engineering Management Architectural and Engineering Managers $152,350
      Aeronautics Airline and Commercial Pilots $134,630
      Business Administration Financial Managers $131,710
      Aviation Management Air Traffic Controllers $129,750
      Computer Engineering Technology Computer Hardware Engineers $128,170
      Human Resources Management Human Resources Managers $126,230
      Space Studies Aerospace Engineers $122,270
      Computer Science Computer Network Architects $120,520
      Engineering Mechanical Engineers $95,300

      In addition to paying well, many of these positions are also expected to have significant growth over the next several years. This includes financial managers (17%), pilots (13%), and computer and information systems managers (11%)

      How Much Does a Bachelor’s Degree Cost Online?

      The cost of an online bachelor’s degree depends on a number of factors, including the academic institution you are attending, the degree you are seeking, whether the school is private or public, and if you are classified as an in-state or out-of-state student. 

      On average, you can expect to pay between $300 and $500 per credit hour when completing an online degree. In most cases, public colleges charge lower tuition rates while private schools are considerably more expensive.

      Is an Online Degree Program the Right Choice for me?

      Man getting a degree at one of reputable online colleges

      Choosing whether an online degree program is right for you is a highly personal decision, and research into the advantages and disadvantages of online education is essential to make the choice that meets your needs.

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      Regardless of why you feel an online degree is the best choice for you, enrolling in a college with a strong professional reputation and quality curriculum is imperative to your success after graduation. Luckily, top universities across the country are continuing to expand their online degree offerings every year – giving working adult students the ability to pursue their dreams while juggling the demands of daily life.

      What’s the Difference Between an Online Degree vs. Traditional Degree?

      Students at the library doing research

      Your goal in pursuing a bachelor’s degree is likely the same regardless of whether you choose an online or traditional format, but there are differences between these options to keep in mind. 

      • Flexibility: Online degrees are generally much more flexible in terms of scheduling. 
      • Feedback: Although there are no face-to-face interactions with instructors, online students typically receive more extensive written feedback.  
      • Resources: Traditional programs sometimes offer more resources to students, but there is a growing trend to offer online students access to tutoring, success coaching, and advising. 
      • Cost: Tuition for online programs is sometimes more expensive, but students often save money in other areas, including housing, parking, and activity fees.

      Although these differences exist, the merit of your degree program is largely determined by the quality of the school rather than whether you are attending online or in person.

      What’s the Difference Between Regional vs. National Accreditation?

      Students walking around University campus

      Both regional and national accreditation involves an assessment by an outside organization, but there are some noteworthy variations between them. 

      • Credit transfers: Credits earned from regionally accredited colleges are usually easier to transfer than those from nationally accredited schools. 
      • Geographic coverage: Regional accreditation agencies often work only in one area of the country, while national agencies assess programs from all over the United States. 
      • Standards of quality: Regional quality standards are typically more rigorous. 
      • Ownership: All nationally accredited colleges and universities are private, but regionally accredited schools may be private or public. 

      Because of these distinctions, regional accreditation is widely regarded as more desirable and beneficial to students. 

      Is an Online Degree Worth It?

      Student completing his bachelor degree online

      Yes, an online degree is worth it for many students. Online degrees allow students to structure their schedules around their other responsibilities while also receiving the education necessary to prepare them for their future careers. 

      There is still some skepticism about online colleges, but there are many legitimate and reputable programs available. You can take online courses in a wide array of disciplines, and some of the country’s best universities have begun to offer online degrees.

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      Some of the best online degree programs may help you to qualify for a career with the potential for advancement and growth, including management and executive positions. 

      Top 50 Most Reputable Online Colleges

      Methodology: The following list includes some of the most reputable online universities and colleges offering online degrees in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format. Other criteria include student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, and peer reputation.

      Arizona State University

      Arizona State University

      Location: Tempe, AZ

      Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Ball State University

      Ball State University

      Location: Muncie, IN

      Ball State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      California Baptist University

      California Baptist University

      Location: Riverside, CA

      California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

      Central Michigan University

      Central Michigan University

      Location: Mount Pleasant, MI

      Central Michigan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Charleston Southern University

      Charleston Southern University

      Location: Charleston, SC

      Charleston Southern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      Colorado State University

      Colorado State University

      Location: Greenwood Village, CO

      Colorado State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Concordia University – Chicago

      Concordia University Chicago

      Location: River Forest, IL

      Concordia University – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Creighton University

      Creighton University

      Location: Omaha, NE

      Creighton University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

      CUNY School of Professional Studies

      CUNY School of Professional Studies

      Location: New York, NY

      CUNY School of Professional Studies is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

      Daytona State College

      Daytona State College

      Location: Daytona Beach, FL

      Daytona State College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

      Embry Riddle Aeronautical University

      Location: Daytona Beach, FL

      Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      Florida State University

      Florida State University

      Location: Tallahassee, FL

      Florida State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

      George Washington University

      George Washington University

      Location: Washington, DC

      George Washington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

      Illinois State University

      Illinois State University

      Location: Normal, IL

      Illinois State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Indiana University – Bloomington

      Indiana University Bloomington

      Location: Bloomington, IN

      Indiana University – Bloomington is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Loyola University – Chicago

      Loyola University Chicago

      Location: Chicago, IL

      Loyola University – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Michigan State University

      Michigan State University

      Location: East Lansing, MI

      Michigan State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      North Carolina State University

      North Carolina State University

      Location: Raleigh, NC

      North Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      Ohio State University

      Ohio State University

      Location: Columbus, OH

      Ohio State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Oregon State University

      Oregon State University

      Location: Corvallis, OR

      Oregon State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

      Pace University

      Pace University

      Location: New York, NY

      Pace University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

      Pennsylvania State University

      Pennsylvania State University

      Location: University Park, PA

      Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

      Purdue University

      Purdue University

      Location: Lafayette, IN

      Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

      Regent University

      Regent University

      Location: Virginia Beach, VA

      Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      Saint Leo University

      Saint Leo University

      Location: Saint Leo, FL

      St. Leo University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      Siena Heights University

      Siena Heights University

      Location: Adrian, MI

      Siena Heights University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Texas Tech University

      Texas Tech University

      Location: Lubbock, TX

      Texas Tech University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      University of Arizona

      University of Arizona

      Location: Tucson, Arizona

      The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of Arkansas

      University of Arkansas

      Location: Fayetteville, AR

      The University of Arkansas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of Central Florida

      University of Central Florida

      Location: Orlando, FL

      The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      University of Denver

      University of Denver

      Location: Denver, CO

      The University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of Florida

      University of Florida

      Location: Gainesville, FL

      The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      University of Georgia

      University of Georgia

      Location: Athens, GA

      The University of Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      University of Illinois – Chicago

      University of Illinois Chicago

      Location: Chicago, IL

      The University of Illinois – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of Illinois – Springfield

      University of Illinois Springfield

      Location: Springfield, IL

      UIS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of Maryland – College Park

      University of Maryland College Park

      The University of Maryland – College Park is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

      University of Massachusetts – Amherst

      University of Massachusetts Amherst

      Location: Amherst, MA

      The University of Massachusetts Amherst is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

      University of Massachusetts – Lowell

      University of Massachusetts Lowell

      Location: Lowell, MA

      The University of Massachusetts – Lowell is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

      University of Missouri

      University of Missouri

      Location: Columbia, MO

      The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of Nebraska – Omaha

      University of Nebraska Omaha

      Location: Omaha, NE

      UNO is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of North Carolina – Charlotte

      University of North Carolina Charlotte

      Location: Charlotte, NC

      UNC Charlotte is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      University of North Carolina – Wilmington

      University of North Carolina Wilmington

      Location: Wilmington, NC

      The University of North Carolina Wilmington is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      University of Oklahoma

      University of Oklahoma

      Location: Norman, OK

      The University of Oklahoma is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of the Incarnate Word

      University of the Incarnate Word

      Location: San Antonio, TX

      The University of the Incarnate Word is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

      University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

      Location: Milwaukee, WI

      UWM is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      University of Wisconsin – Whitewater

      University of Wisconsin Whitewater

      Location: Whitewater, WI

      UW – Whitewater is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

      Utah State University

      Utah State University

      Location: Logan, UT

      Utah State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

      Washington State University

      Washington State University

      Location: Pullman, WA

      WSU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

      West Texas A&M University

      West Texas A and M University

      Location: Canyon, TX

      West Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      Western Kentucky University

      Western Kentucky University

      Location: Bowling Green, KY

      Western Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

      Getting Your Bachelors Degree Online

      Happy student attending her online college class

      For many students, getting a bachelor’s degree online is a practical, flexible, and affordable option. It allows them to get a high-quality education while also meeting the needs of their families and careers. 

      If attending one of the best online universities sounds appealing, you can get started by researching accredited online colleges and reviewing their degree programs. Research the cost, quality, and duration of the program before you enroll. 

      Once you find a legitimate and respected online college and submit your application, you may be on your way to achieving your academic goals and earning your bachelor’s degree online.

      Ready to start your journey?
      Elizabeth Abner
      WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

      Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.