2020 Top Online Colleges and Degrees

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Today’s tech helps working adults further their goals through distance learning. Many online students work full time and have needs other students may not have! If this sounds familiar, an online degree program may help you balance school and other duties such as work and family. To help you make this decision, we have laid out 5 simple benefits of an online education.

5 ONLINE COLLEGE BENEFITS 

Online colleges depiction

For both undergrad and grad students, online colleges may offer several benefits. Among the most popular reasons today’s students enroll in online degree programs are:

  1. Cost of Online Colleges 
  2. Online Classes are Flexible
  3. Rolling and Open Admissions
  4. For Many, Online Programs are Accessible
  5. Resources
online College Image

1. COST OF ONLINE COLLEGES

An online college can be affordable. While tuition and fees differ at each school, there are some common savings for online learners. By studying online, you save on travel fees and even study materials. For instance, many online colleges use ebooks and other digital resources. Some online colleges also loan students a laptop or tablet for the program.

Cheapest Online Colleges and Universities

 OUT OF STATE BACHELOR TUITION# of Students
Taft University$3,292751
Aspen University$4,2304,973
Shiloh University$4,51053
Columbia Southern University$5,41520,818
City Vision University$5,600113
Western Governors University$5,78098,627
Huntington College of Health Sciences$6,155166
Midwives College of Utah$6,400247
Grantham University$6,5409,303
American Public University System$6,88046,420

2. ONLINE COLLEGES ARE FLEXIBLE

On campus study requires students to show up for class at set times. Often, these hours compete with other duties. Many online colleges allow students to choose when they complete course work. Thus, providing a flexible option. There are two types of online learning formats.

  1. Synchronous: This is also called real time learning. This means online students and teachers are present at the same time. This often includes live discussions, group projects and lectures.
  2. Asynchronous: This is also called self paced learning. This means an online student logs in to an online learning platform that is usually available any hour of the day. This creates a virtual classroom.  Where, the readings and assignments are there whenever the student is ready.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning

 Real TimeSelf Paced
When the classes take placeAt a set timeWhen student wants
Tools & methods used
  • Web conference to present and share information
  • IMing to take part in quick, real time chats
  • Video conference to conduct in person meetings as if in class
  • Phone conference for student – teacher discussions
  • Online whiteboard to share ideas and for team projects
  • Emails to connect with other students and teachers
  • Class material delivered via streaming audio and video
  • Discussion boards for class discussion 
  • Wikis for collaborative editing
  • Play, pause and stop buttons
May suit students who have these traits
  • Like collaborating
  • Want to enhance communication skills
  • Enjoy peer interaction
  • Prefer to see and hear a professor
  • Prefer scheduled learning pace
  • Disciplined
  • Goal and task oriented
  • Want the ability to pause, rewind or fast forward course content
  • Have time management skills
  • Are an independent learner
  • Need a flexible timetable

Playing to your strengths may help you complete your degree on time and with success. An adviser from the online school you want to attend may be able to guide you through aspects of this choice.

3. ACCESSING ONLINE COLLEGES

The ease of online college replaces commute time. For example, instead of wasting time traveling to school, you simply jump on the Internet. No longer do you need to put a career on hold, or struggle to balance family duties. Research shows that a whopping 92 percent of online students enroll in an online college for career related reasons. The same study shows that close to 80% of online students live within 100 miles of a campus where they are enrolled. This means, if you really wanted to you may still be able to attend your local college from home.

The selection of online programs now available makes it easier for working adults to earn their degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the top 5 online undergrad fields of study are:

  1. Business 
  2. Information Science
  3. Social / Behavioral Sciences
  4. Health
  5. Education

Also according to the NCES, 5.2% of online undergrad students have not declared a major! So, if you are not sure what you want to study, one option is to enroll in a general Liberal Arts program.

4. ROLLING AND OPEN ADMISSIONS

Rolling admissions policies enable online schools to consider applications year round. Students are not fixed to fall or spring starts. Some online colleges offer new start dates every month, or every other month.. This may be appealing if you schedule doesn’t line up with a normal school year.

Open admissions are different from rolling admissions. A school with an open policy does not ask students to provide things like test scores or recommendations as part of the application process. More often than not, these schools accept all students.

ROLLING ADMISSIONS

5.ONLINE RESOURCES

Established schools usually provide the same services to campus and online students alike. However, the absence of a building does not mean there are no resources for those who study online. Many accredited online colleges do have support services in place. Doing research ahead of time helps you know what the resources are, and how to use them. For example:

  • Orientation for online students
  • Web based learning systems (e.g. Blackboard)
  • Tech support for online students
  • Inter library loan system
  • Online libraries and digital textbooks
  • Online student advising
  • Tutoring 

ARE ONLINE COLLEGES RESPECTED?

Respected colleges do offer online degree programs. There are still schools out there that would be viewed as diploma mills. They do not care about student outcomes. This is why you need to be a  to be a careful in selecting where you will earn your degree. You should rank programs based on factors such as:

  • Accreditation
  • Are support services offered
  • Stats such as retention and graduation rates.

When assessing online colleges take the time to talk to people from the school. Learn more about careers  recent graduates have pursued. Lastly, it is good to note that actual online learners are happy!

  • About 60% of undergrad students report being completely satisfied with their investment of time and money.
  • 70% of grad students report the same.
  • Almost 90% of online students report that online study was equal to or better than class room study.

Reputable & Accreditation

To calm any lasting doubt about an online college’s prestige, students should verify it’s accreditation. The best online colleges are accredited by outside agencies. These agencies ensure that schools ethically meet complete standards of education.

There are two types of main accreditation, regional and national. It is also important to note that regionally accredited schools usually do not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools.

Regional vs National College Accreditation

 RegionalNational
Focus AcademicsTypically offer vocational, career or technical programs
Who Belongs?Both non-profit and for profit colleges hold regional accreditationTypically for profit schools
Recognized by the Department Of Ed?YesYes
Recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)?YesYes
Agencies
  • MSCHE: Middle States Commission of Higher Education  
  • NWCCU: Northwest Commission of Schools & Colleges 
  • HCL: Higher Learning Commission
  • NEASC: New England Association of Schools & Colleges
  • SACS: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • WASC: Western Association of Schools & Colleges 
  • ACCJC: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges 
  • ACCSC: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges 
  • ACCET: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training 
  • ACICS: Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
  • Association for Biblical Higher Education
  • Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools
  • COE: Council on Occupational Education 
  • DEAC: Distance Education Accrediting Commission 
  • Association of Institutions of Jewish Studies
  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools

What is Programmatic Accreditation?

Like regional accreditation, program accreditation is awarded by an outside agency. These agencies set standards for specific professions. Nursing,  accounting and psychology are some areas where program accreditation may be important.

A program accreditation is not a replacement for regional or national accreditation. It is additional. In short, the main accreditation evaluates a school as a whole. While a professional accreditation evaluates a certain program.

DO ONLINE COLLEGES ACCEPT ANYONE?

Yes, there are some online colleges that accept anyone who applies. There are also some online colleges that have very high acceptance rates. It is important to note, that each online college has its own admissions standards.

A high acceptance rate is not always an sign of quality. In an online setting, there are no physical class room restraints. So this may allow for some schools to offer unlimited attendance.

Applying to an online program may also be simpler. This could allow for more students to pursue a degree. For example, many schools ask for SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendations or specific GPAs. There are online schools which waive some of these asks such as GPAs.

© Education Connection 2019. All Rights Reserved.

EducationDynamics maintains business relationships with the schools it features.

Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

This is an offer for educational opportunities that may lead to employment and not an offer for nor a guarantee of employment. Students should consult with a representative from the school they select to learn more about career opportunities in that field. Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific program curriculum.