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Best Online Colleges and Top Online Universities 2022

Our higher education experts at Best Colleges have ranked the top online colleges and universities for 2022. Read on to compare schools based on affordability, flexibility, and academic quality. Find your path forward today.

Why Choose an Online College or University?

A big reason for the growth in online education and online universities is demand. Online degree programs make colleges more accessible to a much larger population than traditional on-campus options. Thanks to technology, you can earn a fully online undergraduate or graduate degree while balancing academic commitments with other responsibilities, such as a full-time job or caring for your family.

Existing commitments don’t allow for on-campus courses47%52%23%
Only way to pursue field of interest21%22%18%
Employer incentive21%17%12%
Reputation of a school8%5%7%
Due to COVID-19n/an/a37%

In the 2021 Online Education Trends Report conducted by Best Colleges — which surveyed over 1,800 students — COVID-19-related restrictions, flexibility, and convenience were listed as top motivators for choosing online learning.

However, the advantages of online degree programs are more than just an increased sense of flexibility and freedom. Online colleges courses eliminate the need to commute to a campus, which can save students money. There are several costs associated with commuting to campus, including the cost of gas and parking. Affordability is a key concern for many students — 32% of survey respondents reported a household income of less than $50,000 a year.

Online Learning Vs. In-Person Learning

Learning fully online may not be well-suited to everyone, especially if you get distracted easily at home and struggle to stay motivated. However, in-person learning can’t compete with the flexibility provided by an online school. Whether you decide to attend school online or on campus, there are many high-quality, accredited colleges and universities to choose from.

Online Learning

Pros of Online Learning
  • check iconFlexibility in scheduling, attend from the comfort of home
  • check iconSave money on commuting costs and on-campus services
  • check iconTuition may be less expensive
  • check iconOften includes options to graduate faster
  • check iconMany online school programs offer online student support services and discussion boards
Cons of Online Learning
  • x iconLack of in-person support, feelings of isolation
  • x iconLack of access to on-campus resources
  • x iconMay be harder to network and make friends
  • x iconNot all areas of study are available
  • x iconCan be harder to stay engaged and motivated; must have strong self-discipline

In-Person Learning

Pros of In-Person Learning
  • check iconIn-person interaction and community
  • check iconFull access to campus resources
  • check iconMay be easier to network and make friends
  • check iconMore options for areas of study
  • check iconMay be easier to concentrate
Cons of In-Person Learning
  • x iconLess control over scheduling
  • x iconMore time and/or money spent commuting to class or living on campus
  • x iconHigher tuition costs, especially for out-of-state students at public schools
  • x iconMay not have as many accelerated program options
  • x iconPotential increased exposure to illness

Other Online Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How Do I Choose an Online College?

In the world of online education, there is no overall best online colleges or best online degree program. But there is a best option for you. Ask yourself these five questions to begin the search for the best online colleges and universities for your situation:

  • What area of study interests you?
  • What type of online degree do you need to meet your goals?
  • What type of institution offers the degree program you need?
  • How much flexibility do you need?
  • How much can you afford to spend on an online degree program?

By understanding what you want out of a particular degree, you can make educated choices about which online universities and colleges have the best chance to give you an acceptable return on investment.

To help get you started on researching your degree options, check out these popular degree program rankings:

Choose an Area of Study

The first step is to think about what area of study you’d like to pursue in order to meet your career goals. Different college majors teach different skills and have different points of emphasis.

Examine the different majors offered by a variety of top online colleges that relate to the field of study you’re interested in. Research what specific courses are required in each major. Also consider what specific hard and soft skills will be most valuable to the work you want to be doing.

You can explore our collection of academic program rankings to learn more about the best online degrees in various fields of study.

1Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanitiesBusiness, management, marketing, and related support servicesBusiness
2Health professions and related programsHealth professions and related programsEducation
3Business, management, marketing, and support servicesSocial sciences and historyHealth professions and related programs

Source: National Center of Education Statistics (undergraduate and graduate degree fields)

Explore Our Guides to Online Schools By Degree Level

Once you’ve determined what area you’re interested in studying, determine which degree (or degrees) you’ll need to meet your professional goals. Also be sure to double-check for required prerequisites.


Ideal For: Those who have a high school diploma and want to quickly gain practical career skills

Typical Length: 2 Years

Median Annual Salary*: $40,000


Ideal For: Those who have a high school diploma or some colleges credits and want to start a new career path or increase their earning potential

Typical Length: 4 Years

Median Annual Salary*: $55,700


Ideal For: Those who already have a bachelor’s degree but want to switch careers, qualify for more advanced leadership roles, or increase their earning potential

Typical Length: 2-3 Years

Median Annual Salary*: $70,000 (for workers with a master’s or higher)


Ideal For: Those who already have a bachelor’s or master’s who want to be an expert in their field or pursue positions in research and academia

Typical Length: 3-6 Years

Median Annual Salary*: $70,000 (for workers with a master’s or higher)

*For full-time, year-round workers ages 25-34

Evaluate Online Colleges

There are many factors to consider when judging the quality of an online program and determining whether it’s the right fit for your educational goals. Take time to consider each of the aspects mentioned below.

Type of Institution

The degree you decide to pursue will help determine the type of institution you need to attend. The most common types of colleges and universities fall under the following categories.


Always verify that an online university or college is accredited. Accreditation for colleges matters because it sets quality standards meant to ensure that online degrees are legitimate and hold value. The accreditation status of your college can also impact your ability to apply for financial aid or transfer credits.

A school’s accreditation status should be mentioned on its official website. Students can also verify a school’s status through the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. Both maintain lists of recognized institutional and programmatic accrediting agencies.

Programmatic Accreditation

In some cases, individual programs may also be accredited by an independent board. One example is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, which evaluates academic programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. Independent agencies assess the competence and rigor of both on-campus and online degree programs, giving students peace of mind that their school’s department offers a reputable program.

Additionally, some state-level professional credentials require that students graduate from a program with specific programmatic accreditation.


Online college courses come in a variety of formats, such as synchronous and asynchronous options, allowing students to choose a structure that works best for their learning style and lifestyle. Determine what kind of flexibility you’ll need in an online program by considering the common online course formats below.

SynchronousStudents attend classes, view lectures, participate in group chats and conversations, and complete assignments according to a pre-set schedule or syllabus.
AsynchronousStudents are given regular deadlines for completing assignments, viewing or listening to lectures, and participating in group discussions, but they can complete these tasks at any time before the due date.
Open ScheduleStudents can begin courses at any time, independent of traditional quarter or semester schedules. Students must complete assignments at set points during the class based on their start date and discussion. Interaction with other students is usually minimal or lacking entirely.
Fixed-Time Online CoursesStudents access all academic materials from a computer (no in-person meetings are required), but must log in to virtually attend and participate in class at specific times.
HybridThe majority of course materials and instruction are provided online and can be done remotely, but students are required to meet in person one or more times during the course.


The true cost of a program can be one of the most important factors when deciding on the best online university or college for you. When comparing the costs of online vs. on-campus programs, many students assume attending college online will always be cheaper with fewer fees.

In some ways, that may be true — online learners who don’t plan on using campus-based services can typically skip costs associated with in-person attendance, including activity, parking, and health fees. Additionally, at some schools, all online students pay in-state tuition, and other online student discounts and fee waivers may be available.

However, many who opt for online college courses encounter fees specific to distance learning, such as certain technology fees. These may be flat fees or charged by the credit hour.


Although a significant advantage of a fully online college or university is the fact that you can take courses anywhere with an internet connection, most online students actually take classes from a school located within 100 miles of where they live. Online degree programs offer a great deal of flexibility, but enrolling in an online degree program close to your home can offer additional advantages.

If you enroll in an online degree program close to home, you may be able to save money by paying in-state tuition. You could also more easily access campus resources (e.g., libraries, gyms, or in-person office hours with professors and academic advisors) or explore hybrid programs, which require you to spend some time on campus in addition to taking classes online.

Interested in learning about the best online degrees available in your state? Explore the map below to find the best online school in each state.

Top Online Schools By State


Student Support

Each online program differs in the support it offers to students, so make sure you’ll be getting the resources you need to feel comfortable and confident in your studies. For some, that might mean resources for student parentsstudents of color, or undocumented students. Student services can also come in the form of writing assistance, coaching and counseling from an academic advisor, and career services for online graduates.

How Can I Pay for an Online Degree?

Earning an online college degree typically requires a substantial investment. While some students choose to pay for college out-of-pocket using savings or family contributions, many need to seek financial aid to help make college more affordable.

Some online schools also allow students to pay for tuition and housing in monthly installments, rather than paying one lump sum for each semester or quarter term. These deferred payment plans may carry little to no interest, but the balance must be paid off by the end of each term.

Financial Aid

Financial aid opportunities are available through various sources, including the federal government, nonprofit organizations, and private companies, as well as the online college or university a student attends. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required to qualify for federal student loans, as well as many private scholarships and grants.

Submitting the FAFSA is recommended for undergraduate and graduate students who qualify, and students should complete this process each year they’re in school. The FAFSA form may be completed and submitted online. It includes questions about the applicant’s financial background — including their family’s income, tax history, and current assets — to determine how much financial aid a student may qualify for.


Students may seek college loans from the federal government or private lending institutions, such as banks or credit unions. Federal loans carry a fixed interest rate, and the interest may be tax-deductible. Federal loans do not need to be repaid until the student graduates or leaves school. Online graduates who struggle to repay their loans may be able to postpone or reduce their monthly payments.

Loans from private lenders, on the other hand, typically carry a variable interest rate — up to 14% or higher in some cases — and the interest is rarely tax-deductible. Students are often required to begin repaying these loans while still in school. Private lenders may also place restrictions on how the aid money is spent. However, if you cannot afford your monthly payment for your private student loan, refinance and consolidation options may be available.

Work-Study Programs

The Federal Work-Study Program is designed for students who demonstrate financial need. The program allows them to work part time while enrolled in college courses. Students attending a college online that participates in the Federal Work-Study Program are eligible to join. This includes those seeking undergraduate, graduate, or professional degrees. Part-time and full-time students may be eligible.

Federal Work-Study jobs are often related to the student’s field of study. On- and off-campus positions may be available through the program, depending on availability. Those who work on campus usually work for the school, while off-campus employees often work for nonprofit organizations or public agencies.

Tuition Reimbursement Programs

According to a 2020 Society of Human Resource Management report, about half of private organizations offer tuition assistance to employees who wish to earn a postsecondary degree. These plans are mutually beneficial. Employees who receive assistance can offset some of the out-of-pocket costs for their education, and employers strengthen their workforce with workers who have advanced training in their field.

However, tuition reimbursement may not cover all of a student’s expenses. It is not uncommon for organizations to reimburse $4,000-$9,000 in tuition per year, depending on the circumstances. Additionally, the employee may be required to work for the organization for a certain length of time after earning their degree or certificate.

Grants, Fellowships, and Scholarships

A grant is a form of financial aid delivered to students in a lump sum. For example, the federal government provides Pell Grants to low-income students, and many colleges and universities also offer similar grants. Fellowships are essentially a type of grant for students who conduct independent research. Scholarships are similar to grants, but these are normally available through private organizations. Additionally, while grants are typically need-based awards, scholarships may be awarded based on variables like academic merit, field of study, or demographic factors.

Some grants, fellowships, and scholarships impose restrictions on how the money may be spent. Recipients who do not follow these guidelines may need to pay back some or all of the award. Otherwise, these forms of financial aid — unlike loans — do not need to be repaid by online graduates.

Learn more about scholarships and financial aid options for online college students.

Other Online Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Do I Need to Apply to Online College?

Once you’ve decided on the best online school for you, you’ll need to take many of the same steps required to apply to an on-campus program. Make note of important deadlines and submission dates before starting the process so you’ll have time to prepare and collect the proper materials.

What You’ll Need

check-circle iconTest Scorescheck-circle iconLetters of Recommendationcheck-circle iconPersonal Statement/Essaycheck-circle iconOfficial Transcripts


Over 900 schools accept the Common Application. Students who fill in some basic information and answer a few school-specific questions can apply to multiple schools or universities at a time. Check to see if the online school you’re applying to accepts this type of application. If not, you can find the admissions application on your target school’s official website.

College Essay

Many applications require a long-form essay that addresses a general topic or creative prompt. Be sure to write multiple drafts of your essay to ensure it is free of grammatical errors, typos, and ambiguities. If the prompt is general, make sure to emphasize your academic, professional, and extracurricular experiences to demonstrate your value as a student.

Letters of Recommendation

You’ll likely need to submit at least one letter of recommendation with your application packet, so try and come up with a few good references who you can ask. Teachers, school counselors, and employers are all good resources to reach out to.

Official Transcripts and Test Scores

Undergraduate students are often asked to submit high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores. Alternatively, graduate students may be asked to submit their undergraduate transcripts, as well as GMAT or GRE results, depending on their school and area of study.

What Can I Expect From Online College Courses?

While online learning courses have their own unique expectations, they share many of the same components and objectives as traditional in-person learning courses. Here’s what you can expect from online college courses.


Specific requirements vary by program, but most online students log into their school’s learning management system (LMS) to participate in online class lectures. Asynchronous learning programs allow students to view lecture recordings on their own time. Alternatively, synchronous programs may require students to watch live-streaming lectures. In some cases, synchronous courses feature video conferencing components that allow students to ask questions and interact with their professors and fellow students.

Peer-to-Peer Interaction

Online coursework often features discussion boards where students can communicate through written posts. Videoconferencing may also be available, and students may contact one another by phone, email, or social media to coordinate study sessions or work on group projects. Additionally, students who live close to campus can coordinate in-person study groups with their classmates.

Instructor Interaction

Individual online classes frequently feature a discussion board where students can leave faculty questions. Many professors will also provide their personal contact information — including email, phone, and social media — to ensure their students can contact them if they have questions or concerns.

Assignments and Homework

The assignments and homework requirements for online college courses usually mirror on-campus classes. Depending on the subject, these assignments may include group projects, presentations, and research papers. Many online classes also require students to participate in group discussions on LMS boards. The LMS will feature specific drop boxes for individual classes and assignments.

Synchronous courses often follow a tight schedule. In contrast, asynchronous courses may allow more flexibility for assignments, though most still have weekly deadlines. Online college courses may use online platforms, such as Pearson MyLab, which organize course content into quizzes, tutorials, and other interactive materials.


Online coursework may include presentation assignments. In most cases, group members communicate and work on their projects through discussion boards, email, or phone. The presentations are usually delivered remotely, using web conferencing tools like Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom. Videos may also be posted on websites like YouTube.

Tests and Exams

Quizzes for most online college courses are completed using the LMS. Tests and exams in online classes may be proctored or monitored remotely. Proctored exams usually require students to visit local testing centers, where onsite proctors monitor test-takers. For virtually monitored exams, the proctor may observe the student using a webcam. Some courses also use cheating detection software to monitor the student’s web activity while taking the exam.

Expert Advice on Choosing an Online Program

Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D.

According to Online Education Advisor, Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D.

Every year when we conduct our annual survey of online students, respondents say they wish they had compared more programs before enrolling. Deciding between online programs can be challenging — especially since there are more choices now than ever before — but there are a few things you can do to find the best option for your needs.

Beyond ensuring the online programs you’re considering are accredited by a reputable organization and within your reach financially, the best place to start is with your own goals. From career advancement to lifelong learning, students choose their online degree programs with a variety of objectives in mind.

Take some time to identify why you want to pursue an online degree and the kinds of support you’ll need to succeed. Look for support services and resources that are important to you, such as tutoring, career counseling, internship coordination, social clubs, and health and wellness classes.

Look for support services and resources that are important to you, such as tutoring, career counseling, internship coordination, social clubs, and health and wellness classes.

Can’t find what you’re looking for while searching for online degree programs? Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask a school directly! Some schools offer sample classes or course tours online to show you what the experience will be like once you become an online student.

How We Rank the Best Online Colleges

We review hundreds of online college programs each year to help students find the best online universities and colleges to meet their needs. Each ranked school is a fully accredited, nonprofit institution. Our methodology uses qualitative measures and data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics and proprietary school surveys. Read our ranking methodology.

Use our ranked list of the best online colleges and universities to begin your search for a program that works with your budget, schedule, and learning style. Each school profile includes information about available subjects and majors, as well as notable student outcomes. We hope our resource helps you find the school that is best for you.

Best Accredited Online Colleges and Top Online Universities 2022

#1 Online College in New Hampshire

Southern New Hampshire University

School Information
LocationManchester, NH
Admission Rate88%
Graduation Rate44%
Institution TypePrivate
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment94% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $320
Undergrad, out of state | $320
Graduate, in state | $627
Graduate, out of state | $627

SNHU offers more than 200 online programs at the certificate, associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels. Undergraduates can also enroll in accelerated bachelor’s to master’s programs and pay undergraduate tuition for some of their graduate courses.

Distance learners can access academic and technical support, join online clubs and honor societies, and volunteer for leadership opportunities helping other online students.

SNHU admits online students on a rolling basis. Undergraduates must submit an application, transcripts, and a form attesting that they graduated from high school or passed the GED examination.View more about this program +

#2 Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
LocationLynchburg, VA
Admission Rate51%
Graduation Rate47%
Institution TypePrivate
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment92% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $390-$455
Undergrad, out of state | $390-$455
Graduate, in state | $565-$615
Graduate, out of state | $565-$615

Liberty awards online associate, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees, along with certificates. As a Christian school, Liberty offers a bachelor’s in biblical and theological studies and a master’s in religious leadership, in addition to numerous other academic degrees.

Undergraduate admission requires submitting an application and a high school self-certification form. Transfer students must provide official postsecondary transcripts. Liberty offers scholarship opportunities specifically for online learners, along with academic advising, online library resources, and technical support. View more about this program +

#3 Online College in Florida

University of Central Florida

School Information
LocationOrlando, FL
Admission Rate44%
Graduation Rate72%
Institution TypePublic
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment59% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $179
Undergrad, out of state | $716
Graduate, in state | $327
Graduate, out of state | $1,152

At UCF, online learners can earn bachelor’s degrees in areas like anthropology, nursing, and psychology. Master’s degrees, doctorates, and graduate certificates are also offered online.

Undergraduates can apply to UCF online as transfer students. To do so, they must submit postsecondary transcripts showing a minimum 2.0 GPA. Applicants with fewer than 60 transferable credits must also submit SAT or ACT scores. 

Services available to online students include success coaches, experiential learning and internship opportunities, and career advising.View more about this program +

#4 Online College in Florida

Florida International University

School Information
LocationMiami, FL
Admission Rate58%
Graduation Rate63%
Institution TypePublic
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment68% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $229
Undergrad, out of state | $346
Graduate, in state | $479
Graduate, out of state | $1,025

FIU offers online degree and certificate options at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Popular majors include liberal arts and humanities, hospitality and tourism management, and international business. 

Admission requires an application, official transcripts, and SAT or ACT scores for high school students or transfer students with fewer than 60 transfer credits. Distance learners pursuing degrees or certificates can apply for scholarships and financial aid. They can also access tutoring and explore opportunities to develop their leadership skills.View more about this program +

#5 Online College in Florida

University of Florida-Online

School Information
LocationGainesville, FL
Admission Rate32%
Institution TypePublic
AccreditationYes ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $129
Undergrad, out of state | $553
Graduate, in state | $350-$1,500
Graduate, out of state | $350-$1,500

UF online ranks among the top online schools and offers more than 20 undergraduate majors in fields like business and leadership, earth sciences, and public safety. Master’s and doctoral students can also find degree programs online.

Undergraduate admission requires an application and transcripts, a high school diploma or GED certificate, and prior coursework in English, math, and natural and social sciences. Distance learners can apply for financial aid, access library resources, and talk with a counseling and wellness ambassador.View more about this program +

#6 Online College in Indiana

Purdue University Global

School Information
LocationWest Lafayette, IN
Graduation Rate27%
Institution TypePublic
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment99% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $280
Undergrad, out of state | $371
Graduate, in state | $420-$700
Graduate, out of state | $420-$700

Purdue Global houses online programs at all degree levels and focuses on the educational needs of working professionals. Remote learners can test an undergraduate program for three weeks without charge or commitment to see if it’s a good fit.

Course delivery is asynchronous, and students can access library materials, advising, and career services virtually. The enrollment process consists of setting up an online profile, adding prior educational information, choosing a program, and selecting funding options. Applicants must submit transcripts to see if they qualify for transfer credits.View more about this program +

#7 Online College in Arizona

Arizona State University-Skysong

School Information
LocationScottsdale, AZ
Admission Rate64%
Graduation Rate4%
Institution TypePublic
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment98% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $446
Undergrad, out of state | $541
Graduate, in state | $543
Graduate, out of state | $543

Remote learners at ASU can select from more than 250 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. With a school-wide focus on environmental sustainability, popular programs include complex science systems and sustainable food policy and tourism, along with majors like business, digital media, and engineering. 

First-year applicants need to rank in the top 25% of their high school class, hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, or score at least 22-24 on the ACT or 1120-1180 on the SAT. Online students can apply for scholarships and financial aid.View more about this program +

#8 Online College in Maryland

University of Maryland Global Campus

School Information
LocationAdelphi, MD
Graduation Rate15%
Institution TypePublic
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment90% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $306
Undergrad, out of state | $499
Graduate, in state | $504
Graduate, out of state | $659

With curricula designed for working adults, UMGC offers career-oriented programs and flexible learning options for undergraduate and graduate students. UMGC is one of the largest public online schools in the nation, providing learners with electronic textbooks, online library resources, and courses taught by industry experts. Alumni have lifetime access to career services.

Undergraduates enroll in eight-week sessions, with some programs following a cohort model. First-year students must have a high school or GED diploma.View more about this program +

#9 Online College in Florida

The University of West Florida

School Information
LocationPensacola, FL
Admission Rate31%
Graduation Rate46%
Institution TypePublic
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment66% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $219
Undergrad, out of state | $342-$648
Graduate, in state | $385
Graduate, out of state | $479-$1,044

Top online programs at UWF include degree and certificate options in cybersecurity, instructional design and technology, and entrepreneurship and innovation. UWF online emphasizes flexibility and affordability for adult learners, with many programs offering multiple start dates throughout the year.

Candidates for undergraduate admission must complete an online application and submit transcripts. Some programs may require ACT or SAT scores. Online students can access career center resources and apply for financial aid.View more about this program +

#10 Online College in California

University of Massachusetts Global

School Information
LocationIrvine, CA
Admission Rate89%
Graduation Rate60%
Institution TypePrivate
AccreditationYes ?
Percent Online Enrollment96% ?

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Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad, in state | $500
Undergrad, out of state | $500
Graduate, in state | $680-$1,185
Graduate, out of state | $680-$1,185

UMass Global offers enrollment coaching and academic/career advising. It also supports the 90% of its student body who continue working while attending school by providing flexible and remote learning options. Students at all levels can choose programs from among four online schools: arts and sciences, business and professional studies, education, and nursing health professions.

Baccalaureate program applicants should submit transcripts showing at least 12 transferable bachelor’s-level credits from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum 2.0 GPA. Individual departments may list additional admission criteria.View more about this program +See More Schools +

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Degree Programs

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How long does it take to get an online bachelor’s degree?

An online bachelor’s degree typically includes 120 credits, which full-time students can complete in approximately four years. Program length can vary considerably, however, depending on the training schedules available. For example, schools may offer part-time schedules to accommodate working professionals and accelerated options for learners interested in expediting graduation.

Online colleges tend to offer more flexibility than traditional schools. Many online programs deliver courses asynchronously, which learners can complete during the most suitable hours for them. Since asynchronous programs do not rely on live instruction, students may be able to take heavier course loads and graduate more quickly.

Degree-seekers may shorten their study times in other ways, as well. Online schools may offer transfer credits for learners with previous undergraduate training, and some even provide credit for students with certain types of professional experience. Transfer credits can cut study times down by as much as 75%, in certain cases.

Do employers like online degrees?

Employers typically view online degrees as equal to on-campus degrees. Online and on-campus programs contain the same material, only differing in the methods and time of instruction. The best online colleges rarely label their online degrees as such, making them indistinguishable from their on-campus counterparts.

Online education can also make it easier for students to access some of the most recognizable and reputable schools in the country. This may lead to even better employment opportunities. As long as the online school and/or program holds proper accreditation, students and potential employers needn’t worry about a degree being illegitimate.

Regional accreditation demonstrates that the online college meets robust educational standards. Programmatic accreditation identifies programs that meet industry standards and expectations for the field. Prospective students and employers can check the status of programs and online schools through the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP).

Is an online degree as good as a traditional degree?

An online degree provides the same level of instruction as a traditional degree, so the two degree types should be considered equal. Online and on-campus students take the same courses and read the same materials. They often share the same instructors and complete the same assignments, as well.

The main difference comes from the format, with online learners watching virtual lectures and communicating with teachers and peers online. While online programs may mirror in-class schedules, some feature asynchronous options. This allows students to access recorded lectures, which adds flexibility but may reduce classroom interaction.

Students may need to demonstrate different characteristics and study habits to find success in online programs. Online courses, particularly asynchronous courses, require more independence and proactivity. Self-motivated and self-disciplined students are likely best suited for online universities.

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