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30 Best Online Colleges

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Great Value Colleges - Best Online Colleges 2015By Great Value Colleges Staff

Featured schools

This is a ranking of the top 30 best online colleges. These top rated online schools have distinguished themselves by embracing online education and excelling at it. Each college and university offers at least five undergraduate and graduate degree programs. All are regionally accredited, and most are also accredited by the DETC (Distance Education Training Council). Readers should be aware that a low score in this ranking doesn’t mean the quality of the school is low overall; it’s just lower compared the rest of the top 30 online colleges. Note that the majority of the more than 150 accredited online colleges didn’t register a single point in this ranking system. The ranking methodology we used is shown below. Our method goes beyond many of the national online college ranking models in that it factors graduation rate and return on investment.

Ranking Methodology

All data was taken from the latest respective rankings and reports. Points were awarded as follows.

Top 100 National Ranking by U.S. News: 5 Points
National Ranking by U.S. News: 3 Points
Online Program Top 100 Ranking by U.S. News: 2 Points
Average 20 Year Net Return on Investment>$400,000 as calculated by Payscale.com: 2 Points
Average 20 Year Net Return on Investment>$200,000 as calculated by Payscale.com: 1 Point
Regional Ranking by U.S. News: 1 Point
Graduation Rate>50% according to the National Center for Education Statistics: 1 Point

Ranking the Best Online Colleges 2015

#30. Minnesota State University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 2 Points

minnesota-state-university-online
The online extension at Minnesota State University offers six undergraduate degree completion programs, and five minors. The school also offers eight graduate programs, and several education certificates and K-12 licensure programs. Undergraduate programs include: International Business, Technical Communication, and Urban Studies. Students will find educational technology, teaching and learning, and communication studies among the online graduate programs. Seeing as the undergraduate programs are completion programs, students will need to transfer in their general education credits. These can be earned at any number of schools local to the student, most commonly local community colleges and state universities for students looking to save money. The programs at MSU’s Mankato online extension are designed to be flexible and convenient for students who work full time, but courses can be taken at a more traditional full time pace. The school’s business programs are accredited by the AACSB which is the highest level of accreditation possible for an American business school.

U.S. News Ranking: #69 Regionally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $248,000
Graduation Rate: 49%
Forbes Ranking: #616 Overall, #150 in the Midwest
For More Information: Minnesota State University

#29. Fort Hays State University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 2 points

fort-hays-state-university-online
Fort Hays State University features 19 undergraduate programs, 27 if you count the assorted concentrations in both the business and education programs. Among the available bachelor’s programs are programs in: business education, education, philosophy, political science, justice studies, sociology, marketing, and psychology, among others. The graduate programs at Fort Hays State University are designed for working professionals looking to pave the way for career advancement. Some of the available graduate programs are: MBA, Educational Administration, Liberal Studies, Nursing Administration, and Special Education. The graduate programs are designed for flexibility, to meet the needs of working adults that can’t afford to take two years or more off from their career to earn a degree.

U.S. News Ranking: Rank Not Published
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #16
20 Year Net Return on Investment: 156,000
Graduation Rate: 45%
For More Information: Fort Hays State University

#28. Liberty University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 2 points

liberty-university-online
Liberty University is an evangelical Christian university that offers 30 distinct undergraduate programs online, around 50 if you count all the concentrations available for each major. Liberty focuses on providing students with practical programs that will prepare them for success in the careers to which they aspire. The school integrates biblical principles into every program, seeking to provide students with a strong ethical education in addition to the practical aspects. There are a number of options for graduate programs as well, the vast majority of which are in education, business, and religion. Liberty’s graduate online nursing program and education programs are ranked in the top 100 among online programs by U.S. News. In addition to the G.I. Bill assistance, members of the military attending Liberty receive a large per-credit discount.

U.S. News Ranking: #80 Regionally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #141
20 Year Net Return on Investment: #132,000
Graduation Rate: 50%
Forbes Rankings: #623 Overall, #385 Private, #180 in the South.
For more information: Liberty University

#27. Robert Morris University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 3 points

robert-morris-university-online
Robert Morris University offers ten distinct, high quality online undergraduate programs. Among the programs offered are English, Economics, Psychology, Nursing, and Business Administration. RMU offers 13 graduate programs including: Nursing Education, Engineering Management, MBA, RN to MSN, and Organizational Leadership programs. RMU are designed to be convenient for working adults and non-traditional students looking to add some diversity to their resume and advance their career. The RMU business school is accredited by the AACSB, the top business accrediting agency in the United States. The school is a private, nonsectarian institution located just outside the city of Pittsburgh.

U.S. News Ranking: #96 Regionally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $283,500
Graduation Rate: 56%
Superscholar.org: #10 Smart Choice
For More Information: Robert Morris University

#26. University of Minnesota-Crookston

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 3 points

university-of-minnesota-crookston-online
The University of Minnesota Crookston is the campus through which the majority of UM online programs are offered. Thirteen programs are offered through the Crookston campus including programs like Marketing, Manufacturing Management, Communication, Finance, and Accounting. There are also minors in many of the subjects covered by the majors, so there is plenty of potential for mixing and matching areas of specialty to create a program that is tailored to you and your career goals. The school also offers certificate programs in taxation, health informatics, finance, and manufacturing management. The online school offers tuition at the same rate to both resident and nonresident students alike. UM Crookston offers transfer students a free pre-evaluation of transfer credits so each student will know before hand which of their credits can be applied to the program.

U.S. News Ranking: #40 Regionally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #69
20 Year Net Return on Investment: N/A
Graduation Rate: 44%
For More Information: University of Minnesota – Crookston

#25. Columbia College– Columbia, Missouri

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 3 points

columbia-college-online
Columbia College was founded in 1851 and is bringing its century and a half academic tradition to the online market. The school offers 13 distinct undergraduate programs including programs in business administration, computer information systems, criminal justice, history, political science, english, nursing and sociology. The graduate school features online programs in educational leadership, business administration, criminal justice, and military studies. Most of the majors have a variety of concentrations available, and the school also offers online associate’s degree programs. For military students the school is a participant in the Yellow Ribbon program, and offers discounts and special scholarships to service members and their spouses.

U.S. News Ranking:Unranked
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #69
20 Year Net Return on Investment: 211,000
Graduation Rate: 41%
For More Information: Columbia College

#24.Northern Arizona University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 3 points

northern-arizona-university-online
Northern Arizona University houses one of the most prolific online catalogues in the United States. Students may choose between forty-five distinct programs undergraduate programs, and over twenty-five graduate programs. The school is ranked among the top 100 schools offering online bachelor’s programs by U.S. News, and its business programs are AACSB accredited. Nearly all of the courses are offered in both online and blended formats. The programs can be taken wholly at NAU, but the school is also very accommodating to transfer students, striving to make the process as cost effective and painless as possible. NAU is committed to providing quality online education to students from around the globe. The self paced Personalized Learning program is competency based, meaning you not only get transfer credit, but students can receive credit for what they already know by taking advantage of pre-tests that allow them to test out of a course.

U.S. News Ranking: Rank Not Published
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #97
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $218,000
Graduation Rate: 49%
For More Information: Northern Arizona University

#23. Old Dominion University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 4 points

old-dominion-university-online
Old Dominion offers a wide range of programs online with over twenty-eight distinct programs to choose from at the undergraduate level. While many schools offer the same core of five to ten programs, at Old Dominion students will find many options not readily available among many online catalogues.. Among the programs offered are: Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Special Education among more traditional offerings like Business Administration, Communication, and Finance. The program also offers 29 graduate programs, including programs in aerospace engineering, public administration, and several nursing specializations. These programs are designed for maximum flexibility in order to meet the needs of students with demanding lives. Online tutoring and writing services are also available. The school strives to constantly evolve technologically and methodologically to better meet student needs year after year.

U.S. News Ranking: Not Published, National Universities Tier 2
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #69
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $251,000
Graduation Rate: 55%
For More Information: Old Dominion University

#22. South Dakota State University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 5 points

>South-Dakota-State-University-online
South Dakota State University is a nationally ranked public university. While the school doesn’t offer as many programs as some of the others on the list, it does offer five undergraduate and nine graduate programs. Among the undergraduate programs on offer are: Interdisciplinary Studies, Medical Laboratory Science, Nursing, and Sociology. Graduate programs on offer include: Educational Administration, Mass Communication, Nursing, and Public Health. The SDSU Office of Continuing and Extended Education was established with the goal of providing more support to distance learning students. Since then the program has experienced significant growth, boasting at times over 5,000 students taking at least one course through the office. One unique program is the High School Concurrent program which allows high school students to take distance learning classes that count for both high school and college credit.

U.S. News Ranking: #181 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $231,700
Graduation Rate: 56%
For More Information: South Dakota State University

#21. North Dakota State University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 5 points

north-dakota-state-university-online
North Dakota State University offers six distinct online programs including: Sociology, Journalism, Human Development and Family Science, Public Relations, and minors in Psychology, Sociology, Gerontology, and Human Development and Family Science. The Human Development and Family Science program has three different concentrations that allow students to specialize in a particular area. The school also offers thirteen graduate programs online including programs in: Speech Communication, Transportation, Merchandising, and a new program in Educational Leadership. Many of the programs are offered both in online and blended format. All of the undergraduate degrees are offered to students worldwide. NDSU believes that education needs to be reimagined and adapted to take advantage of modern technology in order adapt to modern needs. The programs don’t just allow students to earn entire degrees online, they also allow students to incorporate new course work into their existing degree, providing them new knowledge and skills to help them move forward in their career..

U.S. News Ranking: #181
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $380,000
Graduation Rate: 53%
For More Information: North Dakota State University

#20. University of South Florida

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 5 points

university-of-south-florida-online
The University of South Florida offers eight undergraduate degree completion programs. All upper division courses in these programs can be taken online but students will need to transfer in the remaining credits which consist of general education courses. These general education courses can be taken at any other accredited university but the most common method is to take them at affordable local state universities and community colleges. The University of South Florida really shines in the number of graduate programs the school offers. 28 programs on offer span eight different categories including: Public Health, Medicine, Engineering, Sustainability, Business, Arts, and Education. The school’s goal is to meet the unique needs of as many students as possible through innovative education, allowing students to pursue their education regardless of the constraints of time or place.

U.S. News Ranking: #161 among National Universities
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment:$236,500
Graduation Rate: 61%
For More Information: University of South Florida

#19. Texas Tech University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 5 points

texas-tech-university-online
Texas Tech University features several undergraduate programs, among them some pretty unique options. While some of the options are various interdisciplinary completion programs, students can also study Biology, and Plant and Soil Sciences. While the undergraduate school may not offer many programs, the graduate school offers fourteen including: Horticulture, Agricultural Education, Software Engineering, Technical Communication, and Multidisciplinary Science. The school also offers numerous minors and certificate programs. TTU prides itself on its devotion to research and top level faculty. The school boasts ten faculty members that were recipients of grants from the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. The school was founded in 1923 and since then has been a leader in innovation, research, and scholarship among top Texas universities.

U.S. News Ranking: #156 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $395,800
Graduation Rate: 59%
For More Information: Texas Tech University

#18. Ohio University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 5 points

ohio-university-online
Three of the seven fully online bachelor’s programs at Ohio University are brand new for the 2014-2015 year. Among the programs offered are Nursing, Applied Communication, and Criminal Justice. There are also some undergraduate programs which allow distance students to complete courses via offline, print-based correspondence. Ohio University also boasts 14 online graduate programs, including programs in: Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Nursing, Health Administration, and Business Administration. Ohio University is accredited by the AACSB for both its business and accounting programs. The school is focused on flexibility and enhances the flexibility of its programs through the use of print based courses, and credit by examination to help students take advantage of prior knowledge garnered through work and life experience. This emphasis on self learning is ideal for independent students that don’t need as much structure imposed on their learning process.

U.S. News Ranking: #129 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $256,300
Graduation Rate: 67%
For More Information: Ohio University

#17. University of North Dakota

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 5 points

university-of-north-dakota-online
UND’s undergraduate program selection is unique because it is one of the few schools that offers undergraduate engineering program. And not just one, but several, engineering options are available with programs in electrical, mechanical, chemical, petroleum, and civil engineering. UND also offers programs in social science, nursing, and communication. The number of graduate programs is double that of the undergraduate programs at twenty-two in total. The graduate programs offered by UND feature a wide ranging selection of strong, useful programs including: Applied Economics, Business Administration, Educational Leadership, various nursing tracks including a Nurse Educator program, and programs in Social Work and Public Health. UND’s business programs are accredited by the AACSB, and is ranked among the top 20 affordable online schools by Edudemic.

U.S. News Ranking: #168 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #131
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $235,000
Graduation Rate: 55%
For More Information: University of North Dakota

#16. Central Michigan University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 6 points

central-michigan-university-online
Ranked #1 among online bachelor’s programs by U.S. News and World Report, Central Michigan University is certainly worth a long look from any student considering online degree programs. In addition to the online program’s accolades, the school itself is also nationally ranked. Central Michigan University, like many of the top online schools has fully adopted an online Global Campus similar to that of Penn State and Colorado State University. The school features nine distinct undergraduate programs including: Business Administration, Political Science, Psychology, and Engineering Technology. The school also offers ten graduate programs, each with multiple emphases from which students may choose. The business programs at Central Michigan University are accredited at the highest level by the AACSB.

U.S. News Ranking: #194 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #1
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $121,000
Graduation Rate: 59%
For More Information: Central Michigan University

#15. University of Alabama at Birmingham

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 6 points

university-of-alabama-at-birmingham-online
The AACSB accredited Collat School of Business at UAB is responsible for spearheading the university’s foray into online education. The majority of programs available are in business and while UAB doesn’t have the widest selection of programs overall, their selection of business programs at the undergraduate level is comprehensive. The accounting program at UAB has been accredited by the AACSB since the year the accrediting agency began accrediting accounting programs separately from business programs. Among the programs offered students will find: Accounting, Economics, Finance, and Marketing programs available at the undergraduate level. Graduate programs are where UAB really branches out. In addition to the MBA program, there are also graduate programs in education, health, public health, and nursing. The programs at UAB are offered in three formats. The blended option can be a good one for students local to the school. The distance accessible option is a great choice for students that live close enough to do periodic on campus sessions. The fully online option is a good choice for people too far away to make it to campus.

U.S. News Ranking: #149 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #87
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $213,200
Graduation Rate: 54%
For More Information: University of Alabama at Birmingham

#14. University of Cincinnati

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 7 points

university-of-cincinnati-online
The University of Cincinnati offers eight undergraduate programs. The school is ranked nationally and sits in the top one hundred schools ranked for online bachelor’s programs. The school is embracing innovation in education on several levels. This innovation is demonstrated through its own for-credit online programs, and also through offering a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) which is free to any student though not technically for credit. The first MOOC offered by the school had attendance from over fifty countries and the class numbered over 2,000 students. The University of Cincinnati goes a step further than many schools offering students who successfully complete the course and then enroll in the MBA or graduate program in engineering two free credits toward the completion of their program. This makes the MOOC a fantastic way to try out the school for free and see if their methods and online learning in general is a good fit for you.

U.S. News Ranking: #129 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #87
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $282,800
Graduation Rate: 58%
For More Information: University of Cincinnati

#13. Utah State University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 7 points

utah-state-university-online
Utah State University offers eight undergraduate programs along with four minors, and eight graduate programs. Undergraduate programs on offer include: Agribusiness, Economics, Liberal Arts, and Psychology. The graduate program offerings feature some strong choices like: Engineering, and Human Resources. The school also offers professional education licensure and endorsement programs as well as professional development programs aimed at helping teachers transition to common core. The undergraduate programs feature four minors: Anthropology, History, Sociology, and Spanish. Many of the courses require proctors but most people should have access to a suitable proctor as testing staff at schools and universities, and public librarians can serve as proctors for the exams.

U.S. News Ranking: #194 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #48
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $351,800
Graduation Rate: 51%
For More Information: Utah State University

#12. Colorado State University: Global Campus

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 7 points

More Info

Colorado-State-University-online
Colorado State University was among the first to embrace online education to the extent of establishing a campus through which the university system’s online programs are administered. This streamlined system of programs makes it easy to see what programs are available from the CSU system. Thirteen undergraduate programs are on offer from the CSU Global Campus including programs in: Accounting, Management, Communication, Public Management, and Marketing. The school also offers 13 graduate programs and a program designed to help those working on their masters simultaneously earn their teaching credential. Graduate programs offered include: Organizational Leadership, Finance, Healthcare Administration, Professional Accounting, and Project Management. Colorado State University’s business programs are AACSB accredited, though accounting programs are not. This combined with the reputation of one of the top state schools in the country, and a school ranked in the top twenty schools for online undergraduate programs, make CSU a great choice for any student considering distance education.

U.S. News Ranking: #121 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #16
20 Year Net Return on Investment: 282,800
Graduation Rate: 64%
For More Information: Colorado State University: Global Campus

#11. University of Massachusetts Online (Amherst)

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 7 points

university-of-massachusetts-amherst-online
The University of Massachusetts University system has been growing the number of online programs offered for years. We link to the central hub which lists all the programs offered online by all campuses. However the most prolific campus is Amherst and so the statistics used for this ranking were those of UMass Amherst. The UMass system offers a selection of concentrations for a broad BA program allowing students to customize their degree to meet their needs. There are also numerous other programs on offer including: Psychology, Business Administration, Liberal Arts and Information Technology. UMass also offers in excess of twenty graduate programs from various campuses in: Public Health and Nutrition, Public Policy, Engineering Management, and Applied Linguistics. The programs are designed to accommodate a wide range of circumstantial needs like family and work commitments.

U.S. News Ranking: #76 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $374,800
Graduation Rate: 73%
For More Information: University of Massachusetts Online

#10. Oregon State University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 7 points

oregon-state-university-online
OSU is a top public university and one of the top fifty schools offering online undergraduate programs. The school has committed to online education in a big way with 17 undergraduate programs on offer. The school also offers programs at an incredibly competitive price, at $271 per credit for undergrads regardless of residency. The school offers quality programs identical to the traditional programs and taught by the same renowned faculty. Some online undergraduate programs include: German, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Economics, Psychology, and Horticulture. OSU also offers a unique online post-bacc program in Computer Science. The degree is designed to add fundamental computer science and engineering skills to whatever degree the student has already earned and takes only one extra year of study to complete. The graduate programs on offer from the university are numerous and almost all of them come with several available concentrations. Areas of study for graduate programs are Business Administration, Education, and Science, Engineering, and Natural Resources. There are also several graduate certificates available for students that want to add certain subjects to their graduate program.

U.S. News Ranking: #138 among National Universities
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #46 (2015 Ranking: #5)
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $351,800
Graduation Rate: 61%
For More Information: Oregon State University

#9. Arizona State University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 7 points

arizona-state-university-online
Arizona State University offers an astounding 39 distinct undergraduate programs including unique offerings difficult to find online at any other school such as: Art History, Film, Operations Management Technology, Software Engineering and more. ASU is also one of the only prominent schools to offer an online doctoral program in behavioral health. Students will also find many graduate level programs on offer including programs in: Engineering Science (Software Engineering), Systems Engineering, English as a Second Language, History, Industrial Engineering and much more. The ASU system is committed to offering a wide variety of the highest quality programs available online. Students will be hard pressed to find many of the degrees offered here online anywhere else and considering the reputation of the school for excellence in online education, ASU is definitely a top choice.

U.S. News Ranking: #129 Nationally
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #9
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $324,200
Graduation Rate: 58%
For More Information: Arizona State University

#8. Northeastern University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 8 points

northeastern-university-online
Northeastern offers eighteen undergraduate programs and is adding more every year. Many major universities spent some time testing the waters regarding online education but the more it succeeded the more they embraced it and that is what has happened with Northeastern. For a top 50 university to be offering such a quality selection of programs is incredible for online education and future students. The selection of graduate programs at NEU is even more prolific featuring programs in finance, informatics, engineering management, public administration, and both master’s and doctoral programs in education. NEU believes in the power of online education to provide opportunities to people that normally wouldn’t be able to pursue their education and career goals due to various constraints. Northeastern University is one of the largest private research universities in Boston and is regarded as one of the best universities in our country. The online programs are just as academically rigorous as the traditional programs at NEU and are taught by the same highly regarded faculty.

U.S. News Ranking: #42 among National Universities
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: N/A
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $477,000
Graduation Rate: 83%
For More Information: Northeastern University

#7. University of Missouri

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 9 points

university-of-missouri-online
The University of Missouri offers eight high quality online programs at the undergraduate level. Many of the programs, such as Hospitality Management, Radiography, and Respiratory Therapy are unique programs difficult to find offered online. Students seeking to go into those fields are in luck because the University of Missouri is considered by U.S. News to be in the top 100 nationally ranked schools, and top 50 for online undergraduate programs. The hospitality management program has a capstone course that requires students to pay a brief visit to the university giving the opportunity to work in a hands on situation with the school’s renowned hospitality management faculty. Graduate programs at the University of Missouri are plentiful, and most of them are in the education field, making this school a strong choice for educators seeking their master’s degree. In addition to the nearly 20 education programs, students will also find programs in: Biomedical Sciences, Public Health, Public Affairs, and Agroforestry.

U.S. News Ranking: #99 among National Universities
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #48
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $302,600
Graduation Rate: 70%
For More Information: University of Missouri

#6. University of Florida

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 9 points

university-of-florida-online
The University of Florida boasts 13 undergraduate programs, four of which are completion programs and eight of which are full four year online programs. The undergrad programs offered include Business, Health Education and Behavior, Biology, Geology, and Digital Arts & Sciences. UF really shines in its graduate program offerings though, with well over 30 distinct programs. Especially worthy of note are UF’s extensive offerings in graduate engineering and agriculture, though programs are also offered in communication, Latin, pharmaceuticals, business, and arts education. UF also offers more doctorates online than most institutions with programs in classical studies, pharmacy, nursing, and education. The University of Florida is one of the most respected universities in the world and both its traditional and online programs are well regarded. The sheer number of Master and Doctoral level programs on offer is truly impressive.

U.S. News Ranking: #48 among National Universities
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #5
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $383,800
Graduation Rate: 87%
For More Information: University of Florida

#5. University of Wisconsin System Online

-9 Points

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 9 points

university-of-wisconsin-madison-online
The world of online education is going through some growing pains. Many state university systems are creating a cooperative between their various campuses that collaboratively comprises their collection of online offerings. Thus sometimes data and rankings are more readily available for some campuses than others. The takeaway however is that even though the ranking authorities haven’t caught up to the way some schools are doing things, the quality of online programs is going to be consistent across a system that takes this approach. The data we have pulled for the UW System Online represents the top rankings of schools offering online programs in the system. The University of Wisconsin system collectively offers well over 30 undergraduate programs, more than 40 master’s programs, and two doctorates, both of which are in nursing. The school also offers associate’s degree programs. American studies, human development, political science, and history are among the undergraduate programs offered. Some of the most prominent graduate programs offered are electrical and computer engineering, manufacturing engineering, and mechanical engineering. Online engineering programs are rare and to have such a selection at one school is a great opportunity for students interested in earning their master’s degree in engineering degree online.

U.S. News Ranking: #47 Nationally (Madison)
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #25 (Platteville)
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $387,100 (Platteville)
Graduation Rate: 83% (Madison)
For More Information: University of Wisconsin System Online

#4. University of North Carolina Online System

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 9 points

university-of-north-carolina-online
The online system of the UNC system can be slightly complex. The system as a whole has created a hub for all the online programs offered by all the campuses. Some campuses are more expensive than others, some offer more programs than others. Thus the statistics used for this ranking were pulled from different schools, always taking the highest ranking in a category. This is how we operated with all major university systems organized this way as they seem to be moving toward offering programs collectively. As a whole the university system offers numerous high quality programs at both Bachelor’s and Master’s levels. Numerous programs are offered through NC State which, while not the flagship campus of the system, is still one of the top ranked schools in the United States.

U.S. News Ranking: #30 (UNC Chapel Hill)
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #81 (North Carolina State University)
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $440,900 (North Carolina State University)
Graduation Rate: 90% (UNC Chapel Hill)
For More Information: University of North Carolina Online System

#3. University of Illinois System Online

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 10 points

university-of-illinois-online
Courses in the University of Illinois Online System are offered from all three campuses of the school. Urbana-Champaign, Springfield, and Chicago. The University of Illinois offers a great selection of high quality online programs. Among the twelve undergraduate programs students will find such programs as: Computer Science, Business Administration, Philosophy, Mathematical Sciences, and Nursing. The system really shines in its graduate programs with over thirty total programs on offer. Among the graduate programs students will find: Political Science, Public Health, Mechanical Engineering, Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering. It’s rare to find so many engineering options offered online by a single university, or even a collective university system like this one. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has begun offering Massive Online Open Courses through Coursera.org. The school currently offers 14 different classes for free and, while those classes don’t offer actual college credit, students considering the University of Illinois can use those programs to determine whether or not online education, and UI in particular is a good fit for them without any financial risk.

U.S. News Ranking: #42 National Universities (Urbana Champaign)
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #31 (Springfield)
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $482,000 (Urbana Champaign)
Graduation Rate: 84% (Urbana Champaign)
For More Information: University of Illinois System Online

#2. Drexel University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 10 points

drexel-university-online
Drexel has always prided itself on being at the forefront of innovation in education. This school was the first to require every student have access to a computer. As one of the best online schools, Drexel has recognized the potential of computing from the very beginning and it is only natural that the school should embrace the powerful format of online education. Drexel offers a massive selection of online programs, most of which are at the graduate level. There are eleven undergraduate programs offered including programs in: Education, Business Administration, Communication, and Psychology. The selection of programs at the graduate level is huge with multiple concentrations across a wide range of areas of study including: Business, Clinical Research, Education, Engineering, Information Science, Nursing, and Technology. The school also offers numerous certificates and professional development programs, and Doctorates in Nursing, and Education..

U.S. News Ranking: #95 among National Universities
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #37
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $490,800
Graduation Rate: 70%
For More Information: Drexel University

#1. Pennsylvania State University

GVC Best Online Colleges Score: 10 points

pennsyvlania-state-university-online
In the #1 slot we have Pennsylvania State University. One of the most renowned and respected universities in the world, Penn State has been offering distance education for well over one hundred years now, and is now regarded among the best online schools. The jump to online education made perfect sense in light of this tradition. PSU does online education better than almost any other top national university with its bachelor’s programs ranked at #3 in the country. Penn State has it all, its business programs are AACSB accredited, the institution is respected, and offers a strong selection of undergraduate and graduate programs. Undergraduate programs include: Business, Finance, International Politics, Security and Risk Analysis, and Turfgrass Science. Graduate programs include extensive offerings in homeland security, and unique options like geodesign, enterprise architecture, and renewable energy and sustainability systems. Penn State is in online education for the long haul and there are few universities more qualified to spearhead innovation than Penn State University.

U.S. News Ranking: #48 among National Universities
Online Bachelor’s Program Ranking: #3
20 Year Net Return on Investment: $404,000
Graduation Rate: 85%
For More Information: Pennsylvania State University

Sources

National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator

Payscale College ROI Report: Search functions used for this article were “Private” and “Out of State” tuition, with financial aid. It should be noted that these are general figures and ROI varies greatly depending on major.
The 30th Edition of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges Rankings
Wikipedia list of U.S. Online Colleges: Was used for reference.

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Further Reading:

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