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There are a dozens of ways to evaluate and rank online colleges. Whether it is through academic standards, instructor credentials, or student engagement, online colleges can be sliced and diced in a variety of ways to help you make the best decision for your college career.

Being “top rated online college” means different things to different students. For some, low tuition rates may be important while others find academic outcomes to be the mark of a top college. Obviously, some colleges may be strong in certain departments while weak in others.

With that being said, U.S. News and World Report is considered the gold standard for college rankings, and they break down each online school by department. While these types of rankings can be helpful, it is also good to know which online programs are universally respected. In no particular order, here’s a list of our favorite top-rated online colleges.

Top Rated Online Colleges

Pennsylvania State University–World Campus

Top Rated Online CollegesUniversally recognized as one of the best places to earn an online bachelor’s degree, Penn State University’s World Campus is the online branch of the highly respected Penn State University. In addition to being ranked well in a number of other online college rankings systems, Penn State’s World Campus is ranked as the #1 “Best Online Bachelor’s Program for 2015” by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 2000, the online school boasts an enrollment of over 4,300 students and more than 100 accredited degree and certificate programs. Tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students runs at $535 per credit. You can learn more about Penn State’s World Campus here.

University of Florida

Almost every list of the best online colleges includes the University of Florida. Ranked as the #13 online Bachelor’s Degree Program in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report, the University of Florida’s online program is significantly cheaper than many of its counterparts. Tuition rates are just $112 per credit for in-state students and $500 for per credit for non-Floridians. Dozens of degrees in over 15 different departments are available to be completed entirely online. For more information about the University of Florida Online, click here.

University of Illinois-Chicago

Offering online degree completion programs since 2007, the University of Illinois–Chicago makes several of its highly respected research programs available to online learners. In 2015, U.S. News & World Report gave UIC’s online bachelor’s program a perfect score for student engagement and satisfaction. They also put them in a tie for the #2 overall on their best bachelor’s programs list. Tuition rates in the bachelor’s program are $575 per credit across the board. You can find out more information about UIC online programs by clicking here.

George Washington University

With its campus physically located in Washington, D.C., George Washington University consistently ranks in the top tier of online college programs. The university has been offering online bachelor’s degrees since 2003, and they focus those programs toward adult learners. Classes are available around the clock, so students can access the materials at their own convenience. Bachelor’s degree programs can be completed entirely online with maximum class sizes of just 20 students. Tuition rates are $552 per credit for all students. Learn more about GWU’s online bachelor’s degree offerings here.

Western Kentucky University

Ranked in a tie for the #2 spot on the U.S. News and World Report 2015 list, Western Kentucky University offers more than 80 online degree and certificate programs. WKU has one of the longest running online degree programs available, opening their virtual doors in 1998. Bachelor’s degree programs at WKU can be completed entirely online with maximum class sizes topping out at 25 students each. U.S. News gives the school exceptionally high marks for student engagement and faculty credentials, coming in at 4th and 14th overall, respectively. Tuition rates are reported to be $463 per credit, regardless of residency. Click here to read more about online degree programs at Western Kentucky University.

Oregon State University

The online bachelor’s degree programs at Oregon State University are yet another set of programs that are routinely found on several “best online college” lists. With its campus located in Corvallis, Oregon, Oregon State’s online bachelor’s degree programs find themselves tied for #5 on U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 rankings. The school has been offering online programs since 2001 and boasts an enrollment of over 3,000 online students. Students will also be pleased with the school’s low tuition fees – which total just $191 per credit for both in-state and out-of-state students. You can learn more about Oregon State’s online offerings here.

Daytona State College

Daytona State College is an accredited public institution whose online degree programs have been available since 2006. Requiring students to complete 2 years of study for an associate’s degree followed by 2 more years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, Daytona State College has ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s top 10 bachelor’s degree programs for three years running. Tuition rates for Florida residents are an amazingly cheap $92 per credit. Out-of-state students will pay $560 per credit. Click here to read more about Daytona State College’s online programs.

Colorado State University–Global Campus

The online bachelor’s degree program at Colorado State University–Global Campus are ranked #7 by U.S. News & World Report in 2015. Additionally, the online faculty are ranked #2 overall by the publication. CSU’s Global Campus boasts a whopping 7,400+ online students pursuing online degrees in business, information technology, and human resources, among others. Still, maximum class sizes remain at just 20 students per class. Lectures and class materials are archived so that students can study at a time that is convenient for them. Both in-state and out-of-state residents will pay $350 per credit. Learn more about the online degree programs at Colorado State University’s Global Campus by clicking here.

The Ohio State University–Columbus

Students looking for the convenience of online learning will appreciate the 24-hour access they have to their course materials through The Ohio State University’s online degree program. All lectures and course materials are archived, allowing students to be able to study at a time that is convenient for them. With their online programs founded in 2008, Ohio State’s online bachelor’s degree programs are tied for #8 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 rankings. Tuition rates range from $382 per credit for Ohio residents to $1,070 per credit for out-of-state students. You can learn more about The Ohio State University’s online courses here.

Arizona State University

With over 10,000 online students enrolled and a #8 ranking from U.S. News & World Report in 2015, Arizona State University rounds out our list of top-rated online colleges. Founded in 2006, ASU’s online degree programs are available any time of day or night – which makes them perfect for adult learners. Regardless of where you reside, tuition rates are figured at $480 per credit. The university also boasts 260 full-time professors who teach online courses. Click here to find out more about Arizona State University Online.

The Bottom Line

Deciding to attend any college is an expensive decision, and you want to make sure that you are getting the best value for your education dollars. While it’s great to know how online colleges generally compare to others, you should also compare specific online programs before making a final decision on where to attend. Additionally, you may want consider alternatives to a college education, such as receiving more training or securing a new licensure for a field in which you already work.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our list. Good luck!

Author Bio

Total Articles: 24
Greg Johnson is a writer and entrepreneur who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. As a money nerd, he focuses most of his writing on topics that relate to budgeting, frugality, and investing. With his wife Holly, Greg co-owns two websites – Club Thrifty and Travel Blue Book. Find him on Pinterest and Twitter @ClubThrifty.

Article comments

1 comment
sneha says:

Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech ) is a private, independent, not for profit, Ph.D. – granting research university with programs in Engineering, Science, Architecture, Business, Law, Design, Human Sciences, and Applied Technology.

With five campuses throughout Chicago area and alumni around the world, Illinois Tech pairs the educational and cultural experiences of America’s Second City with the small feel of an undergraduate population of just over 2300 and total population of just over 7400.