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Twenty years ago, the only way to obtain a college education was to do it the old fashioned, and expensive way.  Admittance to college came through the submission of an application through the mail (and usually with a check of $50 or more) and after completing your four year, 120 credit degree, you’re provided a piece of paper confirming your accomplishment.  These days however, a college education can come in the form of an online college and you can earn your college degree from the comfort of your own home.

Because colleges are now online, you aren’t restricted to a certain few located in the area you currently live.  There are hundreds of online colleges at your fingertips and to get you started on the right foot in your search, we’ve listed the best 35 online colleges and universities below.  Unfortunately, our rankings are somewhat primitive, having never attended any of these schools but based on solid research and the recommendation of others, we’re confident the list is a strong one.

1. University of Phoenix – The largest on all online universities, the University of Phoenix currently has more than 400,000 students registered.  Established in 1978, the University of Phoenix has more than 100 online degree programs and employs more than 12,000 people.

2. ITT Technical Institute – Known simply as ITT Tech, this online college has 105 campuses located across the United States. With more than 70,000 students enrolled, ITT Tech offers a variety of online degree programs AAS, BAS and Master’s degrees.

3. Strayer University – More than 50,000 students are enrolled in over 80 campuses (including online), making Strayer one of the largest online institutions in terms of physical locations, if that makes any sense! Established in 1892, Strayer University’s course-load focuses primarily on career advancement.

4. Post University – Continuing on the well established list, Post University was founded in 1890 and for a 14 year period from 1990 – 2004 was associated with Tokyo Japan and renamed the Teikyo Post University!  Post University offers a variety of online degree programs, including accounting, criminal justice and psychology.

5. Devry University – One of the few publicly owned Universities around (ticker symbol DV), Devry has a current enrollment of more than 80,000 and is the most advertised of all online colleges.  Founded in 1931, Devry University has a specific set of degrees available, most notably Computer Information Systems (CIS) and Engineering.

6. American Intercontinental University (AIU) – Founded in Europe, the American Intercontinental University was first established in 1970.  With more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students, AIU has four campuses in the United States, located in California, Texas, Florida and Georgia.

7. New England College – is a private four-year college in Henniker, New Hampshire, enrolling a total of approximately 1800 undergraduate and graduate students. Founded in 1946, New England College evolved to become a comprehensive college incorporating liberal arts and professional programs.

8. Walden University – Walden University, headquartered in Minneapolis Minnesota, is an online university primarily for post-graduate students.  Of the 35,000+ students enrolled, more than 90% of them are post-graduate students.  Walden University was established in 1970 by two NY teachers; Bernie and Rita Turner.

9. LA College International – Founded in 1981, LA College International offers accredited undergraduate degree programs in high demand professions like business, health care, and criminal justice.  Strangely enough, you’ll only find a few hundred students currently enrolled, making it the smallest school on our list.

10. Ashworth College – Established in 1987 by it’s parent company, the Professional Career Development Institute, Ashworth College also provides high school level courses for those who lack a high school degree.  Ashworth College offers more than 100 online degree programs and offers flexible payment options AND discount coupons!

11. Westwood College – Owned by Alta Colleges Inc, Westwood College has graduated more than 24,000 students since it’s inception in 1986.  Westwood offers what it describes as career-focused diploma, associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs through its Schools of Business, Design, Justice, Technology, Healthcare, and Industrial Services.

12. Liberty University – The first and largest Christian University on our list, Liberty University has an enrollment of more than 60,000 students and offers them more than 60 online degree programs.  Established in 1971, Liberty University is run by the very famous chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.

13. Rasmussen College – Founded in 1900, Rasmussen College enrolls around 15,000 students annually and offers both associates and bachelor’s degrees. Rasmussen College has 18 campuses and organizes programs into the following eight schools including Education, Nursing, and Technology.

14. St Leo University – Founded in 1889, St Leo University has an enrollment of just over 14,000 with students coming from three different places. 1,500 on its main campus in Saint Leo, FL, more than 7,600 on military bases and community colleges in five states, and more than 4,000 students online.

15. Stratford University – Stratford University, founded in 1976, offers accelerated degree programs for those who wish to start their careers quickly. An associate’s degree can be earned in 15 months, a bachelor’s degree in 30 months.  For those living in Virginia, Stratford University also has four on-site campuses, not to mention one in Baltimore.

16. Herzing University – Founded by Henry and Suzanne Herzing in 1965 as a computer programming school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Herzing University now has eleven campuses in the U.S., four locations in Canada, and an online division.  Herzing University recently diversified its educational programs to include the fields of business management, electronics, health care, graphic design, and public safety

17. South University – SSouth University, Online Programs is designed to cater to your needs with small classes that allow for individualized attention, qualified instructors who bring a wealth of knowledge to the classroom, customized learning environments, and challenging curricula that’s geared toward your career goals. Designed with the needs of working adult students in mind, South University, Online Programsis built on the same curriculum offered at South University’s campus locations. As a student at South University, Online Programs you will receive the same degree, quality instruction, variety of learning options and level of service found at the campus locations.

18. Nova Southeastern University – More than 28,000 students are enrolled at Nova Southeastern University, a well know South Florida school.  The Online Education Database (OEDb) ranked Nova Southeastern #1 overall for distance and online learning programs with Nova Southeastern offering more than 175 programs of study.

19. Kaplan University – Our favorite online university is Kaplan, and 66,000+ students would agree. Average tuition costs are roughly $12,000 a year to attend Kaplan University and with 10 physical campuses, online studying is just one possibility. Kaplan University was established in 1937 as the American Institute of Commerce.

20. Ashford University – Earn the degree you’ve always wanted at Ashford University. Be empowered with resources to achieve your goals, including an innovative online classroom and a supportive environment. Ashford University is defining the modern college experience.

21. Virginia College – Established in 1983, Virginia College offers certificates, diplomas, and degrees in the areas of health and medical, information technology, business, office management, and criminal justice.  Current enrollment sits at roughly 5,000 students.

22. Norwich University – The oldest of all the universities on our list Norwich was founded all the way back in 1819.  It is the oldest of six Senior Military Colleges, and is recognized by the United States Department of Defense as the “Birthplace of the ROTC”.  Norwich University is made up of 3,000+ students.

23. Penn Foster College – Established in 1977, Penn Foster College is strictly a distance and online school, with an enrollment of approximately 25,000 students.  The college focuses on associate of science degrees, primarily in criminal justice and computer science.

24. Colorado Technical University – Established in 1965, Colorado Technical University (CTU) offers accredited undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in a number of subjects, focused primarily in the business, management, and technology disciplines.  Headquartered in Colorado Springs, more than 25,000 students are currently enrolled.

25. Loyola University New Orleans Online – Founded in 1904, Loyola University New Orleans is better known as the “Jesuit of the South” and accommodates around 5,000 students annually.  There are five colleges of study at Loyola University New Orleans and they are: Humanities and Natural Sciences, Law, Music and Fine Arts, Business and Social Sciences.

26. Pinnacle Career Institute – Established in 1953, the Pinnacle Career Institute (PCI) allows students to earn certificates and degrees in a variety of specialties. Campuses are located in Kansas City Missouri and Lawrence Kansas.

27. Everest University – Everest University, located in South Florida, offers students Associates, Bachelors and Master’s degrees with more than 700 courses taught each semester.  In addition, all undergraduate and graduate programs are approved by the Department of Homeland Security and by the Florida State Approving Agency for Veterans Training.

28. Capella University – Capella has 114 graduate and undergraduate specializations and 15 certificate programs with over 1050 online courses. More than 28,100 learners are enrolled from all 50 states and 55 other countries, with approximately 5,067 undergraduate, 23,085 graduate students and the remaining 1 percent enrolled in certificate programs.

29. Keiser University Campus Online – Keiser University, established in 1977. offers students four types of degree programs, including Associates, Bachelors, Masters and even a Doctorate.  The main campus is located in Fort Lauderdale with 14 campuses located throughout the State of Florida and internationally

30. Harrison College – Harrison College provides a wide range of educational opportunities. Within its five schools of study, Harrison offers more than 30 degree, certificate and diploma programs.  Established in 1902, Harrison College has a current student enrollment of 4,400.

31. Grand Canyon University – Grand Canyon University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and provides online and campus-based post-secondary education services focused on graduate and undergraduate degree programs through it’s six colleges.  Founded in 1949, Grand Canyon University has an enrollment size of 25,000.

32. Salem International University Online – A considerably small online school, (enrollment of only 1,000 or so students) Salem University also established a partnership with Teikyo Japan to focus on international studies.  That partnership ended in 2000, and Salem University now offers a variety of undergraduate degrees.

33. Champlain College – A private institution founded in 1878, Champlain College offers professionally focused programs that incorporate an interdisciplinary core curriculum.  Enrollment sits at just under 2,000 students and the first bachelor’s degree programs were offered in 1991, and online education began in 1993.

34. Indiana State University – The Princeton Review has named Indiana State as one of the “Best in the Midwest” six years running and why not, with Indiana State offering 100+ majors, notably education, business, criminology, and finance.  Founded in 1865, Indiana State University enrolls more than 10,000 students.

35. Miller-Motte College Online – Earn your degree and advance your career at Miller-Motte College Online. They offer bachelor’s degrees in business administration, allied health management, nursing (RN to BSN), and criminal justice. Their classes are structured to fit your busy lifestyle so you can study at your own pace and balance the demands of work, school, and family while completing your degree faster than you even expected.

Author Bio

Total Articles: 1118
Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Article comments

Briana @ GBR says:

Great list! I’m actually going to be finishing my degree online through TUI University. These are some great references though and I’ll be checking some of them out that I hadn’t thought/heard of.

DR says:

Briana, thanks for mentioning TUI; we’ll check them out as well.

jim says:

What criteria makes these the “best” programs?

Omar Habayeb says:

Thank you for listing Harrison College as a top online college and university. Our current student enrollment is actually 6000. Something that may be of interest, in January 2012, Harrison College lauched a new social learning software known as KnowU which provides a revolutionary new way of teaching and interacting with online students. You can watch the video here: http://youtu.be/Fm2zbkEu18A and you can explore the KnowU microsite here: http://knowu.harrison.edu/#/home (Just a note on the microsite…while the microsite is presented in Flash…the KnowU system itself is not)

Charlie says:

This is not a criticism of Liberty University but just a correction of the description. The “very famous” Jerry Fallwell is deceased. If there is a Jerry Fallwell still associated with Liberty U., it would be the somewhat less famous son of the founder.

What criteria was used to determine the best online colleges and universities? We would love to be included and think we are appropriately priced, have rigorous programs and highly trained faculty.

Larry Ramsey says:

Really? What “strong research” did you use? This looks more like an advertisement than an actual fact-based rating. I attend one of these schools and all you did is plug in our motto as created by us, not any actual useful information. Does not seem any different for most of the other schools as well. Wow! Ashworth offers discount coupons, they must be great!

Kerry says:

I agree with you. These “schools” are nothing but profit-making industries for those who own them. They leave the students with extreme student debt and little else. No wonder that the government has no money to lend to students that want a real education. This is a shame. These places should be shut down.

Kerry says:

I agree with you. These “schools” are nothing but profit-making industries for those who own them. They leave the students with extreme student debt and little else. No wonder that the government has no money to lend to students that want a real education. This is a shame. These places should be shut down.

Rohin Sharma says:

Yeah, I am going to have to take issue with many of these choices. PBS Frontline did a documentary on the problems of For-Profit colleges, many of which are on your list.

My recommendation is to look at a respectable state university, and see if they have an online option. That would be the best place to go.


Educator says:

Actually, DV is not the only school who trades publicly.

U of Phoenix is APOL, Strayer is STRA, CPLA = Capella, Corintian College=COCO, CECO, etc. Kaplan is owned by the Washington Post, ITT is public, etc.

Daisy says:

I went to an online uni when I was in my first in second year and it was awesome. Way more freedom to learn how you feel comfortable, instead of how the teacher wants you to learn.

Javier says:

This is a list that will students in debt.

Justice says:

Not up to your usual standards. As one commentor noted, this just looks like an advertisement list. Is this just another blogger income producing strategy? You fail to note that many of these schools lack the level of accreditation that would be needed for transferring or pursuing an advanced degree at an accredited institution.

dawn says:

I am looking to go back to school but online. I have read all the comments and glad I did, that’s for sure I don’t want to go into debt I just want to learn and hopefully get some kind of degree or certificate. So My question is should I sign up at a local colleges/universities near me and stay away from these online career institutes that are 100’s of miles away from me. And I would like to know if anyone has any suggestions/advice on which places are better or good. And is there such thing as a online school that I can learn at my own pace and start any time.