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10 Best Online Colleges Worth the Time & Money

09.02.2023 • 11 min read

Nick Griffin

Subject Matter Expert

Here are the best online colleges you can choose and why. Learn how much they cost and how to enroll. We’ll also compare online and in-person colleges.

In This Article

  1. 10 Best Online Colleges

  2. Why Choose an Online College?

  3. Online vs. In-Person College

  4. How Much Does Online College Cost?

  5. How To Choose an Online Program

Imagine if college were set to your schedule and you had the freedom to maintain a job, meet up with your friends, and take care of your own needs. By enrolling in an online college, this could be your reality.

In this article, we’ll go over the top online colleges and review the difference between online and in-person colleges.

10 Best Online Colleges

This list of online colleges considers several key factors:

  • Average cost of the online degree programs

  • Quality of the education

  • Flexibility students have in creating their schedules

All of the online programs listed below are 100% remote and from accredited institutions. This way you know online graduates are getting the same quality education that campus programs offer. Each school also has minimal admissions requirements and lower-than-average tuition rates.


With the most affordable program on the list, this online educational organization was named one of Time’s Best Inventions of 2020.’s award-winning platform brings engaging content into your home.

Outlier has teamed up with Golden Gate University (GGU) to offer students an associate degree through their Degrees+ program. Degrees+ combines Outlier’s cutting-edge learning platform with GGU’s experienced instructors to give students an unmatched educational experience at a fraction of the cost of other programs on this list.

You can enroll in Degrees+ to earn an associate degree and a professional certificate from top companies like Google, IBM, and Salesforce. Or you can choose from a plethora of college courses, ranging from liberal arts to computer science, found in their online catalog.

All courses taken through Outlier are accredited and transferable, allowing students to attend another university to pursue an advanced degree.

Per Credit CostApplication Deadline‌Instruction
$1993 times per yearAsynchronous

2. University of Florida

The University of Florida was ranked the Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Program in 2023 by the U.S. News & World Report. The on-campus staff at this large public university are the same instructors who design and teach the online courses.

All course materials are archived for online students, no matter which of the 300 majors they enroll in. This way students can access course information anytime, anywhere.

Students enrolled in the University of Florida’s undergraduate and graduate programs have a personal advisor who helps them throughout their academic journey.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction
$500 (out-of-state)RollingPrimarily Asynchronous

3. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide

This well-known aeronautical university offers online degrees in fields like business, engineering, human resources, and—of course—aeronautics. Each student enrolled in an Embry-Riddle program has access to a global network of students and professionals to help them achieve their educational goals.

Coursework is delivered through 9-week sessions using adaptive learning to meet students where they are. The online instructors at Embry-Riddle are experts in their respective fields and help students apply content through virtual labs and simulations.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction

4. Union Institute and University

Union Institute and University is a small private school in Cincinnati, Ohio with a growing online student body. This school is best known for working with adult learners ‌going back to school; the average age of their students is 35.

Union Institute and University prides itself on providing support to its students and has a teacher-student ratio of 1:7. Students work with a dedicated support team ‌available to answer any questions ‌that come up.

Even though the school is best known for criminal justice degrees, its online offerings vary. Students have the option to take courses 100% remote and asynchronous or in a blended format, whichever suits their learning needs.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction

5. University of Illinois Chicago

The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) is a research university that has offered online education since 2007. The student body of UIC is diverse, with students from around the world and of all ages earning degrees ranging from healthcare to business administration.

Students attend UIC online due to its reputation as a top university; its faculty are among the most well-regarded scholars in the world. UIC currently has an alumni network of over 6 million students who graduated from in-person and online programs.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction

6. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is best known for its space science program. But it also offers 220+ degree options both on-campus in Orlando, FL, and online.

Whether you’re interested in an undergraduate degree or a master’s degree, UCF gives you flexibility. Students can choose how they wish to learn, whether it’s a blended model, hybrid, on campus, or completely online.

At the core of a UCF education is problem-solving and innovation. The online faculty-designed courses will challenge you to create solutions to meaningful problems.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction
$7163 times per yearPrimarily Asynchronous

7. Texas A&M University - College Station

As a top-tier research university, Texas A&M prioritizes leadership and collaboration above all else. Students find themselves engaged in the content as they interact with instructors who support their educational journey. In fact, Texas A&M is ranked #3 in engagement by U.S. News & World Report.

Online courses are offered each semester, using the similar schedule to in-person classes, but charging a lower fee. Texas A&M has made it its mission to provide an affordable college experience. It offers many scholarships and grants to online students in addition to their low tuition.

Prospective students can also apply for federal financial aid through the U.S. Department of Education to get help pursuing their degrees.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction
$276Mid-JanuaryPrimarily Asynchronous

8. Thomas Edison State University

The majority of students attending Thomas Edison State University (TESU) are non-traditional, part-time students ‌pursuing a new career while working full time. If you are a student who wants complete autonomy in your schedule, you’ll be pleased to learn all of their online classes are asynchronous.

With lifelong learning as its mission, TESU awards students credit for past education, experience, and military service. This saves you both time and money off your overall educational journey, getting you into the workforce in a new career faster with less debt.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction

9. Oregon State University

Oregon State University (OSU) has partnered with online program content developers to bring its online students an interactive learning experience that is completely asynchronous. This doesn’t mean students are on their own. The university has staff available to help with issues 24/7.

Students at OSU Ecampus have their own student success coach to help them stay organized and improve their academic skills. With over 100 degrees to choose from, students pursue a distance education in a field they’re passionate about.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction

10. Pennsylvania State University - World Campus

Penn State World Campus is the largest online school on the list with over 750,000 alumni in 171 countries. Penn State offers its online students the choice of more than 175 degree paths.

Penn State has a reputation for teaching its students marketable skills that are in high demand. The Wall Street Journal named Penn State a top recruiting school for employers.

This Ivy League school not only has a reputation for being one of the world’s best universities. But it has also set out to provide a quality higher education online that’s accessible to students around the world.

Per Credit CostApplication DeadlineInstruction
$6423 times per yearAsynchronous

Why Choose an Online College?

As a prospective college student, you want to know if distance learning will be a good fit for you and if your return on investment (ROI) will be worth it. When both your money and time are at stake, making sure you are moving forward in the right direction takes some forethought.

Consider the main benefits of online college:

1. Flexibility

Being able to focus on your classwork when convenient for you is a huge asset to online learning. Flexibility means having autonomy with your days and coming up with a schedule to fit your needs.

Say you want to work full time and go to school full time. Online education allows you to do it. With this flexibility, you can even travel while in school and stay caught up with your learning. The possibilities are endless.

2. Choice

When comparing online college programs, you can choose the best fit for you, no matter where it's located. Online college allows you to make decisions based solely on education and not on other factors, such as moving across the country.

Within online college programs, you also have the choice of taking the courses you’re most interested in. If there’s an elective on a topic you’re curious about, take it! There’s no in-person schedule to contend with.

3. Affordability

Many online college programs have more affordable tuition than those on campus. You also don’t have to drive or take public transit. You can live where you want, no campus meal plan required. It’s much easier to create a college budget when you have lower tuition costs and can control how much you spend on necessities.

Online vs. In-Person College

Pros of OnlinePros of In-Person
Learn on your own timeHave a set schedule
Take courses from anywhereInteract with peers regularly
Save money on college costsExperience campus life and facilities

When considering online college, ask yourself, ”What do I need to be successful?” While anyone can learn strategies to make online college work for them, think about the unique needs you have as a student and the college experience you want to have.

Of course, there’s more to it than online or in-person. Several blended or hybrid programs combine in-person and online experiences. There’s also many opportunities to start your college online and finish in-person or vice versa.

By choosing to combine your online and in-person experience, you may be able to take courses in an accelerated fashion, getting you through school in less time. Be sure the program you choose is accredited and your credits will transfer to other institutions.

When a program is accredited, it means the college upholds a certain standard and your degree will be recognized by licensing agencies and other institutions. Transferability means you’re able to put the credits you earn toward another degree should you choose.

For instance, if you take 12 credits at an online college and want to move to in-person, those transferable credits can count toward your in-person degree.

How Much Does Online College Cost?

Like an in-person education, the cost of college courses online can vary depending on the school, the program, and the location.

When trying to compare costs between schools, ‌look at these factors:

  • Tuition

  • Fees

  • Housing

  • Food

  • Transportation

  • Textbooks and supplies

Many in-person programs will determine the total cost to a student including all of these numbers, but make sure. You don’t want to get stuck paying surprise costs after you have begun college.

As we’ve discussed, one of the benefits of taking school online is more of these costs are under your control. If you go to school in-person, you have to pay a set rate for housing and‌ food as well as additional fees like building and maintenance fees.

When attending school online, you can find a housing situation for your budget, significantly reduce your grocery expenses, and pretty much eliminate extra transportation costs.

According to, the average in-state student attending a 4-year university spends $102,828 to earn a bachelor’s degree. This includes tuition, fees, housing, food, and other educational expenses. For out-of-state students, this number goes up to $173,684.

By comparison, the total average cost of an online bachelor’s degree program in 2021 was $38,496 in-state and $54,183 out-of-state. Consider what your living and other expenses may be to make a clear comparison between online and in-person education.

The best way to compare online and in-person programs is to look at the per-credit cost.

Online AverageIn-Person Average
$451 per credit (tuition only)$903 per credit (tuition only)

*Costs are for a 4-year public out-of-state program

How To Choose an Online Program

When trying to figure out which online program is the best fit for you, consider your ‌needs first. Make a list of what has worked well for you in your education to this point. Since online programs can vary, consider the following:


Make sure the online college program you choose is accredited, which means the school is qualified to teach what you want to learn.

Going to an accredited school matters ‌in getting licensed or certified in a certain field, or when you want to pursue another college degree in the future. ‌

When the school is not accredited, your college credit hours may not transfer to other in-person or online undergraduate programs as well. This information will be directly listed on the school’s website.

Quality of Instructors

Having a good instructor is a building block to successful learning. Even though “good” is a ‌subjective term, ‌‌you can look into your instructors’ competency to ensure quality instruction.

Check out some of the instructor profiles online and see if they have degrees in what they are teaching. Do they have experience in the field you can learn from? ‌Instructor ratings and program ratings are where you can see what past students thought about their instructors.


Everyone needs support from time to time. An online program can be challenging because you are moving through the content on your own. Some online colleges offer a plethora of support services to help their students build relationships and get the support they need.

See if the programs you’re interested in have ways for students to network and ask questions. Make sure ‌tutoring options and office hours are available to ask experts for help.

Hybrid vs. Remote

A hybrid online program has some in-person requirements in addition to online content. This can be anything from a summer intensive to regular courses in person.

Remote programs offer all coursework online. In these types of programs, students do not have any obligations to attend required meetings in person.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

An asynchronous course can be taken on your own time. There are no set class times, and you can complete your coursework when it fits your schedule.

Synchronous courses are done virtually, but require your attendance at a ‌designated time. An example would be having to take biology lab at 7 pm on Wednesdays. Students would all meet in a virtual platform, like Zoom, to learn.


Perhaps one of the largest concerns for everyone from high school students to graduate students is cost. Since program costs can be all across the board, it’s ‌key to know what you are getting into.

Be sure to calculate your tuition expenses correctly. Are you going to pay in-state tuition or out-of-state tuition? Are you pursuing an online master’s program or a 4-year undergraduate degree?

Often the costs will vary quite a bit. Determine what your tuition, fees, books, and school supplies will cost you ‌to make a college budget to fit your needs.

It may be possible to apply for grants, scholarships, and work-study at the college as well. Look into various forms of financial aid to greatly reduce your college expenses.

Online colleges can be an incredible way to complete a degree on a flexible schedule while saving yourself considerable costs. Choose a school that best fits your needs, so you can take the first step towards your college degree!

Degrees+: Discover Online College Unlike Anything You’ve Experienced

Outlier (winner of TIME Best Inventions 2020) and Golden Gate University (#1 school for working professionals) have redesigned the experience of earning a college degree to minimize cost and maximize outcomes. Explore a revolutionary way to earn your college degree: