Best Online Schools Of 2021 – The Ultimate Guide

Colleges and universities now have online courses that make it easier for people all over the country to get an education exactly where they want to. Online colleges and universities have made higher education much more accessible than it was in the past, and it is a great way to improve your career prospects.

Some of the best teachers, programs, and opportunities are at your fingertips if you choose to go to school online. With online programs, you can take classes on the go, at home, or anywhere else that you need to be.

Best Online Schoold of 2021 - The Ultimate Guide

We’ve collected a selection of the 15 best online schools of 2021. These schools offer excellent opportunities to students just like you.

Best online schools

1. The University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida

Since 1963, the University of Central Florida has offered classes to people out of Orlando. In 1999, it began to offer online courses. Now, it amazingly offers over 2,100 online courses with over 100 online degrees and certificates available.

UCF Logo

The school hosts approximately 5,500 students and is known for winning awards in digital learning innovation and online teaching.

This public school offers skills training, library services, career support services, and success coaching.

Number of online programs offered: 

41 certificate programs, 29 bachelor’s degrees, 34 master’s degrees, 3 doctoral degrees

Average cost per credit: 

Undergraduate $179 for in-state students, $715 for out-of-state students, $327 for in-state graduates and $1,152 for out-of-state graduates

Graduation rate: 73%

2. The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

With the University of Florida’s online courses, students can get a degree by taking classes in the spring, fall or summer. Online, students have access to tutoring, career services, library services, and others.

The University of Florida has a reduced rate for online courses and has offered them since 2014.

University of Florida Logo

Number of online programs offered: 

103 certificate programs, 24 bachelor’s degrees, 84 master’s degrees, 7 doctoral degrees
Average cost per credit: 
$112 for undergraduates in-state, $500 for undergraduates out-of-state. Graduates pay $448 in-state or $1,139 out-of-state.
Graduation rate: 88%

3. Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, offers around 100 online degree programs and hosts around 6,000 students annually. The school focuses on asynchronous learning, so students don’t have to take online courses at the same time as in-person courses. 

Many courses at this university run in 16-week sessions, but there are 12-, 8-, and 6-week courses available as well. Online learners have access to tutoring, library services, and more.

Indiana University Bloomington Logo

Number of online programs offered: 

40 certificate programs, 1 associate program, 3 bachelor’s degree programs, 60 master’s degree programs, 3 doctoral programs
Average cost per credit: 
$236 to $438 for in-state undergraduates, $341 to $1015 for out-of-state undergraduates, $320 to $1,339 for in-state graduates, $450 to $1,339 for out-of-state graduates
Graduation rate: 78%

4. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts

Northeastern University opened in 1898 and is among the best online universities. The school offers a writing and tutoring center to provide students with academic support. The school also offers career services, so that students may get support when looking at job options. Northeastern University is a private institution that is primarily offering asynchronous classes.

Northeastern University Logo

Number of online programs offered: 

 69 certificates, 10 bachelor’s degrees, 63 master’s degrees, 2 doctoral degrees

Average cost per credit: 

$541 for undergraduates, $755 to $896 for graduates

Graduation rate: 88%

5. The University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida

Founded in 1963, the University of West Florida is among the best online colleges with over 40 options for certificates and degrees. 

There are six or more start dates per year, which makes it easier to join the school than other semester- or quarter-based programs. Classes usually run in eight-week or 16-week sessions. Students who are residents pay only around $219 per credit hour for undergraduate courses.

The University of West Florida Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
18 certificate programs, 14 bachelor’s degrees, 25 master’s degrees, 2 doctoral degrees
Average cost per credit: 
Undergraduates pay $219 per credit hour in Florida or $648 for out-of-state students. Graduates pay $385 in-state or $1,044 for out-of-state credit hours.
Graduation rate: 44%

6. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

Located in Southern Ohio, Ohio University in Athens accepts an average of 8,000 students at a time in over 60 programs online. 

Founded in 1804, the school currently uses OHIO Online to host its coursework and offers hybrid study options for students who would like an on-campus experience. 

All students pay a locked-in tuition rate once they start, so they will know their degree’s cost from the start. The locked-in rate lasts for 12 semesters.

Ohio University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
40 certificate programs, 6 associate’s degrees, 12 bachelor’s degrees, 34 master’s degrees, 1 doctoral degree
Average cost per credit: 
In-state students pay $240 to $353 per credit hour. Out-of-state students pay $243 to $356 per credit hour.
Graduation rate: 64%

7. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

Located in beautiful Tempe, Arizona State University is well-known for being a top online university. It now offers hundreds of programs and six different start dates each year. Students usually take just one class at a time, and those classes last 7.5 weeks.

Online students do have access to wellness, time management, and support services. Students may also participate in online groups, which are designed to make longer-distance learners part of the school community.

Arizona State University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
34 certificate programs, 117 bachelor’s degrees, 101 master’s degrees, 3 doctoral degrees
Average cost per credit: 
Undergraduates pay $561 to $661 per credit hour, and graduates pay $543 to $1,343 per credit hour.
Graduation rate: 69%

8. Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas

Located in Lubbock, Texas, Texas Tech University has been educating students since 1966. Since expanding to the online market, the school has developed around 80 online programs for its students.

The programs, when completely online, are asynchronous, so students don’t have to adhere to a strict schedule. Courses do run on semesters, usually in the spring, fall and summer. Hybrid programs are available for students who would like to participate on campus. Accelerated programs are available as well.

Texas Tech University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
29 certificate programs, 17 bachelor’s degrees, 40 master’s degrees, 11 doctoral degrees
Average cost per credit: 
Undergraduates pay $276 in-state or $685 for out-of-state credits. Graduates pay $326 in-state or $735 for out-of-state credits.
Graduation rate: 59%

9. New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico

New Mexico State University has been offering classes to students since 1888 and has an amazing 500 or more online courses available to students from all around the world. It makes over 60 online degrees available, and these programs run on semester- or eight-week style schedules.

Online learners benefit from online access to career, academic and library services. New Mexico State University also has a fixed rate for its students regardless of where they live.

NM State University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
20 certificate programs, 18 associate’s degree programs, 11 bachelor’s degree programs, 20 master’s degree programs, 1 doctoral-level program
Average cost per credit: 
Undergraduates pay $380 per credit, while graduates pay $412.
Graduation rate: 46%

10. California State University, Los Angeles, California

Located in bustling Los Angeles, California State University now offers online courses to people all over the United States. It hosts over 8,000 students in over 100 online courses. The degrees are available completely online with no on-campus requirements. There are accelerated study options available, but for some of those, students do need to attend synchronous meetings or classes or be available for on-campus components.

California State University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
131 certificate programs, 35 bachelor’s degrees, 61 master’s degrees, 4 doctoral degrees
Average cost per credit: 
Undergraduates pay $282 in-state or $678 out-of-state. Graduates pay $342 in-state or $738 out-of-state.
Graduation rate: 48%

11. Maryville University of Saint Louis, Saint Louis, Missouri

Maryville University in Saint Louis offers complete programs online to its online student body. Master’s degrees at the school may be fast-tracked, which saves time and money on the program. There are six start dates each year, and online courses restart every eight weeks. The only time students will need to go to the campus is if they are studying in a doctoral program, because there may be on-campus residencies.

Students at Maryville University pay the same tuition regardless of their location.

Maryville University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
2 certificate programs, 30 bachelor’s degree programs, 16 master’s degree programs, 9 doctoral degree programs
Average cost per credit: 
Undergraduates pay $500 to $622 per credit hour, while graduates pay $714 to $895.
Graduation rate: 72%

12. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

In Fort Collins, Colorado, Colorado State University has been offering a strong education to students since 1870. Now, it offers online courses in over 50 areas. The online courses are asynchronous for the most part, but some programs do have synchronous sessions where students will need to meet at a specific time online. Online courses, interestingly, may last as few as four weeks or be as long as 12.

Helpfully, the school doesn’t charge out-of-state rates to distance learners.

Colorado State University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
44 certificate programs, 13 bachelor’s degree programs, 40 master’s degree programs, 4 doctoral degree programs
Average cost per credit: 
Undergraduates pay $476 per credit hour. Graduates pay between $580 and $1,085.
Graduation rate: 69%

13. LeTourneau University, Longview, Texas

LeTourneau University has both online and hybrid class schedules for students looking to get their degrees. Online, students have access to professional support and academic support services. Classes are asynchronous in most cases so that students can go over the coursework on their own schedule.

Classes run for eight weeks at a time between the spring, summer or fall semesters. There are over 3,100 students enrolled in LeTourneau University, which is fewer than some other schools. This makes it more competitive than some other online programs.

LeTourneau University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
1 certificate program, 8 associate’s degrees, 21 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees
Average cost per credit: 
Tuition rates per credit hour are $380 for undergraduates and $410 for graduates.
Graduation rate: 59%

14. Trine University, Angola, Indiana

Trine University is located in Angola, Indiana, and has been offering courses to students since it was founded in 1884. The school is home to approximately 20 online programs that new students may take after completing a four-week introductory course to online learning.

There are six enrollment dates per year at Trine, which makes it easier for students to come to school when they’re ready to begin. Every eight weeks, a new course starts, so students focus more directly on one course at a time. Six-week sessions may be open for online learners in the summer months.

Trine University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
6 associate’s degree programs, 12 bachelor’s degree programs, 6 master’s degree programs
Average cost per credit: 
Undergraduates pay $399 per credit, and graduates pay $575
Graduation rate: 65%

15. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois

DePaul University is located in bustling Chicago, Illinois, and offers primarily asynchronous online courses in fields such as nursing, leadership studies, and human-computer interactions. The school does not charge out-of-state tuition rates for online students, so students can get a better deal on their education.

The online courses are usually run quarterly, but students may opt to join 10-week terms or two five-week terms in the summer months. Many of the online programs never require students to come to the campus and have full online access to support services, student organizations, and other typically on-campus benefits.

DePaul University Logo
Number of online programs offered: 
39 certificate programs, 9 bachelor’s degree programs, 22 master’s degree programs
Average cost per credit: 
An average of $655 for both graduates and undergraduates
Graduation rate: 71%

Ranking methodology

Number of online programs offered:

The schools on this list must have offered at least one online course. Schools with a greater number of courses were given a higher score.

Cost per credit

The schools on this list must have offered at least one online course. Schools with a greater number of courses were given a higher score.

Graduation rate

Finally, graduation rate is important, because it shows how many students complete these online programs or get a degree from the educational institution. Higher graduate rates were scored better, since these schools adequately prepare their students for testing and graduation.

Requirements:

Accredited

To be on this list, the school must be accredited. Accreditation ensures that the school provides an education that meets the standards of the specific industries it trains students to join. There are regional and national accreditation agencies.

Must offer online degrees

To be on this list, the schools had to show that they offered higher-level education, starting with a certificate program or associate’s degree, and provide at least one of those degrees completely online.

How to choose a school for your online degree

When you are ready to choose a school for your online degree, it’s important that you get to know the different options. The school’s tuition rate is just one factor that should play a role in your decision.

You should also make sure that the school is accredited (and accredited in the field that you’ll be studying in). You’ll want to select a program that fits your schedule, too.

Online courses may be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous classes happen at the same time as the real course, often streamed live. Coursework is expected to be done on specific dates. Asynchronous classes can be taken at any time within a specified time range and have more flexibility in most cases.

School Options

Some schools will also alter the course length. One school may offer eight-week courses while another offers 16-week courses. The course speed affects how quickly you graduate, so that’s something to check closely before you sign up.

With tuition rates, remember that the total number of required credit hours makes a big difference. Most bachelor’s degrees require 120 credit hours, but some will require more. Even if the tuition rate is a little higher at one school than another, the program with fewer credits could be more cost-effective.

How much does an online degree cost?

On average, getting your degree online will cost less than getting your degree in person for a few reasons. First, some programs allow online students to pay in-state tuition rates despite not being in the state to take physical coursework. 

Online courses don’t require a teacher to take up space in a classroom, in many cases, or will not require a larger space to accommodate more students. An average student pays around $38,496 to $60,593 for a bachelor’s degree done completely online.

Funding Options

Funding for online degrees

Online degree programs are becoming more common, as is the funding for them. Financial aid is available for online schooling to those who qualify for federal student aid. There may also be school-specific scholarships and grants.

Students who do not receive scholarships may want to consider taking a personal or private loan from a student loan lender or another service. The U.S. Government also offers loans for students.

Funding for an online degree is much the same as funding for a traditional, in-person degree. Some options for students may include:

Funding Options

Direct Subsidized Loans
The U.S. government offers Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans at lower rates for undergraduate students. Students pay no interest on those loans until six months after they graduate, so long as they remain enrolled in school. Direct Subsidized Loans are only for undergraduate students who have financial needs. The school determines how much you can borrow

Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are similar to DSLs, but with these, undergraduates or graduates can seek a loan. They do not have to prove that they have the financial need for the loans, either. The school does determine the amount that the student can borrow, and interest accrues from the date of accepting the loan.

Work-study programs
Work-study programs may be offered by a school or through federal programs. These are usually available to students with financial needs and allow them to work while enrolled in their courses.

Tuition reimbursement
Tuition reimbursement programsmay be offered through employees. Some companies offering tuition reimbursement include Chipotle, McDonald’s, Smucker’s, Proctor & Gamble, and others. Sometimes, students who want to go back to school for a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctoral degree can get their employers to pay for the degree in part or in full if it applies to their position on the job.

Grants
Grants are a kind of financial aid usually given to students with financial needs.

Fellowships
Fellowships are a kind of grant, but they are reserved for students who are conducting their own, independent research. Sometimes, these, as well as grants, restrict how the student can use the money. The payments are sometimes given in one lump sum, but they may also be delivered in multiple awards when they are renewed by the same qualified student.

Scholarships
Scholarships may be available through a school that a student wants to attend, a community organization, national organizations and other companies, organizations, individuals or schools. These range significantly in value and may be awarded throughout the year depending on the purpose of the scholarship.

Financial aid resources

Low-income financial aid options

One of the better options for low-income families is to apply for FAFSA. FAFSA applications can be completed online and will send back financial aid offers, some of which may include federal loans.

Another option is a Direct Subsidized Loan from the federal government. This loan is specifically designed for students in need of aid.

Students who have financial needs may be able to enter into a work-study program. This program allows them to work part-time while completing their courses. Federal work-study jobs may also be available.

Another possibility is to work for a company that offers tuition reimbursement. A study from 2015 found that around 83% of organizations offered at least some kind of tuition reimbursement.

Grants may be an option for low-income students. The government often grants these as financial aid for low-income students at colleges or universities within the U.S.

Scholarships may be awarded by the school or other sources to students in financial need, as well.

Financial aid for minorities

There are different kinds of financial aid for minorities. On top of the potential for low-income aid for students in need, minorities may be able to access the Gates Millennium Scholars grant, which is available only to:

  • African Americans
  • Hispanic Americans
  • American Indians
  • Alaskan Natives
  • Asian Americans
  • Pacific Islanders

The average award with this grant is $12,227.

Resources and Further Reading