Online universities have been around for a long time, and the coronavirus has only increased their popularity. The most important thing to know about studying at an accredited online university is that it is just like studying at a regular university – just online - and usually much cheaper. In fact, the best online universities are generally just online versions of actual brick-and-mortar universities (e.g., Georgetown University online, Johns Hopkins University online, Michigan State online, etc.), only more affordable, as they charge significantly less in tuition and fees.
If the best online colleges are just online versions of the best bricks-and-mortar colleges, then you’re probably wondering why anyone would go to the effort of studying online. The truth is there are actually lots of benefits to taking a college degree online.
Traditional brick-and-mortar colleges require you to attend classes in person, even if that means relocating to the other side of the country. But colleges with online degrees let you study from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection, allowing you to live and work wherever you want while pursuing your degree.
It can take time for studying (and working) remotely to come naturally. In fact, people still search for terms like “online college near me” and “college near me online”, as if location matters when studying at an accredited college online. However, once you get used to the idea of studying at a location of your choice, you’ll wonder why anyone ever attended school in person.
One of the benefits of taking a college degree online is the flexibility. At a traditional brick-and-mortar school, students have no choice but to attend classes at the time their professors decide. But online classes are often offered on demand, meaning you can access them at a time of your choosing. You can even repeat sessions if you feel you missed out on something the first time.
Good online colleges offer you the flexibility to build your degree around your work. Work during the day? No problem, you can take your classes at night. Too busy to study full-time? The best accredited online colleges let you complete your degree half-time or even part-time.
The price of a university education has risen to unmanageable proportions for most Americans, with many private schools charging more than $40,000 per year in tuition and fees. Since college online schools don’t have the same kind of overheads as their bricks-and-mortar equivalents, they can afford to charge significantly less in tuition and fees.
Because colleges with online programs allow you to study remotely, that means you don’t have to pay any of the additional charges associated with learning on campus. For starters, online degree colleges have zero dorm costs, zero eating out costs, and zero membership fees for various on-campus amenities you may never end up using. It also costs nothing to get from your home to your accredited online university.
Not surprisingly, degrees from good online colleges improve your job prospects. Whatever your career ambitions – whether it’s to be an engineer, lawyer, software developer, or CEO – you’ll need a degree. As we’ve shown already, online colleges that are accredited offer everything you get from traditional colleges and a whole lot more.
Employers are increasingly accepting of graduates of college online programs. Not only does a degree from an accredited online university have the same status as a degree from a brick-and-mortar university, but it also shows that you are resourceful, self-motivated, and able to work remotely.
There are hundreds of good colleges online, but no two online universities are exactly alike. Here are a few tips for finding the best college online for your needs.
The most important thing to look for when comparing online universities is accreditation. Anyone can set up an online learning site, but only a nationally accredited online college or regionally accredited online colleges can actually claim to offer a degree with any value.
First and foremost, an online accredited university should be certified by one of the six regional accrediting organizations: HLC, WSCUC, NWCCU, SACSCOC, MSCHE, or NECHE. Their online programs should also carry accreditation from the relevant bodies, e.g. AACSB (For MBA programs) or CCNE (for nursing programs).
The online college school market is a competitive space, which means there are plenty of schools vying to be considered among the most affordable online colleges. Cheap online accredited colleges can be found (depending on what your definition of cheap is), but remember: they must be accredited, otherwise it’s not worth the cost.
If you’re looking for the cheapest online colleges, we recommend compiling a shortlist of five to 10 schools with an accredited degree in your field of study. Then, compare the tuition and fees from the various schools to figure out which of these are the cheapest colleges online.
We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: online colleges are affordable, but the key is to search for cheap accredited online colleges and not just any online college.
Although online colleges are affordable, they are not free and for many people the only way to attend an online college school is with financial aid.
At a minimum, your online accredited university should offer federal financial aid (FAFSA), which encompasses all federal loans and assistance. The best online universities offer a range of other options including scholarships, grants, military benefits, and alumni discounts.
Studying remotely doesn’t mean having to study alone. Good online colleges offer a range of collaboration tools, ensuring you benefit from the wisdom of your classmates. The best online colleges offer a variety of ways to connect with your peers, including weekly shared learning sessions, instant messaging, community tools, and shared blogging platforms.
It probably goes without saying, but any accredited online university worth its salt has to have a user-friendly platform. By this, we mean students should be able to use the platform without any training, the platform should be accessible and online at all time, and tech support should be available (preferably 24/7) to help out with any issues. Mobile access is another plus.
If you’re wondering how to apply to online college, the truth is it’s quite similar to applying for a brick-and-mortar school. For bachelor’s degrees, you’ll need to have graduated high school and passed any admissions tests (e.g. SAT, ACT). For graduate programs, you’ll need to show proof of an undergraduate degree and meet any other requirements pertaining to the specific degree (e.g. MBA, medical school requirements).
Whether you’re studying online or on campus, the best school for you depends on your personal preferences. In order to get the most out of your online learning experience, begin by compiling a list of your top colleges online. Then go ahead and narrow the list down to your favorite options by comparing for affordability, convenience, and other parameters.