Best Online Colleges & Degrees Methodology

Tuitions were manually researched and reflect the lowest tuition rate available at the specified degree level. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Figures are accurate at the time of publication; please check with the institution for current tuition rates. Academic strength scores were calculated using standardized average SAT and ACT exam scores with respect to the total points possible. Tuition data and academic strength scores were then entered in an internal algorithm to determine value scores and rank order. The requirements to be considered for our best online colleges, best online colleges by program, and best online colleges by state rank lists can be found below.

Best Online Colleges

To be considered for our Best Online Colleges, schools needed to meet the following requirements:

  • Overall list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees at the bachelor's level and at least 10 fully online degrees at the master's level with programs that cover at least 10 subject areas
  • Associate list: offer at least three fully online degrees at the associate level
  • Bachelor's list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees at the bachelor's level
  • Master's list: at least 10 fully online degrees at the master's level
  • Doctoral list: at least three fully online degrees at the doctoral level

Best Online Colleges by Program

To be considered for these subject rankings, schools need to be regionally accredited and need to offer at least one fully online degree in a given subject for the degree level that was ranked. We also only considered schools that provide college entrance exam scores to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Best Online Colleges by State

To be considered for these state rankings, schools need to be regionally accredited and need to offer at least one fully online degree at the bachelor's level. We also only considered schools that provide college entrance exam scores to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Fully Online Status

Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work was limited to two weeks or less of in-person requirements. This allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.

Data Sources

Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from official school websites, reflecting data for the 2017-2018 school year. This data was collected in January of 2018.

Programmatic accreditation and profit status of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES is the primary governmental entity for gathering and presenting data related to education. The NCES data is updated annually as soon as it becomes available. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until it has been approved, so the most currently available data will not be for the most recent academic year.

Recommendation rate refers to the percent of students who said they would recommend this school based on reviews submitted to our partner site, GradReports.com.
This indicates that a school has an annual tuition of $15,000 or less as reported to the National Center for Education Statistics or based on the school's website.