Top Online Colleges & Degrees Methodology

Top Online Colleges

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

  • Overall list: offer at least 10 fully online degrees with at least one of those degrees at the bachelor's or master's level
  • 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

Tuitions were manually researched and reflect the degree level requirement tuition if offered, or the next level tuition cost. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. 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.

Top Online Colleges by Program

For our Top Online Colleges by Program rankings, we determined a base degree level requirement for each subject. Unless listed below, the base level degree requirement is bachelor's. This degree level requirement reflects, per subject, which degree is most important for employment within a given subject.

Degree Level Requirements:

  • MBA: Master's
  • Medical Billing & Coding: Certificate
  • Occupational Safety: Certificate
  • Occupational Therapy: Certificate
  • Pharmacy: Certificate

To be considered for these subject rankings, schools needed to offer at least one fully online degree in a given subject for the degree level that was required, or higher. For example, if a ranking required at least an online bachelor's degree, a school with only an online master's degree would still be considered. 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 2015-2016 school year. This data was collected in July of 2016.

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,
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.