10 Best Colleges for Online Undergraduate Degree Programs
Online master’s programs have proliferated in the past decade to the point that, no matter your field of interest, page one of your Google search results will contain a parade of elite universities excited to serve up a master’s-level education to an audience in their pajamas. In 2020, the likes of Columbia, USC, Fordham, NYU, Northwestern, and Johns Hopkins all offer a spectacular array of online graduate degree options.
Contrarily, the search for an online bachelor’s degree can often be far more difficult, not to mention fraught with problems like: for-profit institutions of dubious quality, full-blown unaccredited universities, and programs that are technically “legitimate,” but lack the reputation to help you get much of a return on your investment in a competitive job market. When seeking an undergraduate degree online, you want to find an institution that is recognizable by more than just its billboards and incessant TV/radio commercials. You want a respectable brick and mortar school whose online presence is merely a supplement to an already established educational product.
College Transitions has provided this relatively short list of 10 highly-reputable schools that offer a healthy number of online degrees. Note that, unlike many other lists of this nature on the internet, we do not allow for sponsored posts. All schools listed below have been vetted by our staff and selected on the basis of their merits alone. To make a reference to our own college guidebook, you can be certain that the following schools—when it comes to their fully online bachelor’s degree offerings, are all “Colleges Worth Your Money.”
1) Arizona State University
Tuition per credit hour: $530-$1,153 (depending on program)
A trendsetter in the realm of distance education, ASU Online now offers 60+ undergraduate degree programs that are fully accessible through your laptop. To give you an idea of the breadth of offerings at ASU, just examine the choices within the engineering discipline—a rare field in which to find any accredited online options:
- Electrical Engineering (BSE)
- Electrical Engineering – Electric Power and Energy Systems (BSE)
- Engineering Management (BSE)
- Software Engineering (BS)
ASU Online offers just as much variety within other disciplines, like business, where you can specialize in areas such as: Corporate Accounting, Global Logistics Management, and Data Analytics, just to name a few. No matter your chosen field of study, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a degree option that meets your needs at this established and respected university.
2. Purdue University
Tuition per credit hour: $305-$371 (depending on program)
Purdue Global University’s robust offerings include 175 degree programs across all levels (associates-to-doctoral) which features a full smorgasbord of bachelor’s degree programs. Those interested in becoming a licensed nurse can access their studies online and complete their clinical experiences close to home (wherever that may be). They also offer one or (often) more tracks within the following departments:
- Arts & Sciences
- Business & Economics
- Health & Human Services
- Law & Legal Studies
- Computer Science
3) Penn State University
Tuition per credit hour: $576; flat semester cost is $6,994.
Penn State University World Campus has 37 bachelor’s degree programs in a wide range of disciplines, from International Politics to Turfgrass Science. Many traditionally popular majors such as Business, Economics, Criminal Justice, Nursing, History, and Psychology can all be completed from any corner of the globe. Their accounting program is AACSB-accredited, one of the only online programs in existence to earn this distinction.
4) University of Maryland
Tuition per credit hour: $300 (in state); $499 (out of state)
The University of Maryland Global Campus now offers 90+ degrees including a growing number of B.A. and B.S. programs (30+). Programs include many in the IT/Computer Science category including Bachelor of Science programs in:
- Computer Networks and Cybersecurity
- Cybersecurity Management and Policy
- Digital Media and Web Technology
- Information Systems Management
- Software Development and Security
UMGC also has their fair share of humanities and social sciences courses of study as well as tracks for future law enforcement officials like Investigative Forensics and Homeland Security.
5) Oregon State University
Tuition per credit hour: $309
With 35 undergraduate degree programs, OSU Online is very likely to have a fully remote bachelor’s degree program that will meet your higher education needs. They offer a number of online degree programs in foreign language (French, German, and Spanish), Computer Science, Chemistry, Economics, Business Administration, Political Science, Psychology, and more. There are more than 1,300 individual courses available online, many of which are also open to high school students who may wish to attempt a college courses over summer break. They presently work with 24,000+ students worldwide and boast countless satisfied graduates. For perspective on the extent of their programmatic offerings, OSU online is currently running in excess of 20 chemistry courses alone.
6) Colorado State University
Tuition per credit hour: $350
Those who pursue a bachelor’s degree through CSU Online ultimately receive the same bachelor’s degree as students who attend in-person at the Fort Collins campus. Degrees available include popular choices like:
- Business Administration-Accounting
- Computer Science
- Journalism and Mass Communication
CSU Online offers additional major options that are tough to find at any other equally-reputable distance program such as:
- Fire and Emergency Services Administration
- Natural Resource Tourism
7) University of Florida
Tuition per credit hour: $112 (in state); $500 (out of state)
With one of the best menus of online undergraduate degrees anywhere in the country, UF Online allows you virtually attend one of the premier flagship schools in the South from anywhere on the planet. There are 24 bachelor’s degrees to choose from including unique offerings such as:
- Advertising: Persuasive Messaging
- Digital Arts and Sciences
- Journalism: Sports & Media
- Microbiology & Cell Science
- Tourism, Event, & Recreation Management
Those seeking more traditional majors will find them at UF Online and they can all be completed without ever setting foot in Gainesville. These include the likes of: Biology, Business Administration, Educational Sciences, Nursing, and Psychology.
8) University of Central Florida
Tuition per credit hour: $105
With a dirt-cheap tuition rate offered to both residents and non-residents, UCF Online represents one of the true bargains in online education. There are more than 20 bachelor’s degree programs and 35 minor options that are offered fully online. While they do not have any engineering or computer science programs, UCF Online provides a multitude of options in the liberal arts/social sciences arena including:
- English (Literature/Creative Writing/Technical Communication tracks)
- Political Science
9) University of Massachusetts
Tuition per COURSE: $332-631 (depending on program)
Robust course and programmatic offerings make UMass Online a fantastic choice for those wishing to pursue a bachelor’s degree from a highly-recognizable flagship university. Whether you reside in Boston or Birmingham you’ll pay the same reasonable rates—most programs are between $300 and $400 per credit with a few pricier exceptions. Many of these programs are offered 100% online, however, some do operate on a hybrid model and involve face-to-face meetings; the Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing program involves some coursework at the UMass Dartmouth campus.
10) George Washington University
Tuition per credit hour: $615-660 (depending on program)
Exclusively for health sciences and CIS programs, GW is one of the few private institutions to make any undergraduate degree programs available. Presently, the most popular majors at GWU Online are nursing, following by computer information systems and allied health professional. A costly degree, you are nonetheless going to emerge from a GWU Online program with a marketable credential from an esteemed institution in a relatively high-paying field.
Final Thoughts on How to Pick an Online University
There are a number of schools that provide you with a quality distance education beyond the 10 mentioned on this list. As you continue your search, keep in mind that the university you ultimately pay tens of thousands of dollars to should be a) accredited b) respected by employers and graduate schools and c) preferably be an online extension of a brick and mortar institution with a long and favorable history. This is not to say that purely online schools are not “legitimate”—many are—but there is comfort in knowing that your prospective school is not a “for-profit” university which means a good portion of the revenue is NOT being used to maintain/better the quality of the school, as is the case with non-profit public and private colleges. Lastly, attending a university with a long and successful record of achievement is a good sign that the school will still exist years down the road, ensuring that you will receive the maximum benefit from your diploma for the duration of your working years.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent education consultant. He is a co-author of the book The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).