Best Online Colleges and Universities 2020

Many of the country’s top-ranked colleges and universities offer online programs for students. However, traditionally lower-ranked colleges can also offer exceptional online programs.

Kitchen in the student dormitory. Group of interracial students engaged in education.

Many students who choose an online college prefer the flexible schedule of an online learning environment. Rather than attending class on campus, online schools let students complete coursework from anywhere. Online programs also provide a more accessible pathway to a degree. Students can enroll in the best schools online without relocating or quitting their jobs.

The best online colleges also offer exceptional student services to help online learners succeed, including online tutoring, career services, and academic advising. Graduates from the top online programs also benefit from strong alumni networks and connections with prospective employers. The best online schools build the knowledge and skills necessary for career advancement.

The following list ranks the best online colleges to help prospective students find the right programs to reach their personal and professional goals.

A Quick Look: The Best Online Colleges of 2020

RankCollegeAverage Net Price
1University of Florida – Gainesville, FL$11,313
2Peirce College – Philadelphia, PA$6,395
3Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College – Saint Mary of the Woods, IN$16,337
4University of Illinois at Springfield – Springfield, IL$10,733
5Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, OK$6,707

All 2019-2020 tuition numbers were manually collected and verified

RankSchoolUndergrad Tuition Undergrad Salary Grad Tuition Grad Salary 
# 1The George Washington UniversityUS$18,450US$103kUS$17,640US$121k
# 2University of VirginiaUS$13,260US$104kUS$8,115US$113k
# 3University of Massachusetts-LowellUS$33,004US$100kUS$21,975US$117k
# 4Florida Institute of TechnologyUS$15,428US$96kUS$12,821US$116k
# 5Golden Gate UniversityUS$20,460US$94kUS$14,850US$118k
# 6Oregon State UniversityUS$13,905US$93kUS$12,880US$110k
# 7Rutgers UniversityUS$19,200US$100kUS$13,248US$103k
# 8DePaul UniversityUS$23,040US$90kUS$15,065US$113k
# 9University of Minnesota Digital CampusUS$13,364US$93kUS$15,878US$107k
# 10Drexel UniversityUS$38,475US$99kUS$29,969US$105k
# 11Texas Tech UniversityUS$9,090US$92kUS$5,295US$103k
# 12Washington State UniversityUS$11,550US$92kUS$8,925US$104k
# 13University of Maryland Global CampusUS$14,970US$89kUS$11,862US$108k
# 14California State University-East BayUS$18,864US$89kUS$14,214US$105k
# 15University of BridgeportUS$16,650US$83kUS$10,200US$110k
# 16The University of Texas at ArlingtonUS$8,995US$88kUS$5,467US$103k
# 17University of Colorado Colorado SpringsUS$15,412US$83kUS$10,472US$109k
# 18University of Massachusetts – AmherstUS$11,700US$90kUS$7,650US$101k
# 19Arizona State UniversityUS$15,900US$88kUS$8,512US$101k
# 20Oklahoma State University-Main CampusUS$27,538US$87kUS$10,516US$104k
# 21Utah State UniversityUS$10,470US$85kUS$6,675US$103k
# 22Norwich UniversityUS$11,250US$82kUS$17,256US$106k
# 23Elmhurst CollegeUS$20,000US$80kUS$8,330US$108k
# 24Saint Joseph’s UniversityUS$17,520US$92kUS$13,305US$96k
# 25New Mexico State UniversityUS$11,073US$87kUS$7,191US$99k

Lastly, let’s look at key financial considerations for online students. When calculating the expected costs of online college attendance, here are a few factors to consider.Housing and Food

Students life on the campus

On-campus housing is typically much more expensive than a rented apartment or a living space shared with roommates off campus. However, monthly rent payments, utility bills, food, and other weekly expenses can also add up — especially in areas where the cost of living is higher. Additionally, online students need access to a strong WiFi connection. Be sure to perform a comprehensive calculation of expected costs for living on and off campus in order to determine which option is cheaper.Transportation

A notable upside of online learning is the absence of a regular commute to and from campus. On-campus students often pay for campus parking spaces or public transportation. Online students in programs with on-site requirements may need to pay for or arrange transportation on occasion.Course Materials

Purchasing books and other materials for online courses can sometimes be cheaper than buying materials for on-campus classes. Some online courses require students to rent electronic textbooks and/or offer free digital resources.Technology Fees

Unlike on-campus students, online learners usually need to pay per-course technology fees. These costs may range from less than $50 per course to more than $100. These fees are typically listed with the school’s tuition rates.

Online Learning

Online learning offers students the opportunity to work from the comfort of their bedrooms, on their couches, and in their living rooms. The rise of online learning classrooms and attending lectures virtually has only increased during this unprecedented time — one of the main effects of COVID-19 for students in colleges and universities around the world. As classrooms shift to virtual platforms you might be tempted to stay in your pajamas all day, to never turn on your shower again. However, as students still enrolled in classes, which are still meeting online, you’ll need to show up and demonstrate to your professors that you are present, paying attention, and participating. There are some definite do’s and don’ts for students in the virtual classroom. Here are some reminders of how to be the best online student you can be.

The do’s for online learning

1. Be punctual, log in on time

As a student enrolled in online classes, attendance still matters. You’ll want to log into whatever online platform your professor is using. Make sure your computer is charged and be ready to appear on screen in a timely fashion. Being late is not acceptable, especially as your commute is (probably) from your bedroom to the couch in your living room!

2. Read the syllabus

This might sound silly, but read the syllabus ahead of time. Make sure you’ve read the required reading, or are prepared to participate based on the syllabus provided by your instructor. The syllabus is still your road map to successfully passing and excelling in the courses you’re enrolled in so don’t forget to look at it beforehand.

3. Introduce yourself and respect your peers

Make sure you introduce yourself and talk slowly. Sound quality will differ depending on each student’s home office set up. You’ll want to make sure people can hear you and that you can hear them. Discussion sessions — even in person — can become contentious if you strongly disagree with one of your peer’s opinions. However, make sure you respect your fellow students and allow them the microphone floor when they are speaking.

4. Set up your space, make sure it’s quiet and uninterrupted

Logistically, to make sure you can participate fully as an online student, you will want to set up a space that is, as much as possible, free of distractions as possible and that will be uninterrupted for the full duration of your class session. It’s also recommended that you set up a clear background behind you — cover up your favorite band poster, don’t let them see your dirty laundry all over the floor. Lock your door for privacy and to be sure your roommate won’t walk in, and if you have family members politely ask them not to disturb you during the call/meeting, lest you face a situation like this…

5. Test your tech

Glitches in your technology mean you could miss some vital part of your professor’s lecture. Make sure the camera is stable and that your audio or microphone works. Use headphones to make sure you can hear everyone. Plug in your computer and make sure it’s charged ahead of time. 

6. Embrace being flexible

As an online learner, you’ll likely be familiar with the appeal of this type of learning — setting your own schedule, working from home, and more. Being flexible is essential to being a successful online learner. It’s important that you manage your time effectively, make sure you allow enough time and space in your day to log on.