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The Best Online Colleges for Undergraduates in 2021

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With the current pandemic, many colleges had to quickly pivot to an online format. Some students seem to be preferring this medium for college as they move through their studies. There are many advantages that come with an online college such as flexible class schedules, lower tuition costs, and the potential to learn all the skills you need towards earning a livable wage. If you are a student that enjoys a self-paced environment without all the pressures of living on campus or learning in large classes, then the online college experience is right for you.  So let’s have a look at some of the best online colleges for undergrads in 2021!

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Are Online College Classes the Right Fit?

I have found that many students that have been homeschooled tend to thrive in the online environment.     

It should be noted, however, that online college classes are not for everybody. It requires a person with the self-discipline to keep on top of their studies and you do not get the same “traditional” social college experience. It does also require a small amount of technological literacy to access the online classroom and interact with faculty, students, and staff of the college.    

Knowing if an online college is right for you or your child is the first step. But there are so many colleges that offer a complete online program, how do you make the right choice? 

If you are the parent of a student who enjoys a self-paced environment without all the pressures of living on campus or large classes, let's have a look at some of the best online colleges for undergrads in 2021! #homeschool… Click To Tweet

This post is meant to help you with the online college selection process. 

I examined several factors to come up with this list such as US News & World Report rankings, cost of attendance, admissions standards, faculty credentials and training, program offerings, and overall reputation. I then broke down the selections into numerous categories you will see below such as best overall, most affordable, etc. 

Of course, one of the personal factors is your/your child’s intended plan of study

That can result in a college choice not on this list but one that still has a very good program. 

For example, if you want to study anything aeronautical, the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is your clear choice. 

Full disclosure: Although I have previously worked full-time for an online university and I currently teach part-time for an online university (in addition to my current full-time college administrator position for an on-ground college), none of those colleges appear on my list. I do not receive any monetary compensation from any colleges on this list

In addition, the costs of these colleges listed is at the time of this writing and may have changed. Please check with the school for their most up-to-date costs.

So now, in no particular order (except for number one!) onto the list!

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The Best Online Colleges for Undergraduate Work

Best Overall –

Oregon State University – $309 per credit

Oregon State has been offering online degrees for 20 years. With enrollment of over 6,000 students, there are a wide variety of programs to select from. 

Popular majors include Computer Science, Human Development and Family Studies, Natural Resources Conservation, and Economics. 

Their Ecampus (online college) consistently ranks among the nation’s best providers of online education. In the last 9 years, 20 independent organizations ranked Ecampus an American “Best Online College” based on academic quality, student engagement, faculty credentials, degree selection & student satisfaction. Students earning Oregon State degrees online receive the same diploma as their on-campus peers.

Their acceptance rate is 59% and a student’s academic record, including rigor of courses/curriculum, are considered.

Based on their overall reputation, strong standards, variety of offerings, affordable tuition, and consistent history of excellence, that is why I selected Oregon State University as the best overall online college in 2020. 

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Best for Allied Health –

Ohio State University (Columbus) $387 per credit (out-of-state)

Allied Health programs prepare students for this fast-growing field. Ohio State University – Columbus has been offering online programs for over a decade.  Although it just has just over 450 students enrolled, the focus is on allied health programs. The most popular are Registered Nursing and Dental Hygiene. 

Ohio State University – Columbus was selected because of this focus, along with other factors. Students learn from Ohio State’s world-renowned faculty; the same faculty that teach on campus. Instructional designers at the college create quality online course.  Also, the online college ranks very high in terms of employability of their graduates. 

Best Business Program

University of Illinois (Chicago).  $462 per credit.

Business is one of the most popular majors in the country. 

University of Illinois – Chicago has been offering online programs for over a decade. This business program is unique as students first transfer into the program after completing an associate’s degree, which is a considerable savings in the first two years of the program. 

This college was selected because the College of Business Administration is accredited by the AACSB and is ranked the #1 business program in the Chicagoland area. Their acceptance rate is 62% and a student’s academic record, including letters of recommendation, are considered. Many companies also look to recruit graduates from this business program.

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Best for Liberal Arts

University of Florida.  $500 per credit (out-of-state). 

A liberal arts degree prepares students for a life of learning. 

The University of Florida has been offering online programs for almost 20 years. From Anthropology to Psychology and beyond, the college offers a wide variety of liberal arts programs. 

This college was selected not only because of variety but other factors. 

Courses are designed and taught by UF faculty and students earn the same degree as on-campus students. Online students have their own virtual community and can customize their fees through an optional fee package. Academic advisors create customized plans.  Their strong student support services make the University of Florida the pick for this category.

Best Information Technology Program

UMass Lowell.  $380 per credit.

Employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow faster than the average. 

The University of Massachusetts – Lowell has been offering online programs for about 25 years. The college has a strong track record of preparing adult students for careers in high demand such as IT.  Students earn the same degree as on-campus students. 

This college was selected not only for the strong reputation for employability but because they allow up to 90 transfer credits, being very friendly to those that have attended college previously. The program covers a variety of different areas including computer networking, e-commerce, website design, information security, database management, programming, multimedia and more. 

Best Theology/Ministerial Program

Regent University.  $395 per credit. 

Please note that this program was selected based on the criteria listed above. You will need to factor in your own denomination/beliefs when selecting a theology/ministerial program. 

Regent University a fast-growing accredited Christian university. The college has one of the more affordable bachelor’s programs within the Christian college community.

This college was selected based upon the variety of programs within the divinity/theology field. The college ranks very high in terms of faculty quality and has a very student friendly transfer-credit policy. Their financial aid department is also highly rated providing strong student support. Rigor of academic coursework is highly considered when applying to Regent University. 

Best Variety of Programs

Arizona State University.  $530 per credit. 

Arizona State University has been offering online programs for almost 15 years. 

At a student population of over 44,000 and growing, ASU has the capacity to offer a wide variety of programs. Currently, there are an astonishing 117 undergraduate programs available. This gives you the option of selecting not only popular majors such as psychology, but also very specific programs such as Geographic Information Science and Urban Planning. 

ASU was selected in this category for their mixture of variety with quality. ASU online programs are developed by the same faculty who teach on campus. With strong instructional design, courses make it easy to engage students and professors in meaningful ways. The college also ranks high in terms of academic support such as their award-winning libraries.

Most Affordable

University of North Carolina Pembroke.  $188 per credit.

Cost is a major factor in any college decision. Please keep in mind that the costs listed here are the “sticker prices” but be sure to contact the individual college to see what financial aid and/or scholarship packages they offer to lower the cost of attendance.  However, based on the current information of cost per credit, the University of North Carolina – Pembroke offers the most affordable online undergraduate four-year degree.    

This college does provide a lot for your money

The programs are taught by the same highly-qualified faculty as on-campus programs.  The programs are of high quality. For example, their online business program is Association for Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredited. 

The one downside of this college is the lack of variety of online undergraduate programs. UNC – Pembroke offers a degree in Business, Criminal Justice, Sociology, and Interdisciplinary Studies. 

Looking for a very affordable online program with more variety? 

Florida International University has an online enrollment of over 5,500 students and offers over 40 undergraduate degree programs.  With a cost of $247 per credit, it is the most affordable online college next to UNC – Pembroke. 

FIU also provides strong student support services.  From enrollment to graduation, a dedicated academic advisor is assigned to each online student to clearly articulate their educational vision and maximize their success.

Choosing the Best Online Colleges is Easier Than Ever

Online colleges were growing in popularity before COVID and have rapidly increased since the pandemic. For many students, online colleges can provide a mix of convenience, quality, and affordability. 

If an online college program is right for you, hopefully this list for 2021 can help you get started. 

Have a question or was there a category not listed?  Leave a comment below for ideas for future content. 

Best wishes for your college selection process!

Online colleges were growing in popularity before COVID and have rapidly increased since. If an online college program is right for you, hopefully this list for 2021 can help you get started. #college #collegeprep #onlinecollege… Click To Tweet

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Dr. Dave Ferreira

College Administrator

Dr. Dave Ferreira is the wonderful husband of Diane from Worth Beyond Rubies! He holds a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership, with his dissertation on College First Year Experience Seminars. He is an experienced college administrator who has worked at both 2 year colleges and comprehensive 4 year universities. He is the author of the book The 2nd Edition of the Insider’s Guide to College Etiquette for Bedford /St. Martin. He also has two college students and a high schooler doing school online so he also understands education from a parenting perspective. He has also authored another post on Worth Beyond Rubies entitled Freedom in the Bible – Experiencing True Freedom in God

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2 Comments

  1. excellent break down and review of these colleges. my niece just transferred from Campbell to Pembroke. It is a better fit for her financially. This gives great comparisons for these schools, thanks for sharing!