Are you looking to gain a degree from a top university, but aren’t in a position to (or simply don’t want to) physically attend a university?
Well, some universities offer programs that allow you to “attend” without actually relocating to them.
In fact, some of the best universities in the country allow students to do this – assuming you have the credentials to take the courses in question, of course.
In this piece, we’ll be ranking the twenty-five best online universities in the United States – and this is based on factors like tuition costs, financial aid opportunities and (perhaps most importantly) student learning outcomes.
25. Regis University
Regis University is a private Jesuit university located in Denver, Colorado. It was founded way back in in 1877 by the Society of Jesus and is a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
There are currently a huge number of online programs to choose from at the university – and several courses offered in a hybrid format, for anyone who does want some on-campus time.
The university is part of the Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities (OCICU), which gives students the opportunity to take classes at other OCICU universities that may not be offered at Regis, which is a very cool option to have.
Graduation rate: 59%
24. Villanova University
Founded all the way back in 1842 Villanova University is a private Catholic university, located in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, that was named after Saint Thomas of Villanova. It’s the oldest Catholic university in Pennsylvania and the only Augustinian university in the United States.
There are currently a number of online programs to choose from at the university – some with part-time options, providing flexibility to working professionals and those with family obligations.
Any students looking to gain an online education at Villanova are assigned a program representative to help navigate the options and the university uses Bisk for online course delivery, along with various technologies for curriculum presentation.
Graduation rate: 88%
23. Creighton University
Creighton University is a private, Jesuit university located in Omaha, Nebraska, that was founded by the Society of Jesus back in 1878. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
There are currently a wide variety of online degree options at the university, ranging from traditional areas of study like business, education, ministry and public health, to less common offerings such as medical anthropology and catholic school leadership – and they can be taken either fully online or in a hybrid format .
Many of these programs are geared towards career advancement, with both academic and non-academic paths – and Creighton notably has several YouTube channels, including those featuring the ministry and Creighton athletics.
Graduation rate: 75%
22. North Carolina State University
North Carolina State University is a public land-grant research university located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Founded back in 1887, it’s part of the University of North Carolina system and is the largest university in the Carolinas.
It currently boasts a huge number of online programs through its Online and Distance Education programs, with a plethora of different qualifications available to potential students – and programs can be taken either fully online or in hybrid format.
Some courses will test students online, but some others do require campus visits (or visits to one of NCSU’s remote off-campus sites). The university utilises WolfWare, its own course management platform, which was developed in 1999.
Graduation rate: 71%
21. Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is a private research university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1900 as the Carnegie Technical Schools by Andrew Carnegie, it became the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1912. In 1967, it merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to form Carnegie Mellon University.
The university currently offers a handful of online programs to enable remote study, as opposed to actually attending the establishment.
Interestingly, in order to prepare its students for life after graduation, Cargenie Mellon University also offers an array of programs designed to help graduates, including career preparation workshops, internship information and leadership development programs.
Graduation rate: 87%
20. LeTourneau University
LeTourneau University is a private, interdenominational Christian university located in Longview, Texas. It was founded as LeTourneau Technical Institute in February 1946 by R. G. LeTourneau with his wife, Evelyn, and initially educated veterans returning from World War II.
It offers an abundance of online programs and LETU online students can take advantage of helpful resources such as the Global Student Success Center, academic advisors, online tutoring and virtual library services.
It’s a Christian university, so it places a high value on faith and service, and online students can stay connected through a variety of platforms – including the Chapel Audio podcast and the Faith and Work e-mail newsletter.
Graduation rate: 61%
19. University Of Denver
The University of Denver is a private research university located in Denver, Colorado. It was founded back in 1864 and is the oldest independent private university in the Rocky Mountain Region of the United States.
The institution’s University College – which is the University of Denver’s college of professional and continuing studies – offers several online graduate degree programs and five undergraduate majors through its Bachelor of Arts Completion Program. These courses can be completed online, on-campus or by combining the two in hybrid form.
Students can actively participate in online classes through constantly updated class discussion boards, delivered through the Canvas online learning platform.
Graduation rate: 76%
18. Southern Methodist University
Southern Methodist University is a private research university located in University Park, Texas (with satellite campuses in Plano, Texas and Taos, New Mexico). It was founded back in 1911 by what was then the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in partnership with Dallas civic leaders.
Students can choose from a wide variety of online non-credit courses and certificate programs that are geared towards working professionals – and certificate programs are either completely online or in a blended format.
Students interested in the university’s Continuing and Professional Education (CAPE) certificate programs can learn more with free informational downloads about individual programs.
Graduation rate: 80%
17. University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public research university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s the flagship of the University of the North Carolina system and is considered a Public Ivy, or a public institution, which offers an academic experience equivalent to an Ivy League university. It was chartered way back in 1789 and began enrolling students in 1795, making it one of three schools that can claim to be the oldest public university in the United States.
It offers several types of distance learning opportunities. Carolina Courses Online (CCO) are blended or completely online courses on a semester schedule, while Self-Paced Courses (SPC) are offered online or as correspondence and can take up to nine months to complete – and the graduate degree programs and professional certificates are either entirely online or in a blended format.
Another option is the UNC Online Exchange, in which UNC students can take online courses through other schools in the University of North Carolina system for the same tuition price.
Graduation rate: 89%
16. Florida Institute Of Technology
The Florida Institute of Technology is a private nonprofit doctoral/research university located in Melbourne, Florida. It was founded back in 1958 as Brevard Engineering College, but has been known by its present name since 1966.
The university has several online learning options with continuing education, associate, and a variety of degrees and graduate certificate programs available – many of which students can earn completely online in areas ranging from criminal justice to psychology. The online programs are delivered via a partnership between FIT and University Alliance, an organization made up of independent technology universities
Students can also earn a graduate degree through Virtual FIT, which offers distance learning through the Canvas platform at various off-campus sites, such as air forces bases, military forts and even the Kennedy Space Center.
Graduation rate: 55%
15. Clarkson University
Clarkson University is a private research university with its main campus located in Potsdam, New York. It has additional graduate program and research facilities in the New York Capital Region and Beacon, New York, and was founded back in 1896 as a college of technology.
The university currently offers a decent number of online graduate degrees in the areas of business, engineering, technology and science – all of which are designed with working professionals in mind, with many offered as full-time or part-time options, with possible campus visits required.
Online students are given opportunities to take part in real-time virtual classroom activities like lectures, group discussions and self-directed assignments. The online courses at Clarkson are also available to non-degree students who might be looking to further their education in other ways.
Graduation rate: 70%
14. Southwestern College
Southwestern College is a public community college located in Chula Vista, California. It was founded back in 1961.
It offers a huge variety of online courses that can be completed either fully online or in a hybrid format – and, depending on the specific class, some online students may be required to visit the campus for testing or meetings. All online students are granted access to virtual classrooms through the Blackboard learning platform and they can communicate with teachers and classmates through online study groups, discussion boards and e-mail.
Some of the college’s courses can be used towards an associate degree or transferred to a four-year college or university course – and the college provides several resources to online students, such as academic career counselling and web-based advisement.
Graduation rate: 51%
13. Duquesne University
Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit (named after the 18th-century governor of New France, Michel-Ange Duquesne de Menneville) is a private Catholic university located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was founded back in 1878 by members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit and was originally known as the Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost. In 1911, it became the first Catholic university-level institution in Pennsylvania and is currently the only Spiritan institution of higher education in the world.
It now offers lots of opportunities for students seeking an online degree, including accelerated bachelor’s and graduate degrees, with some at the doctorate level – with some designed to be completed fully online, while others will have some online components combined with face-to-face classroom time, clinical time or field work.
Examples of some of the fully online programs students can choose are in the areas of business, education and liberal arts.
Graduation rate: 74%
12. Purdue University
Purdue University is a public research university located in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the flagship campus of the Purdue University system. It was founded back in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology and agriculture in his name.
The university offers a great choice of graduate level degree programs online, allowing students maximum flexibility while earning a prestigious Purdue degree – and while a large number of them can be completed entirely online, others are offered in a hybrid format, with some practicum hours or campus visits required.
Online students have 24 hour access to the virtual classroom and can communicate with faculty and classmates via several different means – and the university also offers professional development, corporate education and non-credit courses, as well as an associate degree in veterinary technology.
Graduation rate: 70%
11. Johns Hopkins University
The Johns Hopkins University is a private research university located in Baltimore, Maryland that was founded back in 1876. It was named after its first benefactor – the American entrepreneur and philanthropist Johns Hopkins – whose $7 million bequest (of which half financed the establishment of Johns Hopkins Hospital) was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States at the time.
The university has a large selection of online degree programs in areas such as medical care, teaching, engineering, arts, sciences and business – and they can be completed in a part-time or full-time capacity, with some offered fully online and others in hybrid format.
Johns Hopkins also offers an online orientation for first time online students, as well as several very useful online resources, including a 24 hour help desk.
Graduation rate: 92%
10. Gwynedd Mercy University
Gwynedd Mercy University is a Catholic university located in Lower Gwynedd Township, Pennsylvania, that was founded in 1948 as Gwynedd-Mercy College by the Sisters of Mercy as a junior college. In addition to the Gwynedd Valley campus, it also has locations in Philadelphia and Bensalem, Pennsylvania.
It offers several accelerated online and hybrid undergraduate and graduate degree programs through its School of Graduate and Professional Studies.
The university’s online programs are designed for students who need maximum flexibility, such as working professionals and military students – and any students interested in earning an online degree at Gwynedd Mercy University may be allowed to transfer in a specific number of previously earned outside college credits.
Graduation rate: 73%
9. Lehigh University
Lehigh University is a private research university located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It was established back in 1865 by businessman Asa Packer – but its undergraduate programs have only been coeducational since the 1971-72 academic year.
The university offers a wide variety of programs online, with Lehigh’s Office of Distance Education using two different instructional platforms: Classroom Live, where classes are viewed online in real-time, and Classroom Online, which consists of pre-filmed classed that can be viewed anytime via streaming video. Additionally, faculty can use a variety of other means to communicate with students, such as e-mail, web-conferencing, discussion boards and phone calls.
Lehigh’s online courses typically follow the on-campus academic calendar and follow closely with on-campus course curriculum – with several programs being geared towards career advancement. Students taking online courses at Lehigh may also be eligible for employer-based tuition.
Graduation rate: 88%
8. Canisius College
Canisius College is a private Jesuit college located in Buffalo, New York. It was founded back in 1870 by Jesuits from Germany and is named after St. Peter Canisius.
It offers a wide variety of specialized and unique online degree certificate programs. Some of them are offered fully online, while others are available in a hybrid or blended format – with possible part-time, full-time and self-paced options available. Depending on the program, some online students may be required to do a residency – and they may also have opportunities for internships near their place of residence.
Online students have 24 hour access to courses and can communicate with faculty and advisers after hours. Additionally, they can take full advantage of online resources such as the virtual library, online writing tutors and the ITS help desk.
Graduation rate: 68%
7. Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve University is a private research university located in Cleveland, Ohio. It was created back in 1967 through the federation of two longstanding contiguous institutions: Western Reserve University, which was founded in 1826 and named for its location in the Connecticut Western Reserve, and Case Institute of Technology, which was founded in 1880 through the endowment of Leonard Case, Jr.
It offers online programs in specialized areas such as digital health technology, social administration and several concentration degrees and certificates in engineering, as well as offering a wide variety of MOOC’s and individual courses through Coursera.
The university’s Technology Enhanced Classrooms initiative brings the latest technology to both on-campus and online courses – and courses will soon be delivered through Canvas. Students can also access several academic and technical resources through the school library and the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education.
Graduation rate: 78%
6. Columbia University In The City Of New York
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private Ivy League research university located in New York City. It was established in 1754 on the grounds of Trinity Church in Manhattan and is the oldest institution of higher education in New York, as well as the fifth-oldest in the United States. It’s one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence – seven of which belong to the Ivy League – and is ranked among the top ten universities in the world.
Columbia University Online has several programs available to students, in areas of study including business, environmental sustainability and health information technology. They are all specialized, career-oriented programs that prepare students for graduate school – many of which can be used towards completing a master’s degree at Columbia. They can be taken either completely online, or in a hybrid format, with evening class and weekend fieldwork options.
Columbia students also have several other online educational opportunities, including access to the Coursera organization, which allows students to take courses from partnered universities across the world.
Graduation rate: 95%
5. Saint Joseph’s University
Saint Joseph’s University is a private Jesuit university located in Philadelphia and Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. It was founded back in 1851, by the Society of Jesus, as Saint Joseph’s College and is the seventh oldest Jesuit university in the United States, as well as one of 28 member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
The university offers a large number of online graduate certificate and degree programs in a wide range or study areas, such as liberal studies, business, leadership and health services, along with several concentration options in criminal justice and education – with many providing a flexible curriculum, based on students’ work and personal needs.
There are also several career resources available for online students, as well as easily accessible support and communication with staff.
Graduation rate: 79%
4. Illinois Institute Of Technology
Illinois Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Chicago, Illinois. Its history can be traced back to 1890, but its present name was adopted upon the merger of the Armour Institute and Lewis Institute back in 1940.
Students can earn an undergraduate or graduate degree partially or completely online through IIT, with courses taught by the same faculty and following the same curriculum. Interestingly, online graduate students can choose from a thesis or non-thesis degree option, and undergraduate students can choose their major or enroll as undecided.
Another option IIT offers is online professional development courses, which are a blend of lecture and laboratory sessions, and a large selection of online IT professional certification courses.
Graduation rate: 68%
3. University Of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private research university located in Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1880, it’s the oldest private research university in California.
USC Online has a huge array of graduate level degrees and certificate programs available for consideration – and they range from traditional programs related to psychology, engineering and teaching, to less commonly seen programs such as Geriatric Dentistry and Geospatial Leadership.
While a number of programs are offered completely online, others, such as teaching and social work, require field work – but that can be arranged near the student’s home base (and may also include self-paced coursework and face-to-face classroom time). There are also several online programs geared towards military students – including military social work, cyber security and a master’s degree in business for veterans.
Graduation rate: 90%
2. Drexel University
Drexel University is a private research university with its main campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1891 by Anthony J. Drexel – a financier and philanthropist. Founded as Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, it was renamed Drexel Institute of Technology in 1936, before assuming the name Drexel University in 1970.
Drexel University Online has a huge number of web-based programs, with a variety of degree types covering more than 45 areas of concentration – and discounted fees for some of the university’s online programs may be available to military students, Drexel alumni and through partnerships with specific organizations and employers.
Students have a vast array of resources available to them and can check out video content and e-books, as well as have library materials shipped to them.
Graduation rate: 65%
1. Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was established way back in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, and is the United States’ oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, wealth, and academic reputation have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world – and its online programs are second to none.
Harvard University Online has a vast array of learning opportunities for students of all levels, ranging from podcasts and free courses to non-credit certificate programs and graduate degrees. The courses may be self-directed or follow a specific time frame – and they’re offered completely online or in a hybrid format.
The university utilises several different technologies and platforms to deliver online education, such as the edX platform, which was collaboratively designed by Harvard and MIT – and students earning credits online WILL receive Harvard transcripts, so rest assured of that.
Graduation rate: 97%