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Guide to Online Colleges

by Tim on June 4, 2012

If you’re like me, the idea of online classes sound great, but you don’t want to take classes online at a ‘degree mill.’    (Degree mill is an online program that basically hands out degrees to anyone willing to pay for it)

For me, the most important factor in taking online college classes was to make sure I was looking at accredited online colleges.  If you take a class and your online college is not accredited, you may have a difficult time transferring it to another university.  That means a lot of time and money down the drain.

I’ve taken dozens of online courses at multiple schools.  I’ve save over $10,000 by taking online courses, finished college early, and maintained a full time job while getting an MBA in less than one year.  If you’re motivated, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same!  To be clear, I did not take an online MBA program – my online courses allowed me to pursue my MBA at a college in my city in record time while working full time.

I’m not writing this to fool anyone or to persuade you to choose an online college.   These are my own views and opinions developed from my own personal experience.

As a supplement to your own research, I’ve listed the ‘best kept secrets’ in online education.  Most of these programs are online versions of actual brick and mortar private and state colleges, so you can be confident that you’re getting a quality education.

Online College Vs. Distance Education

One real quick distinction I want to make is between online colleges and distance education.  While some schools use a hybrid approach, there is often a difference in online versus distance education courses.

Online Classes

Online classes are held strictly through the web.  Most universities use a third party online portal, like Blackboard or Angel, that allows you to interact with students, watch videos, and submit your assignments.

Distance Learning Degrees

Distance education courses may integrate some online features, but some of them are strictly you and the book.  It’s important to realize this before you enroll!  If you need the accountability of other students and deadlines, a pure online course may be better than a distance education class.  On the other hand, if you like the idea of moving at your own pace and creating your own learning environment, distance ed courses may be right for you.

In both kinds of courses, be prepared to take exams administered by a proctor.  Most accredited online programs will require that a proctor monitor your exams.  Make sure you call around your city to find out if a local library, college, or testing center can administer your exams – do this before you start your classes!

Accredited Online Colleges

What Kind of Accreditation?

The last thing you want is to enroll in an online college and find out that it lacks the accreditation that other reputable programs have.  Since accreditation is done through private organizations, there are a few major accrediting agencies that usually ‘fit the bill.’   The U.S. Department of Education has a helpful list of regional and national accrediting agencies – make sure your school is accredited through one or more of these reputable agencies.

Accreditation can be specific as well, so if you plan on studying a particular field like business, nursing, or education, make sure the school’s program is certified by the appropriate agency.

Are Cheap Online Colleges Legit?

From experience, I’ve found that the cheapest online colleges are usually programs from your own state’s university.  Tuition for residents is usually very affordable and the online fees are minimal.  For-profit online colleges and private universities usually don’t fall in the cheap online college category.  That’s because they are usually very convenient (all classes in one place) so they can charge a premium.

This list of legitimate online colleges and universities will grow as we learn about new programs.  It’s not meant to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all your research for online degree programs.  The goal is to give you some ideas for legitimate online programs that will help you to achieve your educational goals!


Online Degree Programs from State Universities

Distance learning universities can be questionable, especially if it’s a newer program.  But when it’s a part of a well established state school, you can expect there to be a high standard within the program.  Does that mean every online state program is excellent?  Not at all.  But you can be sure that the quality of your education will be sound and that you’ll have name recognition from your university.

Top Online State University Degree Programs

Arizona State University Online

Oregon State University Online

Kansas State University Online

Colorado State University Online

Penn State University Online

University of North Dakota

University of North Carolina

Other State Programs Online

University of Alabama

University of Arkansas

University of Connecticut

University of Delaware

Florida State University

University of Hawaii

University of Illinois

Indiana State University

University of Iowa

Northern Kentucky University

University of Maine

University of Michigan

University of Massachusetts

Mississippi State University

University of Missouri

Washington State University

State University of New York

Online Degree Programs from Private Colleges

Top private online universities:

Liberty University

University of Phoenix

DeVry University

Online MBA Programs

MBA -  Benedictine University

MBA – Mississippi State

MBA – Southeast Missouri State University

MBA – Penn State

Online PhD and Doctoral Programs

ATSU – Online Degrees in Health Care

New Mexico State University – PhD in Nursing

Indiana State University – PhD in Technology management

Online Nursing Programs

Gonzaga University Online Masters in Nursing

Concordia Online RN to BSN Program

University of Iowa Nursing

Northern Kentucky University Nursing

University of Maine RN to BSN

University of Michigan

Hopefully this helps you in your research to find affordable and reputable online colleges.  Do as much research as you can and don’t settle for the first online program that you find!  Be selective and you’ll finish an online degree before you know it!

If this guide to online colleges was helpful, hit the +1 button!

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