Best Online Schools for 2018
According to the latest survey of online higher education by the Sloan Consortium, titled “Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States,” about 33.5% of college students now take at least one course online. This is the highest percentage yet. With the best online colleges increasingly offering more options to distance students, online education continues to show tremendous growth.
In addition, 65.9% of academic leaders surveyed at online colleges agreed that online education is critical to their schools’ future strategies, and only 9.7% of the schools surveyed disagreed with that statement (the remainder neither agreed nor disagreed). All of this points toward online education slowly and steadily becoming part of the higher education standard for schools in the U.S.
WHY CHOOSE AN ONLINE DEGREE PROGRAM ?
There are many reasons for this dramatic increase in enrollment among the country’s top online schools. More and more adults are returning to school to upgrade their skills and gain some advantage in an increasingly competitive job market. A high school diploma no longer holds the same weight with potential employers that it once did. Having a college degree is more necessary than ever — and, thanks to fully integrated online programs, more relatable and accessible — for securing a decent job or advancing one’s career.
The best online colleges and universities offer flexible and relatively low-cost programs, making them especially attractive to students seeking an alternative to traditional brick and mortar schools. Working adults and students with children are among those who stand to benefit the most from earning a degree online. Many of the best accredited online colleges also offer a greater variety of classes, not to mention they allow students the convenience of eliminating the commute to and from campus. Today, students pursuing an online degree from one of the nation’s best accredited online colleges or universities can rest assured they are getting an education on par with a traditional classroom program.
TYPES OF SCHOOLS THAT OFFER ONLINE PROGRAMS
There are a variety of different types of institutions that offer online education programs. Like any traditional program, the best online colleges share one important attribute: accreditation. When it comes to other factors, however, such as program delivery, facilities, financial aid and support for online students, each school has its own policies and methods of operation. Below are some key facts outlining what to expect from online programs at each kind of school:
Purely Online Schools
Some of the best online schools are those offering only online programs. While many of them have not been around for as long as brick and mortar colleges, they can offer keen insight into the learning process in a digital environment and provide support tailored to the online experience. As many purely online schools have had years to develop distance-friendly programs and streamline their method of delivery, they are often able to provide students with comprehensive online programs at a lower cost than their brick and mortar counterparts.
Brick and Mortar Schools with Online Programs
Brick and mortar schools that offer online programs can offer a more diverse learning experience, potentially allowing distance students to supplement with on-campus coursework if they so choose. Online programs in healthcare, for example, that require a clinical component may have on-campus resources to help students complete the degree. Traditional schools that have incorporated online programs over the years can also lean on their established institutional reputation to attract distance students. While costs may vary, tuition for online programs at brick and mortar schools may be subject to in- or out-of-state residency or program-specific fees, among other factors.
These schools are owned and operated by private corporations whose chief priority is to earn revenue, which is why it generally costs more to attend a for-profit school. Also, because for-profit schools are not held to the same accreditation standards as non-profit schools, students with previous online credits may not be able to transfer them toward a for-profit school degree. Many for-profits offer more associate or two-year degrees and certificates than general education and liberal arts programs, which may limit some students’ abilities to eventually pursue an advanced degree.
Not-for-profit colleges and universities are publicly owned and governed by a board of trustees. These schools are eligible to receive federal and state funding to operate, because they are publicly owned. Funds leftover from fundraising efforts must be applied to furthering the organization’s initiatives, not increasing the salaries of top-level management, which is one of the reasons why non-profit schools are typically less expensive than for-profit schools. Generally, non-profit schools offer the broadest variety of programs, potentially spanning all levels of degrees, certificates and open courseware options, as well as flexible full- and part-time scheduling options for online students.
While open courseware does not constitute a full degree program, it can offer a supplementary education in a major of the student’s choice; some schools that do not offer online degrees do provide a variety of open courseware options to distance students and/or professionals interested in continuing education.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES OF 2018?
Southern New Hampshire University
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University has been offering online programs for over 15 years and graduating successful professionals for over 75 years. Today, this private, nonprofit university offers over 200 career-focused online degrees and certificates to more than 75,000 distance learners, delivering the same quality, student-centered educational experience as SNHU’s on-campus programs. All academics at SNHU are designed to prepare students not only for today’s challenges but tomorrow’s as well.
2. Walden University
For more than 40 years, Walden University, an accredited institution, has helped working professionals reach their educational goals. Walden degree and certificate programs are designed to help students explore current market trends, gain relevant skills that can be applied immediately in the real world, and create positive social change in their lives and communities. Students are taught by faculty members who are both scholars and practitioners, bringing academic perspective and practical experience into the online classroom.
3. Capella University
This Minneapolis-based higher learning institution first opened its doors in 1993, and today enrolls nearly 38,000 students, the majority of whom are earning advanced degrees. Capella offers 154 degree options at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level, as well as 51 certificates; more than 1,940 individual courses are also available. The university also operates learning centers in 48 states and eight countries outside the United States.
4. Herzing University
Herzing has built a supportive community of faculty, staff, and fellow learners. Founded in 1965 by Henry and Suzanne Herzing, the family legacy continues with their daughter, Renée Herzing, as the university’s acting president. A private, nonprofit institution, Herzing University has been recognized repeatedly as a member of the GI Jobs List of “Military Friendly Schools” (most recently in 2017), and was recently ranked one of the “Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs” for the third consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report.
5. American InterContinental University
AIU Online is the virtual campus of American InterContinental University, which has been providing higher education to professionals for more than 40 years. Students can earn an associate’s, bachelor’s ,or master’s degree in majors including business, criminal justice, design, education, and information technology. Courses are customized to provide applicable, industry-specific skills in the student’s area of interest.