Students are now thinking twice before enrolling in college after graduating from high school, and who can really blame them? Student debt totals $1.2 trillion in the United States, and today’s job market is a grim: according to this report 28% of Millenials are unemployed. The tuition crisis may be why more and more students are going online to get their degree. Earning a virtual degree at an online accredited institution can eliminate costs that would make or break a student getting an education on a threadbare budget. The cost of meal plans, books, gas, food, furniture and rent can quickly add up to thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Not all online universities are created equal, though. Students must still take into account the cost of tuition, job placement for students after graduation and the number of programs the university offers when choosing an online program. Here are the top 10 online universities in the U.S., ranked using data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
- 1. Northern Arizona University
Northern Arizona University is ranked first for its extremely affordable tuition. Students can expect to pay about $2,500 per semester. To put that figure in perspective, undergrads at Harvard paid about $45,000 per semester in 2015. Though top degree program at NAU is elementary education, the university also offers a wide variety of online degrees including certifications in hospitality and IT. Through one program the school offers, students may take as many classes as desired in a six-month period. This could be a great opportunity for students to knock out several core credits at a time.
- 2. Arizona State University
Arizona State ranks second for the wide selection of degrees it offers. Although it is much more expensive than NAU (tuition: $7,600 per semester), students can enroll for classes at their convenience due to the rolling semester start dates this school offers.
- 3. Granite State College
Granite State College in New Hampshire offers a variety of liberal arts degrees, but where it shines is in the accelerated programs it offers. The flexibility allows students to earn their degree at the pace that’s right for them. It is also the most affordable university in the New England area, which has a notoriously high cost of living. The university offers the 10th most affordable online degree of schools surveyed.
- 4. The University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida offers 20 online Liberal Arts degrees not commonly found at other online institutions. Tuition is only about $3,200 per semester. Bill Gates touted UCF’s excellent online programs and cited it as a leader in the digital education field. It is the 4th most affordable online institution in the country of those surveyed.
- 5. OPEN SUNY
OPEN SUNY is a project involving 64 campuses in the state of New York. OPEN SUNY offers a large selection of over 45 online degrees. The system has a combined enrollment total of about 200,000 students.
- 6. Oregon State University
Oregon State University is one of the few online universities that offers a graduate degree in computer science. This makes it highly competitive with other brick-and-mortar institutions. OSU offers an impressive 900 courses in 90 areas of study. The university ranks 8th in affordability.
- 7. The American Public University System
The American Public University caters to military students and offers many degrees related to that area of study. Students can earn degrees in security, criminal justice, intelligence and more. Although it is a for-profit institution, it has earned accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education Council. This university offers 190 certificates and degrees. Tuition runs at about $4,000 per semester. Students can also join academic honor societies affiliated with the school.
- 8. Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University Online is another highly affordable university; tuition only costs about $3,200 per semester. Degrees offered at this institution run the gamut from humanities and business education to social sciences. This school offers an attractive transfer program for students who are transferring from a traditional school. They won’t lose their credits or fall behind in their degree progress if transferring from most public universities.
- 9. Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University’s “World Campus” is a highly-lauded research institution that offers over 20 comprehensive degree plans. Because of Penn State’s competitive status, it is more expensive than other universities listed here. Penn is one of the first universities to offer distance-learning courses and is a pioneer of this education model. Expect to pay almost $7,000 per year at this school. Like some upper-tier universities, students must apply for acceptance to the university and then apply again for entrance into their preferred online major.
- 10. Grand Canyon University
Grand Canyon University has the most bachelor degree programs of any online school on this list. Students can choose from 52 full bachelor degree programs at this institution. Grand Canyon has a dedicated faculty of online-only professors who focus all their energy on teaching the distance courses. Expect to pay almost $7,000 per semester; this school is one of the pricier options on this list.