During the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities switched to online classes. But not all online education is created equal. Some institutions of higher learning were designed from day one to be 100% online – meaning they didn’t just jump into online education out of necessity; they specialize in it.
These exclusively online programs range from non-degree courses to associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs. They may or may not have state residency requirements for tuition purposes. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) is the primary accrediting body that recognizes online schools, although some are regionally accredited just like regular institutions.
Traditional colleges incur high administrative and organizational costs to support their campuses, theaters, stadiums, and maintenance; these expenses are passed along to the students, including online students. Online-only colleges eliminate most of the infrastructure costs associated with traditional colleges, resulting in significant cost savings for students. All offer digital instruction with no physical campus or classrooms.
While they mainly serve non-traditional working professionals and adult learners, the flexible pacing offered by online colleges will appeal to high-achieving homeschool graduates. If you have already taken any community college classes as a homeschooler, you will be able to transfer your credits, which will make for easier admission and give you a head start on your degree as most of these online schools have generous transfer credit policies.
When searching for the online college that is right for you, be sure to compare the tuition cost per credit plus any additional fees, required books and other materials, as well as financial aid packages offered and if the college works with FAFSA. Although your total program cost will vary depending upon the number of transfer credits you have and the textbooks needed, be wary if a school is not transparent about the estimated program cost up front.
There are several brick-and-mortar universities that also have highly-rated online programs – the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida, Pennsylvania State University World Campus, Arizona State University, and Trine University just to name a few – but the colleges on the list below are exclusively online. (Those with asterisks (*) are known to have admitted homeschoolers; the others may have, too.)
American Business and Technology University*
American Business and Technology University is an accredited online distance learning university that was founded in 2001 as the American College of Technology. The small college originally offered technical diplomas and training. In 2002, the school became Missouri’s first solely online school when it received the Coordinating Board for Higher Education’s approval and started to offer associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Currently, ABT University offers certificates and degree programs in Business, Healthcare, and IT Technology, including the Master of Business Administration (MBA). Lectures are streamed and recorded from the university’s physical headquarters at the Wyeth Mansion in St. Joseph, Missouri, and delivered through the website with enrollment held eight times in a year. Through the live audio/video conferencing system in place, students will reap the benefits of a live interaction with the instructor and other classmates from the convenience of their homes. ABTU intends to make each learning experience a world-class event. ABTU President Ramsey Atieh said that part of the school’s success is, “An innovative combination of live lectures and one-on-one support that allows ABTU students to engage directly with our faculty, staff and each other from nearly anywhere in the world on nearly any mobile device at roughly half the national average cost of similar colleges and universities. If you are a homeschool student in grades 9-12, American Business and Technology University partners with American High School to offer students a “one stop shop” for pursuing their high school diploma and their college degree concurrently, all for one affordable monthly payment.
Charter Oak State College*
Charter Oak State College is Connecticut’s public online college offering associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate programs. Students can complete degrees in many majors and concentrations through the exclusive use of affordable and accelerated online courses offered by the college. In other cases, majors and concentrations may be completed by combining Charter Oak’s courses and other sources of credit such as certification exams, training programs, military service, and volunteer work. The Portfolio Program at Charter Oak can be used to earn credit by demonstrating that your learning matches a specific course. Applicants who do not have at least 9 college-level credits must submit a high school transcript or equivalent. Charter Oak State College honors credits that you have already earned from other accredited institutions no matter how long ago. Charter Oak State College limits their credit-residency requirement to 6 credits; a Cornerstone course and a Senior Capstone course required for graduation. Their motto is “Degrees Without Boundaries.”
Colorado State University Global Campus
CSU Global was the first independent, regionally accredited, 100% online state university in the country, providing a world class education at reasonable prices to non-traditional students. Even though it’s part of the renowned Colorado State University System, it’s a wholly separate school. As one of the fastest growing online universities in the nation, with 10+ years of 100% online experience, CSU Global is uniquely positioned to provide a custom learning experience for each student. Their motto is: “Online Education Isn’t Another Thing We Do, It’s All We Do.” CSU-Global treats all students equally irrespective of age. Whether you’ve just graduated from high school, are working and need flexibility in your class schedule and location, are taking a gap year but still want to stay on track with your studies – or any combination of those – CSU Global has the accelerated, career-focused programs and resources to guide you along the way. If you have minimal or no previous college experience, you must submit an official high school transcript or GED transcript.
Columbia Southern University*
Columbia Southern University is a private family-owned accredited online university based in Orange Beach, Alabama, with a global student body. The university is dedicated to providing exceptional academic and student support services, enabling students to maximize their professional and personal potential. CSU offers affordable, flexible distance education programs at the associate, bachelor, master, doctorate or certificate levels in a multitude of areas such as occupational safety and health, fire administration, criminal justice, business administration, human resource management, health care administration and more. The qualified, student-centered faculty is committed to teaching and providing diverse learning experiences. Complete assignments at your own pace while working within set course start and end dates. Course subject matter is organized across approximately nine weeks of instruction. Connect with your classmates through discussion boards or touch base with your professor through your weekly assignment feedback. Applicants must provide evidence of high school completion such as an official transcript, GED, certificate of high school equivalency, or documentation of completion of a state approved home school program.
Founded in 1971, Excelsior College is a regionally accredited college that is s well known for its flexible, non-resident degree programs. It operates on a model similar to Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey and Charter Oak State College in Connecticut. As such, its philosophy is that what you know is more important than where or how you learned it. Sources of college credit that can be used towards an Excelsior College degree program include Excelsior College distance learning courses, courses from other regionally accredited institutions, CLEP and DSST/DANTES exams, non-collegiate training (including corporate, governmental, and military training), and assessments of prior learning portfolios. This is a much more liberal policy than most other colleges. Areas of study include Liberal Arts, Business, Public Service, Technology, Health Sciences and Nursing. The School of Nursing has twice been designated a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League for Nursing. Its baccalaureate degree programs in electrical engineering technology, information technology, and nuclear engineering technology are accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET, Inc.
Grantham University was founded in 1951 as Grantham Radio Licensing School, and has been accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission since 1961. It currently comprises four schools: the Mark Skousen School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and the School of Nursing and Allied Health. Grantham University serves to maximize your potential through education that is high quality, affordable and flexible. With a choice of 50+ degree and certificate programs that align with today’s marketplace needs, you’ll learn from industry experts across business, healthcare, nursing, criminal justice, computer science and technology. And to reduce the time and tuition necessary to graduate, we’ll evaluate prior college coursework, training and experience for credit. In fact, up to 75% of an undergraduate program or 50% of a graduate program can be transferred to Grantham. The school offers flexible course schedules for working adults, no set class times, 100% online convenience and one of the lowest tuitions in the country, making it possible to earn your first degree or an advanced degree. In September 2016, the school received accreditation for its Bachelor of Science in electronics engineering technology program through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
Sessions College for Professional Design
Sessions College for Professional Design is a private, for-profit fully online college focused on art and design. It is a small institution with an enrollment of approximately 100 undergraduate students. The acceptance rate is nearly 100%. Headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, it offers vocational certificates, undergraduate certificates, and associate degrees. No textbooks! Immerse yourself in an innovative curriculum that engages your artistic, digital, and critical thinking skills. Popular majors include Graphic Design, Web Page and Digital Design, and Illustration. The Admissions Advisors are all trained designers who will be happy to help you choose the right program for you. Robin Imse, a military spouse and homeschooling teacher/mom of four, talks about how Sessions College works for her.
Thomas Edison State University*
Thomas Edison State University was named in honor of Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor who lived in New Jersey for the bulk of his adult life and gained encyclopedic knowledge of many subject areas through self-directed learning. This online school is unique in that it has a campus of seven historic buildings near New Jersey’s state capitol building in Trenton. Students who live close enough to take a proctored exam onsite or meet with an academic advisor at the University are able to enjoy the beauty of the University’s buildings and environment. However, students don’t need to visit the campus unless enrolled in the in-person Accelerated 2nd Degree BSN Program. Most students complete courses, take exams, and earn their degrees wherever it is convenient for them – whether it’s at home, at work, the library, on the road or anywhere else. There are no set times to log on for any lectures or online events. Most courses are structured on a 12-week schedule. New undergraduate terms begin every month, 12 months a year. Thomas Edison State University offers degree programs and certificates in more than 100 areas of study. Many students are able to earn their degree through open courseware sources and other online means such as Study.com, an online education platform with short, animated video lessons, quizzes and study tools for students. The platform’s award credit is then allowed to be transferred to Thomas Edison State University, where the degree is earned. Examination programs enable students to demonstrate the college-level knowledge they have gained through work, personal interests, or independent study. Portfolio assessment provides students with the opportunity to work with a mentor to demonstrate that they possess college-level knowledge in a subject and earn credit toward their degree. TESU’s founding mission was to help adults earn their college degrees, and the average student age is 35, but they are also extremely homeschool-friendly.
University of the People*
University of the People (UoPeople) is a private not-for-profit, distance education university with an office in Pasadena, California. Founded by Israeli entrepreneur Shai Reshef in 2009, UoPeople is the first fully accredited online university that is tuition-free. You heard that right! Although UoPeople doesn’t charge for online college courses, course materials, or annual enrollment, they do charge minimal administrative and processing fees. Reshef says that operations are “sustainable” from exam fees ($100 for undergraduate; $200 for MBA) because there are no physical spaces for the university and only a few paid staff members along with 6,000 volunteers. Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and partnering with top universities worldwide, UoPeople offers degree programs in Business Administration, Computer Science, Health Science, and Education. Homeschool graduate and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles teamed up with UoPeople as a Global Ambassador and to offer a special scholarship fund for U.S. foster children. Biles speaks passionately about UoPeople’s mission to provide a free and accessible education for students from around the world, including “those who were told they weren’t wealthy enough; those who were told that women don’t belong in the classroom; and those who were told there were no options in their part of the world.”
Founded in 1970 by two teachers seeking an alternative to brick-and-mortar classrooms to allow broader access through distance learning, Walden University has a proven track record in online higher education. Walden is a regionally accredited institution offering online Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, Master of Public Health, Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration, Education Specialist, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Business Administration, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. With its visionary leadership, nationally recognized experts, and personal enrollment specialists, Walden University attracts students and faculty from around the world. As a student, you will have access to the Walden University Library, a fully digital library with more than 164,000 electronic books, more than 64,000 full-text journals, more than 100 databases, and more than 3 million dissertations. Dr. Stacy Ness, early childhood studies faculty member at Walden, shared insights about “Setting up an Elementary Homeschool.” For more information about the Walden student experience, click here.
Western Governors University
WGU is online, nonprofit, and about half the cost of other online universities. WGU is recognized by employers, educators, and innovators for its high-quality online university degree programs. WGU offers flexible pacing, meaning you can move through courses at a pace that meets your learning style and knowledge level. This also means you can graduate faster because it’s competency-based and not based on class time or credit hours, which makes it ideal for bright, ambitious, non-traditional students. Students are required to complete a minimum number of competency units per term to meet on-time progress. If you are able to complete the minimum requirement before your term is over, you can add more courses, with no tuition increase. You can get started at any time, too – start dates are the first of every month. Your “welcoming committee” at WGU is made up of Enrollment Counselors, Admissions Specialists, and faculty members who specialize in the programs you’re interested in. WGU posted an article on “How to Help Parents Who Are Homeschooling Kids.”
If you have taken classes at any of these online colleges as a homeschooler or homeschool graduate, please tell us about your experience!