Exploring the Advantages of the Top Online Universities and Top Online Colleges

Shopping, meeting people, working. Pretty much everything can be done online today, so why not attend college online?

More and more people are opting to attend online college classes and get online college degrees, and it’s for good reason.

There are many advantages of online college classes and attending college online.

Best Online Colleges

Award Emblem: Top 6 Best Online Colleges

Some of the benefits of the best online universities include:

  • When you attend college online, you have a flexible schedule. This is great if you’re an adult who wants to continue your education or earn your degree while working full-time and managing a family.
  • If you choose to participate in programs offered by top online colleges, you have more options than you might otherwise in terms of the school you’ll attend and the courses you’ll take.For example, if you live in a small town where there is no university, you can still get an excellent education from attending college online or participating in online college classes.
  • Online college degrees tend to be less expensive to obtain than traditional in-person degrees. Not only is the actual cost of education generally less expensive, but you also save on the cost of things such as room and board and transportation.When you attend top online colleges and top online universities, you can often get an excellent quality of education for a fraction of the cost.

These are just a few of the many advantages to attending college online.

The following list of online colleges and online college reviews focuses not just on online-only schools, but also traditional universities that have some of the best online college degrees and online college classes available.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Online Universities

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the university names below to go directly to the detailed review section for that school):

Top 6 Best Online Colleges | Brief Comparison

Best Online Colleges

Cost Per Credit Hour or Course

Key Features

Colorado Technical University Online$325-$598 (per credit hour)Offers more than 100 degree programs at varying levels
Northern Arizona University$1,221 (undergraduate, 3 credit hour course)

$1,392 (graduate 3 credit hour course)

Features a personalized, self-paced learning option for online students
Penn State World Campus$542 per credit (for fewer than 12 credits per semester)

For 12 or more credits per semester flat rate of $6,587

Degrees and programs are the same as what’s offered on the Penn State Campus
St. Xavier UniversityRanges depending on program from $720 per credit hour to $975Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as having one of the best online graduate nursing programs
Temple UniversityDepends on the programHas the Office of Digital Education to provide support services to online students
University of Florida Distance Learning$3,876 (total cost for 2016-17 for online undergrad student)Top-ranked in terms of value and academic programs by outlets like Forbes and MONEY
Table: Top 6 Best Online Universities | Above list is sorted alphabetically 

How Should You Choose the Best Online Colleges?

While there are plenty of advantages to attending online college and taking online college classes, you should choose schools wisely. There have been instances in recent years where online colleges have ended up being fraudulent, and students need to do their research when they are comparing the top online universities.

Even if online colleges aren’t necessarily defrauding students, they may put profit over their best interests, which can be problematic as well, and lead to wasted time and money on the part of students.

First and foremost, the best online colleges will be accredited. Accreditation signifies that a school or the online college degrees they offer meet certain standards, and it is also often something that’s important to employers when you start to look for jobs in your field.

College Online

Image Source: Top Online Colleges

Another consideration to keep in mind when comparing the top online universities is whether or not the credits you earn will be transferable in the future. For example, you may start your education by attending college online so you can save money, and then if your goal is to attend a traditional, in-person university, you’ll need those credits to easily transfer.

Also important when choosing the top online colleges: do they offer a high level of student and academic support? Just as students who attend a traditional, in-person educational program need assistance, so do online students. For example, will you be able to receive academic counseling or guidance if you need it? What about career services?

Finally, when you’re comparing colleges online and online college degrees, think about the completion rate for graduates. If there are low completion rates or even low employment rates for graduates of a particular program of the online school you’re considering, it could be wise to look elsewhere.

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AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology

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Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Online Colleges

Below, please find the detailed review of each of the best online colleges and best online universities. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these top online colleges to score so well in our selection ranking.

Colorado Technical University Review

Colorado Technical University is ranked as one of the Best Online Information Technology Programs by U.S. News and World Report. While you can participate in entirely online college degrees programs at CTU, if you live near Denver or Colorado Springs, you can also take a combination of online and in-person classes.

Online programs offered by CTU include bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate programs, and in total this pick for one of the best online universities offers more than 100 graduate and undergrad programs. Other areas CTU ranks well from U.S. News include student engagement and student services and technology.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Online Universities

The following are some of the top reasons CTU is included on this ranking of good online colleges and the best online universities.


In terms of choosing top online universities to include on this list of online college schools, as mentioned above, accreditation was very important. CTU is accredited as a university by the Higher Learning Commission.

CTU is also accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and the Project Management Institute Global Accreditation Center.

Degree Programs

CTU, ranked on this list as one of the best online universities, offers a wide variety of online college degrees. More than 100 degree programs are available in the following areas of study:

  • Business and management
  • Engineering and computer science
  • Healthcare
  • Nursing
  • Information technology
  • Project management
  • Security studies and criminal justice

What’s also great about CTU and one of the biggest reasons they’re included on this ranking of top online universities is their strong student support offered when you attend college online. There is a team of experts at your disposal as a student here, including Admission Advisors, Financial Advisors, a Prior Learning Team, and more.

CTU Fast Track

CTU Fast Track is a unique option available from this pick for one of the best online colleges. With CTU Fast Track, students can earn credit for what they already know, which can save time as they work to earn their degree, and it can also save money.

Fast Track includes modules and exams that are designed to test the existing knowledge of new students, and they can then test out of classes based on that knowledge level. Fast Track exams are available across many of the CTU online college degrees they offer, and they are no additional cost. There is no penalty for exams that a student takes but doesn’t pass.

According to CTU, the fast track program can help students earn their degree up to 30% faster and reduce their tuition costs by up to 30% also. Every test takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to finish, and if a student passes, the credit is applied toward their degree within 24 hours.

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Northern Arizona University Review

Northern Arizona University is a public school, and in general, it’s ranked as a Tier 2 school in the 2017 edition of Best Colleges and National Universities published by U.S. News and World Report. The school itself was founded in 1899, and it also ranks well for its engineering program.

NAU also offers what they call the NAU-Extended Campuses, which include options for accredited and completely online college degrees. In addition to programs offered exclusively in-person or exclusively online, NAU also offers options to complete programs both online and in-person.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Online Universities

Primary reasons NAU is part of this ranking of top online colleges and online college reviews are detailed below.

Personalized Learning

There’s a lot of flexibility when you attend NAU, ranked as one of the best online colleges, and they really feature options that speak to the individual needs of students. One option is called their Personalized Learning degree programs. These are self-paced and allow students to earn their bachelor’s degree online, at the pace that’s right for them.

This program includes no set classes or schedules, and it’s competency based. It’s based on what students already know, and the method of learning that works best for them.

In addition, there are course options where students log in and attend class at set times, and these include discussion participation, presentations, lectures, and more.

Resources and Support

Another reason NAU is part of this list of the top online colleges is because of their robust resources and support offered to students who attend college online. For example, the Student Technology Center provides constant IT support during the Fall and Spring semesters, and daytime-hour support for summer students.

The NAU Cline Library provides access to students online and live chat with librarians, while the NAU Student Learning Centers can connect students with online tutors if they need extra help in a course.

Degree Options

The NAU-Extended Campuses offer more than 80 online degree program options, and variety and choices in terms of programs were also key considerations when ranking the top online colleges.

Available degrees include bachelor’s and master’s degrees in arts and humanities, business and administration, computing and technology, education and counseling, health professionals, math and science, and social sciences and criminal justice.

Online College Classes

Image Source: NAU

These programs are accredited, and many even feature additional accreditation.

Some of the specific programs of the 121 entirely online degrees available from NAU, one of the top online universities, include:

  • Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Master of Administration
  • Master of Education
  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice

Penn State World Campus Review

Penn State is a well-known university that ranks well in a variety of areas, and they also offer the opportunity to earn a degree from their institution online, through the Penn State World Campus. The goal with Penn State World Campus is to provide an experience and program that’s essentially identical to what you would receive on campus, with the exception of the setting where you learn.

Penn State has long been recognized as being one of the best online colleges since they were among the first traditional universities to offer such programs. Penn State World has been offering online bachelor’s degrees since 2000, indicating the school’s well-established reputation as one of the top online universities on this list of online colleges.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Top Online Universities

Detailed below are some of the specifics of why Penn State World Campus is on this list of online colleges recognized as the best online colleges.

Accredited Programs

Penn State World Campus describes its programs as “academically rigorous, accredited programs.” Uniquely, the online college classes and online college degrees offered by this selection for one of the best online universities are the same as what’s offered on the Penn State Campus. Students earn a degree that looks exactly like the one received by students who attend on campus, and there’s no indication as to the fact that the degree was obtained online.

The online college classes and online college degrees offered here are accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and many of the individual course of study and programs also have additional accreditations that are unique to them.

Online College Class

Image Source: PSU World Campus

Career Opportunities

Penn State is recognized by many employers as being one of the world’s best universities, and a degree from the World Campus offers that same level of prestige in the eyes of future employers. Penn State has one of the largest alumni networks in the country, and students of the World Campus can choose from more than 125 degree and certificate programs that are the most in-demand.

According to a survey from The Wall Street Journal, Penn State is ranked number one regarding preparing graduates to succeed once they’re hired.

When you’re a student of the World Campus, one of the best online universities, you’ll study a curriculum that’s career-focused and taught by faculty who are the top of their field.

The online environment offered by the World Campus is focused on best practices in online teaching and delivery and is taught by faculty members who are experienced with online learning. It’s also an education that’s about outcomes, rather than simply being about convenience.

Support and Services

As has been highlighted throughout this list of online colleges and online university reviews, student services and support were big considerations in the selection of the best online universities and the top online colleges.

Penn State World Campus features support and services that are on-par with what you would find on the physical campus. There are career academic advisers and help-desk support always available, and some of the Penn State World Campus student services include:

  • New student orientation
  • Academic advising
  • Career counseling and career resources
  • Research library
  • Tutorials
  • Technical support

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St. Xavier University Review

St. Xavier University’s physical campus is located in Chicago, and it’s frequently ranked as one of the best universities in the Midwest. The school was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846, and it excels in terms of producing master’s-level teachers. It also is one of the five biggest nursing schools in the state of Illinois. St. Xavier University has Regional Accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

The reason St. Xavier is included on this ranking of the best online universities and the top online colleges is specifically because of their online MSN program, which is ranked as the top online program by U.S. News and World Report.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Online Universities

Benefits of St. Xavier that led to its inclusion as one of the top online universities on this list of online university reviews are detailed below.

High-Level Degrees

St. Xavier’s online program is unique from the other options offered by the top online colleges and top online universities on this ranking because it focuses on master’s-level programs and post-graduate certificate programs.

The online graduate programs available from St. Xavier’s include:

  • ESL and Bilingual Education Endorsement
  • Educational Technology Integration Certificate
  • Master of Arts Individualized Program in Reading
  • Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education
  • Master of Science in Finance
  • Master of Science in Nursing in Clinical Leadership
  • Master of Science in Nursing in Executive Leadership (Nursing Administration)
  • RN-BSN
  • Nurse Educator Certificate
  • Clinical Leadership Certificate


The following are some recent recognitions for St. Xavier, including its online program offerings:

  • Affordable Colleges ranked SXU as one of the top 40 “Most Affordable Online Colleges in Illinois.”
  • As mentioned above, U.S.  News and World Report ranked SXU as number one for its “2017 Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs.”
  • It was ranked as the seventh most economically diverse school in the Midwest, and the fifth most diverse school in the Midwest.
  • The School of Nursing and the School of Management have some of the most prestigious available accreditations.
  • U.S. News and World Report also ranked SXU as among the top 60 comprehensive Midwest Universities for 2017.

Online Student Experience

Something that was considered heavily when ranking the top online colleges and the best online universities for this list of online colleges and online college reviews was the overall online experience. Like the other names on this list of good online colleges, SXU strives to provide an experience that’s on-par with what on-campus students receive.

Students have access to the same professors and materials that on-campus students have, and the online interface used by the school allows for easy and instant interaction with faculty members and other students.

Temple University Review

Like most of the names on this list of online colleges that rank as being among the best, Temple University isn’t just an online school, but they have a well-ranked and comprehensive online program, which is why they’re included as one of the best online universities. The physical location of Temple is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and it was founded in 1884.

Regarding online college classes and online college degrees, Temple features both undergraduate and graduate options, as well as continuing education programs.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Top Online Universities

The following are specifics of why we ranked Temple as one of the top online universities on this list of online university reviews.


The technology used in an online education setting is incredibly important, and Temple puts a lot of focus on making sure they utilize only the best and most advanced technology, so online students get an excellent quality of education. They combine computers, digital learning tools, and handheld devices to contribute to the best possible experiences and productivity.

The technology employed by Temple in terms of online college classes is also ideal for flexible schedules, and the school works hard to ensure it works properly at all times without disruptions.

For example, once a student is enrolled online, they have access to collaborative platforms like Blackboard and WebEx.

Programs Offered

To narrow down the list of the top online universities and good online colleges, important was consideration of the programs offered. Not only are the programs from Temple incredibly flexible regarding how students learn and participate, but they also have a wide variety of program types.

Temple features fully online accredited graduate programs taught by Temple University faculty in asynchronous, hybrid, and synchronous modes, as well as accredited undergraduate programs.

Temple’s online university also includes certificate programs and non-credit courses designed to enhance the student’s life or perhaps help them advance in their career.

Students can even participate in the popular and well-ranked Bachelors in Business Administration program from the Fox School of Business.


Temple, one of the top online universities on this list of online college schools, has a designated Office of Digital Education. The objective of this office is to provide students with the utmost in flexibility when it comes to their education.

Temple strives to help each student achieve their individual goals, and there are learning support experts who work within academic terms to make sure students are able to do that.

Other specific resources available to online students at Temple, one of the top online universities on this list of online university reviews include:

  • The Writing Center
  • Library Services
  • Center for Learning and Student Success
  • The Career Center
  • Disability Resources and Services

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University of Florida Distance Learning Review

The University of Florida has the Distance Learning division of the school for online learners. The University of Florida offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs online, and the degree is the same as what’s earned on campus. This means students have to adhere to the same high-level admission standards, but they then get access to the same faculty and level of academic excellences UF is known for.

UF Distance Learning also includes pre-licensing, pre-certification, and various continuing education programs for professionals.

Key Factors That Led to Our Ranking of This as One of the Best Online Universities

UF is included on this list of online college reviews as one of the top online universities for reasons like the ones listed below.

Variety of Programs

UF Distance Learning is included on this list of online colleges and online university reviews for many reasons, including their dedication to academic excellence as well as their wide variety of degree and certificate programs available.

UF offers more than 170 online degree and certificate programs, and their online degree programs include bachelor’s, master’s, specialist, and doctorate programs, as well as programs for international students.


According to the University of Florida, their tuition and fees are among the lowest of any public university that’s part of the elite American Association of Universities (AAU). UF is often ranked as one of the best values among universities, including by Kiplinger and Forbes, among other media outlets.

For example, the following are some money-related rankings and distinctions UF has achieved:

  • Number 2 in Kiplinger’s 2016 “Best College Values”
  • Number 3 in Forbes’ “Top 50 Best Value Colleges”
  • Number 15 in MONEY’s “Best Colleges”
  • Number 6 in Washington Monthly’s “Best Bang for the Buck—Southeast”
  • Listed on the Princeton Review’s “Top 50 Colleges That Pay You Back”

UF Distance Learning also has online learning programs approved for Market Rate tuition by the Florida Board of Governors.

Online College Degrees

Image Source: UF


In addition to many rankings related to the cost of attending UF as an on-campus or online student, it was also chosen as part of this list of the best places to attend college online and the leading online college schools because of other rankings for academic excellence, regarding on-campus and online.

For example, U.S. News and World Report ranks UF as Number 14 on its list of Public Universities and Number 11 on their list of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.

UF is also top-ranked on U.S. News & World Report’s list of top-ranked online graduate programs in education and for its online MBA program.

UF is also accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Conclusion—Top 6 Top Online Universities and Top Online Colleges

The opportunity to attend one of the top online colleges or universities included on this list of online college reviews is one that’s full of promise for many students. There is the possibility to learn from some of the world’s leading faculty and collaborate with students from around the world, while still maintaining a flexible schedule and possible working and taking care of a family at the same time.

Some of the things the names on this list of online colleges and online college reviews have in common include:

  • Top-ranked programs
  • The ability to choose from a wide variety of degree and non-degree programs
  • Accreditation and a positive reputation

These are just a few of the many reasons each of the above names on this list of online college reviews and online university reviews are ranked as among the best.

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