Best Online Colleges in Colorado

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Colorado is one of 16 states in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), an institution created to extend and improve educational access for students. Residents of Colorado and other WICHE states are eligible for reduced tuition and state reciprocity agreements that allow students to pursue educational programs offered outside their home state.

Accredited programs are reviewed and approved by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. With more than 60 online colleges in Colorado—including multi-district, single district, and charter schools—students can find a variety of educational opportunities.

Like most states, Colorado works to augment local higher education options. With hundreds of thousands of residents seeking accredited degrees, the state has strived to make college more accessible. Between 2006 and 2011, public four-year colleges and universities in Colorado reported a 23.6 percent increase in enrollment, partially due to an increase in the availability of distance programs.

At the same time, tuition has risen steadily while state appropriations have dropped. The climate has encouraged many Colorado residents to pursue their degree online, where school tends to be more affordable. While online and distance learning programs are often available nationwide, in-state online programs may offer reduced tuition and improved access to resources. In some programs, students may have the option of taking courses both online and residentially.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description

Colorado State University – Global Campus

 2/5N/AGreenwood Village, CO


Colorado State has offered distance learning courses for the past 45 years through its Global Campus. All CSU branches use the Global Campus to facilitate their online programs. At CSU, distance learners take the same courses as residential students, and can pursue associate, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees, along with fully accredited professional certificates.

Most courses are taught entirely asynchronously, meaning that information is archived and students can watch lectures at their convenience. Some distance courses require synchronous participation; professors leading online classes clearly explain their course’s format in the syllabus.

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University of Colorado – Denver

 2/539.96%Denver, CO


CU Denver was one of the first accredited online colleges in the state, and the school now awards more graduate degrees than any other in the state. Students can take more than 450 online courses and pursue 21 online and hybrid degrees. Classes are taught asynchronously, and follow the traditional CU Denver semester schedule.

The vast majority of CU Denver’s students are happy with their online experience – 90 percent give the school and A or B in satisfaction surveys. The school also allows prospective distance learners to speak to their online expert, who can walk them through how the online format works

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Regis University

 5/559.05%Denver, CO


Regis, the only Jesuit college in Colorado, allows students to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and behavioral sciences. Professional certificate programs are also available online. Courses are offered in either five-week or eight-week terms, and they run concurrently with classes taught on campus. Classes are taught asynchronously; students are still expected to complete assignments and tests on a predetermined schedule.

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University of Denver

 5/576.48%Denver, CO


DU delivers its online courses through its University College, which includes certificate offerings, bachelor’s programs, and master’s degrees. Classes are taught asynchronously, but students follow the same ten-week schedule as residential students. Bachelor’s degrees are offered in:

  • Communication Arts
  • Global Studies
  • Leadership and Organization Studies
  • Environmental Studies
  • Global Commerce and Transportation
  • Information Technology

Students earn degrees that are equivalent to those handed out to on-campus learners. As is the case with many colleges in Colorado, tech support is available to students 24/7.

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University of Northern Colorado

 2/546.35%Greeley, CO


UNC has offered distance learning programs or classes for more than a century. Today, these courses are taught through the school’s Extended Campus program, where students can pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in more than 50 fields of study. Courses are asynchronous but usually adhere to a weekly schedule. Class sizes are small, which is conducive to allowing distance learners to foster lasting relationships with professors and peers.

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University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

 2/547.35%Colorado Springs, CO

UCCS offers five undergraduate degree programs and twelve graduate degrees and certificates online through its Connect program. Students can pursue bachelor’s degrees in business, criminal justice, health care sciences, nursing, and sociology. Graduate degrees and certificates are available in business, criminal justice, education, engineering, nursing, and public administration. Most classes are offered asynchronously.

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Colorado Christian University

 4/542.26%Lakewood, CO

CCU’s college of adult and graduate studies offers distance learners the opportunity to pursue associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, along with nearly 20 certificate programs across a range of disciplines. One of the only Christian colleges in Colorado, CCU offers a bachelor’s and a master’s program in biblical studies; the school also awards a master’s in theological studies. Courses are taught asynchronously, and follow the same schedule as residential students adhere to. Courses are 5-10 weeks long; students pay the same tuition for an online class as they would for a residential offering.

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Adams State University


Adams State has a long history of offering distance learning programs, particularly in education. The school offers associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs in the discipline, along with a K-12 teaching certification. In recent years, Adams State has expanded its online offerings significantly. From anthropology to women’s studies, the school boasts an array of two- and four-year programs, all of which are taught with student flexibility in mind.

ASU has partnered with several other institutions to broaden its appeal. Distance learners can take courses at the American Museum of Natural History, for example, or study education with the Public Broadcasting Systems Teacherline. Additionally, students do not have to apply for admission to take individual online classes, which is unusual among similar programs.

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Colorado Mesa University

 2/533.13%Grand Junction, CO

Prospective students interested in online education at CMU have three format options: they can take online courses, web-enhanced classes, or enroll in a hybrid class. The Grand Junction-based college offers five online programs. These include bachelor’s degrees in nursing, sports management, radiologic technology, and elementary education, and an associate degree in social science. Classes are deadline-based and follow CMU’s semester schedule. There is no standard online class format; check with professors to learn whether a specific course is offered synchronously or asynchronously.

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Johnson & Wales University – Denver

 4/554.5%Denver, CO

JWU features several web-based options through its college of online education. Students can pursue 16 bachelor’s and 11 master’s degrees in business and hospitality—including an innovative baking and pastry science program. Courses at JWU are taught asynchronously, and feature the same material found in residential courses. Students are advised that a typical term requires approximately ten hours of coursework per week.

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More About Online Colleges in Colorado

There are 55 different colleges in Colorado offering some form of higher education online. These range from associate degrees and isolated course offerings to doctoral degree programs. According to anNCES report from 2012, 75% of online students are undergraduates and, surprisingly, over half of distance learners live outside of Colorado. With access to in-state tuition, online students from all over the country can get a great education at an affordable price from an online college in Colorado. Nearly 20% of postsecondary students in Colorado are enrolled in exclusively online programs.

Browse our list of the best online colleges in Colorado for more insight into distance learning programs in this state.

NCES Report

According to the same 2012 NCES report linked above, over 70,000 students enrolled in colleges in Colorado were taking classes exclusively online. Broken down further, the report also found that:

  • 74% of online students were undergraduates
  • 20.7% of online students attended a four-year public university
  • 47.1% of students were attending private, for-profit schools
  • 40.6% of online students lived in Colorado

Online schools help students earn the degree or certification they need to advance their careers, without disrupting their professional or personal lives. Colorado’s online schools offer working professionals a top education and many charge distance learners lower tuition rates than residential students. The affordability and convenience of online education have made web programs more popular in recent years, as students feel increasingly comfortable pursuing their degree online.