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A Catholic education provides students with so much more than just a degree. Steeped in the centuries-old tradition of enhancing the erudite heritage of American teaching with the spiritually-guided intellectual inquiry of the Jesuit tradition, Catholic universities and colleges educate the whole person with curricula serving the mind, body, and soul. Guided by the understanding that faith and reason do not conflict, Catholic colleges welcome students into communities that emphasize scholarship, fellowship, and service.

Jesuit institutions offer top-quality instruction in liberal arts, healthcare, business studies, and much more. Many Catholic colleges have small class sizes, giving students opportunities for targeted, personalized guidance. A number of Catholic institutions also offer undergraduate and master’s degree programs that can be completed entirely online. Students with busy schedules can enjoy unrestricted flexibility to learn from the comfort of their home or office, often at lower tuition rates, while still immersing themselves in the Jesuit values that makes online Catholic colleges so special.

Below, we’ve ranked the country’s best online Catholic colleges. As part of our list, we have included noteworthy undergraduate living experiences and reviewed relevant statistical information for each school under consideration. If you are considering attending a Catholic college, and you value the online format, be sure to take a look at these top schools.

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

Georgetown University

 5/594.91%Washington, DC


Respected Catholic college, Georgetown University, offers a number of online degree programs through its School of Continuing Studies, including a number of master’s programs. Popular graduate-level degrees include:

  • Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Technology Management
  • Sports Industry Management

Online courses are taught asynchronously and delivered through the Canvas learning management platform. Flexible program formats allow students to enroll full-time or part-time, which is convenient for working professionals or other students with dynamic schedules. Classes encourage collaboration between peers and instructors, and often include group discussions.

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Villanova University

 5/589.37%Villanova, PA


Established in 1842, this Roman Catholic university has a history of producing high achieving graduates, which includes working students and nontraditional learners. For those in need of a flexible schedule, Villanova University offers several certificates, bachelor's and master's degrees online.

Students can study subjects such as public administration, media and technology or the RN to BSN program. More than 25% of the students who study online take advantage of Villanova's multiple graduate degree and certificate programs. Streaming video, mp4 audio lectures and an always-accessible classroom make learning at this top-tier Catholic college accessible and immersive.

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Gonzaga University

 5/583.15%Spokane, WA


Gonzaga strives to meet the needs of students in the 21st century, and that ambition is reflected in the school’s suite of online Catholic college offerings. Gonzaga offers a variety of graduate programs, including organizational leadership, nursing, transmission and distribution engineering, and more. The school also encourages distance learners to study abroad.

All of Gonzaga’s online programs are taught on a flexible schedule. Lectures are asynchronous but structured, and students should expect to adhere to set deadlines on exams and assignments. Gonzaga also offers a robust learning tools to keep students engaged. Students may collaborate with peers and instructors through online software like Go To Meeting, Google Docs, or Back Channel Discussions (which allows peers to watch a film and discuss it in real-time).

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Loyola Marymount University

 5/577.76%Los Angeles, CA


LMU currently offers one fully online program, an online master of arts in reading instruction, which is a two-year program that prepares future educators to teach diverse populations. This online Catholic college program features small class sizes and asynchronous courses. Professors encourage collaboration, and may require distance learners to work on group projects. At LMU, all students have 24/7 access to digital library resources and the School of Education’s iTunes archive, which includes podcasts of speakers, workshops, and conferences.

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University of San Diego

 5/576.73%San Diego, CA


USD offers four graduate Catholic online degrees, along with several online certifications and professional degree programs. Master’s programs include:

  • Education
  • Cyber Security
  • Health Informatics
  • Law Enforcement & Public Safety

Online programs are identical in content and instruction as those offered to residential students. Most programs are designed to be completed in less than two years.

Courses are taught asynchronously and offered through the Blackboard learning platform. Online learners interact with other students from around the world through discussion forums, chats, and email. Some online classes are entirely self-paced: in these courses, students have six months from the time of enrollment to complete all assignments and exams. As part of the program, distance learners must complete a required online orientation course one to two weeks before starting school to review the online classroom format.

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Duquesne University

 5/577.96%Pittsburgh, PA

Duquesne University offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs both on campus and online. The college is consistently recognized as a high-value Catholic institute. As the nation's exclusive Spiritan university, the college emphasizes the importance of service to the needy, justice and spreading a message of acceptance and worship. Duquesne University is military-friendly and offers students fully online, hybrid and accelerated degree and certificate programs. Some of the popular majors available include leadership, education and nursing studies. E-learning at Duquesne is collaborative and immersive, rich in multimedia materials and in opportunities to participate.

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Mount Mercy University

 4/571.51%Cedar Rapids, IA

Affordable and flexible learning are tantamount at Mount Mercy University. Over 40% of Mount Mercy's students are nontraditional (ages 25 and older), which is an impressive percentage for any four-year college. MMU is proud to offer two bachelor's degree programs completely online in business and human resource management. The college also offers nine blocks of five-week accelerated courses every year.

The tuition at this highly regarded Midwestern university is one of the lowest in the region for a private, four-year education. There is no application fee to enroll in these online Mount Mercy programs, and it is worth noting that 100% of students at MMU qualify for some form of financial aid during their first year.

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University of Dayton

 4/576.02%Dayton, OH

As Ohio's largest private university, the University of Dayton is a comprehensive Catholic college. The school is also one of only three Marianist universities in the United States. In the spirit of Dayton's tenets of inclusiveness and hospitality, the college offers many online undergraduate and graduate degrees. Distance students can earn their master's degree in communications, engineering and renewable energy, or one of many certificates, bachelor's and master's degrees in education. If time and location permit, e-learners at Dayton are welcome to participate in one of the more than 50 programs of study abroad that the college offers.

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St. Joseph’s College – New York

 4/568.03%Brooklyn, NY

At St. Joseph's College, the student body is diverse and vibrant, with a higher than average percentage of nontraditional students. Founded in 1916, St. Joseph's has locations in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York. The university offers hands-on courses, an expert faculty with modest class sizes and flexible programs both on and off campus.

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Creighton University

 5/577.85%Omaha, NE

Learners at Creighton Catholic University are part of a tradition that dates back to 1878; the school is Nebraska's oldest private religious university. Creighton has been named #1 among U.S. News and World Report's Best Colleges in America for over a decade. Some of Creighton's most popular online degree programs are graduate studies that include master's degrees in ministry and nursing, as well as bachelor's and doctoral degrees and professional certificates. Tuition at Creighton is affordable, too, at just $400 a credit hour, which is competitive with national averages for larger, public universities.

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Catholic University of America

 5/566.59%Washington, DC

The Catholic University of America offers several online graduate degrees. Current programs include a master’s and doctorate in nursing and a master’s in social work; the school plans to add more online options in the next year or two. Online courses are taught asynchronously with set deadlines for assignments and exams, and classes are structured similarly to residential offerings. Online classes are taught by the same faculty members that teach on campus, and feature the same assignments and projects.

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Lewis University

 4/562.46%Romeoville, IL

Lewis University’s online degree programs feature a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. Many of the school’s programs are also available in an accelerated format. Bachelor’s programs include business administration, criminal justice, and information technology management. Popular graduate programs include master’s degrees in aviation & transportation and data science, and a doctorate in nursing. Lewis is sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, an international Roman Catholic teaching order.

All online students access their course materials on Blackboard, and submit assignments TurnItIn, an online peer review and plagiarism prevention platform. Students also receive a free account for, which features over 200,000 online training videos. All courses at this online Catholic college are taught asynchronously. Distance learners are assigned a dedicated Student Services Coordinator to help them acclimate to the online format.

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Canisius College

 5/567.91%Buffalo, NY

Students will find several innovative online graduate degree options from Canisius, including master’s programs in anthrozoology, community and school health, and applied nutrition. Canisius takes pride in delivering the same quality education to distance learners and residential students alike. Distance programs that require an internship can be completed near the student’s home; students work with faculty members to make all necessary arrangements.

Canisius uses the D2L learning management system to facilitate its online classes. Most materials are included with online courses, but course textbooks can also be shipped from the campus bookstore as needed. Canisius keeps courses small, with a cap of 12 students per class to encourage engagement and small-group discussions. While online courses are sometimes condensed into shorter periods than the traditional 15-week schedule, classes will cover the same material regardless of the course’s length. Students this online Catholic college have access to a virtual library, an online writing tutor program, and tutorials introducing them to the software they’ll use online.

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Fordham University

 5/580.02%Bronx, NY

Fordham’s online graduate degree programs are geared towards clergy and others working in ministry. At Fordham, online students can pursue several master’s degrees, including:

  • Religious Education Youth and Young Adult Ministry
  • Pastoral Care
  • Pastoral Studies
  • Christian Spirituality

Students may also pursue a hybrid doctoral program in ministry and online certificates in Christian spirituality, faith formation, and Latino ministry.

Classes are available through Blackboard. Coursework requires students to watch recorded faculty lectures and to complete assigned readings and written reflections. Each program includes only major-based coursework, and some degrees only require students to take 12 classes. Distance learners must also complete comprehensive exams, a capstone project, or master’s thesis to graduate.

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University of Holy Cross

 2/528.71%New Orleans, LA

The University of Holy Cross will celebrate its centennial in 2016. The school has grown from a two-year women's college to what Carnegie classifies as a four-year master's college and university. Ninety percent of students at the University of Holy Cross, of whom most are still primarily female, are awarded some form of scholarship. Couple this with the college's already low tuition, and the University of Holy Cross offers students an affordable professional degree.

Nursing students looking for some flexible career advancement might be interested in UHC's RN to BSN program, available completely online.

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The College of Saint Scholastica

 5/561.39%Duluth, MN

The College of St. Scholastica offers one of the largest nursing programs in Minnesota. Adult students and nontraditional learners make up more than a quarter of the student body here. The College of St. Scholastica offers evening, weekend and online programs to its students. Scholars can earn a degree in business administration, healthcare leadership or pursue the school's RN to BSN accelerated program. CSS also offers certificate programs aimed at professional development and career training, some of which can be completed in only six weeks.

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University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne

 4/549.69%Fort Wayne, IN

Many of the programs offered online at the USF can be completed in as few as 12 months, which makes them ideal for working students. One fifth of the student body was made up of mature learners at Saint Francis in 2013; it is with these busy students in mind that the university developed five master's programs available completely online. Students can earn a virtual graduate degree in environmental health, leadership, healthcare administration or an online MBA with a traditional or a sustainability focus. The school also offers an RN to BSN program for nursing students. USF's online and adult education tuition is competitively low, at just $400 per credit hour for undergraduate studies, and only $450 per credit hour for graduate degree programs.

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Franciscan University of Steubenville

 4/576.36%Steubenville, OH

Franciscan offers three online graduate degree programs: an MA in catechetics and evangelization, an MBA, and an MS in science education. Online programs are identical in content to those taught on campus, and are integrated with a Christian worldview and a focus on ethics and social duty. Programs are designed for recent graduates and working professionals alike. Financial aid is available to students who take at least two classes per semester.

The virtual classroom is accessible through Blackboard. Instructors use video lectures, podcasts, wikis, social media, and other collaborative learning tools to disseminate course content. Classes may also feature talks from guest speakers. These graduate programs require students to take 16 or 17 classes to graduate, and most full-time students can complete their degree in less than 24 months.

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Ursuline College

 4/543.64%Pepper Pike, OH

Although Ursuline does not currently have any fully online Catholic degree programs, the college does offer more than 50 online and hybrid courses. Online graduate courses are also offered to teachers pursuing or renewing their teaching certification. Ursuline was founded by the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland in 1871, and was the first women’s college in Ohio (women currently account for 73 percent of the undergraduate student body).

Ursuline offers online courses through D2L. Web-based classes are usually five-weeks long and generally meet once a week; all other assignments are completed based on the student’s schedule. Popular online courses include microcomputer applications, women and the law, and microeconomics.

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Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

 4/564.6%Winona, MN

Saint Mary’s offers an accelerated online bachelor’s degree in nursing, as well as a number of online graduate degree programs. The online Catholic college offers an MEd in learning design & technology, an MA in health & human services, and an accelerated MBA, among other degrees. Programs are flexible and designed for busy, working professionals.

Online classes are taught asynchronously, with scheduled deadlines for assignments and exams. All distance students receive an iPad containing the university’s mobile learning platform. Students also use collaborative tools, such as Skype and Facetime, to complete group projects. Distance learners are offered the same support services as residential students. Many graduate programs can be completed in two years or less.

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Madonna University

 3/550.28%Livonia, MI

Madonna is one of the nation’s largest Franciscan universities, and the school recently launched several online degree programs. Madonna offers a fully online MA in online teaching and eLearning, along with hybrid RN-to-BSN and doctor of nursing practice programs. The school also features an innovative online graduate certificate in bereavement, where students are taught how to enhance the quality of life for individuals in hospice care. Online classes are accessible through Blackboard. Registered students can take a free two-hour workshop on how to succeed in an online course prior to each semester.

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Edgewood College

 4/562.08%Madison, WI

Edgewood offers online graduate programs in business, education, bilingual/ESL education, and nursing. The online Catholic college strives to replicate the high quality of its traditional programs in all online classes. To that end, online courses feature small class sizes, the same on-campus faculty, and a values-driven curriculum grounded in the college’s Dominican roots. Edgewood is also a member of the Online Learning Consortium, an organization that establishes quality standards in online learning.

Edgewood delivers online classes through Blackboard. Courses are taught asynchronously in eight-week blocks. Applicants are accepted into school two weeks before the start of each session. Some courses may require one or two face-to-face class sessions during the program, and students should check their degree requirements for more details.

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Assumption College

 5/570.46%Worcester, MA

Assumption offers several accelerated online and hybrid degree programs. Students can pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree online in most majors, including business, the humanities, and social sciences. A variety of concentrations are available for each major category. Though a private college, Assumption’s tuition is competitive with local state universities.

Students may be able to transfer up to 75 credits towards any bachelor’s degree, but must take at least 15 courses at Assumption to graduate. Though online courses are asynchronous, students are expected to take part in weekly discussion boards and to communicate with peers in chat forums as needed.

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Misericordia University

 4/571.16%Dallas, PA

Misericordia University aims to deliver a quality education and cultivate an environment for students that engenders the values of service, hospitality, justice and mercy. Almost one-fifth of the students at MU are nontraditional learners. These mature or working students can take advantage of MU's completely online certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The college works with students to ensure that they earn appropriate credit for life experiences, and graduates of these online programs rate their experience at Misericordia as exceeding the national standards for satisfaction. MU students can earn a bachelor's, master's and a doctoral degree in leading professional fields like accounting, occupational therapy and business administration online.

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Saint Louis University

 5/571.55%Saint Louis, MO

Saint Louis University is the oldest college west of the Mississippi. Since it was established in 1818, SLU has maintained a strong commitment to research and development. The school's heritage of discovery and excellence has led the college to develop a robust array of online study for busy adults. From certificate to bridge programs, students can earn a degree online or in a blended format. Popular programs for working adults include a bachelor's degree in nursing or aviation, or a master's degree in leadership or analytics.

In 2014, Saint Louis University was named in the top 100 Best Online Bachelor's Programs by U.S. News & World Report. SLU also offers accelerated learning options and tuition discounts exclusive to online and military students.

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Graduates from online Catholic colleges and universities leave school prepared to work in today’s most demanded fields. But, with an education that prioritizes community service and leadership in addition to scholastic achievement, degree holders from Jesuit institutions graduate especially prepared for fulfilling careers that positively reshape the world. Some examples include:

Immigration: Catholic Charities provide life-changing services to immigrants and refugees. The organization has helped thousands of people legally reunite with their families, obtain proper work authorization, and prepare for their citizenship tests.

Refugee assistance: Jesuit Refugee Service advocates for just and generous policies and programs benefiting victims of forced displacement and exile. Operating in over 45 countries, the service provides programs in education, health services, and social assistance for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Hunger relief: Founded in the late 1960’s as the St. Mary’s Food Bank, today Feeding America is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Its network of 200 food banks feeds 46 million people at risk of hunger, including 12 million children and seven million seniors.

Multidisciplinary humanitarian aid: Catholic Relief Services helps impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas, working in the spirit of Catholic social teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. Services include access to healthcare, education, and microfinance, all of which have helped millions of people in some of the most impoverished places on the planet.

These are just four examples of the intellectually stimulating, personally rewarding careers that powerfully impact people’s day-to-day lives. An education in the Jesuit tradition connects students with charities like these as well as other influential posts and organizations while they pursue their diploma. Ultimately, the best online Catholic colleges offer students the opportunity to obtain a holistic education, preparing them to impact the world through their work and values.

Original Research

Best Catholic Colleges of 2015
Rank Name Location
1 Villanova University Villanova, PA
2 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
3 University of Dayton Dayton, OH
4 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
5 Saint Louis University St. Louis, MO
6 St. John Fisher College Rochester, New York
7 Mount Mercy University Cedar Rapids, Iowa
8 University of St. Francis-Joliet Joliet, IL
9 The College of Saint Scholastica Duluth, M
10 Mount St. Mary’s College Los Angeles, CA
11 Creighton University Omaha, N
12 Saint Francis University Loretto, PA
13 Gwynedd Mercy University Gwynedd Valley, PA
14 University of Saint Francis-Fort Wayne Fort Wayne, IN
15 Loras College Dubuque, IA
16 Our Lady of Holy Cross College New Orleans, LA
17 Saint Joseph’s University Philadelphia, PA
18 St. Thomas University-Florida Miami Gardens, FL
19 Fairfield University Fairfield, CT
20 Regis University Denver, CO
21 St. Joseph's College - New York Patchogue, NY
22 King’s College Wilkes-Barre, PA
23 Benedictine University Lisle, IL
24 Marylhurst University Marylhurst, OR
25 Neumann University Aston, PA
26 Wheeling Jesuit University Wheeling, WV
27 DeSales University Center Valley, PA
28 Fontbonne University St. Louis, MO
29 Caldwell University Caldwell, NJ
30 La Salle University Philadelphia, PA
31 Sacred Heart University Fairfield, CT
32 Gannon University Erie, PA
33 Saint Peter’s University Jersey City, NJ
34 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
35 St. John’s University Queens, New York
36 Mount St. Joseph University Cincinnati, OH
37 Marian University – Wisconsin Fond du Lac, WI
38 Viterbo University La Crosse, WI
39 La Roche College Pittsburgh, PA
40 Immaculata University Immaculata, PA
41 University of Mary Bismarck, ND
42 Albertus Magnus College New Haven, CT
43 University of Saint Mary Leavenworth, KS
44 Saint Joseph's College of Maine Standish, ME
45 Cardinal Stritch University Milwaukee, WI
46 Mount Aloysius College Cresson, PA
47 Presentation College Aberdeen, SD
48 Siena Heights University Adrian, MI
49 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL
50 Chaminade University of Honolulu Honolulu, HI