2021 Best Online Colleges in the Southwest

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By Michelle R. Kelley

Published on July 30, 2021

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Major education hubs located in the Southwest boast a variety of options for students to explore. For example, some of the top degrees offered by colleges in Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma are in engineering, healthcare services, accounting, and computer science. The Southwest is also home to several Tribal Colleges and Universities, with Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma each hosting at least two of these schools. These institutions foster American Indian cultures, languages, and traditions.

Over the past decade, states in the Southwest have made an effort to grow their technology, renewable energy, and aerospace and defense industries. In addition, a recent study listed Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma among the top 20 states to do business in the U.S., making these areas popular destinations for students seeking educational opportunities in STEM.

Compare the colleges ranked below to explore what this region has to offer future students.

What Are the 2021 Best Online Colleges in the Southwest? Here Are Our Top 10:

Ranking compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1 University of Denver Denver, CO
#2 New Mexico State University-Main Campus Las Cruces, NM
#3 University of New Mexico-Main Campus Albuquerque, NM
#4 Colorado State University-Fort Collins Fort Collins, CO
#5 Regis University Denver, CO
#6 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
#7 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, CO
#8 Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus Portales, NM
#9 Arizona Christian University Glendale, AZ
#10 Arizona State University-Skysong Scottsdale, AZ
How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

2021 Best Accredited Online Colleges in the Southwest

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University of Denver View School Profile Denver, CO

DU is among the best colleges in the Southwest and offers dozens of online degree programs. These include bachelor's completion programs for students returning to college after taking time off. Transfer students can choose to major in one of six subjects at DU, including communication arts, global studies, and health administration.

DU offers three formats for online learners: 100% online, hybrid, and "hyflex." Hyflex courses meet online and in person simultaneously, letting students choose whether to come to campus or attend class virtually. DU's online classes are either synchronous or asynchronous, depending on the course.

To apply to DU's online bachelor's completion programs, prospective students should submit a personal statement, resume, and official transcripts from each postsecondary school they've attended. Undergraduate tuition for students completing their bachelor's degree online is $698 per credit.

New Mexico State University-Main Campus View School Profile Las Cruces, NM

The U.S. Department of Education has designated NMSU as a top Hispanic-Serving Institution. The university — based in Las Cruces, New Mexico — is also among the best online colleges in the Southwest. NMSU offers over 70 online programs.

NMSU students can earn associate or bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, education, science, and several other fields. Students returning to college can enroll in bachelor's degree completion programs in geomatics and public health.

NMSU offers both 100% online and hybrid programs. Standard tuition is $380 per credit for undergraduates studying online. Active-duty military members pay $250 per credit. Prospective first-year undergraduates must submit either their ACT or SAT score.

University of New Mexico-Main Campus View School Profile Albuquerque, NM

Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, UNM offers 30 online degree programs. The school also offers accelerated programs. These accelerated online programs include a BA in Native American studies, a bachelor of business administration, and a BS in radiologic science.

Many of UNM's online courses are offered entirely online. However, some programs may include on-campus requirements. Prospective first-year students must submit high school transcripts. ACT and SAT scores are not required.

Students enrolled in accelerated online programs pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. These accelerated online programs cost approximately $400-$600 per credit. In contrast, undergraduates in non-accelerated online programs pay standard tuition rates, with state residents paying less than students from out of state.

Colorado State University-Fort Collins View School Profile Fort Collins, CO

Prospective students seeking a fully online college experience in the Southwest can consider CSU in Fort Collins, Colorado. All of CSU's online bachelor's programs can be completed entirely online, except for the business administration/accounting program. That program includes on-campus requirements. Additional programs include a BA in interdisciplinary liberal arts, a BS in fire and emergency services administration, and a BS in agricultural business.

Among its many honors, CSU has earned a platinum designation from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The university also offers an online BS in environmental and natural resource economics.

Undergraduate tuition for CSU's online programs costs $476 per credit plus fees, and it is the same for Colorado residents and out-of-state learners. Undergraduate applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA.

Regis University View School Profile Denver, CO

Regis is a Jesuit institution in Denver, Colorado. The university oversees more than 120 programs, offering over half of them either entirely or partially online. Online options include a BS in cybersecurity and an accelerated BA in communications. Regis also features online certificate programs, including a certificate in applied craft brewing.

Tuition varies by program, although many programs cost $475-$555 per credit. Undergraduate degrees require 120 credits of coursework.

Admission requirements also vary. Applicants to Regis' online undergraduate programs may need to submit academic transcripts, resumes, and essays. Regis reviews applications on a rolling basis but encourages students to apply by priority deadlines.

University of Arizona View School Profile Tucson, AZ

Located in Tucson, Arizona, UofA houses one of the best accredited online colleges in the Southwest. Additionally, in 2020, PayScale found that UofA graduates earned the highest average salaries among alumni of Arizona's public universities.

UofA offers over 40 bachelor's degrees online, including a BS in emergency medical services, a BA in rural leadership and renewal, and a bachelor of general studies in sports and society. Most online programs can be completed without ever setting foot on campus, although some programs have in-person requirements.

Online courses run 7.5 weeks and are administered through D2L, UofA's online learning management system. Prospective students must submit an application and academic transcripts. Some programs have additional admission requirements.

Undergraduate tuition ranges from $500-$610 per credit, plus fees. Online students pay the same tuition rate no matter where they live.

University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus View School Profile Denver, CO

CU Online — the online branch of the University of Colorado — provides access to a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. Several of these programs are offered through CU Denver, including a BA in ethnic studies and a BS in business administration. Current and future nurses can earn their bachelor of science in nursing online through CU Denver's Anschutz Medical Campus.

The university's online BS and BA programs require 120 credits of coursework. Tuition rates vary by major, but several programs charge $330 per credit for Colorado residents and $444 for out-of-state learners. The ADN-to-BSN and RN-to-BSN programs cost $400 per credit for state residents and $530 per credit for nonresidents.

CU Online students gain access to support staff, including enrollment navigators, academic advisors, and student success coaches. The university also provides students with 24/7 library support.

Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus View School Profile Portales, NM

ENMU offers over 30 online degree programs. Some programs allow students to choose which type of bachelor's degree they earn. For example, aviation science majors can choose to earn either a bachelor of science or a bachelor of applied arts and sciences.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, in-state online students paid $289 per credit, while out-of-state online learners paid $374 per credit. Additionally, through ENMU's dual-enrollment program, high school students can take classes for free. Students can earn their degrees either entirely or partially online. They can access online courses live or on demand.

Prospective students can submit a free application online or by mail. Applicants must also submit academic transcripts and their ACT or SAT scores.

Arizona Christian University View School Profile Glendale, AZ

Located in Glendale, Arizona, ACU is an evangelical Christian university with a liberal arts focus. Students can enroll in one of ACU's 14 online degree and certificate programs. Online options include a BS in Christian ministries and a BA in biblical and theological studies.

Tuition for ACU's online courses costs $450 per credit. Students also pay a $45 technology and resource fee for each course they enroll in and a $200 graduation fee.

Prospective students must submit an application and academic transcripts. Applicants are also required to answer questions about their relationship with Jesus and be evangelical believers in the Chrisitan faith. Upon admission, ACU assigns each student an enrollment management specialist to help them navigate college requirements.

Arizona State University-Skysong View School Profile Scottsdale, AZ

Located in Phoenix, Arizona, ASU boasts over 200 online certificate and degree programs, including roughly 130 bachelor's programs. Students can specialize within broad areas of study. For example, ASU offers five majors in biological sciences, including biology and society, conservation biology and ecology, and biomedical sciences.

ASU offers courses that take place 100% online. Students can participate in hands-on virtual labs and take tests remotely using online proctoring. ASU's courses also feature accessibility tools, such as transcriptions of recorded video lectures.

Tuition for undergraduate online courses costs $561-$661 per credit for most programs, plus fees. However, courses in the RN-to-BSN program cost $474 per credit, plus fees. Students must meet core competencies in math, English, and other subjects to be eligible for admission. In addition, first-year applicants must submit their ACT or SAT scores.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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