Best Catholic Colleges

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by Staff Writers

Published on October 21, 2020

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Online Catholic colleges offer rigorous academic opportunities bolstered by a rich intellectual tradition. While Catholic students may feel especially at home within the history and traditions of these religious institutions, there is no religious requirement for attendance at most schools.

The following guide provides an overview of Catholic colleges and universities. It also lays out the benefits of these schools and dispels misconceptions that may arise regarding these traditionally inclusive institutions.

Below, we have ranked the country's top online Catholic colleges and universities. We generated our list using a comprehensive grading system that takes several factors into account, including course offerings, student outcomes, tuition rates, financial aid opportunities, and online learning experiences.

If you are considering a Catholic college and are interested in an online format, our ranking provides a good starting point for your search.

Top Online Catholic Colleges

Best Catholic Colleges

  1. Villanova University
    Location

    Villanova, PA

    Tuition

    $28184

    Villanova, located in a suburb northwest of Philadelphia, has deep roots in the Augustinian Roman Catholic community. With values on critical thinking, acting compassionately, and serving others, Villanova is one of the top-tier catholic online colleges. Villanova partners with Bisk — a leading facilitator of e-learning programs — to deliver a variety of fully online programs. Online students can work towards undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, or professional certifications within the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of Law, and the College of Professional Studies. Villanova offers a BA in Leadership Studies, BIS General Studies, and a BA in Public Service and Administration. The College of Engineering offers several online master’s degrees, including Biochemical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and others. Their School of Business offers an online MBA. Through Blackboard, online students access streaming videos and MP3s or MP4s of class lectures. Villanova’s online programs are not available in every state.

  2. Georgetown University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $21408

    Georgetown, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States, offers several online master’s degrees within their School of Continuing Studies. Online students can choose between multiple Master of Professional Studies Degrees or a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. Popular programs within the professional studies program include Emergency & Disaster Management, Integrated Marketing Communications, Public Relations & Corporate Communications, Real Estate, Sports Industry Management, and Technology Management. Students at this online catholic college can enroll part-time or full-time. Online classes are delivered through Blackboard and Canvas. Students have access to Zoom, a tool that allows them to conduct online audio and video meetings and group chats. Distance learners who are visiting the downtown D.C. area are welcome to enjoy camps activities for networking and professional development workshops. Many programs require capstone and internship requirements. Students fulfill the theology requirement as part of the school’s core requirements.

  3. The College of Saint Scholastica
    Location

    Duluth, MN

    Tuition

    $19237

    Saint Scholastica, one of the best online catholic colleges and universities in the United States, is a Catholic Benedictine university located in Duluth, Minnesota. Dedicated to their values — community, hospitality, respect, stewardship and love of learning — the College of Saint Scholastica offers several fully online programs. This includes undergraduate and graduate degrees, graduate certificates and licensures, and a doctorate degree in Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy. One of the popular online bachelor’s degrees is in Computer Information Systems and Organizational Behavior. Students who are interested in healthcare can pursue an RN to BS degree. Several master's degrees are available, including an MBA in Rural Healthcare, MS in Project Management, and Master of Education. Online coursework is delivered through Blackboard and students have access to VoiceThread, which allows instructors to communicate with students through text, audio, and video. The faculty at The College of St. Scholastica is dedicated to critical thinking and problem solving.

  4. Duquesne University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $24040

    Duquesne, located in Pittsburgh, PA, has been around for over 135 years. It’s a Catholic university founded by the Spiritans — members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. Online students at this Catholic online college can choose between fully online programs or blended online/on-campus degree programs. Online undergraduate programs include BSN-RN, BS in Behavioral Science, and BS in Organizational Leadership. Fully online master’s programs include MS in Nursing, MS in Instructional Technology, MS of Management, MS of Sports Business, and MA in Communications. Duquesne offers online doctorate programs, such as the Doctoral Program in Instructional Technology and Leadership and PhD in Nursing. Online coursework is delivered through Blackboard and students are encouraged to actively participate in both synchronous and asynchronous discussions. Online students receive advising and support services, technical help, academic resources, a student support success network, and a network of more than 90,000 alumni. Duquesne’s faculty are committed a teacher-scholar model for all online programs.

  5. Creighton University
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    Tuition

    $23996

    Founded in 1878, Creighton University is located in Omaha, Nebraska, one of the cities ranked best for overall quality of life by Money Magazine. It provides a Jesuit education by promoting principles of service, social justice, and self-reflection; the school is not partial to any specific faith or tradition. Creighton is an online Catholic college that offers over twenty online degree programs, including certificates, master's, and doctorate degree programs. Traditional degrees available include an online MBA, MS in Educational Leadership, and MS in Nursing. The school offers some unique degree options, such as MS in Health and Wellness Coaching and MA in Medical Anthropology. Online students are assigned a student services coordinator and have access to financial aid advisors, the career services department, and a technical help desk that’s available 24/7. Classes are delivered asynchronously through online discussion boards, videos, and e-portfolios. Students work on group projects and have opportunities for on-campus residencies.

  6. Gonzaga University
    Location

    Spokane, WA

    Tuition

    $26764

    Gonzaga University is a private Catholic college located in Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga has an entire office dedicated to online instruction called the Virtual Campus Instruction Design & Delivery (iDD) which strives to meet the unique needs of online learners. Online coursework is delivered asynchronously through multiple formats, including video- and audio-enhanced discussion boards, content webinars, podcasts, interactive quizzes, real-time sessions, and office hours with faculty. Gonzaga offers a number of robust learning tools to keep students collaborating, such as GoToMeeting, Google Docs, SharePoint, and Back Channel Discussions. The school has a variety of graduate programs, including MA in Communication & Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Theology and Leadership, and Transmission and Distribution Engineering. Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees are available online. Encouraging cross-cultural experiences, Gonzaga offers several study abroad and domestic immersion programs. Immersions are designed to enhance student’s education and personal development by providing a connection to their faculty, fellow students, and the campus.

  7. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
    Location

    Saint Mary of the Woods, IN

    Tuition

    $15308

    Saint Mary-of-the-Woods online college is designed specifically for adult learners. It offers flexible, accredited, and affordable bachelor's and associate’s degree programs. This Catholic online college offers a student-centered approach with 40 years of experience in distance learning formats and more than 25 majors, including marketing, history, paralegal studies, and professional writing. The school offers specialty programs, such as certificates in music therapy and transition to teaching. Online students are expected to work on written reports, projects, assignments, and online quizzes. Courses are offered in 8-week terms and usually take individuals an average of four weeks to complete (a degree can be earned in four-years). Online students have access to many campus resources, such as faculty advisors, online tutoring, mentors, and a student network. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is a military friendly college and offers unique benefits to those who qualify. Saint Mary has many online scholarships available.

  8. Saint Joseph's College-New York
    Location

    Brooklyn, NY

    Tuition

    $15479

    Esse non videri — “To be, not to seem” — Saint Joseph's motto, represents their dedication to integrity, intellectual and spiritual values, social responsibility, and service. Boasting a generous transfer credit systems, students can transfer up to 90 transfer credits. Transfer courses must have been completed with a grade of “C” or higher; a “D” will be accepted by students who already hold an associate degree. Distance learners at all different levels, from high school graduates to adult learners, can find their place at this online Catholic college. The school offers flexible online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs that are designed to allow online students to complete their online college courses at their own pace. Students choose between 16 programs across 8 fields: business, criminal justice, health administration, human resources, human services, psychology, religious studies, or general studies. Online students have access to academic advisers, the school library, and technology support. Students usually spend around three-hours a week on a three-credit course at Saint Joseph’s (not including assignments and studying).

  9. Wheeling Jesuit University
    Location

    Wheeling, WV

    Tuition

    $17352

    Wheeling Jesuit is an online Catholic college located in Wheeling, West Virginia, with cutting-edge research opportunities and a commitment to creating outstanding online education opportunities. The university’s online programs are designed for individuals who work full-time and want to continue their education. Wheeling offers an online Accelerated Certification for Teaching, a Master’s in Education Leadership, a Multi-Categorical Special Education, Superintendent Licensure, Master’s of Science in Nursing, a MBA, and RN to BSN/MSN. Distance learners looking to apply for the school’s online MBA program must have a cumulative GPA of 2.8, credit for professional work experience, and three letters of recommendation. Online coursework is delivered through Blackboard and includes discussion boards and online chats. Assignments include papers, internet searches, case studies, and quizzes. Online students are required to attend an in-person orientation on campus during the first semester to meet with faculty and other students and gather important online student information.

  10. Misericordia University
    Location

    Dallas, PA

    Tuition

    $23757

    Founded in 1924 by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, Misericordia is a Roman Catholic college that specializes in adult learning and continuing education. The predominately female university, located in the suburb of Dallas, Pennsylvania, offers many online programs and courses. Most students at this online Catholic college are self-directed and have previously earned college credits or an associate's degree and are working towards a bachelor's degree. Undergraduate options include accounting, business administration, government, law and national security, healthcare management, and IT. Students can enroll in undergraduate certificate programs. Misericordia offers distance learners graduate coursework. Graduate options include an online MBA, Doctor of Occupational Therapy, and Doctor of Nursing Practice. Misericordia offers web-enhanced courses in 7- or 15-week formats, which consist of face-to-face and online courses allowing students to have a more centralized asynchronous virtual learning environment. Summer classes are offered to help students improve their GPA, replace a grade, and lighten their course load.

What Is a Catholic College?

Online Catholic colleges and universities operate as private academic institutions with religious and economic ties to the Roman Catholic Church. Steeped in a history of promoting intellectual progress and nurturing future leaders, Catholic schools provide a private education in a Christ-centered environment.

Catholic schools buttress academic rigor with an atmosphere of shared values informed by religious tradition. Global humanitarian efforts, service work, and community add to a holistic experience that promotes personal growth.

Typically, these schools are not reserved exclusively for Catholic students. While Catholicism plays a role in institutional decisions, students from differing backgrounds can benefit from attending these religious schools.

Can You Go to a Catholic College If You Aren't Catholic?

Yes. While these schools have strong religious foundations, most Catholic universities embrace an inclusive enrollment model that welcomes students of beliefs and backgrounds. Some academic and administrative requirements may look different from a secular environment, but the end goal is to provide a quality education.

Some schools maintain a largely Catholic student body, such as the University of Notre Dame where 80% of learners are Catholic. Alternatively, other colleges have more diverse religious demographics. Jesuit schools, although Catholic, skew towards being more secular, promoting an academic environment that stretches beyond the dogmatic confines of other, more conservative Catholic institutions.

What Are the Benefits of Going to a Catholic College?

The best online Catholic colleges and universities maintain a long tradition of providing excellent academics. Elite institutions like Georgetown University and the University of Notre Dame have a rich history of educating future leaders, including Nobel laureates and Supreme Court justices.

These institutions are often home to a religiously, culturally, and politically diverse student body.

What Are the Differences Between a Catholic College and a Public College?

A significant difference between private online Catholic colleges and public institutions is the cost of tuition. In-state enrollment at a public university is typically a relatively affordable academic option. In contrast, private religious institutions tend to come with a significantly higher price tag.

In addition to administrative differences, schools with religious affiliations may craft policies, rules, and regulations informed by religious beliefs. Public schools, largely funded through taxpayer dollars, are legally mandated to maintain a secular institutional space.

Additionally, many Catholic colleges and universities require religion-focused general education coursework.

Are Catholic Colleges Worth the Money?

The value of an online Catholic college depends on the student. For many students, schools founded upon religious principles align with their personal beliefs, adding an additional benefit.

Private schools, while more expensive, tend to offer benefits like smaller class sizes in a community-focused environment. Private institutions also boast higher graduation rates, with graduates finishing more quickly than their public school peers. Students can help offset tuition fees by taking advantage of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options.

Find Additional Resources

Planning Your Online Education

Your Guide to Saving for College

Scholarships for Theology and Religious Studies Majors



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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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