Best Online Private Colleges and Universities of 2022

Online private college and university rankings. Find the right online program for you!

portrait of Heather Mullinix
by Heather Mullinix

Published on March 4, 2022 · Updated on May 6, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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Online private colleges and universities offer students high-quality academic opportunities with various degree paths. Graduation rates are higher for private colleges than public institutions. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that 68% of private school students graduated within six years compared to 62% of students at public institutions in 2019.

Funding for private colleges and universities comes from tuition payments and donations. Colleges often focus on undergraduate education offer a liberal arts curriculum, while universities typically award more graduate degrees and house research programs.

According to NCES, private, nonprofit four-year colleges charged an average of $3oln6,700 in tuition during the 2019-2020 academic year. During the same period, public four-year schools charged an average of $9,400. Private schools often offer generous student aid packages that help lower some of those costs.

Online private colleges and universities allow students to access top-ranked programs in the U.S., regardless of their location. Online education also offers flexibility for working students. However, learners need strong time-management skills to succeed.

Why Choose an Online Private College or University?

Private colleges and universities offer high-quality academic programs. You have likely heard of many top-ranked private colleges in the U.S. and their academic reputations. Private colleges and universities often offer smaller class sizes, more student-teacher interaction, and smaller student populations.

Because private colleges do not rely on taxpayer support, they do not charge tuition or fees based on your residence. Students at accredited schools and programs also qualify for federal student aid, and many schools offer generous scholarships and grants that reduce student costs.

Choosing a private online institution can also enable you to align your education with your beliefs. Some private institutions are affiliated with specific faiths like Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Judaism.

Most students choose private nonprofit colleges and universities. For-profit colleges can serve students seeking degree-focused certifications. However, you should research for-profit schools carefully. They may not hold accreditation or offer programs recognized by employers, regulators, or other schools.

Pros and Cons of Private College and Universities

Pros

Generous financial aid packages, including grants and scholarships Small classes that allow you to closely interact with faculty and other students Religious affliations High-quality academic programs and high graduation rates

Cons

Higher tuition, room, and board costs compared to in-state public schools Fewer degree options and graduate programs Lack of accreditation at for-profit private schools Potentially fewer extracurricular opportunities than at larger schools

Pros and Cons of Online Colleges and Universities

Pros

High-quality degree programs regardless of your location Flexible class schedules with asynchronous coursework Accelerated class formats that allow you to graduate more quickly Opportunities to gain valuable technology skills that can transfer to the workforce

Cons

No traditional college campus experience Additional online student and technology fees Need for good time-management and organizational skills and a self-directed learning style Potential on-campus activities, like orientation or weekend class sessions

Featured Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Private College or University?

Online students must meet many of the same entrance requirements as their on-campus peers. Undergraduate admissions officers usually consider students' high school courses, GPAs, and college admission exam scores from tests like the ACT and SAT. The application may also include questions about your work history, extracurricular activities, and volunteer experience.

Graduate admissions typically require applicants to possess an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Degree-seekers may also need to complete an entrance exam depending on their program of interest. Standard tests include the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT.

You may also need to submit essays that describe your academic and career goals and demonstrate your writing ability. Schools may also request letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, coaches, or religious leaders.

Schools may restrict online programs to students who have already completed one or more semesters of college-level study. Students must also meet technology requirements to participate in online courses.

The application process includes multiple steps. Make a checklist of the materials you need submit to help keep your applications organized.

How Do I Choose an Online Private College or University?

Cost

Tuition makes up the bulk of education costs. Online degree programs are generally less expensive than on-campus programs. According to the Education Data Initiative, attending an online private institution cost $58,560 during the 2019-2020 academic year. Pursuing a degree in person at a private school cost $148,800. Online students qualify for federal student aid programs and may benefit from grants or scholarships offered by their school.

In addition to tuition, consider the cost of technology, internet service, books, and supplies. Remember to budget for travel costs if your school requires on-campus sessions.

Program Format

Many online private colleges and universities offer full-time and part-time enrollment. Students balancing their education while working may benefit from taking fewer classes each semester. Online programs often feature flexible classes with asynchronous scheduling. Students can watch recorded lectures, read assignments, and participate in discussions at times that are convenient for them.

Some programs do require students to take part in scheduled online sessions, or synchronous classes. Schools may also offer accelerated degree plans, which can enable students to earn their degrees more quickly. Consider which format best meets your needs.

Location

While online education can allow you to study from anywhere, many students choose colleges close to home. Attending a nearby school will enable students to participate in campus activities and easily access on-campus resources, such as libraries or testing centers. Attending a school nearby can also allow you to participate in internship opportunities arranged through your institution.

Accreditation

Schools seek accreditation through third-party organizations like the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Higher Learning Commission. These organizations evaluate school resources, academic standards, and instructor qualifications. Postsecondary institutions must hold institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to participate in federal student aid programs.

Individual programs may also apply for programmatic accreditation from industry-recognized organizations. Graduating from an accredited program may impact professional licensing or certification and opportunities for employment and further education.

Student Support

Student support encompasses academic advising, tutoring, and counseling services that help learners succeed. Institutions may also offer mentorship opportunities, internship placements, and mental health counseling. Online private colleges and universities also provide services specifically for online students.

2022 Best Online Private Colleges and Universities

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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How We Rank Schools

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

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.

#1 Online College in Ohio

Franklin University

School Information
Location Columbus, Ohio
Graduation Rate 28%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $398
Graduate | $670-$748

Established in 1902, Franklin University is home to a deep catalog of online degrees at the associate to doctoral levels. While the school does have a home campus in Columbus, Ohio, many of its students attend classes online. Franklin ranks as one of the top private colleges in the U.S.

In addition to flexible online coursework, Franklin offers a generous transfer policy that allows learners to save money while graduating more quickly. Popular academic programs include business administration, nursing, and human resource management.

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#2 Online College in Georgia

Brenau University

School Information
Location Gainesville, Georgia
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 46%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $690
Graduate | $755

Brenau Univesity is a Georgia-based institution that offers an expansive list of online degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and certificate levels. Brenau has an enrollment that exceeds 3,500 students and holds institutional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. 

While online programs cover varying disciplines, Brenau's catalog focuses primarily on business and education. Its online MBA programs offer multiple specializations, and the school's education department provides everything from associate degrees to Ed.D. tracks.

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#3 Online College in Kentucky

Campbellsville University

School Information
Location Campbellsville, Kentucky
Admission Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 36%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 77% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $399
Graduate | $299-$559

Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is a Christian institution that enrolls over 10,000 students annually. One of the top-ranked private colleges in the U.S. for distance learners, this Kentucky-based school offers more than 70 academic tracks for online students seeking associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. Popular areas of study include business, education, and nursing.

Online bachelor's students can transfer up to 72 credits from other accredited institutions. In addition to providing flexible and affordable degrees, CU offers reduced tuition and tuition assistance for military veterans and active-duty members of the military.

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#4 Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $390-$455
Graduate | $565-$650

Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is a Christian school that consistently ranks as one of the most prolific suppliers of online college degrees. Owing to its flexibility and relative affordability, Liberty is home to nearly 100,000 students, most of whom take classes online.

Students at Liberty typically complete their eight-week classes asynchronously. Liberty offers over 100 bachelor's degrees and nearly 400 graduate degrees, covering topics like aviation, business administration, and conservation and environmental biology.

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#5 Online College in Washington

City University of Seattle

School Information
Location Seattle, Washington
Graduation Rate 33%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $420
Graduate | $540

Established in 1973, the City University of Seattle is a Christian institution that offers undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs to more than 6,000 online learners. Owing to its location in tech-centric Seattle, popular academic areas include information technology, data science, and cybersecurity.

Like many other top online colleges and universities, online students at CityU have access to various student services, including tutoring, library services, a virtual writing center, and career services.

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#6 Online College in Illinois

McKendree University

School Information
Location Lebanon, Illinois
Admission Rate 63%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $400
Graduate | $490-600

Founded in 1828, McKendree University is a small, Illinois-based institution. With roots in the United Methodist Church, this institution enrolls over 2,000 students annually and offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees. Popular online bachelor's programs include psychology, criminal justice, and business administration.

Graduate-level online degrees include an MBA program, master of science in nursing, and doctor of nursing practice. In addition to offering relatively affordable tuition rates, McKendree keeps class enrollment numbers low, capping classes at 20 students.

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#7 Online College in North Carolina

Methodist University

School Information
Location Fayetteville, North Carolina
Admission Rate 63%
Graduation Rate 45%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $400
Graduate | $500

Methodist University is a small school based in North Carolina. It offers online students flexible pathways to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees. Through an asynchronous delivery format, students can complete bachelor's degrees in areas like accounting and computer information technology. Graduate-level options include master's degrees in business administration, health administration, and nursing.

Online learners have access to academic and career counseling, library services, virtual tutoring, and 24/7 technical support. MU is also recognized for its accessibility for military students.

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#8 Online College in New York

Utica College

School Information
Location Utica, New York
Admission Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 54%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 61% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $395-475
Graduate | $690-895

Utica University is an upstate New York school that began as an offshoot of Syracuse University. Today, this private institution offers more than 20 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs covering topics like accounting, cybersecurity, nursing, and social work. Students can also choose from five online certificate programs.

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Utica's 100% online programs have a worldwide roster of alumni exceeding 25,000 learners. Online students tackle coursework asynchronously and can access the same student support services as on-campus learners.

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#9 Online College in Kansas

Ottawa University

School Information
Location Ottawa, Kansas
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $499
Graduate | $499-$649

Based in Kansas, Ottawa University was founded in 1869. The school enrolls about 4,000 students through five in-person campuses and extensive online course offerings. Online learners at OU can choose from 28 bachelor's programs, 17 master's programs, several certificate options, and a doctor of business administration program. 

OU accepts up to 80 transfer credits towards a bachelor's degree. Faculty deliver courses over eight-week terms, which may appeal to students looking for an accelerated degree option. The university is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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#10 Online College in Missouri

Maryville University of Saint Louis

School Information
Location Saint Louis, Missouri
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 71%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 76% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Avg. Cost per Credit
Undergrad | $500-$622
Graduate | $714-$897

Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Maryville University enrolls over 10,000 students annually. The school offers 30 undergraduate degree programs, 15 graduate degree programs, and nine certificates — entirely online. Degree program subjects include options like business, healthcare, and computer science. 

Founded in 1872, Maryville offers online students 24/7 technical support and accepts transfer credits from other accredited institutions. The university does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores, but it does require a personal statement for some graduate program applications.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Online Private Colleges and Universities

Is an online degree worth it? true

Earning a degree can advance your career and increase your earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports individuals with a bachelor's degree earn more and experience less unemployment than individuals with a high school diploma. Thousands of schools offer online degree programs, which can allow learners to meet their educational goals regardless of their location.

Private colleges and universities often offer students the same rigorous education online that they offer in person. By earning an online degree, you can gain knowledge in your major and build essential soft skills.

Is a private college or university worth it? true

Private colleges and universities can offer students many benefits, including smaller class sizes and a focus on academic excellence. Students can also select schools that reflect their religious or cultural beliefs.

Private colleges and universities do not receive public funding. They rely on tuition payments, investment income, and donations. They often advertise higher tuition costs than public schools. According to the College Board, the average tuition at private schools during the 2021-2022 academic year was $38,070. The College Board also found that first-year students actually paid an average of $14,990 after factoring in grants and scholarships.

Are online private colleges and universities accredited? true

Many online private colleges and universities hold institutional accreditation from a recognized organization. However, you should verify accreditation status with ED to ensure you qualify for federal financial aid programs.

Some private colleges and universities do not hold accreditation. Attending an unaccredited college or university can make it difficult to transfer credits to an accredited school or apply to graduate school. Your degree may also not qualify you for certain professional credentials.

Are online private colleges and universities affordable?

According to the Education Data Initiative, students attending private colleges and universities paid an average of $58,560 for an online degree during the 2019-2020 academic year. On-campus students paid an average of $148,800. Online students avoid charges for food, transportation, and many campus fees.

Private colleges and universities also offer significant savings in tuition for online learners. Students at private institutions paid an average of $488 per credit hour in 2021. Students who attended private schools in person paid an average rate of $1,240 per credit hour.

Do I need to take standardized tests to apply to an online private college or university?

Admission requirements vary from school to school. These requirements often include high school coursework, a minimum GPA, and scores from the SAT or ACT. Institutions may also ask applicants to submit letters of recommendation, details of their community involvement, and college essays.

Many schools have suspended test requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a growing number of colleges and universities no longer require these exams. More than 1,000 accredited institutions allow applicants to choose whether to submit test scores. Other schools offer open enrollment, meaning they admit all students with a high school diploma or equivalent.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Online College Students The Student's Guide to College Planning Your Guide to the FAFSA

Feature Image: mediaphotos / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

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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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