At BestColleges, we recognize that there is no “perfect” ranking methodology; rather, we aggregate what we believe are the most relevant school indicators to provide you with rankings that are useful. We hope our approach helps you find the school that's best for you.

The methodology behind our rankings is grounded in statistical data and a few consistently applied guiding principles, including academic quality, affordability, and online competency. Our 2019 rankings reflect the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Additionally, for our 2019 online bachelor’s degree rankings we compiled responses from a survey circulated to institutions in Summer, 2018. 90 participating schools responded to institutional and program-level questions regarding the online bachelor’s programs offered during the 2017-2018 academic school year. We incorporated six additional ranking factors from this survey into the following relevant ranking methodologies.

Our goal is to objectively assess relative quality based on academic outcomes, affordability, and the breadth and depth of online learning opportunities. To assess academic quality, we focus on what we believe are the most important distinguishing factors. We compare a school’s admission rate to their enrollment rate to gauge the rigor and competitiveness of a school. We use retention rate (or, the rate at which students return after their freshman year) to rank a school’s effectiveness at keeping students enrolled. Similarly, graduation rate is crucial in weighing how many enrolled students successfully complete their degree program (note that graduation rate measures full-time, first-time students).

Affordability considers the cost of the program (average net price) with the amount borrowed and owed after graduation. Our goal is to reward schools not only offering competitive tuition but also providing students with the skills needed to graduate and successfully enter the workforce.

Finally, we assess the quality of a school’s online offerings by looking at who is teaching online classes, the length of time the school has been investing in online learning, and the degree to which students are supported as distance learners. We also consider the percent of students enrolled in online classes as an indicator of school investment.

All eligible institutions are ranked on a 100 point scale. A perfect score of 100 is earned by ranking #1 within each of the three ranking categories. Unless otherwise noted below, we applied our 15 ranking factors to the 2,028 eligible schools currently offering online programs.

DATA COLLECTION

To collect data for our 2019 rankings, we pulled the most current, publicly available datasets from the National Center for Education Statistics in October, 2018. Data was QA’d by our internal team with attempts made to fill any missing or erroneous data points by referencing school websites when applicable. Schools missing a substantial number of ranking factors or with unreported data were omitted from our rankings list. Additionally, proprietary surveys were sent to schools offering online bachelor's degrees in Summer, 2018, and collected in September. We’ve done our best to ensure than any school information included is recent and accurate. We know data is complex and acknowledge that we may not always get it right; if you spot missing or outdated information on our site, please contact us at contact@bestcolleges.com so we can address it.

BEST ONLINE COLLEGES

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Accredited Online Bachelor's Degree Programs: Each school must offer at least 10 online bachelor's degree programs and three online master's degree programs.
  • Accredited Online Associate Degree Programs: Each school must offer at least six online associate degree programs.

Ranking Factors

Academics & Learner Support - 50% of total score

  • Admissions Rate
  • Enrollment Rates
  • Retention Rate
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate

Affordability - 25% of total score

  • Cost of program
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans
  • Percentage of Enrolled Online Students Taking Federal Loans
  • Loan Default Rate

Online Programming - 25% of total score

  • Number of Online Programs Offered
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Online Courses
  • Percentage of Instructors Teaching Online Courses who Have Earned a Terminal Degree in Their Field
  • Percentage of Instructors Teaching Online Courses Required to Complete Online Training
  • The Maturity of the Online Program (Number of Years it's Been Offered)

BEST ONLINE ASSOCIATE DEGREE PROGRAMS

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer an online associate in degree program in the given subject
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ranking Factors

Academics & Learner Support - 50% of total score

  • Full-Time Retention Rate
  • Part-Time Retention Rate
  • Graduation + Transfer Rate
  • Number of associate degree graduates in the given program

Affordability - 25% of total score

  • Cost of program
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans
  • Loan Default Rate

Online Programming - 25% of total score

  • Number of Online Programs Offered
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Online Courses

BEST ONLINE BACHELOR'S DEGREE PROGRAMS

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer an online bachelor's degree program in the given subject
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ranking Factors

Academics & Learner Support - 50% of total score

  • Admissions Rate
  • Enrollment Rates
  • Retention Rate
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate
  • Number of bachelor's degree graduates in the given subject

Affordability - 25% of total score

  • Cost of program
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans
  • Percentage of Enrolled Online Students Taking Federal Loans
  • Loan Default Rate

Online Programming - 25% of total score

  • Number of Online Programs Offered
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Online Courses

BEST ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE PROGRAMS

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer an online master's degree program in the given subject
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ranking Factors

Academics & Learner Support - 50% of total score

  • Admissions Rate
  • Enrollment Rates
  • Retention Rate
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate
  • Number of master's degree graduates in the given subject

Affordability - 25% of total score

  • Cost of Program
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans
  • Loan Default Rate

Online Programming - 25% of total score

  • Percentage of Graduate Programs Offered Online
  • Graduate School Enrollment
  • Percentage of Programs Offered at the Graduate level

BEST ONLINE COLLEGES IN STATE

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Each school must offer at least one online bachelor's degree program.

Ranking Factors

Academics & Learner Support - 50% of total score

  • Admissions Rate
  • Enrollment Rates
  • Retention Rate
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate

Affordability - 25% of total score

  • Cost of program
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Federal Loans
  • Loan Default Rate

Online Programming - 25% of total score

  • Number of Online Programs Offered
  • Percentage of Enrolled Students Taking Online Courses

BEST 2-YEAR COLLEGES IN STATE

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must primarily grant two-year associate degrees
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ranking Factors

Academics & Learner Support - 60% of total score

  • Full-Time Retention Rate
  • Part-Time Retention Rate
  • Graduation + Transfer Rate

Affordability - 40% of total score

  • In-state Tuition
  • Percent of Students Taking Loans

BEST 4-YEAR COLLEGES IN STATE

Minimum Requirements

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must primarily grant four-year bachelor's degrees
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Ranking Factors

Academics & Learner Support - 60% of total score

  • Admissions Rate
  • Enrollment Rates
  • Graduation Rate
  • Retention Rate

Affordability - 40% of total score

  • Cost of program
  • Loan Default Rate
  • Percentage of Students Taking Loans