Smart Choice 25 Best Online Colleges and Universities 2012

At SuperScholar we are all about empowering people to make smart choices by connecting them to great ideas and the best colleges for achieving their dreams. That’s why we’ve put together our first annual Smart Choice ranking of the top online colleges and universities of 2012. We researched all of the regionally accredited online colleges and universities to come up with this list of what we consider the very best online schools for bringing great minds like yours together with a great online education.

Featured Online Schools

Why Online Degrees Are A Great Idea

The knock against online colleges and universities has been that they don’t provide the same level of academic quality and rigor as traditional brick-and-mortar schools, that they subordinate quality to profit, and that they aren’t respected in academia or the job market. While this is no doubt true for some online schools, it certainly isn’t the case for all of them. Online and distance education classes continue to grow in popularity and credibility. More schools are putting classes and degree programs online every year and employers are more willing than ever to hire graduates of high quality, regionally accredited online degree programs. The flexibility and affordability of online college and university degree programs has opened up educational opportunities to students who before were unable to imagine earning a college degree due to family, work or other responsibilities. For this reason, we think online education is one of the best ideas in the world!

The Usefulness of Online College Rankings

Not all online college degree programs offer the same quality or degree of credibility on the job market, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all of the options for distance education out there. If done right, online college rankings can not only help prospective students like you avoid the many diploma mills offering low-quality, worthless degrees in exchange for mountains of student debt, but also help you identify the top online college for your needs. Think of them as a kind of Consumer Report for online education.

How We Ranked Online Colleges and Universities

In order to even be considered for SuperScholar’s Smart Choice ranking of online schools an institution had to be a regionally accredited college or university, listed in the National Center for Education Statistics database, and offer online degree programs in multiple disciplines (specialty schools focused on a narrow range of subjects were excluded). Schools that passed this initial screening process were then ranked by our editors based on each school’s perceived market credibility and prestige, academic quality, support for students, and student satisfaction. We believe the result is one of the most objective and useful rankings of online colleges and universities available anywhere. If a school is on this list of the top online schools, you can be confident that it offers the quality and reputation to make it a Smart Choice for your online degree.

#1. Northeastern University

Northeastern University is a nationally ranked research university in Boston, MA known for its unique cooperative learning methodology and outstanding selection of online degree programs. Small class sizes, admissions selectivity and an outstanding reputation for teaching and research are just some of the qualities that make Northeastern University our top Smart Choice university for an online degree.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees offered in the areas of the Arts & Humanities, Accounting & Finance, Business, Management, Information Technology, Communications, Health, Nursing, and Human Services. Online associates and online graduate degrees also available.

Regional Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Northeastern University<<

#2. Duquesne University

Duquesne University is a highly regarded private, Catholic university in Pittsburgh, PA with over 130 years of tradition and numerous highly ranked academic and athletic programs. A strong commitment to academic excellence, small class sizes and an exceptionally high completion rate place it among the very best online colleges for an online degree.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degree programs in Behavioral Science, Computer Systems Technology, Human Leadership, Organizational Leadership, and Professional Communication. Online graduate degrees also available.

Regional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Click here for more about online degree programs at Duquesne University

#3. Penn State World Campus

Penn State World Campus (PSWC) is the distance education division of Penn State University, one of the largest and most prestigious public universities in the United States. With numerous awards and distinctions for its online degree programs and an established reputation for quality and student satisfaction, PSWC definitely deserves to be on the short list of anyone seeking a top rated online degree.

Online Programs: Fifteen online bachelor degrees available in the areas of Business, Criminal Justice, Public Policy, Security, Information Technology, Law, Health, Liberal Arts, and Science. Online associate’s and online graduate degrees also available.

Regional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Click here for more about online degree programs at Penn State University World Campus

#4. Washington State University

One of the oldest and largest schools in the Northwestern United States, Washington State University is a top ranked public research university with an outstanding academic reputation. WSU Online was established in 1992 to provide distance education opportunities for students unable to come to campus and has proved itself to be one of the best distance learning universities in the country, offering the exact same degree and professors as on-campus WSU students.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in the areas of Business, Criminal Justice, Human Development, Humanities, and the Social Sciences. Online graduate degrees also available.

Regional Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Washington State University<<

#5. Drexel University

Drexel University is a top-tier private university in Philadelphia, PA with a strong reputation for research and technology. Drexel Online began in 1996 and has since garnered a number of awards and accolades for its top distance learning programs, which offer small class sizes, excellent completion rates and a reputation for academic excellence. This school belongs near the top of any list of the best colleges for online degrees.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Health & Nursing, Business, General Studies, Criminal Justice, Communications, Education, Property Management, Professional Studies, Technology, and Psychology. Online graduate degrees and certificates also available.

Regional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

>>Click here for more information about online degree programs at Drexel University<<

#6. Regis University

Regis University is a private Catholic university in Denver, CO with a top-notch academic reputation and a long history of values based education. Regis University’s College of Professional Studies has been a pioneer in online education, offering one of the lowest student-to-faculty ratios and highest completion rates of any of the top online universities.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degree programs in the areas of Accounting, Business, Psychology, Communications, IT & Computer Science, Criminology, Education, Finance, Marketing, Development, and Public Administration. Online graduate degrees also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Regis University<<

#7. University of Massachusetts

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) system has established itself as one of the premier public university systems in the country. With the multiple award winning UMassOnline, students around the world can receive the same high quality education and prestigious degree as traditional on-campus UMass students without ever having to leave their homes.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in the areas of Business, Information Technology, Education, Criminal Justice, Journalism, Health & Human Services, Psychology, Women’s Studies, Management, and Nursing. Online associate’s and online graduate degrees and certificates also available, as well as online classes for non-degree seeking students.

Regional Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at the University of Massachusetts<<

#8. Colorado State University Global Campus

The Colorado State University System is an established public university system with a global reputation for excellence in research and academics. Colorado State University Global Campus is a member of the CSU System and the first fully online public university, meaning nothing takes precedence over providing students with the best online education experience at a reasonable cost. Definitely one of the best online colleges around.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees available in the areas of Business, Leadership, Information Technology, Social Science, Administration, and Management. Online master’s degrees and certificate programs also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Colorado State University-Global Campus<<

#9. Oregon State University

A leading public research university, Oregon State University is especially recognized for its strengths in forestry, agriculture and environmental sciences. Through the Oregon State Ecampus, students from anywhere in the world can access nearly thirty different OSU degree programs online taught by the same experienced faculty that teach courses on campus and resulting in the exact same degree awarded to traditional graduates.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degree programs in the areas of Agricultural Science, Human Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Sociology, Liberal Arts, and Women’s Studies. Online graduate degree programs and online classes for non-degree seeking students are also available.

Regional Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Oregon State University<<

#10. Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University is a private non-profit university in suburban Pittsburgh, PA nationally recognized as one of the top universities in the Northeast. The school offers a number of quality online degree programs with an excellent support system for students (all students get a personal adviser accessible 12 hours a day 6 days a week), small class sizes and an excellent track record of graduation and placement.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in the areas of Business, Economics, Liberal Arts, Health, Nursing, Hospitality & Tourism, Leadership, Psychology, and Technical Writing. Online master’s degrees also available.

Regional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Robert Morris University<<

#11. Immaculata University

Immaculata University is a nationally ranked private Catholic university in Pennsylvania recently featured in a feature-length film about its pioneering women’s basketball team which won the national basketball championship three consecutive years in the early 1970’s. One of the best online universities in the country, Immaculata boasts a remarkably low student-to-faculty ratio and prides itself in providing personal attention to students in its online degree programs.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in the areas of Business, Health Care, and Psychology.

Regional Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

..Click here for more about online degree programs at Immaculata University,,

#12. University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a nationally ranked public research university with more students than any other school in the Chicago area and the largest medical school in the country. UIC Online’s small class sizes, personalized attention and high market credibility help make it one of the top online degree programs in the country.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees available in the areas of Health Management, Business Administration, and Nursing. Online graduate degrees and certificates also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago<<

#13. Kansas State University

Kansas State University (K-State) is a public research university and the oldest university in the state of Kansas. K-State has been offering formal distance education opportunities to Kansas families since 1974, growing to become one of the best online universities, with multiple high quality online degree programs administered by its Division of Continuing Education.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degree programs in Animal Sciences, Dietetics, Education, Human Services, Food Science, Business, Social Science, and Management. Online graduate degrees and certificates also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

Click here for more about online degree programs at Kansas State University

#14. Arizona State University

Arizona State University is the largest public research university in the United States and has garnered numerous international accolades and rankings for its academic programs and research. One of the top online universities in the world, ASU Online brings the total ASU experience online with innovative and cutting edge technology, providing online students with the same world-class faculty and respected degree.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees available in Interdisciplinary Studies, Liberal Studies, Communication, Criminal Justice, Family and Human Development, Arts & Humanities, Health, Nursing, Psychology, Sociology, Communication, Business, and Technology. Online graduate degrees and certificates also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Arizona State University<<

#15. LeTourneau University

A private, Christian university with a faith-based education approach, LeTourneau University has grown from a small technical college to a nationally ranked comprehensive university and a top online college. LeTourneau’s online division has earned a number of awards for quality and value in recent years, emerging as one of the very best online schools in the country, especially for students of faith.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees available in the areas of Aviation, Business, Criminal Justice, Health Care, Human Services, Interdisciplinary Studies, Management, and Psychology. Online associates and online graduate degrees also available.

Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

Click here for more about online degree programs at LeTourneau University

#16. University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati is one of the largest and best reviewed public universities in the country and part of the University System of Ohio. The school’s Distance Learning & Outreach Division has expanded its online degree offerings considerably over the last few years and offers students a strongly marketable degree from a top online college.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Laboratory Science, Education, Fire Science Technology, and Counseling. Online associate’s, graduate degrees and certificates also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at the University of Cincinnati<<

#17. Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian University (CCU) is a small, private Christian liberal arts university committed to the academic and spiritual formation of its students. CCU’s online degree programs offer remarkably small class sizes and collaborative learning opportunities that help make it one of the top online schools.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees available in Accounting, Business, Bible, Criminal Justice, Information Systems Management, Nursing, Organizational Management, and Psychology. Online master’s degree programs also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Colorado Christian University<<

#18. Saint Leo University

Founded in 1889, Saint Leo University, a nationally ranked private liberal arts university, is also the oldest Catholic institution of higher education in the state of Florida. One of the top online universities, Saint Leo has been offering quality online degree programs 1990’s, recently receiving a $4 million dollar donation towards a new business school building from a graduate of its online business programs.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Accounting, Business, Computer Science, Health Care, Human Resources, Hospitality & Tourism, Liberal Studies, Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice. Online associate’s and online graduate degree programs and certificates also available.

Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Saint Leo University<<

#19. Ottawa University

A private, non-profit Christian liberal arts university associated with the American Baptist Church and the Ottawa Indian tribe, Ottawa University has been offering faith-based higher education opportunities since 1865. One of the best online colleges, Ottawa’s Online Learning division offers online degree programs for working adults that feature small class sizes and a commitment to the integration of faith and learning.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Communication, English, History, Human Services, Mathematics, Law Enforcement Administration, Psychology, Accounting, Business, Health Care Management, and Public Administration. Online master’s degree programs also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Ottawa University<<

#20. Southern New Hampshire University

A private, top-tier university, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has been offering career-oriented adult education since 1932. SNHU Online has garnered several local and national awards for the quality and value of its online degree programs, which have expanded significantly in recent years. 24/7 technical support and a hands-on learning approach help make SNHU one of the top online schools.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Accounting, Advertising, Business, Communications, Sociology, Information Technology, Creative Writing, English, Fashion, Economics, History, Justice Studies, Marketing, Management, and Psychology.

Regional Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Southern New Hampshire University<<

#21. University of the Incarnate Word

The University of the Incarnate Word is a globally recognized private, Catholic liberal arts university in San Antonio, Tx and the largest Catholic university in the state. Incarnate Word’s new Virtual University has quickly distinguished itself as a top online college, with outstanding technical and academic support as well as free textbooks for all undergraduate students.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Administration, Human Resources, Organizational Development, Religious Studies, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Accounting, Finance, Business, Information Systems, Management, and Marketing. Online graduate degree programs also available.

Regional Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at University of the Incarnate Word<<

#22. Portland State University

The largest and fastest growing university in the Oregon University System, Portland State University, located in the heart of downtown Portland, OR, has received national recognition for it’s innovative community-based learning programs. PSU’s Extended Campus Program offers several competitively priced online degree programs from one of the best online colleges in the country.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Arts and Letters, Liberal Studies, Social Science, Business, Sociology, and Women’s Studies. Online certificate programs also available.

Regional Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Portland State University<<

#23. University of Minnesota Crookston

Known as “Laptop U”, The University of Minnesota Crookston was the first university in the United States to issue laptop computers to all entering students and a globally recognized leader in the integration of learning and technology. UM Crookston was also the first University of Minnesota System school to offer online courses and degrees, rapidly becoming one of the top online colleges and a leading public providers distance education.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Accounting, Health, Business, Information Technology, Marketing, and Management. Online certificate programs also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at the University of Minnesota Crookston<<

#24. Upper Iowa University

A private, non-profit university based in Fayette, IA, Upper Iowas University has a worldwide presence through its many distance education centers throughout the United States as well as in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. UIU rates among the best online colleges, and its online degree programs have received a number of ranking and awards for academic quality and value.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Accounting, Business, Criminal Justice, Emergency and Disaster Management, Finance, Health Administration, HR, Human Services, Information Systems Management, Management, Marketing, Psychology, Public Administration, and Social Science. Online graduate degrees and certificates also available.

Regional Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Upper Iowa University<<

#25. Western Governors University

The only one of its kind, Western Governors University has the distinction of being founded by the governors of several states in the Western U.S. seeking to provide better and more affordable educational opportunities for their constituents. WGU’s online degree programs operate according to a unique “competency based learning” approach, which rewards students based on demonstrated competency in their area of study rather than the number of hours or courses completed. Definitely belongs on any list of the top online colleges.

Online Programs: Online bachelor degrees in Education & Teaching, Accounting, Business, Marketing, Health Care Management, Information Technology, and Nursing. Online master’s degree programs also available.

Regional Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

>>Click here for more about online degree programs at Western Governors University<<

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