The Top 15 Accredited Online Colleges For 2016

2016acoOnline education has seen an enormous spike in the last decade. Approximately 13.1 percent of college students are taking exclusively online courses now. Innovative technologies have made it possible to finish a quality education with little more than a computer and Internet. Choosing an online college will provide unrivaled flexibility for fitting coursework into your busy work-life balance. Online learning platforms can wholly replace the traditional classroom to save you time and money on commutes. However, not all online colleges are created equal. Scary statistics show that nearly 200,000 fake degrees are granted by diploma mills yearly. One of the best ways to protect your investment is to look for accreditation.

In this article, we’ll outline the Top 15 Accredited Online Colleges for 2016 that are backed by regional accreditation recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Next to accreditation, our most crucial ranking factor was average retention rate. We selected only online colleges who retain more than 90 percent of students because this signals high satisfaction. Chosen universities had to offer at least 10 online programs to be deemed “online.” We consulted with several rankings from the U.S. News, Princeton Review, Forbes, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance to weigh academic reputation with value. We recorded each online college’s tuition rate from their individual website. Other important considerations were student-faculty ratio, student services, learning technology, flexibility, job placement, mobility, and financial aid.

1. University of Southern California

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Selectively admitting 16 percent of applicants, the University of Southern California is an elite private, nonprofit sea-grant and space-grant research institution for the Pacific Rim. Situated on a 308-acre urban campus in the University Park district of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California educates around 42,400 students both on-site and online. The U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Southern California as the 23rd Best University and 13th Most Innovative College. Within the Economist, the University of Southern California was recognized for the United States’ 64th Best New Career Opportunities. Forbes also recognized Trojans as the nation’s 31st Most Grateful Grads.

The University of Southern California grants exceptional professional education online through 55 master’s and two doctoral degrees. More than 20 graduate certificates and teaching credentials can be added for concentration. Available USC degrees include:

• Master of Science in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
• Executive Master of Health Administration
• Master of Science in Library and Information Science
• Master of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship
• Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership

The University of Southern California Online maintains the same all-important academic integrity standards to serve over 7,700 fully online. Before the Web existed, the dynamic university connected remote learners and pioneered the “Online Education Revolution.” Faculty maintain regular live, virtual office hours to guide students toward building online portfolios. Courses can even be accessed via mobile devices using the 2SC App for optimal flexibility.

Average Retention Rate: 97 percent
Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Online Tuition: $1,666 per unit

Learn more about the University of Southern California’s Accredited Online College Degree Programs here.

2. Northeastern University

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Recognized for A+ academics by Niche, Northeastern University is an esteemed private, nonsectarian RU/VH research institution attracting over 24,900 students yearly. In addition to its 73-acre urban campus in Boston’s famed Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood, NU has satellites in Dedham, Nahant, Burlington, Seattle, Toronto, and online. Northeastern was ranked America’s 47th Best University and sixth Most Innovative college by the U.S. News and World Report. Best Value Schools crowned Northeastern University the 10th Best Up-and-Coming School for Return on Investment (ROI). Employing seven NSF Career Award recipients, Northeastern is the 100th Top Research University according to Forbes.

Northeastern University offers rigorous, regionally accredited online education for earning 10 bachelor’s, 35 master’s, and two doctoral degrees. Non-degree seeking students can also choose from 34 online certificate programs. Available Northeastern University degrees include:

• Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting Management
• Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
• Master of Education in Higher Education Administration
• Master of Science in Security and Resilience Studies
• Master of Science in Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries

Online Northeastern University students access multimedia lectures via Articulate Presenter and interact in a virtual Blackboard classroom. Some courses feature synchronous conferencing with Collaborate. Online programs are taught by the same world-class faculty at a 14:1 ratio for excellent education without putting life on hold. Northeastern’s online courses offer affordable discounts, financial aid, and free tutoring.

Average Retention Rate: 96 percent
Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
Online Tuition: $378 (bachelor’s) or $646 (master’s) per credit

Learn more about Northeastern University’s Accredited Online College Degree Programs here.

3. University of Florida

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Endowed for $1.5 billion, the University of Florida is the country’s eighth largest public, research institution holding land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant status to educate an enthusiastic Gator Nation of over 52,500. This prestigious AAU member is located on a sprawling 2,000-acre suburban campus in Gainesville for face-to-face or online education. The U.S. News and World Report ranked Florida as the 47th Best University and 18th Most Innovative School. Kiplinger’s crowned UF the second best public value. The University of Florida also claimed the #17 spot for the Princeton Review’s “Best Alumni Network.”

The University of Florida Online provides accredited academic excellence with 15 bachelor’s completion, 65 master’s, 10 doctoral, and three specialist degrees. Belonging to the SREB Electronic Campus, the University of Florida also confers four international programs. Available UF degrees include:

• Bachelor of Science in Fire and Emergency Services
• Bachelor of Health Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders
• Master of Science in Family, Youth and Community Science
• Master of Science in Veterinary Medical Sciences
• Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction

Online University of Florida students enter a highly diverse virtual classroom drawing students from 135 countries. The university is at least partially authorized in all 50 states. Most coursework is asynchronously delivered via the eLearning platform Canvas with video lectures posted on Mediasite. Learners also benefit from 24/7 access to the Help Desk and Disability Resource Center.

Average Retention Rate: 96 percent
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Online Tuition: $448 (in-state) or $690 (out-of-state) per credit

Learn more about the University of Florida’s Accredited Online College Degree Programs here.

4. Stevens Institute of Technology

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Established by Edwin Augustus Stevens in 1868, Stevens Institute of Technology is the oldest private, co-educational technological institution dedicated to engineering. Enrolling more than 6,500 students on-site and online, Stevens Institute of Technology has three national Centers of Excellence on its 55-acre urban campus in Hoboken, New Jersey. According to the U.S. News and World Report, Stevens Institute of Technology is the 75th Best National University and 62nd Top School for Veterans. Graded B in Forbes, Stevens Institute of Technology is America’s 114th Top Research University. The Princeton Review also placed Stevens at #6 nationwide for “Best Career Placement.”

Stevens Institute of Technology operates a WebCampus to grant 18 fully online, tech-centric degree programs for graduate students. More than 40 graduate certificates can be added for specialized online education. Available SIT degrees include:

• Master of Science in Enterprise and Cloud Computing
• Master of Science in Information and Data Engineering
• Master of Business Administration in Project Management
• Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
• Master of Science in Systems Security Engineering

Since 2010, Stevens has continually won the USDLA’s 21st Century Award for Best Distance Learning Practices Award. Through Canvas, online students access user-friendly, engaged courses anytime 24/7. Each course has a web conferencing tool embedded for live discussions. Faculty also use the state-of-the-art Podcasting Studio to pre-record guest speaker interviews. Part-time graduate students who are members of co-sponsoring organizations qualify for 10 percent tuition rebates.

Average Retention Rate: 95 percent
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Online Tuition: $1,501 per credit

Learn more about the Stevens Institute of Technology’s Accredited Online Colleges here.

5. Lehigh University

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Divided into four colleges, Lehigh University is a private, nonprofit “Hidden Ivy” institution carrying a $1.2 billion endowment to serve approximately 6,900 students. Since its founding in 1865 by Asa Packer, Lehigh has occupied over 2,350 suburban acres around South Mountain in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The U.S. News has honored Lehigh as America’s 47th best university, 36th top value, and 38th best school for military. Lehigh University placed at #8 among the Princeton Review’s “Best Science Lab Facilities.” Forbes also recognized Lehigh as the 64th top public school nationwide.

Lehigh University’s Office of Distance Education offers top-tier academics for working adults with 11 online master’s degrees and seven graduate certificates. Two learning platforms are given for asynchronous or synchronous, live sessions. Available Lehigh degrees include:

• Master of Engineering in Healthcare Systems Engineering
• Flex Master of Business Administration in Marketing
• Master of Science in Molecular Biology
• Master of Science in Polymer Science and Engineering
• Master of Education in International Counseling

Using Course Site and Blackboard, Lehigh’s online programs make the same lectures available streaming on the Web. Named a “Preferred School Partner” of Boeing, the USDLA member gives accredited STEM-centric education with flexible schedules. No distinctions are made on transcripts between traditional and online learning. Lehigh University has a 10:1 student-faculty ratio for a collaborative, enriching academic environment.

Average Retention Rate: 95 percent
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Online Tuition: $925 to $1,420 per credit hour

Website

6. University of Georgia

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Named among Newsweek’s “Amazing but Overlooked Colleges,” the University of Georgia is public, state-chartered RU/VH research institution holding the unique sun-grant status. Among the rolling hills on UGA’s historic 762-acre campus in Athens and online, more than 35,100 students are enrolled across 17 schools. According to the U.S. News, UGA is the country’s 61st best university and 21st top public college. The University of Georgia took the #24 spot for the Princeton Review’s “Top Internship Opportunities.” The AAMC recognized UGA for producing the ninth highest percentage of medical school applicants.

The University of Georgia offers respected, accredited online programs taught by some of higher education’s brightest minds. Online learners select from two bachelor’s, one specialist, and 15 master’s programs. Available University of Georgia degrees include:

• Bachelor of Science in Special Education
• Master of Avian Health and Medicine
• Master of Fine Arts in Narrative Media Writing
• Master of Science in Financial Planning
• Specialist of Education in Educational Psychology

Online University of Georgia students can access course content anytime, anywhere with the e-Learning Commons platform. The average class size is 15 for engaged education that’s worth academic value. The University of Georgia is currently authorized across the United States. Online learners benefit from academic advising, disability accommodations, and free tutoring. The Career Services Center helps graduates reach a 94 percent placement rate too.

Average Retention Rate: 94 percent
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Online Tuition: $354 (in-state) or $1,045 (out-of-state) per credit

Learn more about the University of Georgia’s Accredited Online College Programs here.

7. Villanova University

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Rooted in the values of “Truth, Unity, and Charity,” Villanova University is a private, nonprofit Roman Catholic research institution founded in 1842 by the Order of Saint Augustine. With a $564 million endowment, Villanova enlightens over 10,400 students from its 254-acre suburban campus outside Philadelphia in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, and online. Listed as “more selective,” Villanova is ranked the North’s Best College and second Top Value by the U.S. News and World Report. Bloomberg BusinessWeek picked Villanova as America’s 24th Best School with an A+ teaching quality. Forbes also recognized Nova for the 53rd Best Private University nationally.

Villanova University confers accredited, industry-recognized education with four bachelor’s, 18 graduate, and 26 certificate programs 100 percent online. The College of Professional Studies also provides the nation’s broadest selection of non-credit online courses. Available Nova degrees include:

• Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies
• RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
• Master of Science in Sustainable Engineering
• Master of Business Administration in Analytics
• Master of Science in Church Management

Across six academic divisions, professionals can further their education conveniently through Blackboard and the University Alliance. Villanova is authorized in most states, excluding Alaska, Oregon, and Texas. Most programs will require being at least 22 years old and carrying 15+ accredited college credits. Nearly two-thirds of online Wildcats attend part-time while working.

Average Retention Rate: 94 percent
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Online Tuition: $590 (bachelor’s) or $925 (master’s) per credit

Learn more about Villanova University’s Accredited Online College Programs here.

8. University of Washington

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Established in 1861 by territorial governor Isaac Stevens, the University of Washington is a preeminent public, flagship RU/VH institution with a $1 billion research budget. Noted for employing 15 MacArthur Fellows, the University of Washington teaches over 45,200 students from its main 703-acre urban campus in the Pacific Northwest’s largest city of Seattle and online. The U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Washington the 52nd Best University and 16th Top Public School nationally. Washington Monthly recognized the University of Washington-Seattle as America’s seventh Best College for Civic Engagement. The University of Washington also has the sixth Best Salary Returns according to SmartMoney.

The University of Washington’s Professional & Continuing Education Division offers the same respected, accredited credentials for two bachelor’s and 19 master’s degrees online. Students can also pursue in-depth subject exploration with 50+ online certificates. Available UW degrees include:

• Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood & Family Studies
• Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Social Sciences
• Master of Geographic Information Systems
• Master of Science in Applied Mathematics
• Master of Science in Computational Linguistics

Online programs the University of Washington can be delivered asynchronously online or with one synchronous evening session per week. For-credit online courses are hosted by the Canvas Network, but free MOOCs are accessible via Coursera too. Since 2001, UW has catered to career changers and the forever curious via the Internet with an 11:1 student-faculty ratio.

Average Retention Rate: 93 percent
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
Online Tuition: $1,135 (in-state) or $3,540 (out-of-state) per course

Learn more about the University of Washington’s Accredited Online College Degree Programs here.

9. George Washington University

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Classified for “very high research activity,” George Washington University is the District of Columbia’s largest private, nonsectarian R1 institution with over 26,200 students. Based on a 43-acre urban campus in Foggy Bottom, George Washington University operates satellite divisions in Mount Vernon, Virginia’s Loudoun County, and online from anywhere. For 2016, George Washington University was the 57th Best College and 46th Best School for Veterans according to the U.S. News and World Report. The Princeton Review ranked George Washington University the #1 “Most Politically Active” university. The Times Higher Education included George Washington University within the top 250 global universities.

George Washington University marries prestige with convenience by conferring two associate, eight bachelor’s, 47 master’s, and three doctoral degrees online. The Office of Online Learning also offers five open MOOCs for an international audience. Available online degrees at George Washington University include:

• Associate of Science in Health Sciences in Laboratory Technology
• Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences in Clinical Research Administration
• Master of Arts in Secondary Special Education & Transition Services
• Master of Professional Studies in Political Communication and Governance
• Doctor of Philosophy of Systems Engineering Management

Online programs at GWU are creatively produced by the eDesign Shop for optimal learning pedagogies. Through 2U, the digital classroom offers real-time video seminars, discussion boards, and customized projects. Online courses are offered every Fall, Summer, and Spring for rigorous, year-round experiences that ranked 27th nationally.

Average Retention Rate: 93 percent
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Online Tuition: $685 (bachelor’s) or $1,600 (master’s) per credit

Website

10. Union University

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Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Union University is private, evangelical Christian liberal arts institution tracing its history back to 1823 as Jackson Male Academy. Now enrolling over 4,200 co-educational students, Union is nestled on a 290-acre urban campus in Madison County’s largest city with other Tennessee locations in Germantown and Hendersonville. The U.S. News ranked Union as the 14th best college and 12th top pick for veterans in the South. As one of Templeton’s “Colleges That Encourage Character Development,” Union University was named the 68th best private value in Kiplinger’s.

Union University holds SACS accreditation to provide Christ-centered academics with nine fully online and four hybrid programs. The SREB Electronic Campus allows reciprocal agreements for students living in 16 Southern states. Available Union degrees include:

• Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership
• Bachelor of Science in Nursing for RNs
• Master of Education in Teaching & Learning
• Master of Business Administration in HR Management
• Master of Christian Studies in Ministry Leadership

Online Union University students never sacrifice close interaction for flexibility and accelerated learning with the 10:1 student-faculty ratio. Relevant coursework is presented from a Christian worldview at an affordable tuition. Bachelor’s degree completion programs can be finished in just 18 months. Course materials are easily purchased through the Online Textbook Store. Union University offers online programs the same access to Library Services.

Average Retention Rate: 92 percent
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Online Tuition: $975 per hour or $14,660 per semester

Learn more about Union University’s Accredited Online College Programs here.

11. Pennsylvania State University

pstate
Consistently winning the “Big Ten Challenge,” Pennsylvania State University is a multi-campus system endowed for $3.64 billion to operate public, land-grant research institutions. Along with its 5,448-acre main campus in Happy Valley and 24 locations across the Keystone State, Pennsylvania State University has an award-winning World Campus. According to the U.S. News and World Report, this Public Ivy is ranked America’s 47th Best University and 38th Top College for Veterans. Forbes magazine lauded Penn State as the 77th Top Research Iniversity nationwide. The Wall Street Journal recognized Pennsylvania State University as the #1 choice of corporate recruiters.

Pennsylvania State University offers flexible, career-focused online learning leading to six associate, 29 bachelor’s, and 46 graduate degrees. There are also 48 accredited online post-baccalaureate certificates for advancement. Available Pennsylvania State University degrees include:

• Associate of Science in Labor and Employment Relations
• Bachelor of Arts in Energy and Sustainability Policy
• Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness Management
• Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security
• Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction

In 1998, PSU was one of the first major universities providing online education. Online students now hail from 60+ countries on six continents to learn from world-renowned faculty. Penn Staters enroll in online courses for 12 to 15 weeks and connect via Blackboard Collaborate. Each credit is academically equal to campus-based counterparts. The Sloan Consortium gave PSU the Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Education Award.

Average Retention Rate: 92 percent
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Online Tuition: $542 (bachelor’s) or $930 (master’s) per credit

Learn more about Pennsylvania State University’s Accredited Online College Programs here.

12. University of Delaware

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Opened in 1743 by Presbyterian minister Francis Alison, the University of Delaware is the Diamond State’s largest public, nonsectarian land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research institution. Enrolling over 22,800 diverse pupils, UD is headquartered on 2,311 suburban acres outside Newark with campuses in Dover, Wilmington, Lewes, Georgetown, and online. Delaware is ranked America’s 75th Best University, 62nd Top School for Veterans, and 29th Best Public College by the U.S. News and World Report. Niche graded the University of Delaware with an A for academics and value. Forbes noted UD as the 137th overall Best University Nationwide.

The University of Delaware promotes discovery-based, flexible online learning through its two undergraduate and seven graduate degrees. For professional development, there are also 16 leading-edge certificate programs online. Available UD degrees include:

• Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences
• Bachelor of Science in Nursing for RNs
• Master of Business Administration in Finance
• Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering
• Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner

The University of Delaware’s online faculty includes active practitioners who’ve designed curriculum on the forefront of their field. With a student-faculty ratio of 15:1, online programs blend on-demand video lectures with case studies and interactive assignments. Technical support is available 24/7 with essential digital resources. Students could also join the Delaware Innovation Fellows Program for entrepreneurial projects.

Average Retention Rate: 92 percent
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Online Tuition: $481 (bachelor’s) or $780 (master’s) per credit

Learn more about the University of Delaware’s Accredited Online College Programs here.

13. Purdue University

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Endowed for $2.3 billion, Purdue University is a flagship public, co-educational RU/VH research institution founded in 1869 under the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act. Around 22 percent of Purdue’s 39,400 students are international, the fourth highest percentage in America. Purdue is located on a sprawling 2,600-acre urban campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, around 65 miles from Indianapolis. The U.S. News noted Purdue University as the 61st best college and 21st most innovative school nationally. Money magazine crowned Purdue the 51st top value with above-average starting salaries. QS World University Rankings placed Purdue at #89 too.

Purdue University captures top-quality, flexible education in an asynchronous online format with one undergraduate and 17 graduate programs. Five online graduate certificates can be completed in just 24 weeks too. Available Purdue degrees include:

• Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology
• Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics
• Master of Science in Construction Management
• Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology
• Master of Science in Electrical Computer Engineering

Online students master career-specific, marketable skills with cloud-based education. Through Pearson LearningStudio, students join a supportive community with world-class faculty for 15 to 20 hours weekly. The accredited, “Military Friendly” university holds a Virtual Open House to learn more. The Purdue NEXT program also offers corporate development programs from venture capital to pharmaceutical services.

Average Retention Rate: 92 percent
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)
Online Tuition: $347 to $1,108 per credit hour

Learn more about Purdue University’s Accredited Online College Programs here.

14. University of Miami

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Attracting $346 in research funding annually, the University of Miami is a premier private, nonprofit RU/VH institution separated into 12 schools for over 16,800 students. Based on 239 suburban acres, the University of Miami is located in Coral Gables, Florida, within Miami-Dade County for on-campus, online, and hybrid education. The U.S. News and World Report named the University of Miami the 51st Best National University and 41st Top School for Military and Veterans. According to the Princeton Review, Miami is America’s fourth best college for “Lots of Race/Class Interaction.” Globally, the Times Higher Education places the University of Miami among the world’s top 170 universities.

The University of Miami is regionally accredited to grant professional recognition with two bachelor’s and 11 master’s programs online. There are also 35+ certificate options and the free Entrepreneurship for Musicians MOOC. Available UM degrees include:

• Bachelor of General Studies
• Master’s in Sport Administration
• Master’s in Health Informatics
• Master of Business Administration
• L.L.M. in Real Property Development

Online students in the University of Miami’s Division of Continuing & International Education engage through the mobile-optimized UOnline learning platform. Thanks to the 12:1 student-faculty ratio, learners get a direct line to world-class professors. Among the “Best in the Southeast,” Miami offers flexible start dates without established class schedules for flexibility. Graduates of the outcome-based programs gain connections with its over 180,000 passionate alumni worldwide.

Average Retention Rate: 92 percent
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Online Tuition: $1,900 per credit hour

Learn more about the University of Miami’s Accredited Online College Programs here.

15. Texas A&M University

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Formerly named the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas until 1891, Texas A&M University is a public, co-educational state research institution enrolling more than 64,300 students. As Texas’ largest school, TAMU stands proudly on a 5,500-acre urban campus in College Station in the Brazos Valley with extensions in Galveston, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Commerce, and online. According to the U.S. News, Texas A&M is the 70th best national university and 26th top public college. Offering a $628,000 20-year net Return on Investment (ROI), Washington Monthly crowned Texas A&M University third in America for social mobility.

Texas A&M University participates in the SREB Electronic Campus to deliver reliable, yet flexible online education with 46 graduate degrees. Another 15 graduate-level certificates are delivered online for one to two in-depth semesters. Available TAMU degrees include:

• Master of Science in Agricultural Systems Management
• Master of Education in Cognition and Creativity
• Master of Engineering in Petroleum Engineering
• Executive Master of Public Service and Administration
• Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction

Online students receive institutionally issued accounts for Blackboard to access Web-based weekly class sessions. Joining the Aggie Network allows students to receive lectures, discussions, and assignments anytime with like-minded peers. Texas A&M requires learners sign an Honor Code for good “Netiquette.” Graduate students will access 24/7 Help Desk services, remote library literature, and TTVN WebMeeting for conferencing.

Average Retention Rate: 91 percent
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
Online Tuition: $394 (in-state) or $799 (out-of-state) per credit

Learn more about Texas A&M’s Accredited Online College Programs here.