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Online Degrees in Colorado (CO)

Colorado is sitting pretty, both literally and metaphorically. In addition to being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, the state is an economic powerhouse: Coloradans statistically tend to be more highly educated, earn more, and enjoy lower unemployment than the average American. This is not just good luck. Colorado is home to several well respected colleges, and the rise of online education makes these schools more accessible than ever before. Of course, no school is right for everyone, so it pays to do your research. Read on to learn more about Colorado's colleges (online and off), in-demand degrees, major cities and metros, financial aid options, and so much more.

  1. Spotlight: Colorado College Trends
  2. Why Should I Earn a Degree in Colorado?
  3. What Makes Colorado Ideal for Online Education?
  4. Top 10 Degrees in Colorado
  5. Top Cities and Metros for Colorado College Students
  6. College Roadmap
  7. Scholarships and Financial Aid
  8. Discover Degree Opportunities

Spotlight: Colorado College Trends

Colorado is one of the most highly educated states in the nation, and by no small margin. The U.S. Census reports that a full 47.5 percent of Colorado's working-age adults held at least a two-year degree in 2012, eclipsing the 39.4 percent national average. Impressive numbers, but what do they mean in practical terms? In a word: jobs. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2018 the vast bulk of American jobs will require at least some postsecondary training. States that can supply these workers have an edge attracting employers (and the jobs and money they bring with them). This may already be happening in Colorado. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Colorado's September 2014 unemployment rate of 4.7 percent was already a full point below the 5.9 percent national average -- and was trending downward. In fact, while the Bureau projects that total employment will grow by 11 percent between 2012 and 2022, Colorado's workforce is poised to grow by 21 percent. Colorado's 2013 average annual wages were a few thousand dollars above the average, too. Higher wages and employment rates translate to a higher quality of life for Colorado workers and a major economic spurt for the state.

Colorado may have a lot of great things going for it, economically speaking, but it still has a lot of work to do. A 2014 Lumina Foundation report projects that even if degree attainment in Colorado continues to climb at the current rate, it will still fall 7 percent short of employer demand by 2025, costing the state thousands of potential new jobs. How can a state with already far higher-than-average educational attainment shore such a wide deficit? By improving access to higher education for would-be students in rural communities with few to no college options, and full-time workers whose schedules make attending classes difficult. Cue distance learning in Colorado.

Online education in Colorado lets students study anywhere, anytime -- even between meetings or in secluded mountain communities. Schools picked up on this long ago. Today, even well known traditional four-year universities offer online degrees, and private and national career schools expand options all the more. Even the state's Department of Higher Education promotes online degrees in Colorado by sponsoring programs that make finding them easier. More on this below.

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Why Should I Earn a Degree in Colorado?

The decision to go to college is the first step toward advancing your education and career. The second: Figuring out where to go. There are dozens of reasons Colorado colleges and universities are short-list-worthy. The state is beautiful, and has the tourist economy to prove it. It is a haven for hikers, skiers, and most other brands of outdoor enthusiasts, and major metros like Boulder and Denver are cultural sweet spots. But perhaps the most compelling reasons to attend Colorado colleges have more to do with the state economy than the schools themselves. As we discussed above, Colorado workers tend to earn more than the average U.S. worker, and their employment rates are higher. Higher earnings and lower unemployment rates usually translate to higher quality of life. Sure, these trends attract transplants from all over the United States, but employer recruitment efforts almost always target area colleges. That gives students who graduate from Colorado schools an advantage in the job market.

These education and economic trends form a sort of self-fulfilling cycle: The more jobs (and money) funneled into Colorado, the more the state can invest in higher education -- a point that matters now more than ever. As in most states, Colorado's budget shortfalls forced it to reduce higher education investments during the Great Recession, though a report from The College Board notes the share of the state's hikes were smaller than the national average. As Colorado recovered (a bit quicker than most states, thanks in part to its highly educated workforce), it worked quickly to reverse the trend. By May 2014, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the College Affordability Act into law. The legislation not only capped statewide tuition hikes, but funneled an additional $100 million into the state's higher education system. According to Denver's Fox 31, Gov. Hickenlooper said the funds not only benefit "families and students," but generate jobs. Entrepreneurs "need a talented workforce," he added.

Of course, some Colorado industries stand to grow faster than others. Savvy students will use this truth to their advantage.

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What Makes Colorado Ideal for Online Education?

We have already discussed Colorado's looming need for more college graduates, and improved access to higher education might be the ticket to getting them. This can be said of most states, but especially Colorado, where mountains and other geographical barriers limit residents' options. The Lumina Foundation reports that Colorado's college graduates were concentrated in just a handful of counties in 2012. Attainment generally correlated with population: the share of college graduates in the ever-populated Boulder, Douglas, and Pitkin counties each exceeded 60 percent, while those in rural Bent, Crowley, and Costilla counties did not even break 20 percent. This makes sense: colleges and employers tend to gravitate toward major cities where finding workers (or students) is easier. Rural communities are at a disadvantage. This matters in Colorado where, according to the Colorado Rural Development Council, a whopping 42 Colorado counties are rural. Several average fewer than two people per square mile. If Colorado could find a way to improve college access to these counties, the payoff could be huge. The same could be said even of urbanites who would like to return to school to get ahead at the office, but cannot afford to leave the workforce. Online education could solve both conundrums.

Distance learning in Colorado transcends many barriers to higher education, geography and busy lifestyles included. Students with access to an Internet connection can now pursue a degree from the school of their choosing. This matters in Colorado -- and the state knows it. Colleges and universities of all types are putting a lot of time and money into developing online degree programs, including big names like Colorado State University and the University of Colorado. Making it easier for students to find distance education in Colorado could increase college completion rates.

Online degrees in Colorado can be a lifeline for students who otherwise could not go to college, but let's be honest: almost anyone, anywhere can benefit from online learning -- even those living in major metros with plenty of options.

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Top 10 Degrees in Colorado

College pays. Studies show workers with at least some college under their belts generally earn more, enjoy stronger employment rates, and advance faster. It seems research pays, too, since students who major in high-demand fields stand to benefit most. The following degrees are linked to some of Colorado's fastest growing jobs, as projected by the U.S. Department of Labor. Note that many of these degrees can be completed at least partly, if not completely, online. Connect with online colleges in Colorado to learn more.

Petroleum Engineering

Colorado is a goldmine of natural resources, which makes it a goldmine for energy-related jobs. This explains why petroleum engineering jobs are among the fastest-growing careers in the state, with a whopping 67 percent projected growth between 2012 and 2022. Petroleum engineers must have at least a bachelor's degree to enter the field, but many employers prefer candidates with master's degrees.

Top Petroleum Engineering School in Colorado

  • Colorado School of Mines. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks Colorado School of Mines among the best engineering schools in the country. It is also the only college in Colorado -- and one of the few in the country -- with a petroleum engineering program. The school offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in petroleum engineering and related disciplines, like petroleum reservoir systems. The program receives hundreds of applications each year, so expect some stiff competition.

Computer Science

Computer science degrees are a hot commodity almost anywhere, and Colorado is no exception. The U.S. Department of Labor ranks a number of computer-science-related jobs among the fastest growing in Colorado for the 2012 to 2022 projected period, though information security analysts (58 percent projected growth) tops the charts. Other high-demand fields for computer science graduates include software developers (both applications and systems software) and programmers. A bachelor's degree is usually sufficient training for each of these careers.

Top Computer Science Schools in Colorado

  • University of Colorado in Boulder. The University of Colorado in Boulder is widely considered to be one of the best computer science schools in the country, and it has the U.S. News & World Report top 50 ranking to prove it. UC Boulder offers undergraduate- and graduate-level computer science degrees, plus a minor program for students majoring in related fields.
  • Colorado State University. Colorado State University offers a wide breadth of computer science degrees, including bachelor's, master's, combined bachelor's/master's, and Ph.D. options. Bonus: Students can earn a master of computer science degree from CSU completely online. U.S. News ranks CSU's computer science program no. 70 in the nation.
  • Colorado School of Mines. It is likely no surprise that Colorado School of Mines -- one of the top-ranked engineering schools in the nation -- is also home to one of U.S. News' top-ranked computer science programs. CSM offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science, including a research-intensive Ph.D.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Diagnostic medical sonographers -- often called ultrasound technicians -- are in demand almost everywhere, though Colorado's 51 percent U.S. Department of Labor-projected growth between 2012 and 2022 trumps even the impressive 39 percent national projection for the same period. The BLS notes that while many ultrasound technicians can get by with a postsecondary certificate, associate and bachelor's degrees are becoming increasingly common (and, often, preferred).

Top Sonography Schools in Colorado

  • Pueblo Community College. Pueblo Community College's two-year associate degree in radiologic technology can serve as a stepping stone to a number of radiology-related health careers, including sonography. The program is specifically designed to prepare students for professional certification exams, credentials the BLS says can give ultrasound technicians a distinct advantage in the workforce.
  • Red Rocks Community College. Red Rocks offers a five-semester (21 month) sonography program that includes extensive clinical training. Students can also hone some experience in various specialties, like vascular, abdominal, and obstetric sonography.
  • Pima Medical Institute. PMI is a Denver-area private career school offering a number of allied health majors. Its ultrasound technician program allows students to earn sonography certificates in as little as 18 months, but note that applicants must either already have a bachelor's degree (in any field) or a two-year degree in a patient-care-related field like radiologic technology or nursing.

Marketing

In Colorado, marketing degrees provide a pathway into several business-related jobs. The DoL projects that market research analysts and marketing specialists should see a hearty 48 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022. A bachelor's degree in marketing (or a related business discipline) is the baseline requirement for most marketing gigs. Those who invest in master's degrees or a good deal of experience can eventually become marketing managers -- and earn a pretty penny more for their efforts.

Top Marketing Schools in Colorado

  • The University of Denver. The University of Denver's Daniels College of Business offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in marketing, plus campus-based and online degrees in related areas of business, like leadership and organizations. U.S. News & World Reports ranked DU among the top 100 colleges in the nation in 2014, and its part-time MBA program, online bachelor's programs, and online graduate business programs made the cut, too.
  • University of Colorado at Denver. The University of Colorado at Denver offers bachelor's and master's degrees in marketing, not to mention graduate-level specialties in brand management, global marketing, social media marketing, sports marketing, marketing research, and more. Students who want a broader business education can look to the school's respected MBA programs, including its part-time MBA program, which U.S. News & World Reports ranked among the best in the nation in 2014. UC Denver also offers online business degrees.
  • Johnson & Wales. Johnson & Wales is a private career school with campuses all across the nation. Its Denver campus offers classroom-based programs in marketing and related disciplines, including fashion/retail marketing and business. Of course, one need not live near Denver -- or even in Colorado -- to attend JWU thanks to its sizeable catalog of online degree programs.

Logistics/Supply Chain Management

Logistics is a commonly overlooked business degree that is especially valuable in Colorado, where the U.S. Department of Labor projects that demand for logisticians could grow by as much as 46 percent between 2012 and 2022. While a bachelor's degree is often sufficient for entry-level work, graduate-level degrees -- particularly MBAs -- can give candidates an edge in competitive job markets.

Top Logistics Schools in Colorado

  • Colorado Technical University. Colorado Technical University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in logistics, including the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Master of Business Administration degrees with concentrations in Logistics/Supply Chain Management. Note that students can earn an online MBA in Logistics Management from CTU -- a solid option for distant students and working professionals looking to advance their careers.
  • University of Colorado at Denver. UC Denver's Center for International Business Education and Research offers bachelor's and master's degrees in international business that are designed to address a wide range of topics and specialties, including supply chain management and logistics. The school also offers a few specialized online MBA programs, though the basic Master of Business Administration program likely suits the field best.
  • More options. There are a number of national colleges that offer online degrees in logistics management, but that do not necessarily have campuses in Colorado. Among them: Franklin University and Kaplan University. Contact prospective schools to learn more.

Foreign Language

The ability to speak more than one language is an asset in virtually any industry, but in Colorado, it could help you land one of the most in-demand jobs in the state: Interpreter. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that demand for interpreters and translators will grow 70 percent between 2012 and 2022. That's the largest share of any field featured on our list, though bear in mind that the field is relatively small. The BLS reports that while fluency in a second language is often enough to get your foot in the door, most interpreters and translators have at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field.

Top Foreign Language Schools in Colorado

  • Colorado State University. Colorado State University's Department of Foreign Languages & Literature offers a number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in such languages as French, German, and Spanish. Students who already speak a foreign language, or who took some foreign language courses in high school or at another college, can sit for a placement exam, which can help identify the best program or level to begin.
  • University of Colorado at Boulder. UC Boulder offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in various foreign languages, including French, Italian, and Spanish. Students who are already fluent in a second language, but would like to earn a degree as a resume boost, can look to related fields like linguistics and international affairs.
  • Colorado College. Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, is another solid option for budding interpreters and translators. Students can earn bachelor's degrees in French or Italian, or can minor in Arabic Language while pursuing a related degree, like Islamic Studies. The school also hosts French, Italian, and Arabic Language immersion houses and a number of Study Abroad options.

Materials Engineering

Materials science has come a long way since its metallurgical roots: Students today study a diversity of materials, including ceramics and composites. Materials engineers frequently rank among some of the highest-paid professionals in the country. They are also in high demand in Colorado where the DoL projects the field will grow by 45 percent between 2012 and 2022.

Top Materials Engineering Schools in Colorado

  • Colorado College of Mines. U.S. News & World Report regularly ranks Colorado College of Mines among the best engineering schools in the nation, and its materials engineering department follows the trend. The school's Metallurgical and Materials Engineering department is robust: Students can earn undergraduate or graduate degrees and engage in cutting-edge research.
  • University of Colorado at Boulder. UC Boulder is home to a number of nationally-ranked engineering programs, per U.S. News & World Report, and at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can earn bachelor's and master's degrees in materials science, and -- like College of Mines -- can engage in meaningful research as they go.
  • Colorado State University. CSU does not just offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in materials engineering -- it hosts an entire lab dedicated to materials research, which is appropriately named the Materials Engineering Laboratory (MEL). Bonus: CSU also offers an online Master of Engineering with a materials engineering focus through its OnlinePlus program.

Biomedical Engineering

Technological advances plus an aging population have created a wealth of opportunity in the field of biomedical engineering, which ranks among one of the hottest industries in the country for overall growth. The DoL projects that demand for biomedical engineers in Colorado will grow by about 44 percent between 2012 and 2022. The field is admittedly small but, as the BLS notes, increasingly diverse. The range of areas in which these professionals can work grows with each passing year.

Top Biomedical Engineering Schools in Colorado

  • Colorado State University. CSU's School of Biomedical Engineering offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees, plus a unique dual bachelor's degree that, as of the time of this writing, is the first such program in Colorado and only the second in the nation. Graduates of this five-year program will earn a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical engineering and a second degree in chemical and biological engineering, electrical engineering, or mechanical engineering. CSU also offers on online Master of Engineering degree with a biomedical engineering specialization. U.S. News ranked CSU's biomedical and bioengineering programs among the top graduate-level programs in the nation.
  • Colorado School of Mines. Future biomedical engineering professionals will find no shortage of program options at Colorado School of Mines. The school offers undergraduate- and graduate-level degrees (and minors) in areas like bioengineering, chemical and biological engineering, and engineering and technology management.

Nursing

Nurses are in demand in most states, so it isn't particularly surprising that the BLS projects a solid 26 percent employment growth for Colorado registered nurses during the decade leading up to 2022. What makes nursing school an exceptionally good investment in The Centennial State, however, is the additional high-demand jobs available that also often begin in nursing school. For instance, the BLS projects that demand for nursing school instructors in Colorado will grow by a whopping 45 percent between 2012 and 2022, and for physicians assistants (who often begin as RNs) by 40 percent. Bonus: Colorado is home to several high-ranked nursing schools.

Top Nursing Schools in Colorado

  • University of Colorado at Denver. U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Colorado at Denver's nursing program no. 15 in the nation in 2015, and its pediatric nursing program an even more impressive no. 5. The school offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in nursing, not to mention certificates, and in a diversity of specialties. UC Denver offers online programs, too, and with great success: U.S. News ranked its online graduate nursing program no. 10 nationally.
  • University of Northern Colorado. As with UC Denver, the University of Northern Colorado's nursing program is decidedly robust: students can earn bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees in a multitude of specialties. It is also a highly regarded program, earning top 100 ranking nationally from U.S. News & World Report in 2015.
  • Colorado State University at Pueblo. CSU Pueblo is yet another Colorado nursing school that frequently ranks among the best in the nation. It also offers a wide range of nursing degrees, including unique accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Paramedic BSN programs. Students with some higher education under their belts can often expedite their educations through special Degree Plus programs, like the Degree Plus to BSN degree option. Note that CSU Pueblo also offers a graduate-level Nursing Educator Program designed specifically for future nursing instructors.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy professionals can make a world of differences in the lives of their patients and, thanks to a national shortage, enjoy solid prospects once in the field. The same is true in Colorado, where the BLS projects employment of occupational therapists will grow by nearly 32 percent between 2012 and 2022, while occupational therapy aides and occupational therapy assistants should see job growth of 26 and 38 percent, respectively. What separates these careers is the amount of education required for each, which in turn impacts earnings and the scope of care they can provide. Thankfully, future occupational therapy professionals of all stripes have a number of solid programs to choose from in Colorado.

Top Occupational Therapy Schools in Colorado

  • Colorado State University. Colorado State University is one of the few schools not just in Colorado, but in the central United States to offer the master's, pre-professional, and doctoral degrees required of future occupational therapists. It has also earned a reputation for excellence: U.S. News & World Report ranked CSU's occupational therapy school no. 6 in the nation in 2015.
  • Pueblo Community College. Occupational therapy assistants have less professional independence that OTs, but they require far less training. Pueblo Community College's OTA students can earn an associate degree in as little as 18 months. PCC is one of only three occupational therapy assistant schools in Colorado to be accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association.
  • National American University in Denver. As its name suggest, NAU is a national career school with a handful of campuses across the country, one of which is in Denver. NAU offers associate degrees in occupational therapy assistance, and many of the required courses can be completed online. Like PCC, NAU is one of the few OTA schools in Colorado to be accredited by the AOTA.

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Top Cities and Metros for Colorado College Students

Colorado is home to several major cities and metro areas. Jobs and colleges are concentrated here, which means college students and recent graduates are, too. The following is a quick introduction to the state's largest population centers, including some of their most prominent schools. Popular degrees are based on Fall 2013 enrollment statistics. Programs can and do change, so contact prospective schools directly to learn more.

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood

The U.S. Census estimates that the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area was home to more than 2,645,000 people in 2012, making it the most populated metro in Colorado (and one of the most populated in the country). Situated in what is known as the Front Range Urban Corridor, the area spans several counties and encompasses a number of major cities in addition to its namesakes, like Bloomfield, Centennial, Westminster, and Thornton. The metro is also a major economic center supporting 1,280,960 workers in May 2013, estimates the BLS. The Bureau also reports that regional earnings tend to be high ($52,110 average wage in 2013) and unemployment low (just 4.8 percent in August 2014). The metro can credit these trends at least partly to its higher-than-average quality of life and an extremely educated workforce.

The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area is a cultural hotbed: Denver alone is home to such well regarded institutions as the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Center for Performing Arts, and the Denver Botanic Gardens. Aurora features more than 600 acres of open space, along with plenty of trails, wildlife, and gardens. Those who want to get away can take a day trip to the Rocky Mountains -- a popular getaway for mountain biking and winter sports fanatics.

A Lumina Foundation analysis of 2012 Census data suggests that the Denver area is one of the most highly educated metros not just in Colorado, but the nation. Many of these graduates are transplants hoping to take advantage of Denver's stellar economy: Forbes ranked it among the fastest-growing regions in the United States in 2014. Other graduates flocked to the area to attend one of its many colleges, then stayed for everything else the metro has to offer.

Major Colleges in Denver

  • The University of Colorado at Denver. The University of Colorado Denver is a major research institution serving nearly 30,000 students each year across two campuses -- one in Denver and the other in Aurora. UC Denver offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degrees (including dozens of hybrid and online degrees and certificates) in a wide breadth of disciplines -- like engineering, nursing, business, education, science, and the arts -- but is perhaps best known for its nationally ranked medical programs.
    • Popular degrees: Business administration, registered nursing, biology, psychology, and speech communication.
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver. Metro State University of Denver (Metro State to locals) may be younger than most Colorado colleges, but that has not stopped it from becoming one of the largest public universities in the state. Originally an undergraduate institution, Metro State only recently added master's programs. Popular disciplines include science, business, criminal justice. and the liberal arts.
    • Popular degrees: Teaching, accounting, social work, and aviation.
  • University of Denver. The University of Denver is one of the oldest private universities in the region. It is smaller than UC Denver and Met State, but extends its reach considerably through dozens of online degrees, certificates, and non-credit courses. DU offers undergraduate- and graduate-level degrees in several areas, among them: business, law, education, journalism, engineering, computer science, psychology, the social sciences, and music.
    • Popular degrees: Business, management and marketing; social science; visual and performing arts; biomedical sciences; and communications and journalism.

Online Schools in Denver

  • Johnson & Wales University. JWU is a private non-profit university with an expansive catalog of online classes and degree programs. It also manages four campuses nationwide, one of which is in Denver. This makes JWU an attractive option for hybrid students -- those who want to complete most of their degree online while still reporting to the classroom for certain courses (particularly those with hands-on or clinical components). The school offers a number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in areas like business, hospitality, science, and the arts, but is perhaps best known for its culinary arts program.
    • Popular degrees: Food service administration and management; parks and recreation management; business administration; hospitality management; and culinary arts.
  • Colorado Technical University. CTU is a private, for-profit university offering undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in areas like business, engineering, computer science, criminal justice, and public administration. Like JWU, CTU is a large, national online university with a handful of campuses, including two in the Denver metro. The school has earned a reputation for being military-friendly.
    • Popular degrees: Online MBA, information assurance, electrical engineering, and computer science.

Colorado Springs

The U.S. Census estimates that the Colorado Springs metropolitan area -- including El Paso and Teller counties -- was home to more than 668,000 residents in 2012. Colorado Springs proper is the heart of the region and by far its largest city. Other adjoining but smaller cities include Security-Widefield, Fountain, and Cimarron Hills. The BLS estimates that as of May 2013, the region supported nearly 246,000 workers, who earned an average wage of $45,410 a year (about on par with the national average). Many of these jobs come courtesy of the region's military installations, which explains why defense remains the metro's primary industry. A growing high tech industry has also created a number of new jobs, especially in Colorado Springs proper.

Colorado Springs is situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains' ever-popular Pikes Peak. This makes the metro a go-to destination for outdoor hobbyists and serious athletes alike. In fact, Colorado Springs is the official home of the U.S. Olympic Training Center. City dwellers, fret not: The downtown Colorado Springs area is swimming in plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

Like Denver, the Colorado Springs metro is one of the most educated regions in the state: Lumina reports that a solid 47 percent of El Paso County residents had at least a two-year degree in 2012. Area colleges and universities are broad in scope and number. The United States Air Force Academy is also based here.

Major Colleges in Colorado Springs

  • University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The Colorado Springs branch of the public University of Colorado system serves thousands of undergraduate and graduate students each year, and if rankings are any indication, it does it well. U.S. News and World Reports frequently places UCCS among the top public universities in both the region and the nation. Programs are decidedly diverse, but generally fall within a handful of colleges: Letters, Arts and Sciences; Nursing and Health Sciences; Business; Education; Public Affairs; and Engineering. The school also hosts a number of research institutes in the areas of innovation, science, and space. UCCS offers a several online degrees, including its nationally-ranked online MBA, nursing, and business programs.
    • Popular degrees: Business administration and management; health-related programs; social science; biological and biomedical science; and psychology.
  • Colorado College. Colorado College (CC to locals) is a relatively small, private liberal arts college in Colorado Springs. It also happens to rank among some of the best private and liberal arts colleges in the nation according to publications like U.S. News & World Report and Forbes -- a point that at least partly explains the school's reputation for selectivity. CC offers dozens of degree programs in areas like art, education, science, cultural studies, and more.
    • Popular degrees: Sociology, biological science, economics, environmental science, and fine and studio arts.
  • Nazarene Bible College. Nazarene Bible College is a private Christian school based in Colorado Springs serving nearly 1,500 students each year. Students can pursue certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor's degrees in areas like ministries, leadership and ethics, general studies, and more. Note that students can earn some of these degrees online, and quite successfully: NBC's official website notes that since 1998, 94 percent of its online students have completed their programs, far more than the 47 percent estimated national average.
    • Popular degrees: General studies and ministry.

Online Schools in Colorado Springs

Fort Collins

The Fort Collins metropolitan area includes the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland, plus a number of smaller towns throughout the region. The U.S. Census estimates that just over 245,000 people lived in the area in 2012, though Fort Collins alone accounted for nearly 150,000 residents. According to the BLS, the region supported about 136,810 workers in 2013, and earnings were on par with the national average. Manufacturing and business services are historically the area's largest industries, though technology, energy, and bioscience jobs are growing quickly.

Fort Collins is truly the heart of the surrounding metro: most of the metro's residents live and work here. The city is also home to some of the area's best known and loved cultural offerings -- from the Fort Collins Symphony to Broadway plays -- plus several festivals throughout the year. It also has a booming brewing market that it can credit, at least in part, to Colorado State University's sizeable student population.

As with the other metros featured on this list, workers in the Fort Collins area tend to be more educated than the average bear: Lumina reports that more than 55 percent of working-age adults in Larimer County had at least an associate degree in 2012, well above the national average. This, and the fact that the region is home to the sizeable Colorado State University, drive the metro's culture as much as its economy.

Major Colleges in Fort Collins

  • Colorado State University. Colorado State University is a public research institution serving more than 30,000 students each year, primarily through its Fort Collins campus. CSU offers dozens of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, plus a professional degree in veterinary science. Disciplines vary but include: engineering, environmental science, agricultural, the liberal and performing arts, journalism, health, and more. Its occupational therapy, business, veterinary science, and engineering programs are frequently ranked among some of the best in the country by publications like U.S, News & World Report. Note that CSU offers several online bachelor's and master's degrees through its OnlinePlus program.
    • Popular degrees: Business management and marketing; family and consumer science; social science; biomedical science; and park, recreation, and leisure studies.

Boulder

The city of Boulder is the backbone of the broader Boulder metropolitan area (which was home to nearly 300,000 people in 2012), but those familiar with the area likely know it more for its outdoor recreation, music, student and decidedly alternative culture scenes. The city has a reputation for attracting environmental warriors and academics alike, and its already sizable but still growing microbrewery circuit draws people of all stripes.

Boulder is an environmentally-centric city that frequently makes (and tops) lifestyle rankings lists: various publications have named the city one of the happiest, healthiest, brainiest, and even "foodiest" in the country. Obviously, quality of life is high.

Boulder is perhaps the most educated county in Colorado, if not the nation. According to Lumina, nearly 67 percent of its working-age adults had at least a two-year degree in 2012. Many of these grads likely attended the University of Colorado in Boulder -- one of the largest public research universities in the state. The city is also home to several science and research institutes, many of which are affiliated with the University.

Major Colleges in Boulder

  • University of Colorado at Boulder. The University of Colorado at Boulder, or UCB, is a large, public research university headquartered in Boulder proper. About 30,000 students attend UCB each year, choosing from more than 150 academic programs. The University has produced a plethora of well known alumni, including no less than 11 Nobel Laureates. This and the university's tendency to dominate national rankings helped it earn unofficial so-called "Public Ivy League" status. U.S. News & World Report ranks UCB among the top 10 colleges in the nation in a number of areas, including: quantum and atomic physics, ceramic arts, geology, physical chemistry, environmental law, and engineering (especially aerospace). UCB offers a number of online degree programs.
    • Popular degrees: Social science, business and marketing, biological and biomedical science, psychology, and communications and journalism.
  • Naropa University. Naropa is a very small, private liberal arts college with ties to Buddhism -- it was founded by an Oxford University scholar and Tibetan Buddhist, and continues to describe itself as Buddhist-inspired today. In addition to more traditional degree programs like environmental studies and early childhood education, NU offers degrees in areas such as traditional eastern arts, peace studies, and contemplative psychology.
    • Popular degrees: Psychology, interdisciplinary studies, English language and literature, health and physical education, and environmental studies.

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College Roadmap

Guides like this one are a great way to get acquainted with Colorado colleges, but the only way to really feel a school (and its culture) out is to pay it a visit. College road trips let students visit and compare several schools in a short period of time. They are always practical, but when it comes to a state as beautiful and diverse as Colorado, they can be downright epic. The fact that Colorado's most popular colleges are within a stone's throw of one another makes planning a trip easy. Here's just one recommended itinerary:

  1. Begin in Colorado Springs, home to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Colorado College. Make time to visit the Rocky Mountains, particularly Pikes Peak. Other key highlights: miles of nature and hiking trails, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Academy, and the Garden of the Gods.
  2. Head north on 87 until you reach the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area. While the area at large has a lot to offer wayward travelers of all stripes, future students need not leave Denver. Several major colleges are located in the city, including the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University, the University of Denver, and Johnson & Wales University. Catch an NFL football game, the opera, or one of many street fairs, depending on your interests and when you visit. Denver is home to several museums, too, including the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Jazz bars and music venues abound, but make sure you research any age restrictions before heading out.
  3. Next head northeast to Boulder. As noted above, this city is a mecca for nature lovers, music fanatics, health nuts, environmental warriors, budding artists, and so much more. If you're feeling adventurous, schedule your trip around the epic Polar Bear Plunge, the Naked Pumpkin Run, or one of the many Boulder Cruiser Rides scheduled throughout the year. Don't forget to make time for UC Boulder.
  4. Go northeast to 287 or 87, depending on your mood, and continue to Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University. Many of the city's highlights are nestled downtown, including dozens of microbreweries, the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra, restaurants galore, and Lincoln Center.

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Scholarships and Financial Aid

Students applying to campus-based or online schools in Colorado are often eligible for the same types of federal aid programs as all college students across the country, including grants and loans. Federal grants need not be repaid while loans do, though federal loans tend to have generous interests rates. The government may even subsidize loans by covering students' interest while they are in school. Students can apply for federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online. Track deadlines carefully.

The State of Colorado offers a number of additional financial aid programs, which are detailed on the Colorado Department of Higher Education's official website. These include:

  • Need-based grants like the Colorado Student Grant and the Colorado Graduate Grant
  • Work-study arrangements
  • The Dependent Tuition Assistance Program, reserved for dependents of law enforcement officers, firefighters, and military service members who died or were disabled in the line of duty
  • Colorado National Guard Tuition Assistance

Scholarships are another popular financial aid option, though these tend to come from third-party sources or the schools themselves. Some scholarships are need based; others are merit based. Students can learn more about all their options by contacting individual schools' financial aid offices and asking to speak with an adviser.

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Sources:
"A Stronger Colorado through Higher Education," Lumina Foundation, 2014, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/downloads/pdfs/colorado-brief-2014.pdf
State & County QuickFacts: Colorado, U.S. Census Bureau, 2013, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/08000.html
"OES Data: May 2013," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/tables.htm
"Economy at a Glance," Bureau of Labor Statistics, September, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/eag/home.htm
Colorado Rural Development Council, http://www.ruralcolorado.org/
Statewide Extended Studies, Department of Higher Education, State of Colorado, http://highered.colorado.gov/Academics/ExtendedStudies/
"Hickenlooper signs College Affordability Act into Law," Fox 31 Denver, May 1, 2014, Eli Stokols, http://kdvr.com/2014/05/01/hickenlooper-signs-college-affordability-act-into-law/
"Top 50 Fastest-Growing Occupations: Colorado," CareerOneStop, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014, http://www.careerinfonet.org/oview1.asp?Level=Overall&from=State&stfips=08
Best Colleges, U.S. News & World Report, 2014, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges
America's Top Colleges, Forbes, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/top-colleges/list/
"Table 1. Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012," U.S Census Bureau, 2012, http://www.census.gov/popest/data/metro/totals/2012/tables/CBSA-EST2012-01.csv
"May 2013 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcma.htm
"America's Fastest-Growing Cities 2014: Denver, Colo." Forbes, 2014, http://www.forbes.com/pictures/emeg45iikm/6-denver-colo/
Colorado Student Financial Assistance, Department of Higher Education, State of Colorado, http://highered.colorado.gov/finance/financialaid/TypesofStateAidAvailable.html
University of Colorado Boulder, http://www.colorado.edu/
Colorado State University, http://www.colostate.edu/
Metropolitan State University of Denver, http://www.msudenver.edu/
University of Denver, http://www.du.edu/
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, http://www.uccs.edu/
Johnson & Wales University, http://www.jwu.edu/
Colorado School of Mines, http://www.mines.edu/
Pima Medical Institute in Denver, http://www.pmi.edu/Locations/Colorado/Denver
North American University Denver, http://www.national.edu
Pueblo Community College, http://www.pueblocc.edu/
Colorado College, http://www.coloradocollege.edu
Colorado Technical University, http://www.coloradotech.edu/
Boulder Chamber of Commerce, http://www.boulderchamber.com/
Colorado Springs, http://www.visitcos.com/
Denver Colorado Vacations & Conventions, http://www.denver.org
Visit Fort Collins, http://www.visitftcollins.com/
Free Application for Federal Student Aid, U.S. Department of Education, https://fafsa.ed.gov/