To be included in our ranking of the best colleges for online degree programs, all colleges had to meet the following five criteria:
- Be an accredited U.S. institution
- Offer either 2- or 4-year degree programs
- Have at least 1 percent of students taking at least some of their classes via distance learning
- Be active in the 2015-16 school year
- Report data for all 15 specific ranking variables included in our methodology
We then ranked the remaining 2,169 colleges and universities and scored each on a 100-point scale on these specific. Our data points include:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- The average amount of federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Full-time Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Open admissions policy for all or most entering first-time undergraduate-level students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Offers credit for military training
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Alabama Economy, accessed May 2018, Data USA,https://datausa.io/profile/geo/alabama/#economy
- Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi and Texas Join SARA, November 2, 2015,https://www.sreb.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/al_ga_md_ms_tx_join_distance_ed_agreement.pdf
- Alabama Labor Market Information Division, accessed May 2018, Alabama Department of Labor, http://www2.labor.alabama.gov/
- Annual Report 2015-2016, accessed May 2018, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, http://www.ache.alabama.gov/Content/AgencyRpt/2016-Annual-Report.pdf
- Annual Report 2016-2017, accessed May 2018, Alabama Commission on Higher Education,http://www.ache.state.al.us/Content/AgencyRpt/2017-Annual-Report.pdf
- Alabama State Progress Report: Looking Closer, accessed May 2018, Southern Regional Education Board, https://www.sreb.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/2018progress_al.pdf
- Approved SARA Institutions in Alabama, accessed May 2018, National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements,http://nc-sara.org/states/AL
- A Stronger Nation: Alabama's Progress toward the Goal, accessed May 2018, Lumina Foundation, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#state/AL
- BSC Moves to Test-Optional Admission, August 17, 2016, Birmingham-Southern College,https://www.bsc.edu/communications/news/2016/08/bsc-moves-to-test-optional-admission.html
- Building Human Capital: The Educational Path to Alabama's Economic Success, accessed May 2018, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, http://www.ache.state.al.us/Content/AgencyRpt/State_plan.pdf
- Directory of Accrediting Organizations Recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), accessed May 2018, Alabama Commission on Higher Education, http://www.ache.state.al.us/Content/CollegesUniversities/AccredDir.pdf
- Made in Alabama, Industries,http://www.madeinalabama.com/industries/ ,accessed July 2018
- National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements,http://nc-sara.org/states/AL, accessed July 2018.
- Online College Students 2018, Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences,https://www.learninghouse.com/knowledge-center/research-reports/ocs2018/, accessed July 2018.
- Partnerships, accessed May 2018, University of Alabama, http://bamabydistance.ua.edu/about-us/partnerships.php
- Preparing Alabama's Workforce for Opportunity and Growth, April 30, 2018, Alabama Workforce Council, https://alabamaworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2018.04.30_SuccessPlus.pdf
- Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020 State Report, accessed May 2018, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce,https://cew-7632.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/StateProjections_6.1.15_agc_v2.pdf
- Student Financial Assistance, accessed May 2018, Alabama Commission on Higher Education,http://www.ache.state.al.us/Content/Departments/StudentAsst/StudentAsst.aspx
- The University of Alabama, http://www.itas.ua.edu/course-development/development/quality-matters-rubric.php, accessed July 2018
- University of South Alabama, Quality Matters, http://www.southalabama.edu/departments/ilc/qm-courselist.html, accessed July 2018
- Why UAB?, accessed May 2018, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, http://www.uab.edu/online/why-uab
- Quality Matters, Troy University Case Study, https://www.qualitymatters.org/qa-resources/resource-center/articles-resources/troy-university, accessed July 2018
- University of Alabama at Birmingham, Quality Matters, https://www.uab.edu/elearning/faculty/quality-matters, accessed July 2018
- QM Program Certification Overview, https://www.qualitymatters.org/qm-reviews-certifications/program-reviews, accessed July 2018
- What are my benefits as a student? National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements,http://nc-sara.org/what-are-student-benefits, accessed July 2018
- Top Companies in Alabama on the 2017 Inc. 5000, https://www.inc.com/inc5000/list/2017/state/al, accessed July 2018
- Student Success Center Rolls Out Online Academic Coaching and Tutoring, January 2018, https://www.uah.edu/news/campus/student-success-center-rolls-out-online-academic-coaching-and-tutoring
- Trojan Café, Troy University,https://www.troy.edu/cafe/, accessed July 2018
Alabama or the Heart of Dixie, encompasses a wide variety of industries from aerospace and automotive to agriculture and forestry products. Known to be one of the top five business climates in the country, Alabama is home to a number of Fortune 5000 companies creating great job opportunities, particularly for those with more than a high school diploma. You'll see why these opportunities are mostly for college graduates as you read on.
Alabama has 79 two- and four- year colleges and universities, many of which offer online degree programs designed to meet the needs of Alabama's growing job market. Whether you're a high school graduate or a professional wanting to transition to a new career field or update your skills for higher positions, online degree programs in Alabama can give you the flexibility you need to earn a living and earn a degree at the same time.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Alabama?
Alabama's economy is growing, creating a widening gap between job market needs and the state's current educational attainment level. By 2025, Alabama expects about 500,000 jobs requiring more than a high school education to be added to the workforce. About 330,000 of these may be new job openings and about 170,000 vacancies are expected to open up as a result of baby boomers retiring.
How many of these jobs require more than a high school diploma? According to a study conducted by the Georgetown University, Alabama is likely to need 63 percent of its workforce to be educated beyond high school by 2020.
- 36 percent of jobs may require some college credential, an associate degree, or a postsecondary vocational certificate
- 19 percent of jobs may require a bachelor's degree
- 8 percent of jobs may require a master's degree or higher
Better and wider job opportunities are not the only benefits that can come with higher education. The 2018 Alabama State Progress Report by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) shows that across the SREB region the average yearly earnings of college graduates were $15,300 more than those with a postsecondary credential such as some college or an associate degree. In Alabama, the earning gap between high school graduates and college graduates in 2016 was on average $21,160 a year.
Top Online Colleges in Alabama
Why is this important? According to a 2018 Learning House study of online students, some of the salient factors important to online students and their success are career services, including job placement services, interaction with peers, available scholarships and grants, along with a host of other factors. Pooling data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), we've taken many of those factors into consideration while crafting our methodology.
Top Ten Online Degree Programs in Alabama
If you want to align your degree to the demand of Alabama's job market, here's a list of the most popular programs derived from data retrieved from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Popular degree programs are usually an indication of industry demands so these programs are worth your consideration.
Quality of Online Education in Alabama
The Alabama state government is a member of the National Council State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA), an organization that ensures the delivery of quality online programs across the country. There are 35 approved SARA institutions in Alabama including the Alabama A & M University, Jacksonville State University, and Faulkner University.
Several universities offer online degree programs in Alabama that have been certified by Quality Matters (QM), which is a faculty-centered, peer-review process designed to assure quality of online programs and its components. A few of the colleges that participate in the QM process include the University of Alabama, Troy University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The QM review is an ongoing process to improve the quality of online education offerings.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Alabama
Look for credit transferability
According to a 2018 Online Student Survey, 85 percent of students seeking undergraduate online programs have credits they would like to see transfer into their next program. Credits that you have earned can put you in good pace toward completing your bachelor's degree. Alabama's Statewide Transfer and Articulation Reporting System (STARS) makes it easier for you to know which credits can transfer to your undergraduate program.
Look for services that can help you succeed as an online student
Most colleges offer real-time support tools such as instant messaging, web conferencing, virtual meeting rooms, and online chat rooms. Asynchronous classes make it easier for you to access your classes any time of the day or night. Some colleges in Alabama have taken a step further in assisting online students. For instance,
- The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Student Success Center (SSC) offers its online students academic tutoring and live coaching.
- Bridging the online gap between faculty, students and peers, Troy University has switched to the Canvas learning management system. Canvas can be a hub of information for Troy online students and it also allows access to the Trojan Café, an international community of Troy students, faculty and staff.
Look for accreditation
Prospective students should also look for accredited institutions and programs in the state. Major accrediting bodies in Alabama include:
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
- Council on Occupational Education (COE)
- Distance Education and Training Council (DETC)
- Accrediting Council for Independent College and Schools (ACICS)
Top Occupations in Alabama
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, occupations that are more likely to be in demand in the next decade are related to healthcare, management, administrative support, production, sales and STEM. Here's the list of the top occupations in the state according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||282,400||$33,920|
|Sales and Related Occupations||213,670||$34,370|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||173,300||$21,110|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||148,210||$32,540|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||131,410||$69,940|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||103,290||$47,560|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||90,670||$46,010|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||73,870||$40,770|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||73,110||$71,410|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||58,870||$24,780|
|Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food||56,540||$18,380|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Alabama
There are hundreds of needs-based and merit-based financial aid programs that students in Alabama can apply for. Each program has its own eligibility criteria. Students can apply for federal or state aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
State-based financial aid resources include:
- Alabama Student Assistance Program
- Alabama Student Grant Program
- Alabama Scholarships for Dependents of Blind Parents
- Alabama Math and Science Teacher Education Program
- Senior Adult Scholarship Program
- Two-Year College Academic Scholarship Program
In addition to these, students should check with the financial aid office of their prospective college for other available scholarships or grants.
Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of Wintergreen Orchard House, a division of Carnegie Communications. Copyright © 2017-19 by Wintergreen Orchard House. All rights reserved.
Tests You May Need to Take
While the SAT and the ACT are the most common tests that may be required as part of the college admission process, some students may also need to take other tests such as Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) to determine fluency in English.
Many colleges across the country are making entrance tests like the SAT and ACT optional. Instead of these standardized tests, institutes like Birmingham-Southern College, assess a student's aptitude through interviews, academic portfolios including high school projects, graded papers, high school ranking, GPA, and extracurricular activities.