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 education
- 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/
- 2016 State Technology and Science Index: Sustaining America's Innovation Economy, by Ross DeVol, Joe Lee, and MinoliRatnatunga, Milken Institute Center for Jobs and Human Capital, accessed June 9, 2018, https://assets1b.milkeninstitute.org/assets/Publication/ResearchReport/PDF/State-Technology-and-Science-Index-2016.pdf
- "America's Most (And Least) Educated States," 24/7 Wall St., Contributor, Huffington Post, Sept. 17, 2016,https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/americas-most-and-least-educated-states_us_57dc22f2e4b053b1ccf2990f
- "Hiring Outlook brightens for college graduates," by Lorraine Mirabella, Baltimore Sun, May 20, 2017, http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-college-grad-hiring-20170520-story.html
- "It's Official: Maryland Community Colleges to Offer Free Tuition in 2019," by Associated Press, NBC Washington, May 8, 2018, https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Gov-Hogan-Signs-Bill-to-Offer-Free-Community-College-Tuition-482105591.html
- Maryland at a Glance: Economy, Maryland Manual On-Line, State of Maryland, April 24, 2018, https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/economy/html/economy.html
- Maryland at a Glance: Economy - Employment, Maryland Manual On-Line, State of Maryland, April 24, 2018,https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/economy/html/employ.html#tech
- Maryland Facts, State of Maryland Tourism, accessed June 9, 2018, https://www.visitmaryland.org/info/maryland-facts
- The 2017 State New Economy Index: Benchmarking Economic Transformation in the States, by Robert D. Atkinson and J. John Wu, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, November 2017, http://www2.itif.org/2017-state-new-economy-index.pdf?_ga=2.41964967.361852342.1524579533-1919318266.1524579533
- "The Great Out-of-State Migration: Where Students Go," by Nick Strayer, The New York Times, Aug. 26, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/26/us/college-student-migration.html
- "The Fastest-Growing Job in Each State - 2018 Edition," by Derek Miller, SmartAsset, April 25, 2018, https://smartasset.com/retirement/fastest-growing-job-in-each-state-2018
- "University of Maryland University College Enrollment Increases Hit Historic Highs," by Bob Ludwig, UMUC Global Media Center, December 4, 2017,https://globalmedia.umuc.edu/2017/12/04/university-of-maryland-university-college-enrollment-increases-hit-historic-highs/
- Maryland Ready, 2013-2017 Maryland State Plan for Postsecondary Education, accessed June 9, 2018, http://mhec.maryland.gov/Documents/MHECStatePlan_2014.pdf
- About Maryland Online, accessed June 9, 2018,http://www.marylandonline.org/about
- Why Choose UMUC?, University of Maryland University College, accessed June 11, 2018,http://www.umuc.edu/about/why-choose-umuc.cfm
- "9 tips for choosing the best online instructional design certificate program," Online Instructional Design Certificate Programs: The Ultimate Guide, accessed June 11, 2018,https://idhunter.com/online-instructional-design-certificate-programs/
- "Jobs in services, computers, health care biggest gainers in Maryland since the Great Recession," by Lorraine Mirabella, Baltimore Sun, September 3, 2017, http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/jobs/bs-bz-maryland-labor-market-20170831-story.html
- State Financial Assistance Programs & Applications, Maryland Higher Education Commission, accessed June 11, 2018, http://www.mhec.maryland.gov/preparing/Pages/FinancialAid/descriptions.aspx
- What is MDCAPS?, Maryland Higher Education Commission, accessed June 11, 2018,http://www.mhec.maryland.gov/preparing/Pages/FinancialAid/osfamdcapslive.aspx
- Know Your Tests: College Entrance Exams, Fastweb!, July 17, 2017, https://www.fastweb.com/college-search/articles/know-your-tests-college-entrance-exams
- "More high schools offer free college admission testing. But there's a catch." By Nick Anderson, March 17, 2018, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/more-high-schools-offer-free-college-admission-testing-but-theres-a-catch/2018/03/17/dbe6b91c-27b5-11e8-b79d-f3d931db7f68_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8c6ae7bbb72d
Maryland has a lot packed into its 10,460 square miles, from natural features like the Chesapeake Bay, to its rich history, culture and agricultural bounty such as world-renowned crab. This tiny state is also chock full of educational and career opportunities. As home to numerous premier research institutions and corporate headquarters, Maryland scores high marks from economic researchers for its large share of high-tech, science, teaching and professional/managerial jobs, as well as healthcare and skilled labor professions, all of which increasingly need workers with college-level education to fill them.
Maryland's leaders and its higher education institutions are actively working to enhance the state's online offerings to help make earning a college education a more accessible option to its residents. This increase in higher education options - including online degree programs in Maryland- may help meet the demand for a more educated workforce in the state.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Maryland?
The Huffington Post reported that Maryland is one of the most highly educated states in the country — nearly 39 percent of its adults have bachelor's degrees, the third-highest rate among states — which may help explain why its average household income is the highest in the country. The state's economy also outperforms the nation and it offers plentiful career opportunities to those who earn their education here.
Yet Maryland currently sees more prospective college students leaving the state for college than coming in, which means it may be losing out on educated future employees who could fill job openings in the state. Meanwhile, the number of job offers for college graduates in the state is growing, according to The Baltimore Sun.
In response to the state's "brain drain" and in order to grow the number of college graduates, state leaders are taking some innovative steps to make attending college in Maryland more appealing. These include passing a recent bill to waive tuition at community college starting in 2019 to qualified Maryland residents — including those who choose to study online — as well as making more scholarship dollars available so that Maryland residents can afford to attend college.
Also, Maryland has always been a pioneer in online education — the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is one of the nation's oldest distance education providers, with a 20-year history of doing so. And Maryland Online is a consortium of about 20 Maryland community colleges and universities that offer students the opportunity to complete courses, certificate programs, and degrees through distance learning.
Earning an online degree in Maryland can provide an excellent opportunity to gain the education needed for one of the state's fast-growing occupations, while enjoying the flexibility in timing and location that online education offers.
Top Online Colleges in Maryland
Online degree programs in Maryland can offer the benefit of convenience to students, whether you're fresh out of high school, earning an advanced degree or returning to finish a degree after a long absence. But how do you decide which program is right for you? We've done some of the research for you. Using a methodology that compiles the number of online programs, graduation rate, tuition costs and more, we've put together the following list of the top Maryland colleges that offer online degree programs.
Top Online Degree Programs in Maryland
Some of the fastest-growing and most highly concentrated employment sectors in the state include high-tech, education, finance, science, professional/managerial positions and healthcare. Many online programs in Maryland have been developed to align with the state's employment needs. We've used data from the National Center for Education Statistics to compile this list of the top online degree programs in Maryland, to help you find a program that fits your interests and the state's workplace needs.
Quality of Online Education in Maryland
Students interested in online degree programs in Maryland should find plenty to choose from. The National Center for Education Statistics says that 37 institutions in Maryland offer majors through distance education. That doesn't include programs that offer individual online course options.
Not only are school leaders focused on expanding online offerings, but they're looking to improve the college experience as well. For example, UMUC is the largest online public university in the nation, with more than 90 programs and specializations. UMUC continues to invest in technology that makes accessing online courses — and digital course materials - easier. UMUC also partners with the federal government's Office of Personnel Management to offer programs that directly address gaps in the federal workforce, helping to streamline the journey from online education to employment.
The roughly 20 community colleges that are member institutions in the Maryland Online program also have made a firm commitment to championing quality, accessible distance education; all of them are required to be licensed by the Maryland Higher Education Commission and accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Maryland Higher Learning Commission established the Maryland Ready program as a guide to meeting the state's education goals and ensuring quality. The plan includes required data collection from all institutions regarding course completion, coursework and degree progress for both face-to-face and online programs, to ensure consistency regardless of delivery method.
With such a resounding commitment to quality from schools and state leaders, prospective students can rest assured they'll find online schools in Maryland that provide academic quality equal to any other traditional program, with the added benefit of convenience.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Maryland
So you've made the decision to look at online schools in Maryland — but how do you know which program is right for you? Keep these criteria in mind as you evaluate programs:
Does the curriculum align with your goals? Take a good look at the coursework for that program and make sure it lines up with your future goals. For instance, if the program emphasizes theory rather than the hands-on training you need for your preferred line of work, it may not be a good fit. Or if you need to prepare for licensure in Maryland, be sure the program meets the state's requirements.
How are materials delivered? Some online degree programs in Maryland may include courses that must be done synchronously — in which you log on to the class at appointed days and times and participate live — while others are asynchronous, meaning you can log on at times that are convenient to your schedule. Evaluate your own particular circumstances to determine what you feel is the better fit.
Is location important? Some online programs in Maryland may require you to come to campus for some activities - for instance, completing a proctored exam or attending a conference with an instructor. Some students may appreciate this connection to a physical campus location while others may be too far or too limited by time constraints to visit campus. Take location and the program's requirements into consideration in order to be sure whether it will work for your life.
How much will it cost? It's not a good idea to make a decision solely based on cost. This is preparation for your career, so don't take the cheapest route just to save a few bucks. Look into options for financial aid in Maryland (see below) and at your prospective schools. You may find one emerges as a front runner for its generous financial aid package.
Is it accredited and reputable? Be sure any Maryland school you consider is accredited, to ensure it has met a baseline standard for quality and reputability, and that those credits will be recognized by future graduate schools (if that's an option for you) or employers. You might talk to people in your chosen field and ask about the reputations of certain programs, or speak to a counselor with a prospective school about the rate of employment of graduates.
Top Occupations in Maryland
Maryland ranks third among states in the Milken Institute's State Technology and Science Index and sixth in the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation's State New Economy Index, all because of the state's large concentration of high-tech, science and research occupations. As home to the National Institutes for Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Goddard Space Flight Center, not to mention numerous institutions of higher education where a multitude of research activity takes place, the state's STEM jobs as well as teaching jobs are growing rapidly. Additionally, the state's labor market is experiencing a shortage of workers with formalized training in such fields as healthcare, construction and accounting.
Drawing from information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we've come up with this list of the top occupations in Maryland right now, to help you plan an online education that aligns with the state's greatest employment needs.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||397,030||$40,660|
|Sales and Related Occupations||266,000||$41,470|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||226,150||$25,490|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||173,600||$63,590|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||170,810||$86,920|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||165,330||$80,870|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||161,860||$39,780|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||124,630||$99,010|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||115,820||$49,350|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||103,320||$51,900|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||87,390||$29,610|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||85,210||$29,420|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Maryland
The Maryland Higher Education Commission has developed a comprehensive financial aid system that allows the state to process state scholarship applications efficiently. The Maryland College Aid Processing System, or MDCAPS, allows students to create profiles online, then apply for scholarship programs, check a to-do list, check application statuses, accept or decline awards, transfer or add schools and more, all from this convenient, one-stop shop.
Through MDCAPS, you also can submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to determine whether you are eligible for federal student aid dollars, in the form of a Pell Grant or Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (a need-based federal grant award) or other program, such as a Stafford loan (which would need to be repaid after graduation).
Additionally, the state offers several grant and scholarship opportunities, including the following:
- Howard P. Rawlings Program of Educational Excellence Awards: Need-based awards at various levels of funding and eligibility.
- 2 + 2 Transfer Scholarship: Need-based scholarship to assist and encourage transfer students from Maryland community colleges to attend four-year institutions within the state.
- Part-Time Grant: Need-based grant for degree-seeking undergraduates and students dually enrolled in a Maryland high school and college or university in the state.
- Graduate and Professional Scholarship Program: Need-based award for students studying certain majors pertaining to health care, law or social work.
The MHEC also offers legislative scholarships awarded by state delegates or senators, as well as several career/occupation-based grants and scholarships, grants/scholarships/tuition waivers for specialized populations and loan-assistance repayment programs for certain eligible students. Explore the MHEC's Financial Aid website to learn more about these specific programs.
Every school and program differs and may offer their own unique grants or scholarships that you also should look into. Additionally, you may belong to membership organizations that offer their own college funding options as well.
This list provides additional information on scholarships and grants available to eligible Maryland students.
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
Though there is no single test that all online colleges in Maryland require for admission, most have some requirement for submitting test scores as part of the application process. In fact, as Maryland's leaders continue working to streamline the college application process and widen access to colleges here, school districts around the state are joining the growing trend of administer college admissions tests to high school juniors at no charge.
Some colleges don't require these tests at all, while many take one or the other. Tests can be taken repeatedly and you can have all scores sent to prospective colleges (which usually take either an average score or the highest of those submitted).
- SAT Reasoning Test: The test is split into three portions: evidence-based reading and writing, math and essay.
- SAT Subject Tests: These tests assess mastery of English, math, history, science or foreign language. Students may be required to take three of the tests for admission to a specific school.
- ACT: This exam measures achievement in English, math, reading and science, as well as an optional writing test.
Depending on your goals and particular circumstances — for instance, whether you're transferring schools, speak English as a second language or hope to receive college credit for prior coursework or work experience — you may also be asked to take additional tests. And, of course, your chosen program may require its own placement or achievement test score as well. Be sure to speak with an admissions counselor about your chosen program's requirements.