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
- 2016 State Technology and Science Index: Sustaining America's Innovation Economy, by Ross DeVol, Joe Lee and Minoli Ratnatunga, Milken Institute, accessed July 23, 2018,https://assets1b.milkeninstitute.org/assets/Publication/ResearchReport/PDF/State-Technology-and-Science-Index-2016.pdf
- A Stronger Nation, Lumina Foundation, 2017,http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#nation&n-tsid=byAttainment&n-goals=1
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed July 23, 2018,http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- "Eligible for Aid, but Not Getting It," by Ashley A. Smith, Inside Higher Ed, May 2, 2018,https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/05/02/community-college-students-calif-leave-millions-federal-aid-table
- Freshman Admission Requirements, Mizzou Admissions, University of Missouri, accessed July 24, 2018,https://admissions.missouri.edu/apply-freshmen/admission-requirements/
- Future Students Admissions, Missouri S&T, accessed July 24, 2018, https://futurestudents.mst.edu/admissions/freshmen/
- Grants & Scholarships, Missouri Department of Higher Education, accessed July 24, 2018,https://dhe.mo.gov/ppc/grants/
- Grants and Scholarships, Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education, accessed July 24, 2018,https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships
- Higher Education in Focus 2017: Missouri, Midwestern Higher Education Compact, accessed July 23, 2018,https://www.mhec.org/sites/default/files/resources/2017MOHigherEdinFocus.pdf
- How to Apply, Missouri State, accessed July 24, 2018,https://www.missouristate.edu/admissions/howtoapply.htm
- Know Your Tests: College Entrance Exams, Fastweb!, July 17, 2017, https://www.fastweb.com/college-search/articles/know-your-tests-college-entrance-exams
- "Missouri's Economy Struggles Despite a Low Unemployment Rate," by Emily Stahly, Show-Me Institute, June 28, 2018,https://showmeinstitute.org/blog/employment-jobs/missouri%E2%80%99s-economy-struggles-despite-low-unemployment-rate
- Missouri Department of Higher Education, Fiscal Year 2017 Overview, https://dhe.mo.gov/about/documents/fullreportFY17.pdf, accessed September 2018
- Missouri Educational Attainment and Income, Missouri Census Data Center, June 2018, https://census.missouri.edu/educational-attainment-and-income-in-missouri/
- "Online Students: How Webster University Serves a Growing Population," by Dr. Michelle Loyet, Dr. Kim Kleinman, and Christina Gilbert, Webster University, accessed July 23, 2018,https://dhe.mo.gov/cota/documents/OnlineStudents.pdf
- Online Bachelor's Degrees, Maryville University, accessed July 23, 2018,https://online.maryville.edu/lpia-bachelors/?Access_Code=MVU-SUITE-ABUV&utm_medium=portal&kwdmt=linkout&kwd=brand&utm_source=abuv&utm_campaign=MVU-SUITE-ABUV
- Preparing Missourians to Succeed: A Blueprint for Higher Education, Missouri Department of Higher Education, accessed July 23, 2018,https://dhe.mo.gov/documents/Blueprint.4.27.16.pdf
- Requirements for UCM, University of Central Missouri, accessed July 24, 2018,https://www.ucmo.edu/undergrad/fresh/require/
- State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), Missouri Department of Higher Education, accessed July 23, 2018,https://dhe.mo.gov/DistanceEducation.php
- Welcome to Northwest Online, Northwest Missouri State University, accessed July 23, 2018,https://www.nwmissouri.edu/online/index.htm
- What is the SAT?, The Princeton Review, accessed July 24, 2018,https://www.princetonreview.com/college/sat-information
- What is the ACT?, The Princeton Review, accessed July 24, 2018, https://www.princetonreview.com/college/act-information
Missouri as the Show Me State, has plenty to show off to prospective students. Its unemployment rate of 3.5 percent is lower than the national average, and according to the Milken Institute, the state is increasingly becoming an important source of venture capital, entrepreneurship and research and development.
Unfortunately, the state's workforce doesn't possess the education needed to meet workforce demands. Fast-growing jobs in the state increasingly require postsecondary education, which is why the state's leaders and higher education institutions have numerous strategies in place to make earning your degree in Missouri an attractive, affordable goal.
This is good news for students considering online degree programs in Missouri. The state is home to 173 institutions of higher education, with 69 of them offering fully online programs. And as the state rolls out its strategy to improve higher education in the state, online students in Missouri are likely to see the number, quality and affordability of online programs improve. Keep reading to learn more about online degrees in Missouri.
Why Earn an Online Degree in Missouri?
Missouri's rate of college education attainment is comparatively low, ranking 32nd among the 41 states that have set educational attainment goals, according to the Lumina Foundation. The Midwestern Higher Education Compact says that by 2020, 66 percent of all jobs in Missouri will likely require some level of postsecondary education, yet the state's higher education officials report that only 50.6 percent of its working-age adults currently have postsecondary credentials. And though educational attainment rates have been increasing, progress has been too slow to meet the demands of its economy.
Employment is an important reason to earn an online degree, but so is the boost in pay. By 2020, it's predicted that 92 of Missouri's 100 highest-paying occupations will likely require at least a bachelor's degree. Missouri Census information says that high school graduates earned an average of just over $30,000 per year in 2016, while an associate degree or some college bumped that up to the mid-$30,000s, and a bachelor's degree correlated to a median income of the mid-$40,000 to mid-$50,000 per-year range. Not to mention that higher levels of education have been found to equate with better physical health, lower unemployment and more civic involvement.
By earning an online degree in Missouri, you not only improve your opportunities for employment, job growth and a higher salary, but you can do so with much more flexibility than in traditional on-campus programs. Online programs can be completed around your existing work or family schedule, and they remove the barriers of location — students can complete online degree programs from anywhere. Plus, online colleges often offer students accelerated course schedules, so students can complete their programs quickly and start applying their knowledge in the workplace as soon as possible.
Top Online Colleges in Missouri
Students considering online colleges in Missouri may have a wide variety of criteria to consider. Returning or older students may be concerned with the student support services available; those with families or other financial restrictions may be attentive to the amount of financial aid offered; and students concerned with the availability of certain programs or their selectivity may be focused on such factors as the number of online programs or admissions and graduation rates.
Fortunately, we've done much of this research for you in our rankings, using a methodology that considers these factors and others to present the following list of the top Missouri colleges offering online degrees.
Top Ten Online Degree Programs in Missouri
State leaders have developed a strategy to better align college programs with the state's workforce needs, so a large percentage of online degree programs in Missouri are designed to prepare graduates for work in these industries. Program offerings are often an indicator of important occupations in the state.
We've drawn upon data from the National Center for Education Statistics to create this list of the top online degree programs in Missouri.
Quality of Online Education in Missouri
Missouri is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), which is a system of reciprocity for oversight of distance education programs, to ensure uniform quality across all member programs throughout the country.
Additionally, the state has taken several steps to ensure quality for all its programs, including those offered online. These measures include:
- Creating a blue-ribbon, third-party panel to review Missouri's entire postsecondary system to review its quality and rigor
- Increasing the cooperation between colleges and employers, to ensure that programs closely align with employer needs
At the institutional level, schools are leading the way to ensure a quality experience for their online students. For instance, some, such as Maryville University in St. Louis, guarantee small faculty-student ratios; others, such as Northwest Missouri State University, ensure that their online programs are taught by the same highly qualified faculty that teach in their classrooms; and some are committed to providing a high-touch experience that bolsters student success. For example, Webster University assigns Success Coaches to all incoming online students. These coaches monitor student engagement in online classes and can intervene if necessary with support of information, and they can help with technical issues or offer moral support to students as they proceed through their online programs.
Missouri's Efforts to Improve Higher Education Outcomes
As part of its commitment to raising college education attainment rates in the state, the Missouri Department of Higher Education developed its Blueprint for Higher Education, a five-pronged strategy to have 60 percent of Missouri's adults possess a two- or four-year degree by 2025. The five strategic goals are:
- Increase educational attainment
- Keep college affordable
- Maintain quality
- Expand academic research and innovation
- Build investment, advocacy and partnerships
State leaders plan to take a number of actions to meet these goals, such as boosting student support to reduce the need for remedial courses; having high school faculty members assist students with college and financial aid applications; expanding transfer and credit for prior learning opportunities; greater oversight of tuition-setting and increases; establishing a funding model for institutions that is tied to performance, to ensure students are achieving the intended outcomes; working with employers to ensure that programs are appropriately preparing students for the workforce and much more.
The state has embraced the power of the Internet for education in other ways beyond course delivery. The implementation of a web-based student portal that can act as a one-stop shop for higher education, can enable students to apply, complete their financial aid applications, explore transfer options and much more online.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in Missouri
It's important to consider your circumstances and goals carefully before selecting any online degree program in Missouri. An investment in a college degree program is not to be taken lightly.
Dara Warn is chief operating officer of Penn Foster Online, an online institution of higher education that serves students in Missouri and elsewhere in the country. Warn works as an advocate to ensure education solutions meet the needs of diverse learners. She says there are plenty of steps students can take to make sure they choose degree programs that best fit their needs.
For starters, she advises, students should confirm the credentials of any school they are considering. And even once you confirm that your school is indeed accredited, she stresses, you should make sure you understand what that accreditation means.
"Every online degree program has a differing level of accreditation, and some will better prepare you for certifications or exams you need to pass in order to get a job in that field," Warn says.
Students should also choose degree programs that offer the amount of interaction that they are truly comfortable with. This comes down to faculty-student ratios and school-provided student support. "If you prefer to have support throughout the learning process, look for a program that can provide access to teachers, professors and other students," says Warn. "This way, you can ensure that you'll have access to the resources you need."
It's also important to consider such factors as program requirements. For instance, some programs require students to complete certain course activities on campus, while others can be done 100 percent online. Some online colleges in Missouri run on accelerated schedules — for instance, courses that run eight weeks instead of the standard 15- or 16-week semester. One thing is for sure: The myriad online options available to Missouri students ensure that there are online colleges in Missouri that can fit every student.
"These programs are designed to fit a variety of schedules, budgets and learning styles, so it's really a matter of choosing the program that fits you best," Warn says. "With all of these options available to students, earning an online degree has never been more accessible and customizable than it is today."
Top Occupations in Missouri
The Missouri Department of Economic Development has emphasized seven high-demand workforce development industries considered essential to the state's economic success:
- Advanced manufacturing
- Energy solutions
- Health sciences and service
- Information technology
- Financial and professional services
- Transportation and logistics
Take a look at Missouri’s top occupations and their related wages compiled from data derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||441,040||$35,660|
|Sales and Related Occupations||277,710||$36,610|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||262,620||$22,170|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||193,210||$35,370|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||192,550||$70,530|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||152,830||$51,050|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||139,900||$69,100|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||111,690||$44,780|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||111,630||$24,180|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||105,290||$53,010|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||87,570||$28,060|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||85,000||$26,730|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||84,520||$78,690|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Missouri
Missouri's Blueprint for Higher Education includes keeping college affordable for Missourians, with an impressive goal of ranking among the 10 most affordable states in which to obtain a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025. Though it still has a way to go on its mission, average tuitions have consistently dropped or held steady while others around the country have increased. Today, in-state tuition and fees at the state's public, four-year institutions rank 13th lowest in the nation.
Much of this improvement in affordability is also due to a number of efforts to assist with financial aid, which include:
- More information about federal and state student aid, financial literacy and steps for preparing for educational costs is available through Missouri Department of Education publications.
- Programs have been created to promote and assist with completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- The state has increasingly invested nearly $110 million in student aid, by way of scholarships and grants.
The FAFSA is a gateway to federal financial aid, and completing this form should be the first step for any student. Typically, a large amount of federal money set aside for financial aid awards is left on the table each year; a national study found that in 2014, nearly 1.5 million high school students didn't complete FAFSAs, which left about $2.7 billion in Pell Grants unused.
Federal aid may include Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), which are both need-based awards for undergraduates, and TEACH Grants for students who plan to become teachers. Additional monies may be awarded for military service, through work-study programs or in the form of loans, which must be paid back.
The state of Missouri may also provide additional grant and scholarship awards to eligible students, including the following:
- A+ Scholarship Program: for eligible graduates of A+ designated high schools who attend a participating public community college or vocational/technical school, or certain private two-year vocational/technical schools.
- Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program: need-based program designed to be simple to understand; provide predictable, portable awards; and increase access to your school of choice.
- Advanced Placement Incentive Grant: nonrenewable grant designed to encourage high school students to take and score well on Advanced Placement tests in mathematics and science.
- Bright Flight Program: merit-based program that encourages top-ranked high school seniors to attend approved Missouri postsecondary schools.
- Marguerite Ross Barnett Memorial Scholarship: need-based scholarship was established for students who are employed while attending school part-time.
Additional awards are available for certain niche populations, such as those pursuing careers in certain fields, or those who are minorities. You should also reach out to your individual school or program of choice to learn what financial aid opportunities they may offer incoming students as well.
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
Currently, the state of Missouri does not have one centralized, required college entrance exam. Each college determines its own application requirements, though most schools typically call for scores from one or more of the following:
- SAT: Formerly called the Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test, the SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities. It is a multiple-choice test, taken with paper and a pencil, administered by the College Board, to measure students' readiness for college. The test is three hours long, and it includes questions on math and evidence-based reading and writing. Add 50 minutes to its length if you are taking the optional essay portion, which some schools may require. Each section is scored on a 200- to 800-point scale, so their sum is your total score.
- SAT Subject Tests: These one-hour tests assess mastery of particular subjects — English, math, history, foreign languages and science, and each is scored on an 800-point scale. Some colleges may require one or more of these be taken in addition to a standard SAT or ACT.
- ACT: Named for American College Testing, this standardized test is also multiple choice, taken with paper and a pencil and lasts two hours and 55 minutes. Subject matter includes questions on English, math, reading and science; add 40 minutes to its length if you are taking the optional writing section, which some colleges require. It is scored on a 36-point scale, which is an average of the four section scores; the writing section is scored separately.
Most experts recommend that students take these tests multiple times, since college admissions representatives typically take the highest scores or an average score from several attempts. It's beneficial to try to earn the highest score possible by retaking the test.
You may also look into the possibility of taking exams to earn credit for prior learning; check with your individual selected school.
Some online colleges in Missouri may prefer one particular test score, though the state's public colleges generally will accept one or the other. Missouri S&T, University of Central Missouri, Missouri State and the University of Missouri (Mizzou), for example, accept either score.