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/
- "2018 Online College Students: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences," by Andrew J. Magda and Carol B. Aslanian, A Joint Project of The Learning House, Inc, and Aslanian Market Research, June 2018, https://www.learninghouse.com/knowledge-center/research-reports/ocs2018/
- "Another N.J. college making the SAT optional," by Kelly Heyboer, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, May 16, 2017, http://www.nj.com/education/2017/05/sat_optional_another_nj_college_making_the_sat_opt.html
- College Education Linked to Higher Pay, Job Security, Healthier Behaviors and More Civic Involvement: New College Board Report, January 2017,https://www.collegeboard.org/releases/2016/college-education-linked-to-hgher-pay-job-security-healthier-behaviors-and-more-civic-involvement
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed May 17, 2018,https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- "Drew University making SATs optional again," by Adam Clark, May 27, 2015, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com,http://www.nj.com/education/2015/05/drew_to_go_sat_optional_again.html
- Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education, accessed May 18, 2018,https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/prepare-for-college/tests
- "Finding the Right College for You," The College Board, accessed May 17, 2018,https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/digitalServices/pdf/professionals/finding-the-right-college-for-you.pdf
- "Higher Education: New Facilities and Programs," by Jim Pytell, New Jersey Business, Oct. 23, 2017,https://njbmagazine.com/monthly_articles/38905-2/
- International Student Guide to the United States of America, accessed May 18, 2018,https://www.internationalstudentguidetotheusa.com/articles/which_tests.htm
- Member Colleges, New Jersey Council of County Colleges, accessed May 18, 2018,http://www.njccc.org/contact-us/19-colleges/
- New Jersey, A Policy Brief from Lumina Foundation, April 2016, https://www.luminafoundation.org/files/publications/stronger_nation/2016/new-jersey-brief-2016.pdf
- New Jersey college graduates generally earn more money than their peers nationwide, June 2018,https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/education/2018/06/12/new-jersey-college-graduates-earn-more-money/656584002/
- "New Jersey commits to 65% educational attainment rate by 2025," by Arthur Augustyn, NJBIZ, Sept. 20, 2017,http://www.njbiz.com/article/20170920/NJBIZ01/170919823/new-jersey-commits-to-65-educational-attainment-rate-by-2025
- "New Jersey higher ed is doing just fine, thank you (essay)," by Michael Klein, Inside Higher Ed, accessed May 17, 2018,https://www.insidehighered.com/taxonomy/term/252 C
- New Jersey's Progress Toward the Goal, A Stronger Nation, Lumina Foundation 2018,http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2018/#state/NJ
- New Jersey State Economy, Sperling's Best Places 2018, accessed May 17, 2018,www.bestplaces.net/economy/state/new_jersey
- "Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020," by Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith and Jeff Strohl; Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, June 2013,https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/recovery-job-growth-and-education-requirements-through-2020/
- "Reseeding the Garden State's economic growth: A vision for New Jersey," McKinsey & Company New Jersey Office, July 2017,https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Global%20Themes/Employment%20and%20Growth/Reseeding%20growth%20in%20the%20Garden%20State/Reseeding-the-Garden-States-economic-growth-A-vision-for-New-Jersey.ashx
- Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, accessed May 18, 2018,https://www.rutgers.edu/
- Seton Hall University, accessed May 18, 2018,http://www.shu.edu/
- Smart Students Choose: New Jersey,https://www.choosenj.com/about-us/smart-students , accessed July 2018
- State of New Jersey State & Federal Aid for Undergraduate and Graduate Students, Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, March 19, 2018,http://www.hesaa.org/Documents/State_and_Federal.pdf
- States Ranked by Size & Population, ipl2 For Kids, accessed May 17, 2018, www.ipl.org,div/stateknow/popchart.html
- "States Take a Look at Online Learning Prices," by Mark Lieberman, Inside Higher Ed, April 4, 2018,https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/04/04/states-pursue-methods-reduce-burden-students-online-programs
- The College of New Jersey, accessed May 18, 2018,https://tcnj.pages.tcnj.edu/
- "These states give more grant aid to college students in need than the feds," by Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post, March 3, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/03/03/some-states-give-more-to-needy-college-students-than-the-feds-most-give-far-less/?utm_term=.d7c38dc2b7e5
New Jersey is one of the most highly educated states in the U.S., according to the Lumina Foundation, and yet, it's essential that the Garden State grow its crop of college graduates. The state's economy is strong, with an unemployment rate that's lower than the national average and a job growth rate that's higher, according to Sperling's Best Places. This economic growth is expected to increase the number of jobs that may require postsecondary education.
Higher education authorities around the state are working hard to prepare for this need by making it more appealing and accessible than ever to attend college in New Jersey. This is great news for students who may be considering New Jersey colleges that offer online degree programs. Although it's the fifth-smallest state in the U.S., New Jersey boasts an impressive 163 institutions of higher education, with 41 of them offering programs that can be completed entirely online, at levels ranging from diploma or certificate all the way up to doctoral degrees.
Why Earn an Online Degree in New Jersey?
New Jersey currently has a huge demand for qualified, job-ready, middle-skill workers — those who have earned some postsecondary education but not four-year degrees — in nearly every industry. Looking ahead, that demand is projected to increase, and with the need for even more workers who have earned a bachelor's degree.
- About 50 percent of all job openings through 2024 are expected to be middle-skill jobs
- 68 percent of jobs in New Jersey are expected to require postsecondary education by 2020
- 29 percent will require bachelor's degrees (the second-highest rate in the nation)
Pursuing an online degree in New Jersey can give you the flexibility to complete your education while still meeting the demands of your day-to-day life. Plus, because some online programs may be accelerated, you might be able to get through your program more quickly than if you attended school on campus.
Other incentives: As reported by NorthJersey.com, New Jersey students graduating from four-year colleges generally earn more than their peers nationwide. A 2016 report by the College Board's Education Pays, found that a college education not only is linked to higher pay but also to better job security, healthier behaviors and more civic involvement.
With so much demand for skilled, highly trained workers, along with the many benefits the state's institutions offer, now is a great time to begin earning an online degree in New Jersey.
Top Online Colleges in New Jersey
Whether you're looking to attend college for the first time, return to finish your degree or move up the career ladder by earning an advanced degree, you'll need to carefully consider numerous factors in determining which online degree programs in New Jersey are best suited to you. To assist you in your efforts, we've developed a methodology to evaluate schools in the state that offer two- and four-year degree programs based on such factors as tuition, how many online programs they offer, the availability of student resources and more.
These criteria helped us to develop the following list of the 10 best online colleges in New Jersey, for degree-seeking students.
Top Ten Online Degree Programs in New Jersey
Typically, colleges develop online programs as a response to their state's demands and job growth. This means that the number of online programs available in a certain field often is an indicator of the employment demand from that industry in the state. Drawing upon data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics, we've created this list of the 10 top online degree programs in New Jersey.
Use our Degree & Career Match-Up tool to match the degree of your choice to a wide range of online schools across the country. Search by subject or occupation.
Quality of Online Education in New Jersey
New Jersey is home to some of the nation's premier institutions, such as the renowned Ivy League Princeton University, recognized as one of the pioneers of online education since 2012 thanks to its massive open online courses, which have been taken by more nearly 2 million people around the world. There's also the highly decorated and top-ranked Seton Hall University in South Orange, which offers online certificate and graduate degree programs. And there's Rutgers University, one of the nation's top research universities, which boasts numerous fully online degree options, taught by the same renowned faculty with the same small class sizes as the school's traditional, on-campus programs.
No matter the institution type - public or private, two- or four-year, nonprofit or for-profit - schools and program accreditation are also signs that the education institution meets quality standards.
State Initiatives for Higher Attainment of Higher Education
Despite the state's higher-than-average rate of educational attainment, state leaders have recognized the need to continue to improve access and retention among its higher education institutions, and they're developing plans and policies to do just that. And as part of the goal to reach 65 percent degree-attainment by 2025, they're aiming to make it easier for adults to earn credentials or degrees, which includes an expansion of online or accelerated offerings to New Jersey college students.
Individual schools are addressing the issue as well, adding new online programs and facilities to meet demand in fast-growing fields such as biotechnology, cybersecurity, engineering, pharmaceuticals and science education.
Businesses are working to attract and retain students, too, offering the Smart Students Choose New Jersey program that helps high-achieving New Jersey residents who choose to advance their education in state by offering opportunities to intern with businesses and nonprofits. Students from New Jersey who choose to remain in the state to complete degree programs — online or on campus — may be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
What to Look for in Online Degree Programs in New Jersey
As online college offerings in New Jersey continue to expand, you'll need to spend some time researching programs in your field of interest so you can select one that is likely to provide the best return on your investment, and to be sure the experience is enjoyable.
Once you've determined what online degree programs in New Jersey are available in your chosen subject and degree level, consider the following criteria to help in making your decision:
- Location: It may seem contrary to the idea of online education, but school's location may matter. A 2018 study of online college students' demands and preferences indicates that about 66 percent of online college students selected programs located within 50 miles of home. Students tend to prefer schools nearby and often make on-campus visits. Attending a school close to your home enables you to attend on-campus events, meet peers for study groups or take advantage of on-campus resources. If these things matter to you, location may be an important factor.
- Student support resources: Especially if you've never taken online courses before, the pace, technology or independent nature of this method of study can be a challenging adjustment. Consider what resources are available to online students at your prospective New Jersey colleges, such as online tutoring and library services, counseling, academic or financial advisement, networking, career planning and others.
- Size: Find out about student-to-teacher ratios for each New Jersey school or program you're considering. Smaller ratios usually translate to stronger and more frequent communications with faculty. If receiving one-on-one attention and consistent feedback is important to you, size should probably factor heavily into your decision.
- Accreditation: Be sure that any program in New Jersey that you're considering is accredited by a certifying body. This helps to ensure the program's quality and the likelihood of it being relevant to and accepted by employers in your chosen industry.
Top Occupations in New Jersey
Sixty-eight percent of jobs in New Jersey are expected to require postsecondary education by 2020 — but which occupations are growing the fastest? We've drawn from Bureau of Labor Statistics data to determine the most prevalent occupations in New Jersey, to help you align your online course of study with the fields that are likely to have the most job openings in the state.
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||652,000||$40,690|
|Sales and Related Occupations||406,090||$45,470|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||354,270||$37,300|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||305,200||$26,320|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||299,950||$59,840|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||233,820||$84,950|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||231,550||$91,980|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||157,770||$31,220|
|Computer and Mathematical Occupations||139,640||$100,540|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||134,660||$53,170|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||126,370||$31,400|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||120,710||$60,710|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in New Jersey
Costs for online programs in New Jersey vary like any traditional programs. However, don't forget to take into consideration distance-learning fees, the necessity to invest in certain types of technology and, of course, how much financial aid you may receive.
Fortunately, New Jersey colleges and universities have seen some of the lowest tuition increases in the nation over the last several years. The Washington Post also reports that New Jersey is one of the three states that provides more aid to low-income college students than the largest federal grant program does.
Student aid options for eligible students include federal programs such as Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants, not to mention work-study and loan options. To access these options, students must first submit a Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Additionally, New Jersey's Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) is the state agency whose sole mission is to provide its college students with financial aid resources. Through HESAA, the state offers a number of state aid programs , all based on eligibility requirements. These include:
- Tuition Aid Grant (TAG): This may cover up to the full amount of a student's tuition. Awards are based on student need, the cost of attendance and how much funding is available.
- Part-Time TAG for County College Students: This grant is intended for eligible students who are enrolled part time (six to 11 credits) in the state's county colleges.
- Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Grant: Intended to target educationally and economically disadvantaged students, this grant program provides awards based on student need, college costs and enrollment status. Students must file the FAFSA annually to continue being eligible.
- Governor's Urban Scholarship: This is awarded to students who rank in the top 5 percent of their class and have at least a 3.0 GPA at the end of their high school junior year.
- New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ STARS): Students who rank in the top 15 percent of their classes at the end of their junior or senior years in high school may qualify for tuition coverage for up to 18 credit hours per semester. The NJ STARS II program similarly provides funding to students at four-year public or private colleges.
Other scholarships may be available through HESAA based on students' backgrounds or their chosen courses of study. Also, consult individual schools and programs to discover what scholarship and grant opportunities may be available to incoming students.
This list provides additional information on scholarships and grants available to eligible New Jersey 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
There is currently no statewide, required college admissions test that all incoming college students must pass in New Jersey. In fact, Drew University, Montclair State University and Bloomfield College have joined a growing number of institutions around the country who are making the submission of SAT and ACT scores an optional requirement for application.
Nonetheless, most four-year and some two-year New Jersey colleges that offer online degree programs still require an SAT and/or ACT test score for admission, believing that their content is an accurate measure of students' skills and knowledge. Because some schools only want to see your highest scores and some want to see a combination of scores, it behooves you to take these tests more than once to see if you can improve your performance. Test preparation courses can help to improve your scores as well.
Depending on the school, program of study or your particular circumstances, you may be asked to take additional tests. If English is not your native language, you may need to provide a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of your English language proficiency.
Many schools have their own placement exams for incoming students, so that they may enter at their "just-right" academic levels for writing, math, etc.
Explore more online degree programs in New Jersey!