It is no surprise that Alabama colleges and universities are reaching distance learners both within state boundaries and nationwide. The state education system cultivates a culture of online learning through ACCESS Virtual Learning. The Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, and Students Statewide program offers Alabama public school students opportunities to attend virtual classes online. This initiative provides access to courses and advanced placement electives otherwise unavailable to many. This appreciation for distance learning continues into upper education, with colleges and universities across the state offering a wealth of online programs.
But before we look at the very best online colleges in Alabama, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Alabama today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Alabama
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Alabama is home to 77 higher education institutions that grant degrees, and including online colleges in Alabama, 304,052 students attend college in the state. Of those schools, 39 are public, and among the public institutions, 14 grant four-year degrees and 25 are community colleges. The Heart of Dixie also has 21 private nonprofit higher-learning institutions. The final 17 are for-profit organizations.
- 39 public
- 21 non-profit
- 17 for-profit
Each of Alabama’s schools charges different tuition rates and fees. However, the averages can help prospective students think about their budgets. The College Board collects information from public schools and finds averages for each state. For the 2018-19 school year, the average in-state public, two-year college charged $4,760 for tuition and fees. In-state students at public, four-year universities paid an average $10,870 per year for these expenses. Cheap online colleges in Alabama charge much lower rates: The University of Alabama charges just under the mean for in-state students at $10,780 per year. Learners from other states pay about $29,230 annually for tuition and fees.
Degree candidates often do not cover these fees on their own or with only their family contributions. In the 2015-16 school year, the Alabama Student Assistance Program awarded $2,597,122 to 3,980 learners who demonstrated financial need. Another 524 students got $675,105 from other need-based grants. Degree candidates do not always need to show financial need to receive aid. In the same year, the state awarded $4,276,115 to more than 5,000 students without considering financial need.
The State of Online Higher Education in Alabama
Students who want the Alabama higher learning experience with the convenience of distance learning can choose among the best online colleges in Alabama. A recent online learning survey found that 111,146 of the state’s postsecondary, degree-seeking students took at least one class online in the 2015-16 school year. This figure accounts for 36.7% of the student body, and the percentage is trending upward. 58,262 of these learners, or 19.2% of all higher education students in Alabama, took classes exclusively online. 37,749 of these online-only degree candidates were in graduate-level programs.
Since learners can take online courses from anywhere, a significant number of online-only students came from outside of Alabama; 25,621 exclusively online learners were nonresidents, which is 44% of all of such students. In total, the percentage of students who take some courses on-campus fell 3.1% from 2012 to 2015. This decline in on-campus enrollment is much faster than the national 1.7% decrease. It’s clear that online colleges in Alabama are not just trendy; they are here to stay.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
Some schools in Alabama have unique programs that few universities offer. Luckily, learners who want to attend these programs do not have to be in-state residents to afford the tuition. Alabama is part of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). As such, it participates with 15 other states in the Academic Common Market (ACM). This market helps students from each of the member states can attend programs in other member states.
The other SREB states are Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Students from any of these states can attend any of Alabama’s approved programs and pay in-state tuition. Between all of the states, the SREB supports at least 1,900 plans for the ACM. However, students pursuing their first professional degrees, such as law or medical doctorates, do not qualify for the ACM.
The ACM Electronic Campus (ACM/EC) plan brings the basic ideas of the ACM to accredited online colleges in Alabama. Neither the ACM or ACM/EC have additional merit requirements. Instead, students choose an approved program from the SREB website. They must be accepted by the university and program based on the school’s needs. Applicants must also meet residency requirements for one of the member states.
Best Online Colleges in Alabama
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Alabama. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in AL, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Alabama or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||The University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa||$$$$$||739 University Blvd|
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0166
UA, located in west Alabama, is one of the oldest, public higher education institutions in the state. The school officially opened in 1831, providing 52 students with a professional, educational experience. The university has expanded to include nearly 300 buildings and currently serves more than 37,000 students annually. Included among its many programs are the Bama by Distance online bachelor’s degree programs. Students attending one of the leading online colleges in Alabama find out that UA’s many online programs are easily accessible through the Blackboard online learning platform. Coursework is delivered asynchronously and through live videoconferences. Online learning is powered by digital technology, and the minimum requirements for students to attend class online include access to high speed internet, a personal computer, and a headset with a microphone. Online programs include a master’s in operations management, a bachelor’s in commerce and business administration, and a BA or BS in interdisciplinary studies.
|2||Troy University||Troy||$$$$$||University Avenue|
Troy, AL 36082-0001
Troy is a world-wide institution, with campuses across Alabama and distance learning programs accessible across the globe. The university strives to cultivate a world-class learning environment that reflects diversity, cultural sensitivity, student success, and a desire for lifelong learning. Troy, one of the leading online schools in Alabama, offers a variety of bachelor’s degrees fully online. Programs include human resources management, interpreter training, and managerial accounting. Online offerings include associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs. For students outside of the United States, an array of international programs are offered. Troy University has been providing distance education for 20 years, and its community partnerships, veterans programs, and seamless credit transfer process make Troy appealing. The school is considered a military friendly institution. Online learning is powered by Blackboard, and students have access to several online support services, including student resources and Blackboard student training.
|3||University of Alabama at Birmingham||Birmingham||$$$$$||Administration Bldg Suite 1070|
Birmingham, AL 35294-0110
UA - Birmingham was established in 1969 when the University of Alabama System was instituted. It is one of three public universities included in the system. Alabama at Birmingham is the city’s largest employer, and the state’s largest research school. Its online degree programs comprise one of the top online colleges in Alabama. The school offers eight fully online bachelor’s degree programs that incorporate the university’s mission to provide an enriching academic experience that benefits students personally and professionally. The online programs are led by experienced faculty with training in teaching online. Online education adheres to the standards set forth by the Online Learning Consortium, an organization designed to equip online educators with the best tools in online learning and instruction. Online students have access to a variety of online learning resources, including One Stop Student Services and Canvas course navigation tutorials.
|4||Amridge University||Montgomery||$$$$$||1200 Taylor Rd|
Montgomery, AL 36117-3553
Amridge, located in Montgomery, is one of the leading online colleges in Alabama. The university was established in 1967 and offers an education rooted in Christian values. Amridge’s programs provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to become productive members of society while also instilling a sense of spiritual wellness that promotes a commitment to community service, faith practices, and family. Online programs are designed to develop leaders who value lifelong learning. The school’s distance learning curriculum is flexible and accessible. Students enrolled in Amridge’s online bachelor’s degree programs receive individualized support from knowledgeable faculty and the school’s support staff. More than 30 online programs are offered, including business administration, ministry and family, web development, and marriage and family therapy. The university’s unique corporate alliance program allows working adults to pursue professional goals while receiving additional financial support through employers.
|5||Auburn University||Auburn University||$$$$$||Auburn, Alabama|
Auburn University, AL 36849
Auburn is one of the state’s largest universities, serving over 25,000 students annually. Its programs reflect the university’s mission to provide an education that emphasizes research, community outreach, and professional growth for students and faculty. Auburn is one of the top online schools in Alabama. The university’s online bachelor’s degrees are designed to meet the needs of students across the globe. Programs include poultry and food science, accounting, rehabilitation counseling, and nutrition and health. Online offerings include undergraduate, graduate, professional credit, and personal enrichment programs. Distance learners have access to a number of services, including Auburn’s information technology help desk, the writing center, and the Office of Accessibility. The university’s faculty are experienced in online instruction and have access to the school’s media production services, where instructors can create engaging videos of lectures and incorporate graphics into their online curriculum.
|6||Judson College||Marion||$$$$$||302 Bibb St|
Marion, AL 36756
Judson is located in Marion, and is among the online schools in Alabama that offers an education rooted in the Alabama Baptist Convention. The school was founded in 1838 to provide women with a post-secondary education. Judson serves women in the South and across the world by offering a variety of academic programs in a single-gender environment, where women are leaders, mentors, educators, and learners. Judson, one of the leading online colleges in Alabama, has online programs available to all genders that are accessible online. The programs promote professional advancement through the development of critical thinking skills, faith-based ethical reasoning, and the dissemination of career-relevant knowledge and skills. A distance learning bachelor’s degree requires students to complete a minimum of 128 credits. Programs include business administration, criminal justice, and psychology. Course content is delivered by Moodle, and students engage in learning through online discussions, emails, online written assignments, and online exams.
|7||University of Mobile||Mobile||$$$$$||5735 College Parkway Drive|
Mobile, AL 36613-2842
Mobile was constructed in 1959 by the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is one of the best online colleges in Alabama. Programs are designed to prepare students for a life of service to society through the cultivation of spiritual growth and professional development. Since its beginnings as a one-building college, Mobile has grown into a fully accredited, world-class purveyor of Christ-centered higher education that serves more than 1,400 students from across the U.S. and globally. Distance learners can choose from several completely online bachelor’s degree programs with coursework that is offered in eight-week intervals. Programs include marketplace ministry, general studies, psychology, education, nursing, and business administration. The master’s in education is also taught in a blended format. Online offerings include associate, bachelor’s, and graduate studies. The school’s programs are affordable, with undergraduate credit hours starting at $200 per credit hour.
|8||University of West Alabama||Livingston||$$$$$||Station One|
Livingston, AL 35470
West Alabama, located in Livingston along the Alabama-Mississippi border, serves more than 5,000 students annually. The university began as a women’s school in 1839. The school evolved into an inclusive, public learning institution designed to promote personal advancement through professional studies. The university offers four online bachelor’s degrees that have an engaging online learning environment. Programs include accounting, management, marketing, business administration, and early childhood development. West Alabama has two hybrid programs and 12 online education certifications. UWA is among the online schools in Alabama that offers web-accessible coursework. Full-time students complete six credits per eight-week session. Students can complete up to six sessions or terms each year and have the option to cease coursework for up to one year. Ethical conduct of online learning is facilitated by Securexam Remote Proctor, which allows students to complete exams without having to travel to a testing center.
|9||Athens State University||Athens||$$$$$||300 N Beaty St|
Athens, AL 35611
Athens State is located in northern Alabama along the Alabama-Tennessee border and caters to upper-level transfer students. The university provides an academic experience designed to promote supportive learning environments that are student-focused and emphasize diversity, ethical behavior, and lifelong learning. Athens’ online bachelor’s degree programs reflect their mission to encourage the development of skills in critical thinking, communication, and professional development. Programs include global logistics and supply chain management, human resource management, management of technology, and religious studies. Online offerings include undergraduate, graduate, minor, and certificate studies. Students have access to digital articles and Ejournals through the school’s online library. Online learners participate in group discussions that are designed to expose them to a variety of perspectives and approaches to problem-solving. The experienced faculty ensure that each student’s academic needs are met. Financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available to online learners.
|10||University of South Alabama||Mobile||$$$$$||307 N University Blvd|
Mobile, AL 36688-0002
South Alabama, located in Mobile, was founded in 1963 as the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum. Community leaders recognized a need for greater accessibility to higher education, and South Alabama was the solution. The university serves more than 16,000 students and continues to provide accessible education to students in the region and across the globe through its distance learning programs. USA, one of the leading online schools in Alabama, is dedicated to enriching the lives of its online students by offering more than 450 online courses that are accessible 24/7. The university’s online bachelor’s programs are part of school’s cutting-edge online learning platform, USAonline, and prepare students for rewarding careers in interdisciplinary studies and nursing. South Alabama also has master’s programs in education, including early childhood education and elementary education. Students have access to the USAonline help desk and weekly online learning tips.
|11||University of North Alabama||Florence||$$$$$||One Harrison Plaza|
Florence, AL 35632-0001
North Alabama is located in Florence along the Alabama-Tennessee border. Established in 1830, North Alabama is the oldest four-year, public university in the state. The university is one the most affordable online colleges in Alabama, and a third of students receive scholarships from the university. The online bachelor’s programs prepare students for rewarding careers in a variety of areas, including history, political science, interdisciplinary studies, and sociology. Distance learners must be self-motivated, independent workers, who can regularly check online assignments. The online courses are powered by Canvas, an easily navigable online learning platform. Online students have access to Canvas resources, including a student orientation course, discussion forums, and Canvas for mobile devices. Online students have access to the university’s writing center and advising services. Students are required to participate in online discussions and adhere to assignment due dates.
|12||Faulkner University||Montgomery||$$$$$||5345 Atlanta Hwy|
Montgomery, AL 36109-3390
Faulkner, located in Montgomery, is a private Christian college that takes a holistic approach to higher education with a mission to nurture each student’s personal growth, professional aspirations, and spiritual development. The university was founded in 1942 and is affiliated with the Church of Christ. Faulkner is one of the top online schools in Alabama. The online bachelor’s degree programs are designed to meet the demands of busy adult learners, and the academic programs emphasize flexibility, ease of access, and affordability. Programs include counseling psychology, sports psychology, criminal justice, and forensic psychology. Online offerings include associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate studies. The university provides competitive degree programs that are more affordable than face-to-face learning. Distance learning at Faulkner eliminates the expense of commuting, and students can enroll in more credit hours, allowing them to complete their degree faster than on-campus.
|13||University of Alabama in Huntsville||Huntsville||$$$$$||301 Sparkman Dr|
Huntsville, AL 35899
Alabama - Huntsville is located in north Alabama and serves students from across the U.S. and more than 80 countries. Students experience an education rooted in integrity and innovation. The university emphasizes research and technological advancement through its award-winning programs that inspire critical thinking and promote inclusion through diversity. Alabama - Huntsville, a leader among online colleges in Alabama, has programs that are crafted to reflect the most appropriate methods for online instruction. The university offers 21 online programs, including human resource management, supply chain and logistics management, aerospace systems engineering, and civil engineering. Only two online programs are for undergraduates: nursing and professional studies. Online offerings also include an autism spectrum disorders certificate. Alabama - Huntsville's online classes are powered by Canvas, and students have access to discussion forums that help create an online community. Video streaming and videoconferencing enhance the online environment to create an engaging learning experience.
|14||Auburn University at Montgomery||Montgomery||$$$$$||7440 East Drive|
Montgomery, AL 36117-3596
Auburn - Montgomery was founded in 1967 to serve adult learners. The university serves students of all ages with varying levels of academic and career experience. The programs at Auburn - Montgomery emphasize practical skills training led by experienced faculty. The online bachelor’s degrees offered by the university equip students with knowledge and skills necessary to compete and excel in the workforce. Programs include physical education, elementary education, nursing, and homeland security and emergency management. Many of the school’s online degrees are in graduate studies. Distance learning at Auburn - Montgomery is powered by Blackboard, and online programs are flexible and easy to navigate. Faculty members are versed in the nuances of instruction through technology. Self-motivation is a critical component of successful online learning. Online students have access to Blackboard support, online tutoring, and research support. Hybrid courses are also available.
|15||Jacksonville State University||Jacksonville||$$$$$||700 Pelham Road North|
Jacksonville, AL 36265
Jacksonville State, located in northeastern Alabama, has been a leader in higher education since its establishment in 1883. The university strives to empower its students by providing an academic experience that emphasizes diversity, leadership development, and personal and professional growth. Jacksonville State, one of the best online schools in Alabama, offers a variety of online bachelor’s programs designed to meet the needs of its students. Programs include family and consumer sciences, emergency management, elementary education, and mental health counseling. The school also offers graduate certificates online. The distance learning programs at Jacksonville State are delivered through Blackboard, and the online classroom includes discussion posts, online lectures, and slideshows. Students are required to complete reading assignments and online quizzes and exams. Online student support is available 24/7 through Blackboard and the university’s IT center.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Alabama
Below you’ll find the best online education programs in Alabama, sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Amridge University||Montgomery||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||University of North Alabama||Florence||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Jacksonville State University||Jacksonville||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||University of Alabama at Birmingham||Birmingham||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Troy University||Troy||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||University of West Alabama||Livingston||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Auburn University at Montgomery||Montgomery||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||University of Alabama in Huntsville||Huntsville||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||Auburn University||Auburn University||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||Judson College||Marion||School profile||$$$$$|
|11||The University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa||School profile||$$$$$|
|12||Athens State University||Athens||School profile||$$$$$|
|13||Faulkner University||Montgomery||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Alabama
Programs at online colleges in Alabama can often lead to stable, high-earning careers for graduates. Students who want to stay in Alabama after graduation can choose programs based on their interests and the projected job market. As of September 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the unemployment rate in the state is 4.1%. This percentage is slightly higher than the national average of 3.7%. On average, Alabama workers across all industries make $20.76 per hour or $43,170 per year. While these figures give prospective students insights into the state’s economy, they do not show the whole picture. Learners should investigate the areas of work that interest them to get detailed job predictions.
The BLS also shows which jobs pay the most in Alabama. Different kinds of doctors, including surgeons and orthodontists, make up nine of the 10 highest-paying positions. Other contenders include sales manager, law professor, and petroleum engineer.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Alabama
Police Officer’s and Firefighters’ Survivors Educational Assistance Program
Must be a dependent or eligible spouse of a police officer or firefighter who died in the line of duty and pursue an undergraduate degree from an Alabama public school.
Alabama Student Grant Program
Applicants must attend one of the participating, independent Alabama schools, enroll half or full time in an undergraduate program that is not religiously affiliated.
Alabama Home Builders Foundation
Must be Alabama resident enrolled in a college or university program in order to begin a residential construction career to apply. The candidate must submit transcripts, at least one letter of recommendation from an HBAA member, and proof of residency.
Back to Bama
Learners who previously attempted at least 15 hours at the University of Alabama, left in good standing, and gained readmission can apply for this tuition grant.
Recent high school or homeschool graduates can apply to receive this renewable scholarship worth $2,000-$4,000. Applicants must maintain at least a 2.75 GPA, be U.S. citizens and Alabama residents, and have ACT scores at or below 26.
Linly Heflin Scholarship
Jacksonville State University offers the Governor Frank Dixon Memorial Award to full-time students who demonstrate academic achievement. Alabama residents only.
SREB Doctoral Scholars Program Fellowship
Applicant should be Ph.D. candidates in Alabama, have U.S. citizenship, no employment outside their departments or disciplines, want to become full-time university staff after graduation, and be from an ethnic or racial minority group.
American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)
The AQHF awards several scholarships to learners pursuing degrees in fields related to equestrian activities, like veterinary medicine, journalism, animal science, or therapeutic riding.
NAJA Graduate Scholarship Program
Applicants must pursue degrees directly related to caring for special-needs children. Candidates must be residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, or Tennessee.
Cabaniss, Johnston Law Scholarship
Law students who have been Alabama residents for at least two years, are entering their second year of law school at an accredited university, and demonstrate academic excellence may apply.
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