With nearly one in five of its higher education students enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, Colorado’s continues to grow in the area of online learning. From grass-roots efforts to state funding, the state’s higher learning programs both on-campus and online are receiving the support needed to flourish, which in turn means the state’s educational opportunities continue to grow for both in-state students and the thousands of distance students living elsewhere in the U.S.
Before we look at the best online colleges in CO, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Colorado today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Colorado
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Colorado had 93 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 28 public schools, 13 nonprofits and 52 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 23,436 at public schools, 4,083 at private nonprofits and 4,927 at private for-profits.
- 28 public
- 13 non-profit
- 52 for-profit
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $9,750, while the out-of-state average was $27,850.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Colorado awarded $79.166 million in need-based grants and $0.420 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 11.7% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education. The ‘13-‘14 school year saw a significant increase in state per-student spending, with a boost of 7.1%. This figure is higher than that of 35 other states, demonstrating that Colorado aims to make financial support of higher education a top priority.
The State of Online Higher Education in Colorado
The NCES estimates that at least 9.4% of students enrolled in Colorado’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 74% were reported to be undergraduates and 40.6% were found to be living in Colorado, indicating the state does an excellent job of attracting out-of-state distance students.
This appeal is cultivated with state-wide initiatives that encourage online learning from a young age. The Colorado Cybershchools Association was formed to assist cyberschools in providing top-notch programs and to promote quality improvement in online programs at all age levels. A group of committed parents has come together to form the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families, which advocates for online learning in Colorado. These groups and others continue to strengthen online higher education throughout the state.
As for higher education, the Colorado Distance Learning Association (ColoDLA) is undoubtedly the state’s most vocal and effective proponent of online learning, while also making a meaningful impact in K-12 learning. Part of the US Distance Learning Association since 2011, the ColoDLA brings together the state’s leading distance education teachers, administrators and IT personnel, either through regular meetings or an annual conference, to refine the technology and best practices that power distance education at the major institutions of higher learning throughout Colorado. No organization better captures the state’s proactive commitment to stellar online opportunities at every level of education.
Best Online Colleges in Colorado
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Colorado. 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 Colorado, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Colorado 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||Colorado State University-Global Campus||Greenwood Village||$$$$$||7800 East Orchard Road Ste 200|
Greenwood Village, CO 80111-0000
CSU-Global was the first fully-accredited, 100%-online state university in the country. It’s part of the Colorado State University System, which includes a flagship campus in Fort Collins, CO.
CSU-Global offers 13 career-focused online bachelor’s degree programs, along with 24/7 access to the library and its staff, career services, tech help, and tutoring. This online school in Colorado is committed to making the education process useful, fast, and affordable. Programs are reviewed every 24 months to ensure that the curriculum is aligned with industry needs. Classes start every four weeks, and terms are eight weeks long.
Each program accepts up to 64 transfer credits, and the university's tuition guarantee promises a fixed rate that never increases as long as a student remains in good academic standing. There are no additional student fees whatsoever—not even out-of-state fees. CSU-Global also offers reduced military tuition and recognizes non-traditional credits (such as training and occupational experience) by evaluating professional licenses and industry certifications; these earned experiences can be directly applied to an online degree.
|2||Colorado State University||Fort Collins||$$$$$||102 Administration Building|
Fort Collins, CO 80523-0100
CSU-Fort Collins offers eight online degree programs, including horticulture, economics, and psychology. Students receiving an online degree in anthropology have the option to participate in hands-on field work to supplement their coursework. All of the online programs are taught by the same faculty and instructors that teach on-campus courses, and all classes meet the same rigorous standards.
Curriculum is delivered through a variety of channels, including recorded lectures from on-campus sessions and real-time (synchronous) sessions with instructors and fellow students broadcasted with a webcam and microphone. Online students also have access to the library's distance learning team, who assist students with their research and study needs.
Distant learners at this online college in Colorado are eligible to receive the same services offered to on-campus students, including tutoring, academic advising, access to the career center, participation in student government, and a complimentary download of Microsoft Office 365.
|3||University of Denver||Denver||$$$$$||2199 S. University Blvd|
Denver, CO 80208
The University of Denver features six online degree programs, including offerings in communication arts, global studies, leadership and organization studies, information technology, global commerce and transportation, and environmental studies. Classes are taught asynchronously at this online college in Colorado but follow the same 10-week quarter schedule as campus-based classes. Technical assistance is provided 24/7.
The university reviews applications — which must include a statement of purpose, resume, and two references — on a quarterly basis. Denver encourages applicants to have at least 24 earned credits before applying; up to 64 credits are transferable. Adults with three years of work experience beyond high school may also qualify for admission into the program. The school advises students to take advantage of the university’s career services to assist them with their academic and professional goals.
UD's 125-acre campus, designated as an arboretum, is home to the Meyer-Womble Observatory, which is the highest-altitude observatory in the United States. This private university is a few miles south of downtown Denver.
|4||Regis University||Denver||$$$$$||3333 Regis Blvd|
Denver, CO 80221-1099
Regis University offers 27 online bachelor’s degree programs, and acceptance into its programs is made on a rolling basis. Courses are broken into eight-week long academic terms and have highly-structured requirements and deadlines. Online students receive the same benefits and services that are available to on-campus learners, including academic advising, tutoring, digitized library materials, and access to live librarians and writing coaches.
Tuition is the same for both traditional and online students. Additionally, preferred tuition rates are available to students who are employed by organizations that have an active partnership with the university. Current employers include Hewlett-Packard, Comcast, Staples, Cigna, and the United States Postal Service.
Regis is a Jesuit university that was first established in 1877 in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It moved to its present location in Denver in 1887. At this online school in Colorado, Jesuit values are explicit in the curriculum, and service learning is a component of all programs.
|5||University of Northern Colorado||Greeley||$$$$$||Carter Hall - Rm 4000|
Greeley, CO 80639
The University of Northern Colorado offers five online bachelor’s degree and completion programs, including ASL, psychology, dietetics, nursing, and sociology. Each program has a rolling deadline and provides students with an online orientation before the start of classes. Some of UNC's online bachelor’s degree programs have an “open entry” policy, where students can begin their studies throughout the term, while others have exact start dates.
UNC uses the Canvas course management system and the Quality Matters process to ensure a quality online experience. Because online classes are recorded and archived, students can access lecture materials at their convenience. Online students have access to most university services, including academic support, live librarian mentoring, advising, career placement, tutoring, and counseling.
The UNC campus is located in Greeley, CO, which is about 50 miles north of Denver. Both in- and out-of-state students receive the same flat tuition rate at this online college in Colorado.
|6||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs||Colorado Springs||$$$$$||1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway|
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
UCCS has offered online degree programs since 1996. Its current catalog includes sociology, business administration, communication, health care sciences, criminology, and nursing (degree completion). UCCS accepts up to 72 transfer credits from two-year colleges and a maximum of 90 credits from all schools combined. The university also offers options for obtaining credits through exams.
Required classes are offered at least once during the calendar year, and most are offered every semester. Online students also have access to most university services, including the writing center, academic advising and career placement, tech support, and live librarian assistance.
Tuition rates vary depending on a student’s degree program and state of residency. As per the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, an online college in Colorado cannot accept students who are residents of Delaware into its distance learning program.
The 510-acre UCCS campus provides spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, including Pikes Peak. The school enrolls about 11,300 students on campus each year and has 2,000 distance learners in its online programs.
|7||Colorado Christian University||Lakewood||$$$$$||8787 West Alameda Avenue|
Lakewood, CO 80226
At CCU, all courses are taught from a Christian worldview. The accounting curriculum emphasizes the development of values-based decision-making skills, and the psychology program integrates faith with the study of human behavior. The university currently offers 17 online bachelor’s degree programs. Depending on the course of study, CCU will accept up to 90 transfer credits toward an undergraduate degree. Online courses are typically completed in five-, seven-, or 10-week blocks with specific start and end dates.
This online college in Colorado offers reduced tuition to active duty members of the military and their adult dependents. Currently, CCU is not authorized to accept online students from a number of states, including Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Founded in 1914 as the Denver Bible Institute, CCU subsequently merged with the Western Bible Institute and Colorado Baptist University, finally becoming Colorado Christian University in 1989. The school's main campus is in Lakewood, CO, which is a suburb located 10 miles west of Denver.
|8||Colorado Mesa University||Grand Junction||$$$$$||1100 North Avenue|
Grand Junction, CO 81501-3122
CMU offers two degree completion programs–a BS in nursing (RN to BSN) and a BAS in radiologic technology–allowing students with an AAS degree to further their education with courses in advanced patient care, informatics in radiology and specializations in CT, MRI, and mammography. The school also offers online bachelor’s degree programs in liberal arts with elementary education licensure and in sports management.
This online college in Colorado follows a semester-based academic calendar and requires all first-time online students to pass a distance-learning orientation before beginning any coursework. CMU is authorized to offer online programs in 48 states, excluding Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia.
CMU opened in 1925 as a junior college and began offering baccalaureate programs in 1974. In 2005, it created Western Colorado Community College, which is a two-year, open admission division within the university. Its 86-acre campus is located in Grand Junction, CO.
|9||Johnson & Wales University - Colorado||Denver||$$$$$||7150 Montview Blvd|
Denver, CO 80220
Distance learners benefit from flexible class structures and accelerated 11-week academic terms at JWU's online school in Colorado. JWU currently offers 15 online bachelor’s degree programs. Courses are developed in-house by certified instructional designers. Many of the instructors at JWU have in-depth industrial backgrounds and more than 10 years of online teaching experience. Online classes are recorded and archived, giving students flexible access to their course material. Distance learners can utilize most university services, including personalized advising, career placement, and guidance from live librarians.
The school's transfer credit policy boasts the maximum allowance for college-level credit and also gives credit for life experiences and military service. TES, which is the university's online transfer evaluation system, lets students see which of their previously-earned credits are likely to be accepted by the university before contacting an admissions counselor.
In addition to its online presence, JWU has campuses in Denver, Miami, and Charlotte, as well as its first and largest location in Providence, Rhode Island.
|10||Colorado State University - Pueblo||Pueblo||$$$$$||2200 Bonforte Blvd|
Pueblo, CO 81001-4901
CSU-Pueblo’s online bachelor's degree in construction management teaches students how to negotiate contracts, plan and schedule projects, estimate costs, and manage quality and safety. The school prefers applicants who have completed their general education requirements or have obtained an associate degree in a similar field prior to pursuing a BS in construction management.
Up to 90 credits are transferable from accredited universities and colleges, and students should have a cumulative GPA of 2.3 or above. However, students with a GPA between 1.8 and 2.3 may also be admitted after committee review.
Regardless of a student’s location, the university offers one tuition rate, which is locked in upon admission. As a military-friendly university, this online college in Colorado offers discounted tuition rates for those who have served and qualify. Spouses and dependents may also be eligible for benefits.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Colorado
Below you’ll find the very best online schools in CO, sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Metropolitan State University||Denver||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Colorado Mesa University||Grand Junction||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||University of Northern Colorado||Greeley||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs||Colorado Springs||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||University of Colorado - Denver||Denver||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Colorado State University-Global Campus||Greenwood Village||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Colorado State University||Fort Collins||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||Colorado Christian University||Lakewood||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||Regis University||Denver||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||University of Denver||Denver||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Colorado
Beau Mitchell Memorial Scholarship
Colorado State University awards the Beau Mitchell Memorial Scholarship to students who demonstrate academic achievement and strong moral character. Preference is given to former members of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts of America, and to out-of-state students. Award amount varies based on financial need.
Colorado State University Alumni First Generation School
Provided by Colorado State University, this award is for students who demonstrate financial need, and who are first generation college students. Applicants must demonstrate potential for academic success. FAFSA application required.
CSU Merit Scholarship
The Colorado Merit Scholarship is for in-state freshmen entering Colorado State University. A minimum GPA of 3.6 is required. Award amount is determined by academic record; the maximum award amount is $4000 per year.
Julia Klug Scholarship
Colorado State University provides the Julia Klug Scholarship for students who have demonstrated academic improvement in high school or college, and have shown academic leadership or community service involvement. Award amount varies based on financial need.
Provided by the University of Colorado Boulder for freshman and transfer students interested in a liberal education. The Norlin Scholars Program includes an award of $5000 per year, and additional funding for research or study abroad opportunities. All majors may apply.
University of Northern Colorado Trustees Scholarship
For in-state freshmen entering the University of Northern Colorado. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.8, and an ACT score of 29 or SAT of 1280.
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