Students looking for online colleges in Colorado can find dozens of options. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that 87 colleges and universities are based in Colorado, which includes 28 public, 17 nonprofit, and 42 for-profit institutions. This includes institutions like the University of Colorado at Boulder — the state’s flagship public research university with an enrollment of more than 34,000 students — and the small Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs. Students interested in pursuing community college online or in-person in Colorado can also choose from 34 two-year institutions.
The following guide introduces prospective learners to the best online colleges in Colorado. It also provides a general overview of higher education in the state, including the prevalence of online learning in Colorado. Aspiring students can also read about job prospects for college graduates in Colorado and peruse a sampling of scholarships available to online students in the state.
Before looking at the best online colleges in Colorado, this guide provides a summary of higher education in the state, including online education.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Colorado
Students looking for institutions of higher learning in Colorado can choose from a variety of options, including public, nonprofit, and for-profit schools. As of the 2015-2016 school year, the NCES reported that Colorado housed almost 90 colleges and universities, enrolling more than 350,000 students at degree-granting postsecondary institutions.
- 28 public
- 17 non-profit
- 42 for-profit
The cost of earning a degree represents a primary concern for many prospective students who hope to find cheap online colleges in Colorado. CollegeBoard reported that the average in-state tuition during the 2018-2019 school year for four-year, public schools in Colorado was $11,140. The state’s flagship university — the University of Colorado at Boulder — charged slightly more than average for in-state tuition ($12,532). Additionally. out-of-state learners paid almost three times the amount as in-state students ($37,286 per year). However, many schools offer online students in-state tuition rates, regardless of where they live.
Students attending online colleges in Colorado can qualify for a variety of financial aid opportunities. In the 2015-2016 academic year, Colorado students received almost $169,000,000 in financial aid to help offset the cost of a higher education. Undergraduates benefitted from the vast majority of this funding, receiving more than $160,000,000, while graduate students were awarded the remaining funds. This money went to students who demonstrated financial need as well as to learners who qualified for aid based on merit and other non-need-based eligibility criteria.
The State of Online Higher Education in Colorado
According to a recent online learning survey carried out by the Babson Survey Research Group, 114,448 students — or 32.5% of the total student body in Colorado — took at least one online course in 2015. The amount of students taking Colorado online college courses slightly outpaces the national average of 29.7%. Nearly 21% (73,745) of survey respondents took all of their classes online, including 53,636 undergraduates and 20,109 graduate students. Of the students taking all of their courses online, 29,078 (or 39.4%) live in Colorado, while the rest live out of state.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
The high cost of out-of-state tuition can give prospective students pause. However, the Western Interstate Commission For Higher Education (WICHE) helps make tuition more affordable for students residing in Western states who want to go to school outside of their home state. Established in the 1950s, this regional organization helps higher education systems in Western states share resources. Fifteen states participate in WICHE, including Colorado, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Some U.S. Pacific Territories and freely associated states also participate.
A major component of WICHE’s work includes its Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program. WUE helps students save money on tuition, ensuring that they won’t need to pay more than 150% of in-state tuition rates at an out-of-state, participating academic institution. Although not every program at participating schools qualifies for this exchange, hundreds of degree tracks do. Students who participate in WUE receive an average nonresident tuition discount of $9,000 each academic year. More than 160 colleges and universities (both two-year and four-year institutions) participate in WUE, including 23 on-campus and online colleges in Colorado. Students can locate participating academic programs by using WUE’s savings finder.
Best Online Colleges in Colorado
The rankings below list the best online four-year programs in Colorado. These profiles look at how schools approach online education and include the services provided to distance students and a school’s popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in Colorado, students can explore additional state resources, such as a database that contains every college and university in Colorado and an 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||$$$$$||7800 East Orchard Road Ste 200|
Greenwood Village, CO 80111-0000
CSU-Global was the first fully-accredited, 100%-online state university in the country. It’s part of the Colorado State University System, which includes a flagship campus in Fort Collins, CO.
CSU-Global offers 13 career-focused online bachelor’s degree programs, along with 24/7 access to the library and its staff, career services, tech help, and tutoring. This online school in Colorado is committed to making the education process useful, fast, and affordable. Programs are reviewed every 24 months to ensure that the curriculum is aligned with industry needs. Classes start every four weeks, and terms are eight weeks long.
Each program accepts up to 64 transfer credits, and the university's tuition guarantee promises a fixed rate that never increases as long as a student remains in good academic standing. There are no additional student fees whatsoever—not even out-of-state fees. CSU-Global also offers reduced military tuition and recognizes non-traditional credits (such as training and occupational experience) by evaluating professional licenses and industry certifications; these earned experiences can be directly applied to an online degree.
|2||Colorado State University||Fort Collins||$$$$$||102 Administration Building|
Fort Collins, CO 80523-0100
CSU-Fort Collins offers eight online degree programs, including horticulture, economics, and psychology. Students receiving an online degree in anthropology have the option to participate in hands-on field work to supplement their coursework. All of the online programs are taught by the same faculty and instructors that teach on-campus courses, and all classes meet the same rigorous standards.
Curriculum is delivered through a variety of channels, including recorded lectures from on-campus sessions and real-time (synchronous) sessions with instructors and fellow students broadcasted with a webcam and microphone. Online students also have access to the library's distance learning team, who assist students with their research and study needs.
Distant learners at this online college in Colorado are eligible to receive the same services offered to on-campus students, including tutoring, academic advising, access to the career center, participation in student government, and a complimentary download of Microsoft Office 365.
|3||University of Denver||Denver||$$$$$||2199 S. University Blvd|
Denver, CO 80208
The University of Denver features six online degree programs, including offerings in communication arts, global studies, leadership and organization studies, information technology, global commerce and transportation, and environmental studies. Classes are taught asynchronously at this online college in Colorado but follow the same 10-week quarter schedule as campus-based classes. Technical assistance is provided 24/7.
The university reviews applications — which must include a statement of purpose, resume, and two references — on a quarterly basis. Denver encourages applicants to have at least 24 earned credits before applying; up to 64 credits are transferable. Adults with three years of work experience beyond high school may also qualify for admission into the program. The school advises students to take advantage of the university’s career services to assist them with their academic and professional goals.
UD's 125-acre campus, designated as an arboretum, is home to the Meyer-Womble Observatory, which is the highest-altitude observatory in the United States. This private university is a few miles south of downtown Denver.
|4||Regis University||Denver||$$$$$||3333 Regis Blvd|
Denver, CO 80221-1099
Regis University offers 27 online bachelor’s degree programs, and acceptance into its programs is made on a rolling basis. Courses are broken into eight-week long academic terms and have highly-structured requirements and deadlines. Online students receive the same benefits and services that are available to on-campus learners, including academic advising, tutoring, digitized library materials, and access to live librarians and writing coaches.
Tuition is the same for both traditional and online students. Additionally, preferred tuition rates are available to students who are employed by organizations that have an active partnership with the university. Current employers include Hewlett-Packard, Comcast, Staples, Cigna, and the United States Postal Service.
Regis is a Jesuit university that was first established in 1877 in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It moved to its present location in Denver in 1887. At this online school in Colorado, Jesuit values are explicit in the curriculum, and service learning is a component of all programs.
|5||University of Northern Colorado||Greeley||$$$$$||Carter Hall - Rm 4000|
Greeley, CO 80639
The University of Northern Colorado offers five online bachelor’s degree and completion programs, including ASL, psychology, dietetics, nursing, and sociology. Each program has a rolling deadline and provides students with an online orientation before the start of classes. Some of UNC's online bachelor’s degree programs have an “open entry” policy, where students can begin their studies throughout the term, while others have exact start dates.
UNC uses the Canvas course management system and the Quality Matters process to ensure a quality online experience. Because online classes are recorded and archived, students can access lecture materials at their convenience. Online students have access to most university services, including academic support, live librarian mentoring, advising, career placement, tutoring, and counseling.
The UNC campus is located in Greeley, CO, which is about 50 miles north of Denver. Both in- and out-of-state students receive the same flat tuition rate at this online college in Colorado.
|6||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs||Colorado Springs||$$$$$||1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway|
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
UCCS has offered online degree programs since 1996. Its current catalog includes sociology, business administration, communication, health care sciences, criminology, and nursing (degree completion). UCCS accepts up to 72 transfer credits from two-year colleges and a maximum of 90 credits from all schools combined. The university also offers options for obtaining credits through exams.
Required classes are offered at least once during the calendar year, and most are offered every semester. Online students also have access to most university services, including the writing center, academic advising and career placement, tech support, and live librarian assistance.
Tuition rates vary depending on a student’s degree program and state of residency. As per the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, an online college in Colorado cannot accept students who are residents of Delaware into its distance learning program.
The 510-acre UCCS campus provides spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, including Pikes Peak. The school enrolls about 11,300 students on campus each year and has 2,000 distance learners in its online programs.
|7||Colorado Christian University||Lakewood||$$$$$||8787 West Alameda Avenue|
Lakewood, CO 80226
At CCU, all courses are taught from a Christian worldview. The accounting curriculum emphasizes the development of values-based decision-making skills, and the psychology program integrates faith with the study of human behavior. The university currently offers 17 online bachelor’s degree programs. Depending on the course of study, CCU will accept up to 90 transfer credits toward an undergraduate degree. Online courses are typically completed in five-, seven-, or 10-week blocks with specific start and end dates.
This online college in Colorado offers reduced tuition to active duty members of the military and their adult dependents. Currently, CCU is not authorized to accept online students from a number of states, including Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Founded in 1914 as the Denver Bible Institute, CCU subsequently merged with the Western Bible Institute and Colorado Baptist University, finally becoming Colorado Christian University in 1989. The school's main campus is in Lakewood, CO, which is a suburb located 10 miles west of Denver.
|8||Colorado Mesa University||Grand Junction||$$$$$||1100 North Avenue|
Grand Junction, CO 81501-3122
CMU offers two degree completion programs–a BS in nursing (RN to BSN) and a BAS in radiologic technology–allowing students with an AAS degree to further their education with courses in advanced patient care, informatics in radiology and specializations in CT, MRI, and mammography. The school also offers online bachelor’s degree programs in liberal arts with elementary education licensure and in sports management.
This online college in Colorado follows a semester-based academic calendar and requires all first-time online students to pass a distance-learning orientation before beginning any coursework. CMU is authorized to offer online programs in 48 states, excluding Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and the District of Columbia.
CMU opened in 1925 as a junior college and began offering baccalaureate programs in 1974. In 2005, it created Western Colorado Community College, which is a two-year, open admission division within the university. Its 86-acre campus is located in Grand Junction, CO.
|9||Johnson & Wales University - Colorado||Denver||$$$$$||7150 Montview Blvd|
Denver, CO 80220
Distance learners benefit from flexible class structures and accelerated 11-week academic terms at JWU's online school in Colorado. JWU currently offers 15 online bachelor’s degree programs. Courses are developed in-house by certified instructional designers. Many of the instructors at JWU have in-depth industrial backgrounds and more than 10 years of online teaching experience. Online classes are recorded and archived, giving students flexible access to their course material. Distance learners can utilize most university services, including personalized advising, career placement, and guidance from live librarians.
The school's transfer credit policy boasts the maximum allowance for college-level credit and also gives credit for life experiences and military service. TES, which is the university's online transfer evaluation system, lets students see which of their previously-earned credits are likely to be accepted by the university before contacting an admissions counselor.
In addition to its online presence, JWU has campuses in Denver, Miami, and Charlotte, as well as its first and largest location in Providence, Rhode Island.
|10||Colorado State University - Pueblo||Pueblo||$$$$$||2200 Bonforte Blvd|
Pueblo, CO 81001-4901
CSU-Pueblo’s online bachelor's degree in construction management teaches students how to negotiate contracts, plan and schedule projects, estimate costs, and manage quality and safety. The school prefers applicants who have completed their general education requirements or have obtained an associate degree in a similar field prior to pursuing a BS in construction management.
Up to 90 credits are transferable from accredited universities and colleges, and students should have a cumulative GPA of 2.3 or above. However, students with a GPA between 1.8 and 2.3 may also be admitted after committee review.
Regardless of a student’s location, the university offers one tuition rate, which is locked in upon admission. As a military-friendly university, this online college in Colorado offers discounted tuition rates for those who have served and qualify. Spouses and dependents may also be eligible for benefits.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Colorado
The ranking below includes the best online schools in Colorado, sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Metropolitan State University||Denver||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Colorado Mesa University||Grand Junction||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||University of Northern Colorado||Greeley||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs||Colorado Springs||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||University of Colorado - Denver||Denver||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Colorado State University-Global Campus||Greenwood Village||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Colorado State University||Fort Collins||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||Colorado Christian University||Lakewood||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||Regis University||Denver||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||University of Denver||Denver||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Colorado
Graduates of accredited online colleges in Colorado can take advantage of the state’s healthy economy. As of September 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a low unemployment rate of 3.1% in Colorado — more than half a percentage point lower than the national average. Colorado also boasted a mean wage of $25.99 an hour — or $54,050 a year — for all occupations. This ranks higher than the national annual mean wage of $50,620 a year.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Colorado
Partner Colorado Foundation Scholarship
Applicants must hold permanent residency in Colorado, be between the ages of 17-40, and primarily live in Colorado while attending college. Students must also demonstrate financial need and academic progress.
Stephen J. Roy Memorial Scholarship Fund
Applicants must demonstrate financial need and hold ties to or live in Larimer County. They must also hold an interest in studying law or a related field.
Stephen T. Marchello Scholarship
Applicants must be childhood cancer survivors and high school graduates from Colorado or Montana.
Denver Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Scholarship Program
Applicants must attend a Denver-area high school and demonstrate academic achievement and community involvement. Students must also be accepted to an accredited college or university.
Greenhouse Scholars Scholarship
This is a $5,000, renewable, need-based scholarship for residents of Illinois, Colorado, Georgia, or North Carolina. Applicants must have a high school GPA of 3.5, and recipients receive mentorship and professional guidance throughout their undergraduate experience to build community leadership skills.
Pinnacol Foundation Scholarship
Applicants must be children of a Colorado worker injured or killed in a work-related accident. They must also hold a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Boundless Opportunity Scholarship
Applicants must hold legal residency in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, or Utah and demonstrate financial need. They must also belong to one of the following groups: nontraditional adult students, GED recipients, veterans, individuals formerly in foster care, or individuals formerly in the juvenile justice system.
Ruth Henderson Memorial Scholarship Fund
Applicants must hold legal residency in Colorado and attend a publicly funded, accredited school in the state. They must also demonstrate financial need and be graduates of high schools in the Eastern Plains area.
Charmayne Gooch Arts Scholarship Fund
Applicants must be students in Larimer County who face challenges pursuing a standard course of study — including individuals with a disability or a special need — or students who would benefit from training in art, writing, music, or visual arts.
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