2017 Best Online Colleges Methodology

The 2017 Best Online Colleges ranking is based on rigorous analysis of academic, admissions, financial, and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education along with millions of reviews from students and alumni. List includes 100% online universities as well as colleges that offer a majority of their degrees online. Learn where our data comes from.

Factors Considered

Factor Description Source Weight
Value Grade Niche Value grade, which incorporates statistics such as average loan amount, alumni earnings and student surveys regarding value. Niche 35.0%
Academics Grade Niche Academics grade, which incorporates factors such as acceptance rate, quality of professors, as well as student and alumni surveys regarding academics at the school. Niche 25.0%
Professors Grade Niche Professors grade, which incorporates factors such as number of awards won by faculty, student-faculty ratio, as well as student surveys regarding professor quality. Niche 15.0%
Student Surveys on Overall Experience Niche survey responses scored on a 1-5 scale regarding the overall experience of students and alumni at each school. Self-reported by Niche users 15.0%
Part-Time Retention Rate Percent of part-time, first-time students enrolled the prior year that re-enroll the next year. U.S. Department of Education 10.0%

This ranking assesses 122 4-year colleges and universities who have at least 25% of their students enrolled exclusively online. Statistics obtained from the U.S. Department of Education represent the most recent data available, usually from 2014–2016, as self-reported by the colleges.

For more details about how we calculate our rankings, click here.