Why are public universities offering online degrees? Because public universities have a mission to educate as many people as possible. Public universities have always been on the front lines, using different technology and other opportunities to fulfill that mission. Public universities pioneered distance education, with programs like Penn State’s correspondence courses in agriculture for farmers, or education by radio and television at the University of Louisville and the University of Wisconsin. Now that the internet is widely available, even in rural and remote areas, it provides one of the best ways to help universities reach people.
Public universities with online programs exist all over the country because university directors understand how busy people have become. These days, a person doesn’t have to choose between being a parent and being a student, or advancing a career and earning a degree. People have options, and they need the flexibility to embrace those options. Public universities with online programs make those opportunities happen, just as public universities have always done.
How We Ranked the Best Public Online Universities
College Consensus rankings combine the results of the most respected college ranking systems with the averaged ratings of thousands of real student reviews from around the web to create a unique college meta-ranking. This approach offers a comprehensive and holistic perspective missing from other college rankings. Visit our about page for information on which rankings and review sites were included in this year’s consensus rankings.
The Online Public Colleges & Universities category is limited to publicly-funded, state-owned schools with at least three fully-online bachelor’s degree programs.
What is a Public University?
When someone asks “What is a public university?” or “What is a public college?” they might get all sorts of answers. People might bring up quality, prestige, or any number of answers. In reality, though, those answers don’t quite explain what is a public college and what is a private college. The difference comes from where these schools get their funding. Both options require tuition, but public schools are primarily funded by the government. Private schools are funded by donations and tuition.
The biggest benefit of a public university, for students, is cost. Since public universities receive government funding, they can often offer lower tuition costs than most private schools can offer. While it is true that public universities have received reduced funding in recent years, the combination of lower costs and greater access have made public universities one of the best choices for aspiring professionals.
How Are Public Universities Accredited?
When you look into your education options, it’s not enough just to look for online public universities. You need to look for accreditation. There are two types of university accreditation for online public universities: national and regional. If a school has national accreditation, that means that it has been accredited by a national organization. Many for-profit and career-centered colleges are accredited nationally. If, however, you’re looking at regionally accredited online colleges, you’re looking for schools that have been accredited by one of seven regional organizations in the US. While both options mean that your university has been independently reviewed, keep in mind that regional accreditation can carry more weight than the national option, so you may want to look for the best regionally accredited online colleges.
How are Online Public Universities Different?
The question of state school vs private school can keep a lot of students up at night. Ultimately, the decision depends on what works best for you. You’ll just have to weigh the private vs public college pros and cons for yourself and make the decision based on your research. As mentioned earlier, public schools get a lot of their funding from the government, and private schools get their funding from other sources. While that’s the only official difference between the two, they result in a lot of differences in public vs private statistics.
One big difference in the state school vs private school question is school size. As already mentioned, public schools tend to offer lower tuition rates than private schools. As a result. public schools tend to have more students. The larger class sizes come with pros and cons, of course. On the one hand, a large school usually means a lot of resources and options. On the other hand, it can also mean less one-on-one attention from your instructors. If class size matters to you, then it’ll play a part in whether you choose a public or private school.
The next question in public vs private college statistics is the amount of weight your degree will carry. Generally speaking, a degree from a private school garners more respect than a degree from a public school. However, this is only a generalization and should be taken with a grain of salt. Some universities don’t follow this pattern at all. For example, some private colleges are so small that most employers won’t recognize them, while some public universities, such as UCLA, garner a lot of attention and respect.
Here’s the bottom line: When you start exploring private vs public college pros and cons, don’t forget to measure the benefits of individual schools. Again, it all boils down to which school will work best for your needs.
Are Online Public Colleges Cheaper than Private and For-Profit?
You’ve already seen that online public colleges are usually cheaper than private schools. Questions of in-state vs out of state tuition can complicate things a little, but on the whole, public universities are cheaper. But what about for-profit colleges? Are they any cheaper than public universities? Unfortunately, no. Some students choose for-profit universities because these universities tend to focus on careers and technical skills. However, remember that the mission of a for-profit school will always be to make money. Student education comes second. As a result, their tuition rates will usually be higher so that they can meet their money-making goal.
So how can you save money while looking for a good, nonprofit program? Well, remember that nonprofit universities are usually accredited regionally while for-profit options are usually accredited nationally. You can start by searching for the cheapest regionally accredited online colleges.