As variants of the coronavirus continue to bring uncertainty to the higher education landscape, online and blended learning options have become popular at colleges and universities to help reduce learning disruptions.
But the pandemic was not the catalyst for online learning at all schools. Some institutions, like those ranked in the 2022 U.S. News Best Online Programs, were ahead of the curve, having offered online degree options for years.
In fall 2019, about 37% of postsecondary students in the U.S. were enrolled in a distance education course, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Students attending private, for-profit institutions were the most likely to participate in distance education.
Enrolling in an online program can often be a more affordable and flexible alternative to an in-person degree, especially for students who work or have children.
Today, U.S. News released the Best Online Programs, which assessed 1,733 and ranked 1,651 online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, the most in its 10-year history. Graduate programs are categorized based on the following areas of study: non-MBA business, computer information technology,criminal justice, education, engineering and nursing. Online MBA programs are ranked separately from other graduate business degrees.
U.S. News also ranks the Best Online Programs for Veterans. To qualify, schools must appear in the top half of the Best Online Programs rankings; be certified for the GI Bill; and either be Yellow Ribbon Program participants or public institutions that charge in-state tuition, which can be fully paid through the GI Bill for out-of-state applicants. Additionally, a minimum of 25 veterans and active service members must be enrolled for a bachelor’s program to qualify for the rankings, with 10 needed for a graduate program.
The top two online bachelor’s programs for veterans remain unchanged from last year, with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University–Worldwide in Florida at No. 1 and the University of Florida at No. 2. The University of Arizona moved up one position to No. 4.
U.S. News ranks programs with predominately internet-based coursework. However, a school with in-person testing, support services and orientations may also be considered. Rankings are based on the following factors: student engagement, services and technologies available to students, faculty credentials and training, as well as expert opinion on the academic quality of programs.
In addition to these credentials, master’s degree programs are also ranked based on student excellence.
Blended learning programs — a combination of both face-to-face and distance instruction — as well as those that temporarily switched to online in 2021 due to the pandemic are not included.
Here are some of the top online degree programs in the 2022 rankings.
Best Online Bachelor’s Programs
Embry-Riddle and the University of Florida topped this year’s list in a tie at No. 1. Moving up from the prior year ranking of a tie at No. 10, the Medical University of South Carolina tied at No. 3 with the University of Illinois–Chicago.
Eight schools made the top 10 list for at least the second year in a row. The University of Central Florida, University of North Carolina–Charlotte and North Carolina State University all entered the top 10 this year. UNC Charlotte made the most significant leap among the three, from a tie at No. 34 last year to a tie at No. 10 with NC State.
Others outside of the top 10 also significantly improved their rankings, such as the University of Massachusetts–Boston, which went from a tie at No. 93 position to being in a five-way tie at No. 39. Climbing from its previous position of a tie at No. 53, the University of Nebraska–Omaha is now tied with five other schools at No. 29.
Some institutions are known for a specific major. For example, Arizona State University was rated as the No. 1 school for the Best Online Bachelor’s in Business Programs. Rounding out the top three, Pennsylvania State University–World Campus and the University of Florida tied at No. 2.
There was a similar list within Best Online Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs. Illinois-based Loyola University Chicago emerged on both lists but ranked the highest among online psychology programs at No. 1. Four schools tied for No. 2: CUNY School of Professional Studies in New York, Pennsylvania State University–World Campus, University of Florida and Oregon State University.
Best Online MBA Programs
For the No. 1 spot among online MBA programs, there was a three-way tie between Indiana University–Bloomington’s Kelley School of Business, the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. For veterans, the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business and USC topped the list.
As for specialties, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business in Pennsylvania ranked the highest for business analytics. IU’s Kelley School of Business reached No. 1 again, but this time for the areas of finance and general management. Tied at No. 12 among all online MBA programs, the University of Maryland–College Park’s Robert H. Smith School of Business was ranked best for marketing.
Best Online Master’s in Business Programs
In addition to MBA programs, U.S. News ranks the Best Online Master’s in Business Programs, which include degrees in accounting, finance, insurance, marketing and management.
Similar to the MBA program rankings, there was a tie for No. 1, between IU’s Kelley and USC’s Marshall business schools.
Some non-MBA online graduate business programs experienced significant movement, climbing numerous spots in the rankings. Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, for example, jumped from a tie at No. 24 to a tie at No. 3. Also in the top five now, the University of Alabama’s Manderson Graduate School of Business previously tied at No. 31.
Best Online Graduate Education Programs
Previously ranked as No. 2, Clemson University’s Moore School of Education in South Carolina rose to No. 1 for online graduate education programs, while the University of Florida dropped to the No 2. spot. Tied for No. 4 in the prior year, the University of Georgia rose to No. 3, tying with the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign.
One of the largest jumps in the rankings was from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, which soared from a tie at No. 83 to a tie at No. 34.
Best Online Master’s in Nursing Programs
The University of South Carolina once again ranked No. 1 among online nursing master’s programs, tying this year with the University of Pittsburgh and Ohio State University. After tying with South Carolina in the top spot last year, Rush University in Illinois this year dropped to No. 4.
Ranked at No. 5 among all online nursing graduate programs, Duke University in North Carolina placed first in three specialty areas: nursing administration, nursing education and family nurse practitioner.
Best Online Graduate Engineering Programs
The top two schools in the rankings of online master’s in engineering programs remained the same as last year, with Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York at No. 1 again and the University of California–Los Angeles at No. 2. Pennsylvania State University–World Campus ranked No. 3.
Several schools in the Midwest ranked high in specialty areas. Purdue was featured as No. 1 for electrical, industrial, management and mechanical engineering, while the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering topped the list for civil engineering.
Best Online Graduate Information Technology Programs
Like last year, Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University’s G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering in Maryland ranked as No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, among online graduate information technology programs. Moving up by one, Virginia Tech took the No. 3 spot — and was No. 1 for veterans. Also in the top 10, Texas Tech University’s Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering experienced the largest shift — from No. 36 to a tie at No. 9.
Best Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs
The online graduate criminal justice program at the University of California–Irvine stayed at No. 1. The University of Massachusetts–Lowell and Sam Houston State University in Texas tied at No. 2 for criminal justice, with Boston University in Massachusetts dropping from a tie at No. 2 to the No. 4 spot.
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