15 Best Self-paced Online Colleges Ranked for 2023

15 Best Self-paced Online Colleges Ranked for 2023

If you are a busy working professional, a self-paced online degree program might be the perfect option for you. We rank the best self-paced programs here.

Key Takeaways

  • Self-paced online education is designed for working professionals and adult students with busy schedules. Its programs and due dates are loose to allow students to find time to work on their lessons, assignments, and projects without the added stress of delayed submission.
  • Self-paced programs are for students who value their time and have strong time management skills.
  • The leniency of schedules within these programs is not absolute because they set definite time limits for the completion of courses. Students who cannot finish their coursework within their prescribed period must pay extension fees or other penalties.

Featured Programs

Self-paced Online Learning At a Glance

Are you currently working but want to study further to achieve your educational and career goals without giving up your job? Are you an independent, disciplined, self-motivated go-getter who can work independently and commit to producing results?

If you answered yes to those questions, enrolling in a self-paced online college would be your first step toward fulfilling an ardent desire for professional success and advancement!

Many students enjoy the flexibility of the schedule and learning speed of self-paced programs. However, this learning method is controversial among students, parents, and teachers.

For some people, self-paced courses are not as effective as the courses offered in traditional programs because they allows students to have complete control of their academic activities and study schedules.

At the same time, others believe that self-paced education is more effective than traditional learning, because it allows students to study and absorb information at their own speed.

Self-paced and online learning programs are ideal for students who don’t feel comfortable when they are with learners who are faster or slower than them. Slow learners find it stressful to cope with the pace of fast learners.

Conversely, fast learners find the learning pace of slow learners waste their time. Students can avoid these issues by taking self-paced online courses.

As you may already know, several colleges across the country offer online self-paced courses and degree programs that cater to busy students like you.

With the advent and availability of self-paced online degree programs, it is now easier for students with work, family, or distance constraints to waive competency-based education and complete their desired degree at their chosen online college or university.

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What is self-paced online education?

Self-paced online education refers to a teaching method conducted entirely online. Designed for maximum flexibility, it allows students to attend class at times that are convenient for them.

Unlike competency-based education, self-paced online students learn at their own pace. Their assignments don’t have preset deadlines, and their instructors are there only to provide guidance and feedback on their performance.

Self-paced courses enable distance learners to schedule their coursework around existing commitments and responsibilities.

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Common Reasons for Choosing Self-Paced Online Colleges

Flexibility

Self-paced classes in online schools are flexible and don’t follow a preset schedule. They allow students to pursue an online degree program without compromising their job, family, or other obligations.

Cost Effectiveness

Several self-paced online colleges charge per term and not on a per-credit basis. Moreover, they allow online students to take as many classes as they want at a fixed rate.

While some schools charge per credit hour for their self-paced online courses, their rates are lower than traditional colleges. This makes self-paced distance learning one of the cheapest ways to obtain a college education.

Less Pressure = Better Retention

Self-paced learning is not for everyone. But according to a recent study, it can help many online students remember more.

Global Availability

Self-paced classes online are not sensitive to different time zones around the world, making online lessons available 24/7. For this reason, students from different regions worldwide can enroll in any college or university offering self-paced online programs.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements can vary from one school to the next. The requirements may also depend on the level of degree that you wish to take. These are the general admission requirements for prospective students:

  • Associate Degrees
    • Applicants should be 18 years of age
    • High school diploma or GED-General Education Development test results
    • Meet GPA requirements
  • Bachelor’s Degrees
    • High school transcript
    • GPA
    • ACT or SAT scores
    • Personal Essay
    • An interview
  • Master’s Degrees
    • Completion of a bachelor’s degree
    • A completed application and fees
    • GPA of 3.0
    • GRE or GMAT results
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Personal essay

    Degrees, Curricula, and Courses

    Most traditional colleges also offer many degrees online. However, some schools are purely online, but have several degree offerings. As an online student, you will surely find an online degree and curriculum that fits your educational and professional goals.

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    Factors For Choosing The Best Self-Paced Online Colleges

    To get the best from a self-paced online school, you should consider these factors:

    Academic Programs

    Once you identify what you want to do based on your strengths, interests, and career goals, identify the schools that offer the self-paced course curriculum that is relevant to your vocation.

    Quality of Professors

    The quality of the professor can determine the quality of a school’s graduates. Ensure the quality of your self-paced education by looking into the education, experience, and track record of the faculty at the school you are considering.

    Diversity

    Even if you are taking online classes, you should consider an online college that fosters diversity and supports students of color. Diversity is the true form and direction of the real world, and you should not ignore it.

    Student Support

    As an online student, you will need the services and resources of your school, especially as you work to overcome the challenges of self-paced online education.

    Online schools that understand this need for support offer tutorials, academic advisor services, reference materials, and student counseling on top of their regular student services. Several schools offer these services for free.

    Reputation

    A school’s reputation reflects its performance in molding students into professionals. A good reputation can also give you a boost when entering the job market. Likewise, graduates who excel in their careers help to boost the school’s reputation.

    Be reminded, however, that you shouldn’t rely solely on a school’s reputation as a guarantee for being successful as you enter the job market. Your school’s reputation can’t help if you don’t have the knowledge, skills, and positive attitude that employers are looking for.

    A school’s reputation is usually spread through word of mouth. You can also learn about it by reading the school’s ranking lists and history.

    Graduation Rate

    A school’s graduation rate is relative to its retention rate. It signifies the quality of the school’s faculty, the provision of excellent student services, and the availability of high-level education programs.

    A low graduation rate is indicative of the presence of incompetent faculty, inferior degree programs, or an unstructured system. A poor online degree program will do little to give you a good start as you enter the job market.

    Accreditation

    Accreditation is a vital aspect when choosing a college or university. It signifies a school’s compliance with the educational quality standards of the Department of Education and the school’s accrediting agent.

    To maintain accreditation, a school will provide quality curricula and employ top-rated instructors.

    Cost

    Obviously cost is a major deciding factor in choosing an online college. However, prospective students should be careful not to compromise educational quality as it can affect you after graduation.

    Financing Options

    Even if you are a working student, you may need additional funds to sustain your higher education. Take note of online schools offering financial aid, scholarships, and grants. They can help you focus on your studies without the financial stress of a lack of funds.


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    The Best Self-Paced Online Colleges

    Now that we have all the information on self-paced distance education, it’s time to explore your best options!

     Columbia College

    Offering online courses since 2000, Columbia College is one of the pioneers in distance education. Currently, this school offers more than 30 flexible online degree programs. More than 20,000 higher education students from all levels enroll in the self-paced online courses of Columbia College each year.

    Cost per Credit Hour: $375

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Columbia College:

    Aside from being a military-friendly institution, Columbia College provides a team of expert career advisors committed to helping you find internship and job opportunities. The school offers this service free for life.

    Columbia College is great for students who:

    Love to think, devise plans, execute what they have in mind, and are willing to take risks for what they believe in.

    Columbia College might not be the best fit for students who:

    Are procrastinators and not self-driven.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Columbia, MO
    • Institution Type: Private
    • Admission Rate: 97.1%
    • Graduation Rate: 39.4%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 4,013
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Learn More About  Columbia College.

    Fort Hays State University

    Fort Hayes University has been helping students learn from home for over 100 years. Today, with more than 200 online certificate and degree programs, FHSU has become a provider of award-winning online programs to students worldwide.

    Cost per Credit Hour: $226.88

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Fort Hays State University:

    The affordable tuition and award-winning education are two things we love about FHSU. Its tuition is ranked among the lowest in the United States. The university’s online bachelor’s degree and graduate programs are also named one of the “Best Online Programs” by U.S. News & World Report.

    Fort Hays College is great for students who:

    Love challenging academic programs that explore hands-on experiential learning opportunities.

    Fort Hays College might not be the best fit for students who:

    Are not driven by a desire to grow.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Hays, KS
    • Institution Type: Public
    • Admission Rate: 91.4%
    • Graduation Rate: 63.5%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 6,604
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Learn More about  Fort Hays State University.

    Liberty University

    Liberty University is an evangelical school catering to more than 100,000 students located in over 15 colleges and offering than 700 programs at the certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. More than 600 of these programs are available globally via self-paced online classes.

    Cost per Credit: $455 for part-time students; $390 for full-time students

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Liberty University:

    As one of the top online schools in the US, Liberty University’s online college is respected because it offers no less than accessible, affordable, and high-quality education.

    Liberty University is great for students who:

    Work and study to achieve their dream career.

    Liberty University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Easily get distracted and need more focus to accomplish things without close supervision.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Lynchburg, VA
    • Institution Type: Private
    • Admission Rate: 50.1%
    • Graduation Rate: 29.0%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 115,000
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges

    Learn More about  Liberty University.

    Rasmussen University

    To fulfill its commitment to working students who want to create balance in their work, study, and personal life, Rasmussen University launched its flexible online education, which has been operating for almost two decades.

    The university opened its online college to cater to students who need distance education programs that work well with their busy schedules and provide them with knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their career goals.

    Cost per Credit: $175 + $15 book fee

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Rasmussen University:

    We are amazed at Rasmussen’s commitment to providing many ways to support its students. Rasmussen’s student support services include 24/7 access to technical support, student tutoring, and career advising. They make the student’s educational journey a pleasant experience.

    Rasmussen University is great for students who:

    Need a flexible online class to balance their work, study, and personal or family time.

    Rasmussen University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Don’t exercise self-discipline, reliable organizational skills, and self-drive to finish their work on time.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Maitland, FL
    • Institution Type: Private
    • Admission Rate: 100.0%
    • Graduation Rate: 44.0%
    • >Online Student Enrollment: 9,055
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Learn More about  Rasmussen University.

    University of Florida

    The University of Florida Flexible Learning program is a fully-online college that offers quality courses designed to produce a skilled professional as you attain your academic objectives. It offers an ongoing enrollment that allows you to register and start your courses at your convenient time.

    Cost per Credit: $212.71

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about the University of Florida:

    The University of Florida Flexible Learning program does not require admission from prospective students who wish to enroll in its flex courses. You only need to provide some basic documentation to register in the school’s self-paced online programs.

    The University of Florida is great for students who:

    Want to complete a degree program on their terms

    The University of Florida may not be the ideal school for students who:

    Seek to count UF Flexible Learning courses to be counted as credits. The courses at Flex Learning are considered non-degree credits. The units of Flex Learning courses count towards a degree only if the student is subsequently admitted to the University of Florida.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Gainesville, FL
    • Institution Type: Public
    • Admission Rate: 31.1%
    • Graduation Rate: 88.5%
    • Online Student Enrollment: More than 4,000
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges

    Learn More about  The University of Florida.

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is a leader and pioneer in innovative online education.

    Made stronger by years of experience, it is consistently finding ways to integrate technology into education regardless of the methods used in putting it into practice.

    Cost per Credit Hour: $416

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

    The enticing thing about the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is its offering of over a hundred online certificate and degree programs that are handled by the same faculty that teach traditional on-campus students. Many of the university’s online degree programs are recognized and acclaimed nationally for excellence.

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is great for students who:

    Seek career advancement by pursuing a degree that provides them specialized skills at a convenient learning pace

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign might not be the best fit for students who:

    See online college education as a lonely, sedentary method to learn

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Urbana, IL
    • Institution Type: Public
    • Admission Rate: 63.3%
    • Graduation Rate: 84.3%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 30,628
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Learn More about  The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    University of North Dakota

    The University of North Dakota is the biggest institution for tertiary education in North Dakota. It started its distance education program in 1911 with correspondence courses and continued until technology made online education possible. UND is a top seven self-paced online university in the US, according to ZDNet.

    Cost per Credit Hour: $355.85

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about the University of North Dakota:

    We love UND’s commitment to providing students with 24/7 free access to online tutoring services and an array of other student services, including career advising and tech support.

    The University of North Dakota is great for students who:

    Are willing to go beyond their comfort zone to be trained to lead, develop the capacity to generate new ideas, and embrace the role of technology in the modern world.

    The University of North Dakota might not be the best fit for students who:

    Don’t see themselves as a leader and are not responsive to the role of change in coping with the world’s needs.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Grand Forks, ND
    • Institution Type: Public
    • Admission Rate: 86.8%
    • Graduation Rate: 54.4%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 4,466
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Learn More about the  University of North Dakota.


    Upper Iowa University

    Upper Iowa University is recognized across the country as a leader in distance education. Offering online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for more than 40 years, the university guarantees total flexibility to allow you to finish your coursework within the prescribed period.

    Cost per Credit Hour: $330

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Upper Iowa University:

    Upper Iowa University’s self-paced distance learning allows you to take advantage of learning at your own pace, but it is consistent in providing you with one-on-one interaction with your instructors

    Upper Iowa University is great for students who:

    Need the flexibility of time to juggle study with work, family, and personal obligations.

    Upper Iowa University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Don’t see self-paced distance education as a way to acquire solid knowledge and skills needed for professional success.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Fayette, IA
    • Institution Type: Private
    • Admission Rate: 65.3%
    • Graduation Rate: 59.8%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 731
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Learn More about Upper Iowa University.

     Capella University

    Capella University is offering its self-paced distance higher education through Flexpath. It is a program that gives students full control of their schedules and learning pace and allows them to earn their degrees at a minimal cost, with over 160 undergraduate and graduate programs.

    Cost per Credit Hour: $2,500 - $3,295 (12-week billing)

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Capella University:

    Capella University’s Flexpath program is an attraction to students who work, study, and do other tasks at the same time. It allows students to set their own deadlines and move forward at their own pace.

    Capella University is great for students who:

    Need a reliable on-demand online program that can help them achieve their dream degrees and careers — without giving up their work schedules and family obligations.

    Capella University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Don’t see distance learning as a key to acquiring competencies for professional excellence.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Minneapolis, MN
    • Institution Type: Private
    • Admission Rate: 100.0%
    • Graduation Rate: 18.8%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 14,496
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

    Learn More about Capella University.

     University of Massachusetts Global

    The University of Massachusetts Global offers its MyPath program to cater to working adults who want to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree without giving up their full-time job.

    MyPath’s programs are self-paced online programs that allow you complete control of your schedule and learning pace. It also assesses your prior work experience to determine your skill sets and allows you to move on to other areas you need to focus on.

    Cost per Credit Hour: $500

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about UMass Global:

    UMass Global’s MyPath program is flexible and recognizes the skills you already have, allowing you to move concentrate in areas where you are weaker. Skipping areas that you already know can help shorten your study time and allow you to save time and money.

    UMass Global is great for students who:

    Can work independently, without preset schedules and deadlines associated with the classroom structure.

    UMass Global might not be the best fit for students who:

    Don’t have the motivation and self-discipline to take time to study and consistently make progress.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Irvine, CA
    • Institution Type: Private
    • Admission Rate: 93.0%
    • Graduation Rate: 64.0%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 22,000
    • Accreditation: WSCUC-Western Association of Schools & Colleges Senior College & University Commission

    Learn More about the University of Massachusetts Global.

     University of Washington Online

    The University of Washington Online offers a Professional & Continuing Education program that allows professionals to continue learning amid full-time work, distance constraints, and personal commitments.

    It consists of several online certificate programs, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, and self-paced online courses that allow you to explore and learn about a subject of interest. UW’s flexible online programs allow you to earn the same credentials as its on-campus students.

    Cost per Credit Hour: $231 - $578

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about the University of Washington:

    Like its on-campus degrees, the University of Washington’s online programs produce the most competent professionals. When you study at UW, you will be given the same access to its services and resources to ensure that even as an online student, you can reach your full potential at UW.

    The University of Washington University is great for students who:

    Are curious, have an open mind for change, and dream and love to innovate

    The University of Washington may not be the best fit for students who:

    Don’t have the will and drive to break barriers to make education possible and achievable for them.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Seattle, WA
    • Institution Type: Public
    • Admission Rate: 40.0%
    • Graduation Rate: 81.0%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 36,206 (Total undergraduate population)
    • Accreditation: NWCCU-Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

    Learn More about the University of Washington Online.

     South Texas College

    South Texas College offers quality online certificate, associate, and bachelor’s degree programs to help you pursue higher education to help you thrive in this busy and competitive world.

    Cost per Seven-Week Term:

    • In-district students - $850
    • In-state students - $910
    • Out-of-state students - $1,500

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about South Texas College:

    The most enticing part about South Texas College Online is its low tuition cost which is one of the country’s lower costs. It enables you to earn the desired degree for a few hundred dollars.

    South Texas College is great for students who:

    Desire to earn a degree without the hassles associated with traditional on-campus life like parking and enduring long queues.

    South Texas College might not be the best fit for students who:

    Don’t value time and a sense of urgency even if they take flexible online courses.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: McAllen, Texas
    • Institution Type: Public
    • Admission Rate: 69.0%
    • Graduation Rate: 33.0%

    Learn More about South Texas College.

     Western Governors University

    Western Governors University is an online university offering accredited, affordable, and career-focused higher education in an accelerated and self-paced format. Aiming to make college education more accessible, WGU focuses on improving student opportunities without looking at their background.

    Average Yearly Tuition: Bachelor’s: $7,452

    Average Yearly Tuition: Master’s: $7,842

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Western Governors University:

    We love WGU’s affordable flat-rate tuition, which requires students to pay on a six-month term and not by credit. By enrolling in one of WGU’s online programs, you will pay one low flat rate for as many courses as you can handle!

    We also favor WGU’s high employer satisfaction rate of 98%.

    Western Governors University is great for students who:

    Need a low-cost, quality flexible online degree program they can take while working.

    Western Governors University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Can’t stand alone to give 100% attention to a self-paced online bachelor’s degree program.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Salt Lake City, UT
    • Institution Type: Private
    • Admission Rate: 100.0%
    • Graduation Rate: 40.0% (Average)
    • Online Student Enrollment: 147,866
    • Accreditation: NWCCU-Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

    Learn More about Western Governors University.

     Penn Foster College

    If you are looking for an accredited distance education school that provides career diplomas and certificate programs, you should consider Penn Foster College. The former International Correspondence School (ICS) was a pioneer in self-paced distance education long before the advent of internet technology.

    Having mastered remote learning for dozens of decades, Penn Foster can provide the training you need to develop your knowledge and skills for in-demand technical careers.

    Penn Foster also offers an online high school education program. It is intended to benefit individuals who want to finish high school to qualify for admission to a certificate or college degree program.

    Cost per Month: $59

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Penn Foster College:

    Penn Foster’s mission and commitment to helping future-conscious individuals prepare for thriving careers are worth commending. It has consistently provided students with over 100 self-paced vocational and online bachelor’s degree programs for over 100 years.

    Penn Foster College is great for students who:

    Want to acquire affordable, accessible, flexible, and career-focused education

    Penn Foster College might not be the best fit for students who:

    Aspire to become white-collar, suit-and-tie workers right after graduation. Penn Foster is focused on molding students to become technically educated to prepare them to take on highly sought-after technical jobs after completing an entire program.

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Scranton, PA
    • Institution Type: Private
    • Admission Rate: 100.0%
    • Graduation Rate: Not Available
    • Online Student Enrollment: 200,000+ (Total Enrollment)
    • Accreditation: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)

     Thomas Edison State University

    The self-paced online distance learning curricula at Thomas Edison State University is designed for adults who need a flexible school schedule that will accommodate their busy work and family schedules and obligations.

    Offering self-paced courses in more than 100 study areas in associate and bachelor’s degree programs, students can access the university’s flexible online courses anytime and anywhere they want.

    At Thomas Edison State University, you will need 60 credits to complete an associate degree program and 120 credits to finish a bachelor’s degree program.

    Cost per Credit Hour: NJ Residents - $411, Others (US) - $535

    Financial Aid Options: Available

    What we love about Thomas Edison State University:

    We love Thomas Edison State University’s commitment and passion to serve busy yet motivated adults.

    Thomas Edison University is ideal for students who:

    Desire to achieve educational and professional achievement despite having gone beyond the regular college graduation age.

    Thomas Edison University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Lack the will to strive to continue what they have started in order to achieve their educational and career goals

    University Fast Facts

    • Location: Trenton, NJ
    • Institution Type: Public
    • Admission Rate: 100.0%
    • Graduation Rate: 44.5%
    • Online Student Enrollment: 75
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

    Learn More about Thomas Edison State University.