High school was a challenging time for everyone. If you were the kid that neglected to live up to your potential within those four formative years, you might have despaired of ever going to college. For many, academics aren’t a strong point, but career success often lies locked on the other side of a daunting four-year degree. If this sounds like your situation, you may be able to benefit from open enrollment.
When you apply for college, the admissions department looks at a 2.5-3 year segment of your life to determine whether you’re qualified to attend. Those three years may not paint the best picture of how determined and prepared you are to achieve your goals in a college setting. That’s where open admissions come in.
If you want to attend school without worrying about a commute, the online aspect of these institutions is where you’ll want to focus. These virtual platforms allow students more flexibility in their schedules, allowing higher education to fit easily into everyday life.
To help you achieve your future career, the school you earn your degree from must be recognized by an accrediting agency. After you narrow down your list of schools, be sure to research their accreditation at the site for CHEA and USDE Recognized accrediting organizations.
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What is Open Enrollment or Open Admissions?
Open enrollment or open admissions colleges reduce their admission criteria to just a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Additional requirements are more streamlined: placement tests, application forms and fees, proof of high school graduation, and additional English proficiency testing for international students.
Generally speaking, community colleges retain open admissions, as their main goal is to make associate-level education accessible to all students. A few universities follow this same philosophy as well, in addition to some veteran-friendly schools that waive strict requirements.
If there are more applicants than there are seats, some schools may have limited space.
Benefits of Open Enrollment
There are a lot of benefits to entering an open enrollment program. These schools are typically more affordable than those with more restrictive admissions policies. With open enrollment, the competitive component of the admissions process is practically nonexistent. In a sense, you don’t have to “pay” to compete before you even get to the classroom. When you don’t have to worry about which schools are going to reject or accept you based on your test scores, a lot of the anxiety involved in the application process goes away.
However, because the selection process is much more open, in-class competition isn’t as stiff either. That can be both a good and a bad thing, depending on where you sit on the need for competition spectrum. Since open enrollment lacks the stringent academic requirements of other programs, your classmates may not be the most highly motivated individuals.
Many students in open-enrollment schools find that they actually thrive in a non-competitive environment where rivalry doesn’t exist between peers. A degree earned online from an accredited school is just as effective as a degree earned through traditional methods. Ultimately, it isn’t how long it takes for you to earn the degree, but what you get out of the experience that counts.
Without further ado, here are the top online colleges with open enrollment. These schools are ranked based on our own proprietary formulas and statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Best Online Colleges with Open Admissions 2020-2021
1. Bellevue University
Average Net Price: $12,055
Retention Rate: 76%
Graduation Rate: 41%
Salary After Attending: $80,100
Located in the very heart of Nebraska, Bellevue University operates as a top-tier institution of post-secondary education, offering online curricula in over 70 different fields and boasting minimal costs and a high post-graduate salary average. Its courses enable students to work full-time while pursuing their education, featuring flexible hours and 24/7 online technical support. Bellevue is also a non-profit university, which means that all tuition is put toward maintaining high-quality education.
Bellevue’s generous transfer policy is one of its more remarkable features, allowing students who are unable to finish school due to extraneous circumstances to apply their existing credits to their Bellevue education. Graduates’ only complaints concern textbook prices and the Kirkpatrick series, a class that some students felt had negatively affected their grades. Bellevue professors are known to be friendly and helpful, and the majority of BU students report that class workloads are entirely manageable.
2. Florida National University
Average Net Price: $21,736
Retention Rate: 94%
Graduation Rate: 59%
Salary After Attending: $62,000
Florida National University is dedicated to its motto of “opening doors to the future,” and the university certainly delivers on that promise. Like Bellevue, it offers both physical and online classes, and students can earn their associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees in everything from nursing to law. Unfortunately for remote students, some of the physical campus amenities (writing lab, library, etc.) are unavailable in a virtual format. Though tuition costs are relatively high, FNU offers a wide selection of scholarships, several of which are available to all students.
According to Niche.com, Florida National University earned an overall grade rating of ‘C-‘, scoring lowest in categories like student dorms, campus food, and party scene. In safety and student life, FNU ranks high. Students give the school four stars out of five, with the largest portions of reviewers describing their experience as very good or excellent.
3. Rasmussen College – Florida
Average Net Price: $18,640
Retention Rate: 100%
Graduation Rate: 25%
Salary After Attending: $72,200
Rasmussen College is a career-focused institution that directs its curricula toward qualification and occupation preparedness. Across its seven schools of study and 24 locations over six states, as well as a series of comprehensive programs offered fully online, Rasmussen boasts 48 different degrees, certificates, and doctoral programs. Students on accelerated tracks can take six-week certificate programs that provide them with head starts in their respective fields. The Higher Learning Commission provides Rasmussen with regional accreditation. Graduates are employed by companies like Apple, JP Morgan, Nielsen Media, and more.
The majority of Rasmussen’s negative reviews relate to in-person classes offered at campuses outside of Florida. On average, online students and those studying in Florida are more satisfied with their education. Rasmussen’s online classes are supervised by a staff of helpful professionals at flexible hours. Online students particularly enjoy the positive atmosphere and the career-centered curriculum of the virtual format.
4. Granite State College
Average Net Price: $13,604
Retention Rate: 37%
Graduation Rate: 52%
Salary After Attending: $46,200
Granite State College offers a 100% online option for learning and offers associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in fields like business, healthcare, public safety, communications, technology, liberal arts, and education. The U.S. News and World Report named it among the Best Online Bachelor’s programs in 2020. The school also merited a CCNE accreditation for nursing. Aside from nursing and teaching, GSC’s online certificate programs are available in all fifty states.
Niche.com awarded Granite State College an overall grade rating of ‘B-‘, with its lowest ratings in the categories of campus and student life (neither of which is likely to affect an online student’s experience). Statistically, the majority of students described their GSC experience as good, with excellent coming in a close second. Notably, GSC is marketed toward adult learners, as it is specifically equipped to aid them in balancing school with everyday responsibilities.
5. Capella University
Average Net Price: $7,290
Retention Rate: 56%
Graduation Rate: 11%
Salary After Attending: $77,500
Capella University offers more than 48 undergraduate and graduate degrees online, as well as more than twenty certificate options. Unlike some of the other schools on this list, Capella University offers virtual doctoral degrees in business, psychology, nursing, information technology, and more. Most of the school’s courses reflect the traditional guided curriculum, but certain programs follow the flex path, which allows students greater freedom in terms of individualized study and takes less time overall.
Of the students polled, 83% reported that professors put significant effort into their course material, and 90% reported that it was easy to reserve a spot in classes they wanted to take. Students rate Capella University highly, with the majority of reviews describing the experience as either very good or excellent. Students report feeling satisfied with their professors and encountering challenging yet highly beneficial course workloads.
6. Grand Canyon University
Average Net Price: $21,197
Retention Rate: 65%
Graduation Rate: 33%
Salary After Attending: $74,500
Grand Canyon University is a Christian institution that aims to provide flexible, affordable education to everyone who seeks it. The university’s wide variety of degrees and certificate programs include studies in theology and ministry, as well as health care, communications, and more. GCU fosters connections with employers and businesses around the country, working with them to provide scholarships and grant opportunities to online students. As an institution, GCU is also widely known to accommodate military service members.
Niche.com ranks Grand Canyon University at #33 among the best online colleges in America. The university received an overall grade rating of ‘B,’ with diversity being one of its highest-ranking categories. A majority of over 6,000 students have rated the GCU experience as either very good or excellent. Across the board, students rate professor effort very highly, and both in-person and remote GCU students tend to have positive learning experiences overall.
7. Liberty University
Average Net Price: $27,883
Retention Rate: 83%
Graduation Rate: 40%
Salary After Attending: $67,200
Liberty University is an accredited online Christian institution that offers a variety of online degrees in addition to its divinity and theology programs. Their virtual format supports everything from associate’s to doctoral degrees and supports 71% of the student body. Liberty takes pride in having been a “leader in distance learning for over 30 years.” The school operates several accelerated eight-week programs that allow students to enroll at a time most convenient for them. Overall, Liberty falls within the top 1% of online colleges for academic quality, affordability, and accessibility.
Niche.com awarded the school an overall grade rating of ‘A-‘ for diversity, student life, and academics. Liberty is among the best colleges to study criminal justice, sitting at the #2 spot in the nation. It is also the 3rd most conservative college in America, an aspect that is likely to be noticed primarily on the physical campus. Students give Liberty professors a grade rating of ‘B-‘ overall.
8. University of Maryland Global Campus
Average Net Price: $13,672
Retention Rate: 44%
Graduation Rate: 27%
Salary After Attending: $63,800
The University of Maryland Global Campus, previously known as the University of Maryland University College, offers a variety of online options to help working adults pursue their education while managing everyday responsibilities. UMGC operates through 140 different campus locations around the world, offering more than 90 certificates and degrees, as well as a plethora of scholarship opportunities. Notably, the college’s free digital class materials cut down the cost of textbooks significantly.
Overall, the school has a reputation for administering stimulating programs that equip students with marketable, real-world skills. The majority of students rate their education as very good, with roughly equal portions describing their experience as either excellent or average. Among graduates, the consensus seems to be that UMGC holds its students to a higher standard than some other online colleges, but for those willing to put in the effort, the rewards are well worth it.
9. Baker College
Average Net Price: $13,329
Retention Rate: 46%
Graduation Rate: 18%
Salary After Attending: $69,200
Baker College offers more than 50 degree and certificate programs, all 100% online. As a not-for-profit university, it offers a lower price than many of its competitors, earning a place among the most affordable online colleges with open admissions in the country. Baker prides itself on accessibility. Students are able to access course material with any internet-capable smart device purchased in the past two years. It also aims to help students find lasting careers after they graduate. So if your goal is to be employed immediately after graduation, Baker College may be a good option for you.
Niche.com awards Baker College an overall grade rating of ‘C-,’ with some of its lowest points falling under campus quality, party scene, location, and student life, all of which are unlikely to impact online learners. With some of its strongest points under the categories of professors and diversity, it’s no surprise that the majority of students reviewed their experience as very good.
10. Colorado Technical University-Colorado Springs
Average Net Price: $15,658
Retention Rate: 41%
Graduation Rate: 25%
Salary After Attending: $71,500
Colorado Technical University prioritizes putting you on to your desired degree track without putting your whole life on hold. The school’s credit transfer policy helps students obtain fast certifications, and their credit-earning preliminary tests gauge what students already know, regardless of where they learned it. This CTU fast track saves students up to 30% of the time and money that might have been spent on unnecessary classes.
According to Niche.com, CTU earns an overall grade rating of ‘C+.’ Of all its students, 96% study entirely online, and 77% are employed within two years of graduation. The majority of students describe their CTU experience as excellent, with the rating of very good coming in at a close second.
11. Strayer University
Average Net Price: $25,512
Retention Rate: 42%
Graduation Rate: 27%
Salary After Attending: $61,000
Strayer University emphasizes affordability and student-driven learning. Most attendees are able to enroll in at least five free classes, and bachelor’s students are provided Microsoft laptops to help them make the most of their coursework. Strayer offers everything from associate’s degrees all the way up to master’s-level programs. To make education more affordable, the Strayer Graduation Fund enables students to take one free class in their final year for every three classes they’ve passed up to that point.
Student reviews for Strayer University aren’t as plentiful as those for some of the other institutions on this list, but of the few available, the majority report high satisfaction with their Strayer experience. Reviews reflect the responsiveness of the school’s staff, especially lauding Strayer professors for being good motivators and going the extra mile to help students succeed.
15 Best Open Enrollment Colleges Online [2018-2019 Rankings]
- Student to faculty ratio 18:1
- Percent receiving aid: 97%
- Average net cost: $26,954
- Graduation rate: 47%
- Retention rate: 84%
Liberty University is a private, non-profit Christian university operating out of central Virginia. Students come to Liberty for the opportunity to earn a solid Christian foundation as well as an education. As a religious liberal arts school, the institution is committed to academic excellence and promoting Christ-centered values. Amazingly, tuition at Liberty University has not increased in three years, despite rising program costs across other online schools and university campuses. Liberty offers online associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide variety of fields and specializations. It even offers a unique dual enrollment program for high school students looking to get their foot in the door.
- Student to faculty ratio 19:1
- Percent receiving aid: 99%
- Average net cost: $20,912
- Graduation rate: 41%
- Retention rate: 66%
Grand Canyon University is located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona, and has served the local community for almost 70 years. Where it once teetered on the edge of insolvency due to a lack of financial support, GCU has reinvented itself and now serves as a bastion of study with over 60,000 students enrolled virtually. In fact, over 47% of the online student population are graduate students, and that percentage continues to grow. GCU offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in eight different fields of study. This open enrollment college provides challenging coursework, a facet reflected in GCU students’ affinity for hard work. Rather than undergoing the transferral or financing processes, GCU requests your transcripts, evaluates your graduate coursework, and determines your anticipated graduation date within 24 hours.
- Student to faculty ratio 7:1
- Percent receiving aid: 96%
- Average net cost: $12,983
- Graduation rate: 13%
- Retention rate: 45%
Coming in at number three on our list is Baker College, from the great lakes state of Michigan. Baker College believes that you don’t have to put your life on hold to get a quality education. To that end, the school strives hard to provide high-quality instruction that helps students achieve their career goals from day one. Even though Baker College is one of the state’s largest independent, not-for-profit universities, students always receive the help they need to succeed. This school offers a wide variety of online associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. Baker’s online programs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week so that students don’t need to worry about scheduling conflicts.
- Student to faculty ratio 31:1
- Percent receiving aid: 95%
- Average net cost: $20,995
- Graduation rate: 61%
- Retention rate: 97%
Located northwest of the magic city of Miami, Florida National University is located in the Hialeah area. Its student body reflects the diversity of the school’s surrounding community. Indeed, it’s this focus on the student body that makes the school stand out. FNU understands the needs of students from immigrant backgrounds in the U.S., as well as students for whom English is a secondary language. The school welcomes non-native English speakers into its student body and helps them adapt to the larger community. FNU offers more than 25 different associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in a variety of different fields.
- Student to faculty ratio 11:1
- Percent receiving aid: 90%
- Average net cost: $12,905
- Graduation rate: 14%
- Retention rate: 43%
Representing the New England region of the country, Granite State College is a public institution located in Concord, New Hampshire. Granite State pioneers in distance education. More than 40 years ago, the school embraced the idea that if a student was motivated to pursue a college education, they should have open access to it. Today, the pursuit of that goal has been realized in the form of online programs that offer virtual and in-person support to students and working adults. Routinely ranked among the top online degree programs, GSC is known for providing quality education in areas of study that aim to match the needs of employers and an ever-changing job market. This school offers online associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree programs, as well as teacher certifications.
- Student to faculty ratio 9:1
- Percent receiving aid: 87%
- Average net cost: $12,884
- Graduation rate: 32%
- Retention rate: 19%
From the bluegrass state of Kentucky, most famous for its horse racing and fried chicken is Sullivan University, which was originally founded as a business college. Today it emphasizes student empowerment by helping individuals jump-start their careers through transformative education. The institution offers the full package, ranging from associates to doctorate-level programs and degrees. Sullivan firmly believes that education should be available to all those who seek it. To that end, financial assistance is available for students of all financial backgrounds. With the flexibility of online programs, Sullivan students are able to hit the ground running and start shaping their careers from day one.
- Student to faculty ratio 17:1
- Percent receiving aid: 67%
- Average net cost: $15,428
- Graduation rate: 12%
- Retention rate: 75%
National American University is a for-profit school located in the heart of the black hills in the “swift water city” of Rapid City, South Dakota. Since 1941, this school has provided quality educations to thousands of students from all across the country. NAU operates out of locations in multiple states, including Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. What this means for students is that they can enjoy online programs, as well as hybrid formats, with high accessibility and relative ease. The university also offers more than 60 online degree programs and a number of scholarship opportunities to aid students with tuition costs.
- Student to faculty ratio 40:1
- Percent receiving aid: 89%
- Average net cost: $11,359
- Graduation rate: 17%
- Retention rate: 74%
Named after its home city of Bellevue, Nebraska, Bellevue University is famous for being a top-quality institution of higher learning. One of their best-kept secrets?–No classes on Fridays! Bellevue’s “Real Mastery” approach helps students master the skills that employers are looking for. For over 50 years, the school has built a reputation of being able to meet the needs of adult students by implementing flexible class schedules and a variety of career-relevant degree options. With a shift to online and hybrid classes, students are able to continue their education and feel confident that they’re getting the most value for their dollar. Online students are able to select from cohort or traditional format programs designed to fit their lifestyles. Students are also able to access educational support tools 24/7.
- Student to faculty ratio 24:1
- Percent receiving aid: 95%
- Average net cost: $19,540
- Graduation rate: 22%
- Retention rate: 48%
Located in West Virginia, Salem International University was originally founded by the Seventh-day Baptist Church in 1888. Since then, the school has developed high-quality degree programs with strong roots in the liberal arts. Salem has had 130 years to perfect its craft–a Salem degree is designed to provide the insight, knowledge, and skills necessary to get ahead in the professional world. If you’re someone that has difficulty multitasking, then this is definitely the school for you. Salem’s unique one-course-per-month format allows students to focus on one class at a time and move forward at an accelerated pace. Salem University offers a wide range of online degrees from the associate to doctorate level spanning multiple disciplines.
Further Reading: Cheapest Accredited Online Colleges
- Student to faculty ratio 19:1
- Percent receiving aid: 52%
- Average net cost: $23,232
- Graduation rate: 42%
- Retention rate: 57%
National University is a veteran-founded, nonprofit school with 28 locations all across California and Nevada. National University was founded by veterans for military students from all branches of the armed services–at home, on base, and abroad, an aspect which distinguishes it from its fellow institutions. The university features one-month classes specifically designed for military students. These are available online, on-campus, and at over a dozen military bases across the country. National University has a niche for everyone and offers more than 130 different online degrees from the associate’s to the master’s level, all of which will set you on the right track for your future.
- Student to faculty ratio 28:1
- Percent receiving aid: 86%
- Average net cost: $15,888
- Graduation rate: 26%
- Retention rate: 44%
Colorado Technical University was founded in 1965 to help armed forces veterans transition back into civilian life through education. For over 50 years, the school has maintained close ties to the military and has held a strong commitment to men and women serving both at home and abroad. Since 2008, CTU has awarded over $8.5 million in scholarships to wounded warriors and their families. The school’s online programs also rank among the best in the country. Reflecting the interests and needs of veterans of the armed services, CTU offers over 100 different degrees from the associate’s to the doctorate levels, covering fields like criminal justice, criminal justice for veterans, business administration, computer information technology, engineering, and more.
- Student to faculty ratio 19:1
- Percent receiving aid: 60%
- Average net cost: $17,458
- Graduation rate: 39%
- Retention rate: 33%
In 2017, Purdue University–one of the biggest universities in the country–acquired a powerhouse of the adult education industry, otherwise known as Kaplan U. The merging of these two educational institutions formed a new entity: Purdue University Global. Purdue University Global is designed for adult students seeking flexible degree programs. In combining the good reputation and high standard of Purdue University with Kaplan’s extensive online platforms, PUG now operates a variety of widely-renowned virtual programs to benefit students everywhere. In fact, Purdue Global does something that no other university does–a three-week introductory period. At no cost, students can try classes for 3 weeks, so they can experience what classes are like before making a decision.
- Student to faculty ratio 19:1
- Percent receiving aid: 56%
- Average net cost: $15,256
- Graduation rate: 9%
- Retention rate: 38%
The University of Maryland University College’s name accurately encapsulates what the institution does: take courses and programs from all academic departments and offer them outside of the traditional campus formats and rigid schedules. For more than 70 years, UMUC has aimed to meet the complicated accessibility requirements of students. This precedent was set at its founding in 1947, when the university first offered flexible courses to meet the needs of GIs returning from World War II. Today, the school continues to pave the path of providing higher education to the U.S. military by offering online and hybrid formats, as well as evening and weekend classes. UMUC students are able to receive their education on their own terms, when and how they want it.
- Student to faculty ratio 16:1
- Percent receiving aid: 93%
- Average net cost: $27,440
- Graduation rate: 5%
- Retention rate: 36%
Argosy University spans multiple locations across the country, possessing campus locations everywhere from Hawaii to Virginia. Argosy programs are designed to help students absorb the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills necessary to find success in the workforce. But even those attributes aren’t enough for Argosy graduates. An Argosy graduate is also defined by their social responsibility and how they give back to their communities. The school also designs programs with flexibility and accessibility in mind. Classes can be completed one at a time, and typically last 5-7.5 weeks. Certain courses don’t even require the use of a laptop and allow students to gain access through a mobile device.
- Student to faculty ratio 22:1
- Percent receiving aid: 100%
- Average net cost: $15,667
- Graduation rate: Not Available
- Retention rate: 50%
Cappella University is a big name in the world of online master’s degree programs, and it’s easy to see why. They have been advocates of online degrees for many years, providing students and employers with information on the benefits of virtual learning. What makes Cappella programs so unique is that students can access course materials on their computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Capella has developed a one-of-a-kind tool that allows students to visually track their assignments and completion percentage, keeping them conscious of where they stand after each assignment and where they may need additional help.
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