Not so long ago, people generally associated online degrees with for profit colleges and universities. Today, a growing number of nonprofit and state schools have jumped into the fray, in some cases beating the for profit schools at their own game.
Many small schools that were once known only in their own regions have leapt at the opportunity to draw students from all over the country via digital learning. Larger state universities and even nationally known colleges have also been attracted by the benefits of registering considerable numbers of new online students without having to expand their on-campus facilities (once they’ve built the technology for online teaching).
The result is a situation where nonprofit schools are competing fiercely with for profit universities, who were once the only teaching institutions that did any advertising. Nonprofit schools like Liberty and the Drexel University have made themselves household names across the U.S. through large marketing campaigns.
For all the publicity they have generated, for profit schools still enroll less than ten percent of all college students in the U.S. They’ve had to fight more and more, however, to maintain their position against dozens and dozens of nonprofit colleges and universities that now operate online degree programs, and which compete with them intensely for students.
What’s A Nonprofit Versus A For-Profit?
Strictly speaking, it’s simple. For-profit schools are operated as businesses. Universities like Phoenix and Capella work to earn a profit from the tuition they take in from students, while non-profit schools, which are generally either private or state-funded public schools, do not make any attempt to earn a profit. For profit schools are often owned by larger companies that need to demonstrate earnings to shareholders, while no-profits don’t have any shareholders. (alternatively, here are lists of religious private schools: Christian Online Colleges, and Catholic Online Schools).
But the simplicity ends there. Professors at private non-profit colleges obviously get paid for teaching, and the administrators of those schools are sometimes paid quite handsomely. Some now operate online divisions that are run somewhat independently of campus operations, and which have high revenue goals for the schools.
If you’re a prospective student, the best and simplest approach is to make sure your chosen school is accredited (keeping in mind that regional accreditation is the best, not national accreditation), that the degree program is targeted at a specific career that interests you, and that you will not be piling up too much debt during your education. Do the math and figure out what the cost will be over the full time it will take you to earn the degree. Without doubt, you will tend to find that accreditation is less of an issue with nonprofit schools
A Different Degree Mix
Generally speaking, the nonprofit schools are a bit more targeted in their online degree offerings than large for profit schools, some of which offer hundreds of different degrees. A few nonprofit schools listed below focus on just one or two online programs they’ve chosen to build a expertise in.
“Nonprofit,” “not for profit” or “private”
The schools on this list tend to call themselves one of these three things. Is there any difference between the categorizations? The answer is: not really. The IRS officially states that “not for profit” describes an organization focused on one particular activity (like a hobby) while “nonprofit” is for an entity created for purposes other than earning a profit. In practice, however, “nonprofit” and “not for profit” are used interchangeably. “Private” colleges, which include the older, better known and most expensive schools, are also nonprofit institutions.
A clear distinction is made with “public” colleges. These are the state or community schools that are supported financially by taxpayer money, administered through state governments
For the sake of transparency, we should note that we are focusing here mainly on the nonprofit schools that have well developed programs and promote themselves nationally. And yes, we do earn a small fee if you inquire for information from one of them. If you have another school you would like to recommend for this list or feel one does not belong here, please feel free to write our editor here
Founded in 1971 by Reverend Jerry Falwell, Liberty is a private Christian school that has grown into the largest Evangelical university in the world, with 13,000 undergraduate students and 5,800 post grads on it’s campus in Lynchburg, Virginia. But it’s the online learning program at Liberty that’s truly massive. The school currently educates over 50,000 students every year through distance learning, with over 70 different academic specialties and degrees at the associates, bachelor and masters levels. Liberty is still expanding, with numerous on-campus building projects and degree programs in Religion, English, Ministry, Business, Criminal Justice, Education and Nursing. The Young America’s Foundation ranks the school as one of the 10 most conservative colleges in the United States.
Liberty University offers a wide variety of Graduate Certificates and Masters Degrees in Teaching, Business, Criminal Justice, Marketing and other specialties, as well as many doctorate degrees online.
Get information on Liberty University
ST. LEO UNIVERSITY
A mid-sized Catholic University of about 16,000 students in Florida, St. Leo’s is actually the sixth largest Catholic school in the U.S. It has a large proportion of military students. Open by Benedictine monks in 1889, the school has an interesting array of alumni including musicians Desi Arnaz and Stephen Stills and major league baseball play Bob Tewksbury. It has a variety of fraternities and sororities on campus. St. Leo has offered online degrees for a number of years, focusing on bachelors and masters degrees in:
– Criminal Justice
– MBA Sports Business
– Computer Information Systems
– MBA Degrees in Accounting, Info Security Management, Marketing and other specialties.
Also two certificate programs in education.
Get free info on Saint Leo’s online degrees
INDIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
Indiana’s large public higher education system has gradually built a full scale online learning division.
- Nursing LPN to BSN: Indiana has partnered with The College Network to offer a specialized degree program designed to help LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and LVNs (licensed vocational nurses) get a bachelor of science degree in nursing. The school has no Waiting List, and clinical requirements can be completed with the help of a preceptor in your local area. Must be 21 years of age to qualify.
Indiana also offers several bachelor’s degrees online, including:
– Business Administration
– Construction Management
– Health Administration
Get information on Indiana State University
NEW ENGLAND COLLEGE
NEC is a small private liberal arts school in rural Henniker, New Hampshire, that has a bit less thatn 2,000 students. It was founded in the 1940’s for returning soldiers who were going to school on the famous G.I. Bill. The school is attended, generally, but kids from fairly well-off families in the northeast, and thus has a network of alumni in the Boston and New York business communities.
New England College offers a series of masters degrees online, with a strong focus on business:
Master of Science, Management in:
– Accounting or Forensic Accounting
– Health Care Administration
– Marketing Management
– Project Management
– Real Estate Management
– Strategic Leadership
– NonProfit Leadership
– Operations Management
Master of Arts in Public Policy
Get information on New England College
Concordia University of Portland, Oregan is part of The Concordia University System of ten colleges and universities in the United States, which is operated by the Lutheran Church. The Portland school has four colleges and 1,700 students.
Condordia has moved into online learning with master’s degree programs focused heavily on education:
Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction in:
– Special Education
– Teacher Leadership, Adolescent Literacy, Environmental Education & other specialties
Get information on Concordia University
LUBBOCK CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY
A private school affiliated with the Churches of Christ, LCU was founded in 1957 and now has just under 2,000 students. It has quality regional accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges. LCU offers two masters degrees online:
- MS Clinical Mental Health Counseling
– MS Human Services
Get information on Lubbock Christian University
Private military school that’s operated in Vermont since way back in 1819. The school offers an unusual mix of liberal arts, civil engineering and military science programs. Over 100 army generals have come out of the school. About 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students total.
Norwich offers a variety of master’s degree programs online:
– Military (Masters in Diplomacy, History & Military History)
– Master of Public Administration (General, Criminal Justice, Leadership, Non Profit Management, Public Works Administration)
- Civil Engineering
Get information on Norwich University
Private university founded in the 1880’s, with schools of architecture, business administration, science and health, engineering & textiles, liberal arts, and design & media.
Offers graduate degrees and certificate programs online:
– Business & Organizational Continuity
– Sustainable Practices
Get information on Philadelphia University
KENT STATE UNIVERSITY
Kent State is a system of 8 state-funded schools in Ohio, founded in 1910. It offers a variety of online degree programs, though some are delivered partly through video or videoconferencing. Several online degree programs are also offered in health and education. Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, with it’s nursing school accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Kent State offers:
Master of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication, Public Relations
Get information on Kent State University
NEW YORK CHIROPRACTIC COLLEGE
This college is a non-profit corporation that confers degrees in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Applied Clinical Nutrition, Diagnostic Imaging, and Clinical Anatomy and Life Sciences. It is located in rural Seneca Falls in upstate New York, and was founded in 1919. The school has grown over the years, partly by merging with other health schools. It offers bachelor’s and masters degrees, and is one of the better known schools for alternative health, particularly in the northeast.
The school’s online program focuses on two master’s degree programs in health physiology and clinical nutrition:
Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition
Master of Science in Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction
Get information on New York Chiropractic College
Nursing Degrees From Non-Profit Schools
Maryville is a St. Louis-based school founded in 1872. Originally a women’s school, it’s not coeducational, and has about 5,000 students. It’s online programs are focused on nursing. It offers a series of nursing certificate, doctorate and masters degrees in:
– Family Practitioner
– Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Get information on Maryville University
THE UNIVERSITY OF SAINT MARY
USM is a Kansas-based private school that was founded back in 1923. It has focus on adult education, and was called the “Best Midwestern College” by The Princeton Review. The per credit fee for its online nursing RN to BSN program is affordable.
Get free information on University of Saint Mary’s RN to BSN program
INDIANA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
This private university in Indiana was founded in 1920. It has about 15,000 students and a Christian foundation.
Get information on Indiana Wesleyan’s RN to BSN program