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 Western Governors University, 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 operat 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 (Kaplan, for example,is owned by the Washington Post Company), 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
A note on degree listings: We have listed here the degree types that each school offers online. “Business” means associates or bachelors degrees in business, as opposed to “MBA” degrees, which are all the the master’s level. “Social Sciences” generally refers to psychology or other similar degrees. We have separated out criminal justice degrees into a separate category. Likewise, “health science” degrees are a separate category from “nursing,” a very specific category that’s of great interest to our readers.
Keiser is an unusual case of a school that changed from for-profit to non-profit status in 2011. Established in Florida in 1977, the school has 14 campuses around the world and a very large and well-known online degree program. It has regional accreditation (the best kind) from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and has long pursued a goal of preparing students for real careers. Keiser offers a wide variety of associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in:
- Criminal Justice
- Paralegal Studies
- Software Development
- Social Media
- Sports Management
Get information on Keiser University
Medaille is a private college near Buffalo, NY that’s been known locally for many years, but has gained a more national reputation in recent times. It has about 3,000 students, and a long running focus on adult students. The school’s online degrees are at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s levels in:
- Business (associates & bachelor’s)
– Marriage Therapy
– Students With Disabilities
Get information on Medaille
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
– Electronics Engineering
– Health Administration
Get information on Indiana State University
Brandeis is an private school outside Boston founded in the 1040’s with a name that’s respected, particularly in the northeast. Its alumni include some colorful characters, ranging from social firebrand Angela Davis to Shen Tong, one of the leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising in China. Brandeis has top quality accreditation, and offers masters degrees online.
- Information Security
- Information Technology Management
- Project & Program Management
Get information on Brandeis University
A Catholic private university located just outside Chicago, Illinois. The school, founded in 1887, describes itself as a “melting pot” of students from all religions, faiths and philosophies. It offers two nursing master’s in:
– Nursing Education
– Nursing Executive Leader
Get information on Benedictine University
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)
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
– Modeling, Simulation & Data Analytics
Get information on Philadelphia University