Higher Ed. Hidden Gems: The Best Online College


We can adopt kids, pay our taxes, and buy groceries, cars and clothes on-line. Why not get an education?

It seems fitting when we already spend much of our daytime (and nighttime) hours hooked to the Web via our phones and laptops.  Online degree programs also offer flexibility, allowing you to start whenever and wherever you want.  You can study from home, never have to worry about getting up early for class and work full-time while you achieve your degree.  Not to mention, going to school on the Web eliminates the cost of room and board, a major benefit in tough financial times.

“With the economy, it’s making [online schools] an even more popular option,” says Ashley Merusi of the Online Education Database (or OEDB), which ranks the top online colleges in the nation.

This year Nova Southeastern University, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was ranked No. 1 in OEDB's 2009 Online College Rankings. In second place went to Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., followed by Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., in third.

While Nova boasts a 300-acre campus with classrooms and students living on university grounds, their online program is growing and now offers 78 online degree and certificate programs.  The school has virtual students in nearly every state.

Online classes at Nova take advantage of a number of web resources, including threaded discussion boards, chat rooms, email and other online tools. Course materials are all available online and there's genuine student-teacher interaction as well.

The OEDB survey is based entirely on numerical data derived from eight metrics: acceptance rate, financial aid, graduation rate, peer Web citations, retention rate, scholarly citations, student-faculty ratio and years accredited.

Here’s how Nova sized up in those categories:
Acceptance rate: 51%
Financial aid: 96% of students receive financial aid.
Graduation rate: 47%
Peer Web citations: Close to 5,000. (Peer web citations are links to Nova’s web site from another college’s web sites. It’s kind of a popularity contest. Nova won this category by a landslide.)
Retention rate: 60% This measures the student body’s overall interest in what is being offered by the school.
Scholarly citations: 11,800. Through a Google Scholar search, Nova had 11,800 references to scholarly academic work, the most of any online school.
Student-faculty ratio: No data.
Years accredited: 38

Undergrads at Nova Southeastern can enroll in online programs such as education, computer science, health science and psychology. There are even more online programs for graduate students in the fields of business, law, education, osteopathic medicine, psychology and more.

Quick Stats
Endowment: $47.6 million
5,600 undergraduates 
2008-2009 tuition and fees: $20,350
Average high school GPA: 3.5


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