- Eastern Gateway Community College and Ivy Tech Community College were the only community colleges among the 25 largest online schools
- Of these large schools, Excelsior College (97) had the strongest bachelors degree Salary Score
- Columbia Southern University, one of the smaller schools on this list, had the highest Salary Score for associates programs at 94
Even before the pandemic turned many of us into distance learners and distance workers, online education was a growing business. In the pre-pandemic United States of 2019 there were over 7.3 million postsecondary distance learners, according to Department of Education data. Our past studies of popular online colleges have already shown that alumni of some of these online schools are earning a higher salary than many campus-based institutions, including Ivy League schools in some cases.
Not only are they earning competitive salaries, but they are finding work with reputable employers. The military and government are significant employers of online graduates for graduates of fields such as healthcare, computer systems, business, and criminal justice.
To get a better understanding of popular online colleges, we wanted to look into which universities were the largest based on their online-specific enrollment. There are benefits to going to a large online school as opposed to, for example, taking online classes at a local community college. A school that knows a large portion of its students rely on distance education is likely to be more inclined to invest in top-notch IT infrastructure and online learning platforms. Similarly, professors at online schools are often better set up for teaching in online learning environments. At a school with significant online enrollment, the obvious priority is putting time and resources into preparing for the online classes.
Online schooling is attractive to those who cannot commit to a full-time, on-campus experience, but many still question the utility of online degree programs. So to get a clearer, outcomes-based look at how a graduate’s earnings by major compare to other schools nationally, we have created Salary Score. We give each program that a school offers an individual Salary Score by comparing the median starting salary of graduates to other graduates from the same program nationally.
A score above 50 suggests above-average salaries compared to their program peers from other schools, while a Salary Score below 50 shows an expected salary that is below the national average. We have included school-wide Salary Scores for each school’s associates degree, bachelors degree, or both. This provides another point of comparison for potential students.