Accredited Non-Profit Online Colleges & Schools

By Jennifer King Logan | Updated 12/2/2020

When choosing a school to attend, prospective students may find it helpful to understand the differences between for-profit and non-profit online colleges. Non-profit status is conferred on schools that exist to serve the public good rather than to generate a profit. They cannot distribute earnings to owners by law and instead have to reinvest money back into the school. Non-profit schools are also exempt from federal corporate income taxes and may receive direct public funding or have charitable endowments. As a result, they may offer lower tuition rates and have more financial aid options for students. These factors, along with program quality, will vary by institution, and prospective students may consider this before enrolling in a program. On this page, we've provided a comprehensive list of accredited non-profit institutions offering online programs, followed by information about six highly-ranked non-profit universities, along with answers to frequently asked questions.

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Full List Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
Full List (100)
Abilene Christian University $36,300 100% (1 review)
Adams State University $20,864 100% (2 reviews)
Adelphi University $40,300 Add Review
Albany State University $16,656 Add Review
Alvernia University $36,350 Add Review
American International College $36,930 Add Review
American University $49,889 100% (2 reviews)
American University - MBA $49,889 Add Review
Anderson University - SC $29,230 100% (1 review)
Andrews University $30,158 Add Review
Angelo State University $17,765 100% (1 review)
Anna Maria College $38,630 100% (3 reviews)
Appalachian State University $22,216 100% (2 reviews)
Arcadia University $44,440 100% (1 review)
Arizona State University $24,413 68% (104 reviews)
Arkansas State University $15,860 75% (4 reviews)
Auburn University $31,124 100% (2 reviews)
Auburn University at Montgomery $18,292 Add Review
Augusta University $24,210 100% (2 reviews)
Augustana University - SD $33,960 Add Review
Austin Peay State University $13,847 50% (2 reviews)
Avila University $20,500 Add Review
Babson College $52,608 Add Review
Baker College Online $9,920 59% (91 reviews)
Ball State University $26,800 100% (5 reviews)
The Baptist College of Florida $11,700 100% (1 review)
Barry University $30,014 Add Review
Baylor University $47,364 Add Review
Bellevue University $7,851 67% (66 reviews)
Benedictine University $34,290 20% (5 reviews)
Bentley University $51,830 Add Review
Bethel University - IN $29,170 Add Review
Bethel University - MN $38,460 100% (1 review)
Bethel University - TN $17,010 100% (1 review)
Biola University $41,976 Add Review
Bluefield College $27,036 100% (1 review)
Boise State University $24,988 100% (1 review)
Boston University $55,892 100% (3 reviews)
Bowling Green State University-Main Campus $19,305 50% (2 reviews)
Bradley University $34,610 Add Review
Brandeis University $57,561 Add Review
Brenau University $31,084 Add Review
Brescia University $23,500 100% (1 review)
Bryan College-Dayton $27,900 Add Review
Buena Vista University $35,194 100% (2 reviews)
California Baptist University $34,882 80% (5 reviews)
California Institute of Advanced Management $20,000 Add Review
California State University-Chico $19,686 Add Review
California State University-Fullerton $18,804 100% (2 reviews)
California State University-Northridge $18,857 100% (1 review)
California State University-San Bernardino $18,765 0% (1 review)
California University of Pennsylvania $15,726 80% (15 reviews)
Calvin University $36,300 Add Review
Campbellsville University $25,400 0% (3 reviews)
Canisius College $29,428 100% (2 reviews)
Capitol Technology University $26,308 100% (1 review)
Carlow University $30,528 Add Review
Carnegie Mellon University $57,119 100% (1 review)
Carroll University $32,850 Add Review
Carson-Newman University $28,900 0% (1 review)
Cedarville University $31,322 Add Review
Central Christian College of Kansas $20,450 Add Review
Central Methodist University $15,810 100% (1 review)
Central Michigan University $24,120 50% (4 reviews)
Central Washington University $23,954 100% (1 review)
Chaminade University of Honolulu $26,134 100% (1 review)
Champlain College $41,828 75% (4 reviews)
Charleston Southern University $26,000 Add Review
Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online $21,934 0% (3 reviews)
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College $8,379 Add Review
City University of Seattle $11,430 44% (18 reviews)
Claremont Graduate University $36,380 Add Review
Clarion University $16,078 100% (3 reviews)
Clarkson University $51,128 Add Review
Clemson University $38,550 100% (2 reviews)
Cleveland State University $15,370 Add Review
Coastal Carolina University $27,394 Add Review
College of Saint Elizabeth $34,226 Add Review
The College of Saint Scholastica $38,282 100% (1 review)
Colorado Christian University $33,434 50% (14 reviews)
Colorado Mesa University $21,619 Add Review
Colorado State University Global $8,400 61% (92 reviews)
Colorado State University-Fort Collins $30,622 83% (6 reviews)
Colorado State University-Pueblo $21,716 100% (1 review)
Columbia International University $24,000 Add Review
Columbia University in the City of New York $61,788 Add Review
Columbus State University $17,295 25% (8 reviews)
Concordia University - Portland $32,230 57% (49 reviews)
Concordia University - Texas $32,860 100% (1 review)
Concordia University - Wisconsin $30,352 67% (3 reviews)
Concordia University-Chicago $32,880 Add Review
Concordia University-Irvine $36,740 0% (1 review)
Corban University $33,040 100% (1 review)
Creighton University $41,400 75% (4 reviews)
Crown College $26,970 100% (1 review)
Culver-Stockton College $27,205 Add Review
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice $15,420 Add Review
Dakota State University $12,606 100% (1 review)
Dallas Baptist University $30,320 Add Review
Davenport University $19,338 100% (3 reviews)

American University

American University (AU) is a private non-profit college that has been classified as an R2 Research Institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. At American University, online students can choose from among 10 Master of Arts or Master of Science degrees in subjects such as strategic communication, public administration and policy, and economics. These online degree programs have received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Many aspects of the school reflect its location in the nation’s capital. The overall student body is made up of individuals from all 50 states and 130 countries. Students receive an education from more than 1,500 faculty members with real-world experience as policy makers, diplomats, journalists, scientists, creatives, and business leaders. All students are encouraged to complete some coursework at one of the university’s campuses in Spain, Kenya, or Belgium. Among the support services available to online learners are library resources, career development assistance, and a selection of virtual student organizations. The four-year graduation rate at American University, including both online and on-campus students, averages about 75 percent.

Columbia University in the City of New York

Considered part of the Ivy League, Columbia University in the City of New York is one of the oldest private non-profit colleges in the United States. It consistently earns top spots on our school rankings lists for its online master’s degrees in engineering, health education, and computer science. Columbia is particularly strong in its online master’s degree program offerings, with 52 options in many subjects, including social work, operations research, applied mathematics, and applied analytics. The school offers 2 online doctorates and 38 undergraduate and graduate certificates as well. Many of Columbia Online’s programs are designed to address global issues through experiential learning. For example, a significant percentage of the university's online dental and nursing students participate in global health externships. Within the online law school, the Hybrid Executive Master of Laws (LL.M.) enables practicing lawyers to build a global network and engage in complex cross-border transactions. Finally, Columbia’s Earth Institute encourages students to address some of the world’s most difficult problems—from climate change and environmental degradation, to poverty, disease, and sustainable resources—by working with a multitude of strategic partners in science and education.

Excelsior College

Excelsior College is a private non-profit college that has earned top rankings in many of our lists, including a ranking of #3 on our 2021 list of Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees and #1 for Best Online Associate Degrees. Excelsior offers 11 Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degrees in subjects such as nursing, criminal justice, and technology. The college also offers 49 bachelor’s degrees and 26 master’s degrees in a wide range of fields, from business administration and electrical engineering to biology and psychology. Excelsior has regional accreditation for its online programs. The school is noted for accommodating adult learners. New courses begin every eight weeks, and online students can earn transfer credits for previously completed higher education courses as well as military service, law enforcement service, and other training, exams, and certifications. Excelsior’s online learning resources include reading and writing labs, career development assistance, tech support, and a library. The school also caters to active military and veteran students by offering special resources and granting tuition discounts, as well as creating online programs of particular interest to these individuals. These degrees include the Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Bachelor of Science in Military Leadership, and the Bachelor of Science in National Security - Intelligence and Security Analysis.

Northeastern University

Consistently featured in our school rankings lists, Northeastern University is #2 on our 2021 list of Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees. Northeastern’s high-quality online programs include 14 bachelor’s degrees, 7 doctoral degrees, and 68 undergraduate and graduate certificates. The university is especially strong in its master’s degree program offerings, with 190 options to choose from. These include 12 variations of a Master of Arts in Homeland Security degree, 9 Master of Business Administration degrees, 12 Master of Science in Global Studies and International Relations degrees, and 8 Master of Science in Leadership degrees. Similar to their on-campus programs, Northeastern incorporates experiential learning components into their online courses through its Experiential Network. Online students are required to engage in short-term virtual projects at top companies, enabling them to gain experience while developing skills. Certain online programs, such as education, taxation, and nursing, also prepare students to pass exams and meet all other requirements for professional licensure in their respective fields. Distance learning students are encouraged to interact with each other through the Digital Media Commons. They’re also invited to use many of the university’s other student resources, such as the library, IT helpdesk, peer tutoring, and writing center.

University of Southern California

A leading private non-profit college in the country, the University of Southern California (USC) consistently places at the top of our school rankings lists. USC earned the #1 spot on our 2021 Best Online Doctoral Degrees list and was recognized in nine of our 2020 rankings. The school offers 5 doctoral degrees through the education department, 30 undergraduate and graduate certificates, and a wealth of online master’s programs. Among the 99 possibilities are master’s degrees in engineering, teaching, public health, computer science, and nursing. The curricula of some of these programs, such as master’s degrees in nursing and education, are designed to prepare students to meet state requirements for professional licensure. Like their on-campus counterparts, USC online students will benefit from the university’s Diversity, Inclusion & Access (DIA) Initiative. The objectives of this initiative are to increase diversity in higher education, attract and include highly qualified underrepresented students, and to provide access to the tools needed to achieve professional goals. Online students at USC will also have the opportunity to receive a quality education from the school’s distinguished faculty, which includes five Nobel laureates and dozens of other prestigious award winners. The six-year graduation rate for USC students is 92 percent.

University of Virginia

Ranked #1 on our 2021 list of the Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees, the University of Virginia (UVA) is a non-profit, public university. UVA offers a wide range of online education options: 13 bachelor’s degrees, 25 master’s degrees, 6 doctoral degrees, and 29 undergraduate and graduate certificates. Programs include 11 Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degrees in specializations such as business, cybersecurity, and health care management, 12 variations of the school's Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction degree, and 6 Master of Engineering degrees. The curricula of some of these online programs, such as the RN to BSN bachelor’s degree and the various master’s degrees in education, are designed to prepare students to meet the requirements for professional licensure. UVA also offers a number of alternative online courses, including computer programming bootcamps and other options delivered through Coursera. Online students at UVA gain access to essential services, including the library, tech support, mental health care, career development assistance, and tutoring. UVA has an overall four-year graduation rate of 88 percent.

Frequently Asked Questions About Non-Profit Colleges and Universities

What is the difference between a for-profit school and a non-profit school?

For-profit colleges, like all for-profit businesses, are privately owned businesses or corporations designed to generate revenue. These colleges are generally owned by a group of investors, or shareholders, who work collectively to operate the school. Many of their decisions are made with the purpose of turning a profit and generating a return for investors. Because there is a strong market for tech and vocational training, many for-profit schools specialize in skills-based education. For-profit schools are typically awarded accreditation by national agencies.

Non-profit colleges are not designed to generate investment returns for investors. However, the institution must still cover all of its current and future operating expenses, so the boards of trustees that govern these schools must make sound financial decisions while also meeting the needs of students. Regional accreditation bodies typically evaluate non-profit colleges. Non-profit organizations can be further divided into two categories.

  • Public colleges and universities: Public schools receive funding from state governments. Often, tuition is lower at public schools because of government subsidies.
  • Private colleges and universities: Private schools do not receive government funding, and their tuition is often higher as a result of this. They are generally started with endowments from individuals or other organizations and continue to be funded through donations and tuition.

What is the controversy around for-profit colleges?

For-profit colleges and universities came under scrutiny about 15 years ago. It was discovered that some of these organizations were taking advantage of students. They charged higher tuition rates, cut programs without notice, failed to obtain accreditation for their programs, and put the needs of shareholders above those of student. Because of the unethical practices of some for-profit organizations, all for-profits earned a poor reputation.

Starting in 2009, the U.S. Department of Education imposed new regulations on all institutions of higher education, both for traditional and online programs. Schools that could not meet the new requirements went out of business or were forced to upgrade their programs and services. What this means for today’s students is that they are far more likely to receive a quality education at schools that have been awarded regional or national accreditation. Accreditation is an important factor to consider for all types of schools, including private and public non-profit schools and for-profit higher education institutions. Researchers at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, also recommend investigating how much of each tuition dollar gets reinvested in educational programs and student support services. We've compiled a comprehensive list of accredited colleges and universities for students to explore. Further, OnlineU only includes accredited online schools in our ranking lists.

What are the benefits of attending a non-profit school?

While accredited for-profit schools may be a good choice for some students - such as those who do not meet the often stricter admission requirements at non-profit schools or individuals who want to focus on vocational training - there are several significant advantages of attending a non-profit college or university:

  1. Statistics show that earning a degree at a for-profit school often costs more and takes more time. Enrollment in an online degree program at a non-profit college will typically be more affordable.
  2. Non-profit schools are required to reinvest money from tuition into educational programs and resources. Thus, both on-campus and online students will enjoy a greater range of programs, services, and activities.
  3. Due to the history of unethical practices among some for-profit schools, most non-profit colleges and universities don't accept transfer credits from these schools. College students who want to continue their education, or retain that option in the future, may choose to attend a non-profit institution.
  4. Some employers have a negative perception of degrees earned at for-profit institutions.