20 Most Affordable Online Colleges Without Application Fee

The banner awarded to the top online colleges without an application fee

If you are looking for affordable online colleges with no application fee and low tuition, then you have come to the right place! In this article, we have listed the top 20 colleges that are known for their affordable tuition and not charging any application fee. They have simplified the application and have made it very easy for students to choose the right program and enroll. They also have a team of admissions or enrollment advisors ready to help students and guide them through the admissions process. 

 
 
 
 
 

Even before the pandemic hit, online programs were fast becoming a popular choice. They are a great choice for students who wish to get their degrees without leaving their day jobs. The past year has seen a massive upsurge of applications for online programs, even with full-time students. Stay-at-home orders combined with economic uncertainties have added to life challenges. But the option of online education has helped students overcome those challenges easily and continue their education. 

Applying to colleges can be confusing with so many options out there, not to mention expensive. The colleges we have listed understand how expensive applications can be and have thus waived their fees and opened their admission up to everyone. They top the list not just for their academics and affordability but also for diversity and inclusion. The colleges with free applications are simply listed but not ranked. 

# 20 University of Dayton 

Dayton, OH

University of Dayton

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The University of Dayton is a private, Catholic research university, the second-largest private university in Ohio. Founded by the Society of Mary in 1850, it is one of three Marianist universities in the nation. It has a streamlined and efficient application experience with no application fee. Students can benefit from the automatic consideration for merit scholarships. According to The Princeton Review, it ranks among the Top 50 “Colleges that Create Futures” and among the Top 15 “Best Schools for Internships.” 97% of its graduates are employed within six months of graduation. It also ranks as the #1 Catholic University for federally sponsored engineering research & development. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 19 Maryville University

St. Louis, MO 

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Maryville University

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The Maryville University of St. Louis is a private university founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1872. Maryville University offers a wide range of online programs along with traditional ones. It serves students from 50 states and 47 countries. There is no application fee for students applying to the college. They have over 90 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels to choose from. The nationally recognized private institution offers a comprehensive and innovative education focused on student learning, outcomes and success. It has been named as the second fastest-growing university by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 18 Loyola University Chicago

Chicago, IL 

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Loyola University Chicago

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Loyola University Chicago is a private Jesuit research university founded in 1870 by the Society of Jesus. Residency status is not a factor that is considered in admission. All students are welcome to apply to LUC regardless of their citizenship or residency status. Loyola is one of the largest Catholic universities in the United States, and students do not need to seek a waiver. Its online admission application process is free for undergraduate students and applies to graduate and professional programs as well. Students can start their application and complete it at their own pace. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 17 LeTourneau University

Longview, TX 

LeTourneau University - 20 Best Online Colleges in Texas 2020

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LeTourneau University is a private, interdenominational Christian university that initially educated veterans returning from World War II. It was founded as LeTourneau Technical Institute in February 1946 by R. G. LeTourneau with his wife, Evelyn. Students can choose from options on-campus or online options and start their free application. Students can choose from the 100% online programs, accelerated evening programs, any graduate programs, or classes at any of LeTourneau’s remote educational centers around Texas. Daytime classes are held at LeTourneau’s main campus in Longview, Texas. Students for residential undergraduate students and local commuters can attend these programs. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

# 16 The University of Scranton

Scranton, PA

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + The University of Scranton

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The University of Scranton is a private Jesuit university founded in 1888 by William O’Hara, the first Bishop of Scranton, as St. Thomas College. The school is known for its personal attention, outstanding academic quality, and a sense of community that helps all its students feel right at home. First-year students, Transfer applicants, and international and adult undergraduate students can apply for free through The Common Application. It serves nearly 3,700 undergraduate students and 1,300 graduate students. No matter their field of choice, our students are prepared to succeed. Scranton is nationally recognized in rankings and guidebooks among the “Best Colleges.”

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

# 15 Colorado Technical University 

Colorado Springs, CO

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Colorado Technical University

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Colorado Technical University is a for-profit university founded in 1965 and is owned by Perdoceo Education Corporation. About 92% of its students are fully online who study in various undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs, primarily in business, management, and technology. Once applicants have chosen a program that matches their career goals, they can schedule a meeting with admissions advisors. They can help students identify the documentation and information they need to gather to submit a complete application. There is no fee to apply, and students can complete the application online, which takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 14 Michigan Technological University

Houghton, MI 

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Michigan Technological University

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Michigan Technological University or Michigan Tech is a public research university. Applying to Michigan Tech is free, easy, and online—and there’s no deadline. No test scores are needed for domestic students. Applications are being accepted for the 2021-22 academic year. Official SAT or ACT scores, or an essay, are required for automatic merit scholarship consideration. Students may also apply for competitive scholarships without test scores. The school is looking for applicants who wish to create a future in the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and economics, computing, engineering, forestry and environmental sciences, health professions, mathematics, natural and physical sciences, secondary teacher certification, and technology. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 13 Brescia University

Owensboro, KY 

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Brescia University

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Brescia University is a coeducational Catholic university that was founded as a junior college for women. It now offers a range of undergraduate and master’s programs as a coeducational university. Students can choose a program and then begin by simply filling out an application. There’s no application fee when they apply online. They have to choose the appropriate program and click on the link to start the application process. A staff of committed admissions counselors will guide applicants through this exciting process and answer any questions they may have. Applicants can be first-time freshmen, transfer students, online students, or non-traditional students. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

# 12 Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, NH

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Southern New Hampshire University

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Southern New Hampshire University or SNHU is a private university accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, along with national accreditation for some hospitality, health, education, and business degrees. As a nonprofit university, it seeks to make college more accessible. It delivers the same high-quality college education for a radically more affordable price with very low tuition rates. SNHU does not require an application fee, letters of recommendation, or essays. The admission process is easy and simple, with advisors ready to help applicants. The admission decision, official credit evaluation, and merit scholarship are made within 30 days of receipt of all application materials.

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)

# 11 Johnson & Wales University

Providence, RI

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Johnson & Wales University

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Johnson & Wales University or JWU is a private university founded as a business school in 1914 by Gertrude I. Johnson and Mary T. Wales. JWU offers both early action and rolling admissions options. Students can choose from graduate, undergraduate, and online programs. There is no fee to apply to JWU. Whether submitting online or in print, the process takes less than 30 minutes to complete. The financial aid team helps families invest in an experience that guides students towards success. The admissions process requires a completed application, high school transcripts, college transcripts if applying for transfer credits. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)

# 10 Baker University

Kansas City, MO

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Baker University

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Baker University was founded in 1858. It has four schools—College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, School of Professional and Graduate Studies, and School of Education. Students fully engage in their education and connect with peers, faculty, and staff. Baker University has made changes to its admissions requirements for students applying for the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters. There is no application fee.  All admission decisions are made on a rolling basis. Small class sizes and extensive interaction with instructors and fellow students promote a community of belonging and connections that last a lifetime. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 9 Grand Canyon University

Phoenix, AZ

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Grand Canyon University

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Grand Canyon University is a for-profit, private, Christian university ranked as the largest Christian university in the world in 2018 based on student enrollment, with 20,000 attending students on campus and 70,000 online. The university is dedicated to helping our students change their lives for the better. Students should note that online classes start every week. The application to GCU is free.  The GCU admissions team reviews the transcripts within 24 hours and provides applicants with a graduation plan, including start date options, estimated costs, and estimated graduation date. GCU’s highly-rated online degree programs offer flexibility and quality education to help students thrive in today’s complex business world. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 8 McKendree University

Lebanon, IL

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + McKendree University

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McKendree University is a private university founded in 1828 as the Lebanon Seminary. It offers academic excellence, engaging learning experience as the oldest college or university in Illinois. It enrolls approximately 2,300 undergraduates and nearly 700 graduate students representing 25 countries and 29 states. There is no fee for undergraduate applications, which is meant for students attending college for the first time or who have previously attended a post-secondary institution. Scholarships and financial aid opportunities available for applicants. Campus locations include Lebanon (Illinois), Online, Center at Scott Air Force Base (Illinois), and/or Radcliff (Kentucky).

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 7 Norwich University

Northfield, VT 

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Norwich University

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Norwich University – The Military College of Vermont is a private military academy that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees on-campus and online. It is the oldest private and senior military college in the United States. There is no application fee though the admission of students to Norwich University is competitive. Norwich University is a rolling admissions school. Applications that come in past deadlines are only accepted on the basis of the space available. Applications are carefully reviewed and evaluated by the Office of Admissions according to the major students plan to pursue. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)

# 6 Chadron State College

Chadron, NE 

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Chadron State College

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Chadron State College or CSC is one of three public colleges in the Nebraska State College System. CSC strives to provide quality education at an affordable price. It has open admission and an acceptance rate of 100%. It offers a variety of academic programs to fit one’s education goals. Whether a student is starting on a bachelor’s or master’s degree or looking for transfer admissions, enrollment advisors are ready to help. It is free to apply to CSC. Students can fully complete and submit their applications online. Applications may be considered after the priority deadlines, but students are encouraged to apply as early as possible. 

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 5 Lindsey Wilson College

Columbia, KY

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Lindsey Wilson College

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Lindsey Wilson College is a private United Methodist-related college founded in 1903 as Lindsey Wilson Training School by the Louisville Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It offers rolling admissions, which means a person can apply throughout the year. Degree programs are offered at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Lindsey Wilson College does not have an application fee. Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible to maximize scholarship opportunities and to guarantee the best academic schedule possible. However, financial aid packages featuring any scholarship money can only be offered until students apply to Lindsey Wilson and have been accepted.

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 

# 4 Franciscan University of Steubenville

Steubenville, OH 

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Franciscan University of Steubenville

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The Franciscan University of Steubenville is a private Catholic university that sets students on a path to intellectual, professional, and spiritual formation. The university offers 75 programs of study, which are rigorous and demanding academic programs. The “faithfully Catholic university” offers associate, bachelor, and master degrees (on-campus and online). 

The college admissions team helps applicants every step of the way, from answering their questions about admissions requirements and processes to assisting them to discern the undergraduate major and online or graduate program that suits them best. Students can complete the free application for admission online, which only takes about 15 minutes. No essay or letters of recommendation are required.

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

# 3 Rhodes College

Memphis, TN

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Rhodes College

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Rhodes College is a private liberal arts college that has been historically affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Students who want to apply for admission to Rhodes may do so any time after the end of his/her junior year in high school using the Common Application. Admission to Rhodes is competitive. No application fee is required for first-year or transfer students. The school is a member of the Associated Colleges of the South and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The College is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and endorses the principles contained in the Association’s Guide to Ethical Practice in College Admission.

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

# 2 Sewanee: The University of the South

Sewanee, TN  

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Sewanee: The University of the South

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Sewanee: The University of the South, commonly known as Sewanee, is a private Episcopal liberal arts college. The main campus is gothic in design, and it offers well-rounded academics and robust student life programs. It is owned by 28 southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church, and its School of Theology is an official seminary of the church. Applying to Sewanee is simple, easy, and straightforward. There is no application fee. At Sewanee, admission counselors provide individual attention to each student during the admission process. The school meets the need of all admitted first-year students who qualify for financial aid and has been test-optional for the past 10 years.

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

# 1 Elmhurst University

Elmhurst, IL

20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee + Elmhurst University

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Elmhurst University is a private liberal arts college with a tradition of service-oriented learning and an affiliation with the United Church of Christ. Applying to Elmhurst University is easy, and there’s no application fee. Admission advisors are ready to support students throughout their journey. First-year, transfer, or adult students can begin by filling out the application form. The same goes for graduate and ELSA applications. Once they begin their application, they can come back to it anytime using the login credentials they receive via email.  Applicants applying or completing applications after Nov. 2 are considered for admission on a rolling basis.

Fast facts:

  • Format: Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

More About 20 Most Affordable Online Colleges with No Application Fee

What does no application fee mean?

Simply put, a college application fee waiver allows students to apply to college without paying an application fee. Most college applications require a fee. While the exact amount varies from one school to the other, the fees range between $40-$60. The more expensive schools have fees around $80 to $90. Once the payment is made, the college or university starts reviewing applications and making admissions decisions. 

The cost of a college education continues to increase and thus gets a lot of attention. College applications are expensive and so are tuition and other costs that start adding up the moment when a student is accepted into a program. 

Even before that, there are the costs of standardized tests, paying a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in test preparation, college visits, and travel costs for those visits. Students spend around $50 for the SAT or ACT and another $12 to have their standardized test scores sent to the colleges. Students can expect to incur the cost of an on-campus visit, depending upon the distance from the school, the cost of driving across town, or the cost of a round-trip plane ticket and hotel room.o

One way to reduce these costs is to obtain an application fee waiver. The other is to research and find schools that do not charge any application fee. Many colleges will waive the application fee if students apply online. Many schools with application fees will allow students to apply for an application fee waiver; the process differs between schools and often depends on the student’s financial situation.

Who can apply?

Students with a GED or a high school diploma can apply for bachelor’s degrees. Some students also opt for associate degrees and then go on to bachelor’s programs. Those who hold accredited bachelor’s degrees can apply for master’s degrees while graduates go on to pursue doctoral programs. 

How many colleges can students apply to?

The number of colleges students apply to depends on a variety of factors, such as financial ability and the type of decision status a student is applying to. However, if students want to improve their chances, they can do thorough research and apply to colleges that charge no application fee. 

Students can also apply during the early decision process and get accepted; that way, they may only apply to one school. Some students do so to get into their preferred schools but want a backup should apply to at least three schools. Students who obtain a fee waiver can afford to apply to more schools, applying to up to 10 schools even. If they do get fee waivers, though, applying to 10 schools may cost them over $500 on application fees.

Is an online application different from a traditional application?

There is not much difference between online colleges and traditional on-campus college programs when it comes to admissions. The application process will be more detailed in some programs than others. Some colleges have rigorous admissions criteria, while others accept almost all applicants, regardless of whether those programs hold classes online or in-person.

 Students are likely to encounter some common requirements when applying to any college, either online or traditional. They will have to fill out an application that includes some personal and program-related information. Applications may require students to submit scores from a standardized test like the SAT or ACT. They may also have to write an essay or provide letters of recommendation. Some cheap online colleges without application fees need students to provide a transcript from high school or their most recent GPA. 

Many colleges hold open admissions with no application fee for their online programs. It is not the same rigorous admissions process, so the field is open to a wider range of students. While an online college degree program may be easier to get into than a traditional college program, the application process varies widely by school and degree programs. 

Nontraditional students and other online students pursue an online education because a traditional college education may conflict with their other responsibilities. Whether their past academic performance has been lackluster or they have had to forego school and get into the workforce, open admissions provide a way for them to renew their life goals and get accepted into an accredited degree program. These accredited online colleges without application fees accept applicants for their online programs who hold a high school diploma or GED, regardless of past grades. Online courses give students more independence than traditional courses, but students still need to put in a lot of effort to do well, tackle and prepare for challenging coursework. 

What documents are needed for the undergraduate applications? 

The year leading up to your first semester of college is exciting and stressful, with lots to do when it comes to applications. Although the requirements for an application vary widely between schools, there are certain common things to keep in mind. 

Application Form: The application form can vary in length, depending on the school. Most schools accept online applications as well as traditionally delivered forms like via mail. Along with the application form online or traditional, students also need to send the rest of the documents requested. Students can also use the online Common Application, which more than 300 schools currently accept. The advantage of using the Common Application form is that they don’t have to complete a separate application for every college, though some may require a short supplemental application. However, students must keep in mind that the application deadlines vary by school. They should plan ahead and ensure that they have plenty of time to assemble the application package, make sure it’s complete, and submit it before the deadline. Typically, the more competitive the admissions process, the earlier the deadline for that college. 

Test Scores: When taking the tests, one will have the option to list the prospective schools they want to receive their scores. Students should schedule the test session that allows sufficient time for the school to receive their scores before the application deadline. It takes time for the test to be processed and scores to be sent to the schools. Some universities accept both SAT and ACT scores, but others accept only one or the other.

Letters of Recommendation: The number of letters of recommendation needed and who should prepare them varied by school. Typically, students will need to submit a minimum of two letters written by their high school guidance counselor or teachers. Students should put in their requests so that there is adequate time for teachers or counselors to prepare a strong recommendation letter.

Transcript: High-school transcripts are an important part of the application packet. Some online colleges without application fees allow students to pick up a sealed envelope containing their transcript and mail it to the colleges. At the same time, some will only accept transcripts sent directly to them from the high school. In the former case, students should ensure that the seal is not broken and they do not open it. 

Personal Essay: The personal essay is often considered the most challenging piece of the application process by many students. Most colleges ask students to prepare a personal essay or statement as part of their application package. The topic and length vary by school, but most ask for 300 to 500 words, although some universities may ask for longer essays. Students should make sure that they prepare their essays ahead of time and get them proofread by teachers or counselors to ensure a top-notch draft.

What documents are needed for the graduate applications? 

Most colleges with no application fee require similar documents during the formal application process though there are some differences between a master’s program and a Ph.D. program. 

Grad school application form: A generic application form can be as short as two pages or more, depending on the school. Most schools accept online applications as well as in traditional paper format like via mail. Students should start the process early on to avoid errors and inaccuracies in the application form. Information required for completion typically includes academic records, a résumé. It includes personal details, the name of the chosen program, and test scores.

Academic transcripts: Depending on the college, students should include originals or certified copies of transcripts of all post-secondary education courses they have taken. Some schools may allow students to submit copies during the application process but require the originals at the time of registration.

References or supporting letters: Choosing a referee can be a challenging process, and the requirements of the individual program must guide one. Most grad schools require two to three letters of support from referees during the applications. Some programs require only academic references, others only professional, but must accept a mix of both. These are extremely important, particularly for the more competitive programs. 

Statement of purpose or personal statement: The personal statement is critical to the application. Depending on the college, students will need to submit an essay or statement of purpose that reflects their reasons for studying the chosen graduate program. These must include their personal and professional experience relevant to the chosen program, how they hope to benefit from the program, and their future plans with the degree. 

Grad school test scores: Many grad schools will only process the application on receipt of the official test results, while others may decide based on the application as a whole. Most grad schools, though not all, now require one or more of the standardized, internationally recognized tests such as GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. Some may make a conditional offer subject to certain conditions related to your IELTS or GRE score as part of the application process. 

What are the benefits of online colleges? 

There are many advantages associated with online learning. Students taking online courses develop valuable professional competencies while getting an opportunity to complete their education while balancing other responsibilities in life.

Flexible Schedule: With online classes, students get the flexibility to navigate their work and family obligations while studying. The 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week availability makes online classes ideal for many students desiring to pursue a college degree. They can complete assignments at their own pace, in the evening or on weekends. However, they need to be focused, organized, and disciplined to meet assignment deadlines while handling other obligations. Studying at home provides an optimal level of comfort and convenience for busy professionals.

Affordable tuition: Most online programs are more affordable than on-campus programs. Costs can be myriad, and they can pile up when you consider all the items to keep in mind for school. These may include gas, textbooks and school supplies, student services fees, costs for parking on some campuses or using public transportation, and even childcare costs for students who are parents. Students avoid traveling to campus as assignments and lectures are distributed electronically on their home computer as they take courses from home. 

With online programs, they can use e-textbooks instead of expensive hardcover textbooks, reducing costs considerably. All other class materials are available online, including library resources, so students never have to leave home to complete coursework. Another factor that contributes to cost savings is the zero application fee policy some schools have. 

Enhanced Professional Skills: Online classes require students to use several technical skills to communicate with their instructor and fellow students. They have to use email, online forums, and chat services regularly. In addition, they often participate in classroom bulletin boards and blogs. These not only promote life-long learning skills but are also considered very marketable in the workplace. 

Virtual Networking: Networking is an important and very crucial skill to master. Online classes attract students from diverse backgrounds and regions. Attending classes online enables students to connect with other people they may not have otherwise met, resulting in interesting class dialogues. Students consistently get chances to learn from each other and develop lasting professional networking connections. Sometimes there are campus visits involved, depending on the school. These class settings inspire online students to form study groups and schedule outings at a common meeting point or local venues. 

Sources

U.S. News & World Report
College Board
Forbes
NPR

CVO Staff
May 2021

Related rankings:

This concludes our ranking of how to apply for online colleges without the fee.

Bambi Majumdar
Author

Melissa Anderson
Expert

Julie McCaulley
Editor-in-Chief