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Top 10 Best Online Nursing Degree Programs

online-nursing-schoolsThere is a national shortage of nurses right now, and that shortage doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller because the career is growing at an exponential rate each year. Colleges and universities across the country are doing their part to help meet this rising demand by making nursing education more accessible to all students regardless of their residency or educational background. Whether you have some credits from a previous program that you didn’t complete, hold a degree, or have never been to college at all, these schools are welcoming qualified students with open arms to their non-traditional academic initiatives.

One of the largest innovations in not just nursing education but education as a whole is online degree programs. There is no shortage of online or hybrid degree programs in the field of nursing. For this ranking, we’re going to present you some of the best. These programs are for those with no nursing education or with their RN licensure because we have focused on undergraduate education. If you’ve earned your undergraduate degree and are interested in taking your nursing career even further via the web, the Top 10 Online Nursing Degree Programs article we published focuses on graduate-level nursing education.

Methodology

All of the undergraduate nursing programs featured here were ranked based on their educational quality and affordability. We scored schools in each of these areas out of a possible 300 points, and then those with the highest scores were ranked accordingly.

In the area of educational quality, schools could have a score of up to 200 points. To calculate educational quality, we looked at the freshman retention rate and graduation rate of each school and added those percentages together and used them as a whole number, included in the final score.

Affordability was calculated by determining the average cost of attendance and then assigning a score out of a possible 100 points using a scale that we created.

We also considered accreditation and any awards or recognition that each program received as tie-breaking criteria. If schools tied in all areas, we used the alphabetical ordering of their names instead.

1. The Ohio State University

About the School

The Ohio State University, or OSU, is a public land-, sea-, and space-grant research university with its main campus in Columbus, Ohio. It was initially founded in 1870, and it is the flagship institution of the University System of Ohio. The nearly-60,000 students in attendance have the option to study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with a myriad of certificate levels in between. It was the first university in the state to become a member of the Association of American Universities, which is a prestigious research organization. The school is considered to be primarily residential, with only roughly a quarter of the students taking advantage of the extensive distance-education opportunities the university offers.

Program Details

The Ohio State University College of Nursing offers an online RN to BSN degree program that ranked first among online bachelor’s programs in America, according to U.S. News & World Report. The program can be taken at a full- or part-time pace based on the demands of your current schedule. OSU makes sure that students have a personalized education and a great experience by integrating your own health into the program and guaranteeing personal attention by maintaining smaller class sizes. Classes you’ll encounter as part of the program include Health Care Informatics, Evidence-Based Practice, and more. If you chose to study full-time, you could complete the program in as little as one calendar year.

Accreditation & Recognition

The Ohio State University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1913, and it holds programmatic accreditation from as many as 11 additional agencies. Nursing programs at all levels are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked OSU among the top 20 best public universities in the nation.

Tuition & Fees

The average annual cost of attendance at OSU is $17,971, which is slightly higher than the national average.

Go to their website.

2. Pennsylvania State University

About the School

Pennsylvania State University is one of the few universities in the country to be a public land-, sea-, space-, and sun-grant research university. Close to 48,000 students attend the school, which is located in University Park, Pennsylvania. Penn State was founded as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania in 1855. There were several different names that were used throughout its history until it achieved university status in 1953. At present, the university is divided into eighteen colleges and schools. The College of Nursing was one of the newest additions, in the year 2013. Online programs are provided through the World Campus, which is the distance education initiative.

Program Details

The RN to BSN program at Pennsylvania State University is one that has been highly recognized for its quality in the past. The Penn State World Campus allows you to take your classes anytime from anywhere in the world, so you won’t have to worry about relocating at all. Your coursework is going to be entirely asynchronous with this program. However, you do have additional options to accelerate your degree if you’d like to. The classes are condensed to seven-and-a-half-week sessions in the accelerated program. Another thing that makes the program so flexible is that you can take both standard semester-based courses at the same time as accelerated ones if that is the most convenient option for you.

Accreditation & Recognition

U.S. News & World Report has ranked the university’s bachelor’s programs as being among the top 50 in the nation; in addition, the university ranks 14th among the top public schools in America. Penn State is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Nursing programs were formerly accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc; however, they all hold current accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Tuition & Fees

Pennsylvania State University tuition is higher than the national average, with the typical student paying a total of $25,055 per year to attend. The program itself has a detailed look at the tuition available. What’s great for online students is that when you take more than 12 credits per semester, you’ll pay a flat rate of $6,742 instead of per credit.

Go to their website.

3. Appalachian State University

About the School

Appalachian State University or App State is a public university in Boone, North Carolina. Degrees are offered at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels with a small selection of certificates also available. It was founded back in 1899 in order to train teachers under the name Watauga Academy. The first year’s enrollment was just 53 students in total. Now, the university serves a population of almost 19,000. It wasn’t until 1967 that the school finished its cycle of several names and landed on its current title of Appalachian State University. At that time, the academics were completely overhauled to create the comprehensive academic institution it is today. There are 218 programs of study from which students can choose.

Program Details

The online RN to BSN is offered only on a part-time basis. Their total program consists of 120 credits, but you can bring in up to 90 of them from another school if you’ve already completed some schooling. The program is featured 100% online, so you will never have to attend campus for any special orientations, labs, or tests. The asynchronous and flexible format of the program makes it so that even though you only study part-time, you can complete the degree in one year. You will have clinicals that come in the form of class projects and research, giving this degree option a unique opportunity to add depth to your knowledge. The online RN to BSN at App State is open to all registered nurses holding associate degrees, AAS degrees, or diplomas.

Accreditation & Recognition

App State had ranked among the top 10 Southern Master’s Universities by U.S. News & World Report since 1986 when the guide was first published. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, which was originally granted in 1942. The university holds five additional accreditations in specific areas. One of those is from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Programs at the bachelor’s level have been endorsed for a decade. Several other publications of varying sizes have recognized it for its value, quality, and treatment of veterans. App State was TIME magazine’s school of the year once, in 2001.

Tuition & Fees

Appalachian State University received an affordability score of 95 from us for their average annual cost of $10,167. This rate is below the national average of nearly $16,000. The program website states the per-credit cost for students in-state and out-of-state. These are $163.05 and $663.55, respectively.

Go to their website.

4. University of North Carolina Wilmington

About the School

The University of North Carolina Wilmington is a public university that is located in Wilmington, North Carolina. It is one of the 17 member institutions of the University of North Carolina System and was founded in 1947. It was a junior college at that time and wouldn’t go on to become a senior college until 1963. After that, it was quick to be granted its university status just six years later. This quick growth led to a lot of academic expansion and increased enrollment. There are now precisely 90 programs of study offered at UNCW, to a student body consisting of 16,487 students. The university is organized into seven colleges and schools, and it operates seven research institutes and centers.

Program Details

The School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington offers an online RN to BSN program that you can complete in as little as 12 months. There are six start dates throughout the year, and the courses are executed in a self-paced format so that you don’t struggle to balance your life. The curriculum blends the study of contemporary issues in the field, practical knowledge, and leadership together to help you prepare to advance your career or your education based on your goals. You will build a foundation for career advancement in research, education, and administration; robust elective options allow you to tailor your experience based on which direction you plan to take.

Accreditation & Recognition

The University of North Carolina Wilmington is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges and it has been since 1952. ACEN, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc., formerly accredited the baccalaureate and masters-level programs in nursing but they resigned in 2012. Now, the nursing education programs are endorsed by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which began in 2004.

Tuition & Fees

The average annual cost of attendance at UNCW is $16,218, which is only slightly higher than the average in America.

Go to their website.

5. University of Cincinnati

About the School

The University of Cincinnati is a public space-grant research university that was founded in 1819. At the time, it was known as Cincinnati College, and it was the first institution of higher learning to be established in the city. Due to financial struggles in the first few years, the school did close for a few years. Now, UC is very well established. There are fourteen colleges and schools that comprise the institution, through which it provides robust academic opportunities to more than 37,000 students. Degrees are conferred at all levels, including certificates and professional degrees. UC is considered to be an R1 research university by the Carnegie Foundation.

Program Details

The University of Cincinnati prides itself on its dedication to students. The online RN to BSN program at UC offers a very generous transfer policy, assigns students one advisor throughout their entire academic career at the school, and is extremely flexible. You can start six times throughout the year, and you will take primarily asynchronous courses as you work towards obtaining your bachelor’s in nursing. You can take the program at a full- or part-time pace based on your schedule. This particular program of study can be completed in as little as nine months or as many as 18. There are clinical requirements, but they can be completed at an approved location in your own community.

Accreditation & Recognition

The University of Cincinnati is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has held that since 1913. In the field of nursing, programs have received accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and previously, the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. The BSN program has been endorsed by the CCNE since 2001.

Tuition & Fees

The typical cost of attendance at the university is $19,978 per year.

Go to their website.

6. East Carolina University

About the School

East Carolina University is a public sea-grant research university in Greenville, North Carolina. It is among the largest schools in the state, with about 200 programs of study to choose from and a student body of nearly 30,000. There are nine academic divisions at the university which are a selection of undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges. East Carolina was founded in 1907 as a normal school; a normal school is an institution designated to train teachers. It operated as such until 1951 when it became East Carolina College. It finally became East Carolina University in 1967 and was subsequently absorbed into the University of North Carolina System.

Program Details

The College of Nursing at ECU was established in 1959 and has been named a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing. This school produces more nurses than any other in its region. The RN to BSN online at East Carolina offers students the opportunity for advanced placement based on prior learning and work experience. It is a flexible program that is presented sequentially, so there is more structure despite the asynchronous coursework. This is a good program for someone who wants to learn at their own pace but needs a little more rigidity. It takes four semesters to complete the bachelor’s program. The curriculum does include activities that take place away from the computer, but these can be completed in a setting convenient to you.

Accreditation & Recognition

Since 1927, ECU has been accredited as a whole by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. resigned from accrediting the nursing programs in 2010. However, the CCNE has extended its accreditation to the nursing education programs at all levels for nearly a decade.

Tuition & Fees

ECU costs $12,817 per year on average, warranting an affordability score of 95.

Go to their website.

7. Florida International University

About the School

Florida International University is spread out over the Miami area in the state of Florida. The public R1 research university was founded in 1965 with a record-breaking first enrollment. The enrollment trend continued because the university is now considered among the largest in the nation; there are currently 56,718 students in attendance. There are close to 300 majors to choose from and close to 200 specific programs of study offered. There are 22 colleges and schools that make up FIU. It is very highly regarded as an institution, boasting some of the least indebted students, coming in first place for its sustainability efforts, its value, and more. The majority of the students live off-campus, and a lot of them study online. More than half of FIU’s students are taking at least part of their degree online.

Program Details

The RN to BSN program at Florida International University is available entirely online. The program consists of 60 credits and can be completed over three semesters when you choose to pursue this option at a full-time pace. If you’re not able to commit that much time, though, there is a part-time course of study as well. Curriculum for the program was specifically crafted to help you push your career forward. You will learn about community health, care across different cultures, global health, nursing leadership, and plenty of evidence-based practice. You can take your classes in any order that you’d like and study at your own pace and you can start during any semester throughout the year. You must be a registered nurse with an ASN to enroll.

Accreditation & Recognition

Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges and holds ten programmatic accreditations. The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education have accredited the related programs in nursing from the baccalaureate level and up.

Tuition & Fees

FIU will typically set students back less than many other schools across the country at just $12,966 per year. The program website indicates that out-of-state students pay $329.77 per credit hour and in-state students pay just $212.71.

Go to their website.

8. University of North Florida

About the School

The University of North Florida is located in Jacksonville, Florida. It was established in 1972. The colleges and schools the make up UNF include the College of Arts and Sciences; the Coggin College of Business; the College of Computing, Engineering, and Construction; the College of Education and Human Services and; the Brooks College of Health. There are 53 programs offered the undergraduate level and close to 30 at the graduate level. There are more than 16,000 students that attend UNF. Close to half of them are taking at least one course online, and more than a tenth of those students are taking their entire course load at a distance.

Program Details

The University of North Florida offers an online RN to BSN program that you can complete in as little one calendar year. Students will also benefit from the fact that there are no expiration dates on transfer credits. You will take courses such as Perspectives in Chronicity; Research Translation; Community Nursing Practice and more. Students of this program are required to complete a directed clinical study. The great thing about the program is that you have the opportunity to get engaged in new partnerships within your community when you’re enrolled, you will encounter different environments of practice so you can apply what you’re learning in real time.

Accreditation & Recognition

UNF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. The ACEN and the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs both resigned from accrediting its programs back in the early 2000s. But, since 2005 the nursing education baccalaureate programs have been accredited by the CCNE.

Tuition & Fees

The University of North Florida received an affordability score of 95 points based on the average yearly cost of $13,484.

Go to their website.

9. Fitchburg State University

About the School

Fitchburg State University is a public university in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Like many schools in the country, it started as a normal school. The school first opened in 1894 as the State Normal School in Fitchburg and grew gradually. Several of those milestones warranted name changes. It became the State Teachers College at Fitchburg in 1932, the State College at Fitchburg in 1960, Fitchburg State College in 1965, and finally, Fitchburg State University in 2010. There are a little more than 7,000 students at the university, which offers degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, as well as a range of certificates. Nursing is the most competitive major out of the 56 undergraduate options.

Program Details

Fitchburg State offers the RN to BS in Nursing online. Students will have 32 credit hours to complete, which they can easily do in just 12 months when they choose to study at a full-time pace. Classes are condensed to just seven weeks in length, which is part of what allows students to finish so quickly. The clinical practicum experience accounts for eight of the necessary credit hours, and you are free to complete those hours at an approved location near you. Fitchburg offers six start dates throughout the year, making sure that students don’t have to wait to get started on the next step of their careers.

Accreditation & Recognition

Fitchburg State University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, first achieving this in 1953. The university only holds two programmatic accreditations, which are both from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Both undergraduate and graduate nursing programs are covered by them.

Tuition & Fees

Fitchburg State University has an average annual cost of attendance of $14,361.

Go to their website.

10. Northwestern College

About the School

Northwestern College is a private Christian college that is in Orange City, Iowa. It has been affiliated with the Reformed Church in America since its inception in 1882. It operated as an academy for its first several years, then became a junior college in 1928 and a full-blown college in 1961. It is a fairly small school with just 1,243 students. Northwestern offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. There are extensive opportunities in music and going on missions trips for those who are interested. Only 2% of the undergraduate student population is studying entirely online; however, all of the graduate students are enrolled solely in distance-education classes.

Program Details

The RN to BSN online at Northwestern College is one of the more traditional programs. There are only three start dates throughout the year, and the entire program can take two years to complete. Students take just one class at a time, with each of them being eight weeks in length.

Accreditation & Recognition

Northwestern College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The nursing education programs at the bachelor’s level are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and this is the only additional accreditation Northwestern has received. U.S. News & World Report ranked Northwestern among the top 10 best Midwestern regional colleges every year for the past decade. You will take asynchronous classes entirely online which makes it even easier to keep your classes and home life balanced so you can focus and succeed. You will learn a lot of the theoretical concepts surrounding nursing as well as research, and you will still have the chance to get practical learning as well.

Tuition & Fees

Northwestern College is among the more expensive schools on this list and has an affordability score of only 85. The average cost of attendance is $22,627 per year.

Go to their website.

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