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Self-paced online colleges: Top schools to learn at your speed

Want an alternative way to get a college degree? Explore this list of the best self-paced online colleges. Study at your speed and complete your degree while working.
Written by Ashley Reid, Contributor
Black Father working from home while holding toddler
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Pursuing a college degree can fit around your schedule. If you want to finish your degree or pursue a master's but do not have time for in-person classes, consider self-paced online colleges

The flexible format accommodates you, whether you want to complete all the assignments at once or space out the work. The schools listed below offer a range of self-paced programs that may fit your life. 

Why enroll in a self-paced online college?

Self-paced online colleges can give you the flexibility to pursue a degree while continuing with your work and family obligations. Instead of attending classes in person or following a strict schedule, you can study when it is most convenient. 

Most schools charge per term instead of per credit for self-paced programs, making them some of the cheapest online colleges. Students can take as many classes as they wish during that term and pay a flat rate, potentially reducing the overall cost. 

Common programs include health, nursing, and business topics (such as online MBAs). They focus on helping working students receive higher education and certification. Some self-paced colleges also offer education or computer science career paths. 

Best self-paced online colleges in 2022: Our picks

We considered various factors when compiling the following list of the best self-paced online colleges. Affordability, accreditation, and accessibility were the leading factors. 

Few institutions are exclusively self-paced online colleges, and some offer only a small number of self-paced courses. We listed only schools that offer entire degree programs in a self-paced format (often called competency-based). 

The following list — organized alphabetically — includes both online and brick-and-mortar schools. Each one offers at least three self-paced online degrees, and some offer dozens. All information is accurate as of the publication of this article. You can find more information on the degree programs and application requirements by visiting the schools' websites. 

1. Capella University
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Capella began 30 years ago as a distance-education institution. About 36% of students use Capella's self-paced and competency-based learning format called FlexPath. Learners select from 40 self-paced programs and concentrations.  

Cost (per 12-week term): $2,500-$3,295 (bachelor's); $2,470-$2,875 (master's)

Self-paced degree programs:

  • BS in business, management and leadership
  • RN-to-BSN
  • BS in information technology, general information technology
  • MEd in teaching and learning
  • MBA in project management

Accreditation: Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2. Lourdes University
Sylvania, Ohio

A Catholic and Franciscan institution, Lourdes University cultivates a community of learning. It offers self-paced degree programs in business and nursing that accommodate working adults. Students can accelerate their degree and save money through the competency-based learning model. Lourdes supports distance learners with success coaches and potential $2,000 scholarships each term.

Cost (per four-month term): $7,000

Self-paced degree programs:

  • BS in business administration
  • RN-to-BSN
  • MSN, nurse educator

Accreditation: Lourdes University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. Purdue University Global
West Lafayette, Indiana

Purdue Global provides students with online education tailored to working adults. The 11 ExcelTrack degrees offer an accelerated, self-paced option for students with existing work and college experience. Learners can complete as many one-credit courses as they wish each term. 

Cost: $2,500 per ten-week term (bachelor's); $1,700 per six-week term (master's); $3,200 per ten-week term (MSN)

Self-paced degree programs:

  • BS in criminal justice
  • BS in cybersecurity
  • BS in analytics
  • MBA
  • MSN

Accreditation: Purdue University Global is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. Rasmussen University
Bloomington, Minnesota

Rasmussen University offers competency-based courses online through its Empowered Learning approach. Each self-paced class includes six projects that help the student master marketable skills. Some programs also include self-directed assessments allowing students to test out of courses. 

Cost (per credit): $260-$325 (part time, bachelor's); $125-$155 (master's)

Self-paced degree programs:

  • Bachelor's in computer science
  • Bachelor's in graphic design
  • Bachelor's in accounting
  • Master of human resources management
  • MSN

Accreditation: Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. South Texas College
McAllen, Texas

As a leading Hispanic-serving institution, South Texas College offers four competency-based bachelor's degrees. These self-paced programs are offered online or in a hybrid format. 

Cost (per seven-week term): $850 (in district); $910 (in state); $1,500 (out of state)

Self-paced degree programs:

  • Bachelor of applied technology in medical and health services management
  • Bachelor of applied technology in computer and information technologies
  • Bachelor of applied technology in technology management
  • BAS in organizational leadership

Accreditation: South Texas College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

6. University of Massachusetts Global
Irvine, California

UMass Global offers competency-based online courses through its MyPath platform. These self-paced programs incorporate games, simulations, and adaptive learning to provide an innovative student experience. 

Cost (per 24-week term): $3,200 (bachelor's); $3,500 (master's)

Self-paced degree programs:

  • BS in information technology
  • BBA in business administration, general business
  • BBA in business administration, marketing
  • BBA in business administration, GIS and data analytics
  • MA in organizational leadership

Accreditation: University of Massachusetts Global is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

7. University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

UND offers online courses in two formats: Semester-based and self-paced. Several degrees include only self-paced classes while others include a mix. Students can enroll in self-paced courses at any time. They have three to nine months to finish each class. Instructors offer personalized assistance via email or phone when needed.

Cost per credit: $370 (undergraduate); $479 (graduate)

Self-paced degree programs:

  • BA in social science
  • BA in communication
  • Bachelor of general studies

Accreditation: University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

8. University of Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin

The UW Flexible Option caters to working adults. Students can apply work experience and previous college credit towards their degree. The self-paced degrees focus on applicable industry skills.

Cost (per 12-week term): $2,250 (all-you-can-learn option); $1,125 (single class option) 

Self-paced degree programs:

  • BS in business administration
  • BS in diagnostic imaging
  • BS in biomedical sciences, health sciences
  • BS in information science and technology
  • RN-to-BSN

Accreditation: The University of Wisconsin is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

9. Upper Iowa University
Fayette, Iowa

UIU started including self-paced learning opportunities almost 50 years ago. Today, the institution provides a variety of course formats. Students can choose self-paced programs offered online or by mail. The self-paced courses start on the first of each month. Learners can take up to six months to complete each class.  

Cost (per credit): $330

Self-paced degree programs:

  • Bachelor's in business administration
  • Bachelor's in psychology
  • Bachelor's in social science

Accreditation: Upper Iowa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

10. Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, Utah

WGU offers several online, self-paced degree programs across four industries: teaching; health and nursing; business; and IT. Students work with program mentors to build a degree plan. 

Cost (per six-month term): $3,475-$5,930 (bachelor's); $3,475-$4,530 (master's)

Self-paced degree programs:

  • BS in business administration, marketing
  • BS in science education, middle grades
  • BS in online software development
  • BSN-to-MSN, family nurse practitioner
  • MS in cybersecurity and information assurance


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