While a four year college degree (and in some cases, a masters degree) has become a necessary prerequisite to many high paying jobs, traditional campuses don’t work for every student, particularly those who need to work to pay for rent, food, and other expenses while they study.

That’s why an increasing number of schools are launching online programs that students can complete on their own schedule. 

Online learning is relatively new but growing in popularity

On Monday, U.S. News & World reports ranked the top online college degree programs for 2017. They looked at over 1,300 regionally accredited programs, and ranked institutions based on student engagement, faculty credentials, student services, and technology. Several Illinois programs were ranked near the top of their lists: St. Xavier University’s online nursing graduate program was ranked 1st nationwide, University of Illinois at Chicago’s online bachelor degree program was ranked 8th, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s online engineering degree is ranked 9th, among others.

“Online learning is relatively new but growing in popularity because of the flexibility it offers,” said Anita Narayan, managing editor of Education at U.S. News in a statement. “We developed the Best Online Programs rankings to provide students with the tools to identify programs that offer top faculty, positive student engagement and generous support services – all of which are key to productive online learning.”

Here are the top online bachelor degree programs in the US, as well as a look at how Illinois online degree programs stack up.

Top online bachelor degree programs in the US:

1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University–Worldwide
2. Temple University
3. University of Oklahoma
4. Arizona State University
5. Western Kentucky University
6. (tie) California University of Pennsylvania
6. (tie) West Texas A&M University
8. (tie) California Baptist University
8. (tie) New England Institute of Technology
8. (tie) Ohio State University–Columbus
8. (tie) Oregon State University
8. (tie)  Pennsylvania State University–World Campus
8. (tie) University of Illinois–Chicago  

Other universities in the Chicago area that made the top 100:
21. Loyola University Chicago
54. University of Illinois Springfield
63. Concordia University Chicago
68. Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville
92. (tie) McKendree University
92. (tie) University of St. Francis

Here’s a look at how Illinois schools fared among other online programs (up to top 100): 


29. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
36. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

Non-MBA Business (Graduate)

26. University of Illinois Springfield
60. University of St. Francis
89. DeVry University

Education (Graduate)

4. Northern Illinois University
10. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
29. University of St. Francis
66. Concordia University
77. Roosevelt University
98. McKendree University

Engineering (Graduate)

9. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
48. University of Illinois Chicago

Nursing (Graduate)

1. St. Xavier University
7. Rush University
29. University of St. Francis
61. St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing
73. (tie) Illinois State University
73. (tie) Benedictine University
81. McKendree University
87. Lewis University
94. Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville
97. Bradley University

Note: Illinois universities were not ranked among the top 100 in Computer Information Technology online graduate programs or Criminal Justice online graduate programs, the other two categories that US News ranked.