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Online Colleges


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The Different Types of Colleges (Info-graphic Overview)

The Differences Between Colleges

You want to go back to school but don’t know the difference between all your college options. Would you do better in an online institution or a campus school? How is a for-profit school unique to a non-profit? Here are a few explanations that will help you identify some of the key differences and how they effect your college experience:

School Definitions

For Profit Online institution: Online schools like University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Kaplan University, and Strayer University.
For Profit Campus institution: Schools which offer both online and campus locations for students to study or take classes like University of Phoenix, DeVry University, Grand Canyon University, Colorado Technical Institute, and Virginia College.
Community College Non-profit: A smaller, local campus college offering Associates’s and possible Bachelor’s degrees which is funded by tax revenues from the state or locality in which it is located like Salt Lake Community College.
State College Non-profit: A state-funded institution with a campus location funded by tax revenues from the state in which it is located like Palm Beach State College, Polk State College, Seminole State College, and Santa Fe College.
State University Non-Profit: A state-funded institution with a campus location funded by tax revenues from the state in which it is located like The Ohio State University, University of Utah, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Private Non-Profit: A privately funded institution with a campus location which does not accept state tax funds, but is funded by private donations, endowments, and student tuition like Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University and Northwestern University.

Curriculum Differences

All colleges and universities offer classes taken toward graduation, however, online schools tend to offer mainstream degree programs with specializations which appeal to most students. Campus schools tend to offer all the standard programs with specializations, but they also offer more class regimens in which students must attend laboratory sessions or other “hands-on” types of instruction. Medical, pharmaceutical, engineering, and athletics disciplines are more prevalent among campus-based institutions.

Accreditation Required for Each Student

Many online colleges and universities receive regional accreditation for their programs. All campus-based institutions receive regional accreditation. Some programs within the curriculum are also accredited by state or professional certification agencies for both online and on-campus programs.

The Student Experience Between Colleges

The student’s experience with online institutions and on-campus or traditional schools is very different. One advantage online schools can offer students is an accelerated learning track which allows graduation in less time than normally required by traditional campuses.

Online schools can offer class materials and instruction on a 24/7 basis with students learning at their own pace, and in some cases with class scheduling structures which have the students taking classes one-at-a-time on shortened schedules (5-8 weeks per class), students can reduce the overall time required to graduate. Traditional class schedule structures require standard timeframes for graduation without much opportunity to decrease the time required, except through utilization of CLEP or AP credits.

Classroom Sizes

Due to the vagaries of each type of institution, the average class sizes are calculated based on published data from different schools in each category.

  • For Profit Online – Synchronous classes – 15-45 students per instructor/per class*
  • For Profit Campus – 30-40 students per instructor/per class
  • Community College Non-Profit – 30-50 students per instructor/per class**
  • State College Non-Profit – 25-50 students per instructor/per class**
  • State University Non-Profit – 30-40 students per instructor/per class**
  • Private University Non-Profit – 20-40 students per instructor/per class**

*For Online students, classes are taken via computer, and the total number of students receiving instruction on any asynchronous class may total in the thousands, but due to the nature of online learning, the student experiences the class in a 1 on 1 environment.
**Some class sizes in Campus-based institutions can be as many as 100 to 300 students for certain types of classes utilizing a lecture-based format.


For Profit Online and For Profit Campus Institutions: These colleges bring in degreed professionals with an interest in teaching. Most instructors at for profit institutions do not hold advanced degrees in Education or Teaching.
Non-Profit Community Colleges and smaller Non-Profit State Colleges: Employ instructors with a mix of teaching credentials and some industry experience.

Larger Non-Profit State Colleges, Non-Profit State Universities, and Private Non-Profit Universities: Predominantly employ instructors with Education degrees certified to teach in specific areas with some industry professionals who also possess Educational degrees to provide classroom instruction.

Infographic and Article Sources

  • Huffpost Business – – Chris Kirkham – 5/25/11 – For-Profit Colleges Spend Much Less On Educating Students Than Public Universities
  • Center for American Progress – – Julie M. Morgan – 9/20/2010 – The Real Cost of For-Profit Education
  • Directory of Schools – – For-Profit College Tuition is Half of Private On-Campus Schools
  • College Board – – What It Costs to Go to College
  • eLearners Research – – What is the average program length?
  • eLearners Research – – What is the average cost of an online education?
  • University of Phoenix – – Tuition & class schedules
  • Kaplan University – – Tuition & class schedules
  • Strayer University – – Tuition & class schedules
  • Univ. of Utah – – Tuition schedules
  • Utah State University – – Tuition schedules
  • Salt Lake Comm. College – – Tuition & class schedules
  • Everest University – – Tuition schedules

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