Finding the top online colleges can be a difficult task. There are several difficulties facing the online college seeker. Online "diploma mills" abound on the Internet and make it difficult to determine which schools are legitimate and which ones are backed by questionable accrediting agencies. Factors to consider when evaluating online colleges and universities is affordability, accrediting, reputation, and student satisfaction.

Penn State University World Campus

Penn State University offers over 60 online degrees and is one of the most recognizable names in U.S. higher education. Located on over 24 campuses across the state of Pennsylvania, Penn State was rated a "best buy" by geteducated.com, a website that rates online schools according to affordability, reputation, and student satisfaction. Penn State makes no distinction between its online degrees and those obtained on campus. It also offers both undergraduate and graduate courses in both formats. Penn State is fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Schools & Colleges.

Nova Southeastern University

Online Education Database rated Nova Southeastern University its top choice for an online education using factors such as acceptance rate, financial aid, peer web citations, and faculty scholarly citations. Nova Southeastern is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and was listed by "Princeton Review" as one of the top-rated distance graduate schools to attend.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University (ECU) offers a number of graduate and undergraduate degrees in its online education program. ECU has quickly emerged as one the leaders in online college education and is comparable to Penn State in its treatment of online degrees versus on campus degrees. It too makes no distinction. Geteducated.com rates East Carolina University as a "best buy" for many of its degree programs, but this is more likely the case for resident students from North Carolina who pay considerably less than out-of-state students. ECU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools.

University of Wyoming

Among the schools offering the most affordable online degrees is the University of Wyoming. Wyoming offers students an opportunity to receive an established degree without having to pay extra for out-of-state tuition costs. Wyoming was ranked as a "best buy" by geteducated.com because of its reputation and affordability. The University of Wyoming is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools.

Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University (OSU), located in Stillwater, Okla. is quickly becoming one of the top innovators among the larger universities in its offering of online classes. Aside from taking classes online or through its Stillwater campus, OSU students have the option of taking classes through any of the university's satellite campuses. The two larger ones are located in the cities of Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Its Master's in Business Administration program is a nationally recognized program. The university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools and was rated a "best buy" by geteducated.com.

Regent University

If you are looking for a private Christian school that offers a reputable online education, Regent University might be a good choice for you. Founded in 1978 by television broadcaster and evangelist Pat Robertson, the university has grown in stature over the last three decades and has now emerged as a leader among Christian schools offering online degrees. With its main campus located in Virginia Beach, Va., students wishing to take a few courses on campus may find this well-known vacation destination as an attractive choice. Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools.

North Carolina State University-Raleigh

North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh, N.C. is another established university offering online programs that are now competing with other online institutions. Because of its reputation, NCSU is quickly establishing itself as one of the leaders in online education. Its most prominent online degree program is probably its graduate program in engineering which offers concentrations in environmental engineering, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, industrial and systems engineering, materials science and engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, paper science and engineering, textile engineering, and nuclear engineering. NCSU is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools.

Colorado State University-Pueblo

Colorado State University in Pueblo, like the University of Wyoming, is a very affordable for students wanting online degrees from established institutions without having to pay the additional out-of-state tuition costs. In the areas of sociology and social science, it was rated a "best buy" by geteducated.com and rated in the Top 30 overall. Colorado State is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools.

Chadron State College

Chadron State College, located in Chadron, Neb., was rated as a best buy in a number of its online degree programs by geteducated.com. Chadron State offers a master's degree in business administration that rates highly among those schools offering mainly online classes. Chadron State also offers degrees in a variety of other fields and is a much more affordable option than schools of comparable quality and similar programs. Chadron State College is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools.

Champlain College

Founded in 1878 and located in Burlington, Vt., Champlain College has evolved over the years to become a well-respected private college. It now offers online graduate and undergraduate degrees in a variety of fields and was a top-rated school, according to Online Education Database. The college also has campuses in Montreal, Dublin, and Mumbai, with plans to establish yet another in Australia. One of the unique degrees offered by the college is a Master's of Science in law. It is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges.