Online Colleges in Michigan

Top Online Programs

First-time and returning students increasingly turn to accredited online colleges in Michigan for academic programming and professional development opportunities. In addition to affordable tuition prices, distance education provides flexible course scheduling that helps learners juggle school, work, and family obligations.

According to Digital Learning Compass, the Great Lakes State operates 104 colleges and universities, which enroll 601,700 students as of 2015. Approximately 23% of students take at least one online class, and 8.5% of learners pursue distance education exclusively. In Michigan, the number of online students increased by 12.6% between 2012-2015, exceeding the national average.

This guide helps prospective learners find the best online colleges in Michigan for their financial needs and career goals. Students gain insight into program options, academic resources, and work opportunities. The guide also covers the cost of study and financial aid information, including a section on government funding and a list of private scholarships and grants.

Job Outlook for Students With College Degrees in Michigan

Students who earn degrees at Michigan's online colleges and universities enjoy more career opportunities, higher salaries, and cultivate better job security and longevity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals who hold bachelor's credentials enjoy lower unemployment rates (2.5%) than individuals who attend college but never earn their degree (4%) and those who only finish high school (4.6%). A professional's education level also affects their pay. On average, bachelor's degree holders earn $24,000 more in annual salary than professionals with high school diplomas.

As of October 2018, Michigan's unemployment rate sits at 3.9%, slightly higher than the U.S. average. BLS back data indicates that this rate steadily decreased over the past year, beginning in September 2017, when it stood at 4.7%. Relatedly, the Michigan state government reports substantial increases in total employment levels and workforce levels in 15 regions.

As the second table below displays, Michigan workers earn $48,300 annually, approximately $2,300 less than the national average. Matching national trends, healthcare practitioners, including nurse anesthetists and physicians, enjoy the highest salaries in the state. Business managers and information technology specialists also rank among the best-paid professionals.

Unemployment Rate, August 2018

Michigan 3.9%
United States 3.8%

Source: BLS

Annual Mean Wage, May 2017

Michigan $43,170
United States $48,300

Source: BLS

Cost of Online Colleges in Michigan

College Board reports that Michigan students who attend public technical and community colleges will pay $3,860 in annual tuition during the 2018-2019 academic year, $200 more than the national average. Learners who enroll in public four-year universities pay $13,420, nearly $3,200 more than the average U.S. student.

The state government operates generous financial aid programs to help learners pay for their higher education. Opportunities include the Michigan Competitive Scholarship for high-performing students and the need-based Michigan Tuition Grant. The state also provides scholarships for low-income students and those who experienced foster care.

Students who earn online college degrees in Michigan pay roughly the same amount of money for tuition and academic fees as their on-campus counterparts. In both instances, two-year schools provide the lowest rates, which students should take advantage of before transferring into a four-year program. The main financial benefit for distance learners lies in the savings related to textbooks, housing, and commute.

Michigan's online colleges and universities often provide free textbooks and learning materials through open-source platforms. According to College Board, students at four-year schools pay $11,400 each year for room and board, a price that dwarfs annual tuition. Since distance learners do not need to reside on campus and rarely commute for classes, they may save substantial amounts of money by living at home or pursuing alternative accommodations.

Average Price for In-State Tuition and Fees by Institution Type, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
Michigan $3,860 $13,420
U.S. Average $3,660 $10,230

Source: The College Board

In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition in Michigan

Public colleges and universities receive government funding, in part, from the tax dollars of state residents. This financial structure explains why in-state students benefit from substantially lower tuition prices than out-of-state students. College Board statistics indicate that Michigan residents who attend public four-year schools pay $13,400 in annual tuition, $3,200 more than the average American student. Out-of-state learners pay more than $10,000 the national average when enrolling at a Michigan public higher education institution. This difference ranks as the second highest in the nation, trailing only Vermont.

Fortunately, many cheap online colleges in Michigan deliver tuition prices that ignore residency status. Depending on their location, out-of-state students may access discounts through the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP). Facilitated by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, MSEP works with 12 states to ensure their students do not pay more than 150% of in-state tuition rates when attending the 100 participating colleges and universities. Lastly, out-of-state students can benefit from in-state tuition by establishing Michigan residency.

Average Tuition and Fees, 2018-19

  Public Two-Year Public Four-Year
Michigan $13,420 $36,000
U.S. Average $10,230 $26,290

Source: The College Board

Financial Aid in Michigan

Like traditional students, those who attend online colleges in Michigan can obtain government funding through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, the FAFSA enables students to apply for multiple grants, scholarships, low-interest loans, and work-study awards simultaneously. The website also helps students create efficient loan repayment plans upon graduation.

To access FAFSA awards, students must meet basic eligibility criteria, which includes U.S. citizenship or acceptable noncitizen status. Unfortunately, this requirement restricts undocumented individuals from using the FAFSA. Candidates also need to demonstrate financial need by submitting tax returns and records of untaxed income and assets. FAFSA awards include the general Pell Grant, the TEACH Grant for future educators, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant for students who lost parents due to military service.

The FAFSA connects distance learners to federal loan forgiveness and repayment options. The Teacher Loan Forgiveness and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs allow graduates to relieve substantial amounts of subsidized and unsubsidized government loans by agreeing to work in low-income, high-need communities. The Michigan State Loan Repayment Program operates similarly for professionals in the primary medical, dental, and mental healthcare fields.

State Grant Aid per Full-Time Equivalent Undergraduate Student, 2016-17

Michigan $280
U.S. Average $820

Source: The College Board

Scholarships and Grants for Michigan College Students

In addition to seeking out affordable tuition and applying for federal and state aid, students can pay for their degree with assistance from private scholarships and grants. These external awards often come from local businesses, professional organizations, and community nonprofits. This section contains 10 funding opportunities for students who attend online colleges in Michigan.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation General Scholarships

Who Can Apply: With one online form, candidates can apply for more than 500 scholarships, from awards for minority students to funding for future educators and community organizers. The criteria differ by award, but typically, residency in Kent County or the surrounding areas remains a requirement.

Amount: Varies

Apply Here

Michigan Society of Professional Engineers Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award remains open to engineering students who attend online colleges in Michigan accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. High school seniors who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and adequate ACT/SAT scores can apply.

Amount: Up to full tuition

Apply Here

Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports high school seniors attending a public or private Michigan institution. Candidates need at least a 2.5 GPA. In addition to academic transcripts and standardized test scores, applicants submit a 300-word essay explaining how they plan to apply Rosa Parks's values to tackle contemporary social challenges.

Amount: $2,000

Apply Here

Kids' Chance of Michigan Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award supports students whose parents sustained catastrophic injury or fatality at an in-state work site. The accident must meet workers' compensation criteria. The application asks for academic information and a personal essay detailing why the student should receive the scholarship.

Amount: $2,500-$5,000

Apply Here

Joseph B. Olivieri Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Sponsored by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers: Detroit Chapter, this award remains open to students enrolled full time at accredited Michigan schools. They must pursue bachelor's degrees in mechanical or architectural engineering and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Amount: $2,000

Apply Here

Sault Tribe Higher Education Scholarships

Who Can Apply: These awards, available to members of Michigan's Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, require students to submit application forms, W-9s, and tribal member cards. Candidates also must provide a personal essay.

Amount: $1,000

Apply Here

Grand Rapids Combined Theatre Scholarships

Who Can Apply: This award remains open to theatre arts majors enrolling full-time at accredited online colleges in Michigan. Candidates need to possess work or volunteer experience at any Grand Rapids community theater venue.

Amount: $1,000-$2,000

Apply Here

Get Educated Distance Learning Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Candidates for this scholarship need to hold U.S. citizenship and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Available to students pursuing distance education at a U.S. school, applicants must provide academic transcripts, their most recent FAFSA, and a 500-word personal statement.

Amount: $1,000

Apply Here Online College Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Applicants must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA, U.S. citizenship, and take at least 80% of their classes online at an accredited higher education institution. They can apply twice per year, with deadlines set for July 30 and November 30.

Amount: $1,000

Apply Here

SR Education Group Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Community college students, military personnel, and graduate degree seekers can apply by providing their academic transcripts and two essay responses. The organization sets the deadline for December 30.

Amount: $5,000

Apply Here

Best Majors for Online Students in Michigan

Published by the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, the "Hot 50" job outlook report contains the state's occupations projected to grow at the fastest rates through 2026. Many of the jobs on this list align with national trends, including such high-demand professions as nurses, accountants, engineers, and corporate managers. Computer and information technology positions also rank highly, particularly applications software developers, who benefit from a 31% expansion.

These careers all require candidates to hold at least a bachelor's degree. Students can earn their credentials through Michigan's accredited online colleges and universities, many of which offer degree completion programs for professionals already working in the field.

This list also includes skilled labor and trade occupations, including plumber, carpenter, electrician, and tractor-trailer truck driver. Positions in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration are also projected to grow significantly, producing more than 1,000 annual jobs. For students interested in these careers, online community colleges in Michigan operate flexible degree and certificate programs.

Software Development

These professionals create, analyze, and maintain computer programs. Developers often specialize in subfields such as mobile applications, computer software, video game design, and artificial intelligence. Online colleges in Michigan offer academic programs at every degree level. At the bachelor's level, coursework includes differential equations, C++ programming, and systems development methods.


In addition to conventional hospital roles, nurses may work as educators to train new professionals and implement community health programs. Students looking to earn online college degrees in Michigan usually start in two-year programs, earning their associate degree in nursing (ADN). With their ADN, nurses may pursue bachelor's or even master's completionist tracks, developing their skills in schools and their workplaces simultaneously.

Business Administration

As one of the most popular college majors in the U.S., business administration enables students to pursue careers as sales representatives, procurement specialists, and operations analysts. While students may work their way into high-ranking positions, many of the management roles found in the top 50 list require candidates to earn their master's degree. Graduate programs emphasize leadership skill development and allow students to pursue concentrations in fields such as international business, healthcare administration, and public relations.

Resources for Online College Students in Michigan

MI Student Aid: This resource portal, facilitated by the state government, connects students with public and private scholarships. Through such tools as Mapping Your Future, students learn to develop healthy financial habits, navigate the FAFSA, and even create effective loan repayment plans. MI Student Aid also helps students explore and plan for their careers.

Michigan College Access Network: Through research initiatives and college preparedness programs, MCAN works to increase higher education enrollment in the state by 60% through 2025. The organization targets underserved communities, providing one-on-one college and financial advising for high school students. MCAN also delivers free standardized test preparation and career counseling services.

Pure Michigan Talent Connect: Working as a central hub for job seekers and employers, MI Talent aggregates career, internship, and agricultural business listings. Users can explore academic and career training opportunities. For example, the MAT2 Program helps students obtain the skills needed to pursue digital or mechanical careers over three years. MI Talent also provides resources for military veterans and skilled tradespersons.

Midwestern Higher Education Compact: MHEC fosters collaboration between its 12 member states, funding educational research projects, teacher training programs, and tuition reciprocity agreements. As mentioned earlier, residents of these states may access discounted prices through the MSEP. MHEC also helps students find affordable healthcare plans and free educational resources like textbooks.

Distance Education Accrediting Commission: On top of national, regional, and industry-specific stamps of approval, online colleges in Michigan may obtain DEAC accreditation. The commission operates a student center, where users search for schools and explore financial aid opportunities, including military discounts and scholarships. DEAC also offers extensive information on the credit transfer process between its member institutions.

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