An Online High School Diploma may be your ticket for graduating high school as well as your springboard to a first-rate education. Having a high school diploma has significant advantages over passing the GED, or the General Education Development test, which is supposed to certify academic skills at the high school level, but sets the bar much lower than a good high school education.
Many reasons exist why people are discouraged or prevented from completing high school in the traditional way. It’s important to realize, however, that adults with a high school diploma or GED earn an average of $11,000 per year more than adults who haven’t finished high school (US Census Bureau). Furthermore, those with diplomas make considerably more than those with GEDs. For more about the advantages of a diploma over a GED, see our article “High School Diplomas versus the GED.”
The variety and availability of online high school diploma programs can be both annoying and frustrating. Diplomas from quality online high schools are academically equivalent to those earned in the traditional high school setting, and should be recognized as such by potential employers and colleges and universities. However, searching for an online high school diploma program without knowing certain facts and pitfalls can waste time, money, and energy.
In determining the quality of a potential online high schoolprogram, accreditation and state approval are of prime importance. Programs accredited through agencies recognized by the USDE (U.S. Department of Education) are your safest bet in terms of legitimacy. These are usually regional or national accrediting agencies.
Regional accreditation is the most accepted in terms of transferring coursework or pursuing a college degree. If a school isn’t up front about their accreditation status or the accrediting agency isn’t recognized by the USDE, you may want to look elsewhere. Legitimate online high school programs must also be state-approved. This means they must be approved in the state from which the diploma will be issued, regardless of the state in which the student resides.
In determining the value of an online high school program, you will want to consider the following: rate of successful program completion, ease of communication with the school and with teachers, flexibility and delivery of classes, counseling and tutoring services, individualized programming, availability of specialization (engineering, religion, arts, etc.), dual credit offerings, and extracurricular activities or clubs.
To compile this list of the best online high schools, we kept the following factors in mind:
Distance education programs can carry the reputation of being “less than” their on-campus equivalents. With each school on this list, that is not the case. Every school listed in this article has received accreditation; many of them have been accredited through AdvancED or one of its counterparts. AdvancED is a nonprofit accrediting organization that conducts rigorous, on-site reviews with the goal of ensuring that educational institutions support all learners in realizing their full potential.
Through creative, challenging, and appropriate coursework, the best online high schools will prepare students to successfully transition into college studies or the workforce. Preparing students for success after high school includes offering college credit or dual enrollment programs, as well as career preparation, such as career certificates or training courses.
What makes a program affordable varies according to each person’s individual means; however, it always pays to look at the fine print regarding tuition, discounts, payment plans, and any additional fees. Likewise, if you have a student on the path to a college degree, consider if the online high school you’re interested in offers any dual enrollment classes. Dual enrollment classes give students the chance to earn both high school and college credit for the same course, saving money on future college classes. “Early college” or “pre-college” programs may even allow students to complete their associate degree while finishing their high school diploma.
All of these programs do come with fees, of course, but we’ve sought to compile a list that takes a diverse array of financial situations into consideration. Every school has a different tuition schedule; where one school may offer a generous payment plan, another might offer discounts. It’s important to remember that the price listed is for tuition only unless the amount is noted to be “in total for the program” or “all-inclusive.” Schools retain the prerogative to impose additional fees apart from the standard application and registration fees, including costs for transcripts, diploma copies, textbooks, exam proctoring, and more. Be sure to consult each school’s website to obtain up-to-date details on all fees, hidden or otherwise. Better yet, email a representative or schedule a call with an advisor to learn more and to see if there are any scholarship, grant, or discount options due to your financial situation — sometimes you have to ask in order to find out.
When information was published and available, we have included any available payment plans and special discounts, financial aid, or scholarship opportunities. Please note that all published fees are valid as of June 2018.