Pennsylvania has nearly 250 higher education institutions, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, including 14 state universities and 92 private schools. Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education enrolled about 107,000 students in the fall of 2017, a 9% drop from a decade earlier.
Due in part to this decline in enrollment, many colleges throughout the state are offering more diverse learning options, including blended and online programs. For example, Penn State World Campus offers 150 online degree and certificate programs. This guide explores online learning in the state, including program options, accreditation, and tuition rates.
Why Consider Online Colleges in Pennsylvania?
- Enrolling in an online college gives you the flexibility to balance school with work and family.
- Many online programs run asynchronously, letting you schedule classes around your other responsibilities.
- You can save money by not paying for campus housing or a meal plan.
- Some online colleges in feature start dates throughout the year, allowing you to further your education on your own time.
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Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
These rankings include
#1 Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Gannon University offers an impressive array of hybrid programs. To date, the institution supports 58 bachelor's degrees, with one running fully online. Remote learners can choose six online master's programs.
Students across modalities benefit from robust coursework, skilled faculty, and flexible study options. Degree-seekers complete general and subject-specific coursework throughout the program. Enrollees can supplement their learning through experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and research projects.
Students benefit from guidance from career services and academic advising. Prospective applicants can speak with the financial aid office to determine scholarship eligibility. Of all enrollees, 98% receive internal and external funding. The college admits 76% of all applicants and reports a 68% graduation rate.
#2 Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Students seeking flexible hybrid study should consider enrolling at Mercyhurst University. The private institution provides 75 bachelor's degrees and 11 master's degrees. Learners seeking remote study explore two online master's programs.
All students benefit from rigorous core curriculums, skilled faculty, and supportive learning environments. Enrollees complete advanced and general coursework, gaining skills and knowledge relevant to their field of study. Enrollees can supplement their learning through experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and research projects.
Students can access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. The financial aid office connects enrollees with funding opportunities and can help prospective applicants determine their eligibility for financial aid. The institution reports that 100% of all enrollees receive aid. Of all enrollees, 68% graduate from their programs.
#3 Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania provides numerous educational opportunities from its main campus in Edinboro. The public college offers 42 bachelor's programs and 15 master's programs. Students continuing their education can select from 10 master's degrees that run fully online.
Every student benefits from a supportive learning community, complete with skilled faculty and industry-relevant coursework. Degree candidates complete foundational and advanced coursework in their subject area. Students can collaborate with faculty on research projects, pursue internships, and explore other experiential learning opportunities.
Enrollees benefit from career services, academic advising, and other institutional resources. Students can meet with the financial aid to explore funding opportunities, such as scholarships and fellowships. According to the institution, 92% of all incoming students receive financial aid. Of all enrollees, 44% graduate from their programs.
#4 Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Erie-Behrend College
- 4 years
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Erie-Behrend College, a public college located in Erie, supports educational opportunities for learners of all levels. The public institution provides 47 bachelor's programs and four master's programs.
Learners across modalities benefit from a supportive learning community, attentive faculty, and competitive degree options. Degree-seekers complete coursework that covers foundational and advanced topics relevant to their field. Students can collaborate with faculty on research projects, pursue internships, and explore other experiential learning opportunities.
The college connects enrollees with numerous institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. The financial aid office can help prospective students determine their eligibility for financial aid. Of all admitted students, 71% graduate from the college.
#5 Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine provides a variety of degrees suitable for in-person and online study. The private college offers five master's programs, with three running entirely online.
Learners across modalities benefit from a supportive learning community, attentive faculty, and competitive degree options. Enrollees complete coursework that covers foundational and advanced topics relevant to their field. Participants can explore collaborative opportunities throughout the duration of their program, including faculty-led research projects, internships, and professional activities.
Learners can access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. Students can meet with the financial aid to explore funding opportunities, such as scholarships and fellowships.
Importance of Accreditation for Online Schools in Pennsylvania
U.S. institutions establish credibility through a voluntary evaluation process. Many financial aid opportunities are only available to students at accredited schools, and most graduate schools and employers only recognize degrees earned from accredited institutions.
Online schools and colleges in Pennsylvania can hold multiple types of accreditation. The sections below include information to help students identify properly accredited institutions.
Regional and National Accreditation
The two main types of institutional accreditation in the U.S. are regional and national accreditation. Liberal arts colleges and universities typically seek regional accreditation, which six agencies offer based on geographic location. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education awards regional accreditation to Pennsylvania institutions. Vocational and career schools often pursue national accreditation from agencies such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and the \Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
Specialized accreditation demonstrates that a program helps students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the field. Learners pursuing certain fields of study, such as nursing and engineering, should choose a program that holds subject-specific accreditation.
How to Know if Your School or Program is Accredited
Accredited schools typically feature their accreditation status on their website. Schools that do not display their accreditation status online or that maintain lax program requirements may not be reputable institutions. Prospective students can search the directory from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to identity or verify the accreditation status of any U.S. school or program.
How Much More Do College Grads in Pennsylvania Make?
Generally, higher educational attainment leads to higher earning potential for professionals across industries. The table below illustrates how higher education correlates with increased salaries nationwide. According to PayScale, the median annual salary of a Pennsylvania worker is $62,000 annually, much higher than the national median. Pennsylvania professionals benefit from the state's large telecommunications, healthcare, and construction industries, along with a robust manufacturing sector.
|Less Than a High School Diploma||High School Diploma||Associate Degree||Bachelor's Degree||Master's Degree||Doctoral Degree|
Paying for Online College in Pennsylvania: Tuition and Financial Aid
Pennsylvania ranks among the most expensive states in which to attend college. The average cost of in-state tuition at public institutions in Pennsylvania is more than $5,000 per year higher than the national average. However, the state government does offer generous financial aid packages.
The chart below compares Pennsylvania's average tuition rates to the national averages. This information can help learners decide whether online schools and colleges in Pennsylvania school fit their budget.
|In-State Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||National Average|
|$14,534||$27,129||$9,037 (In-State) $25,657 (Out-of-State)|
|Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||National Average|
Qualifying for In-State Tuition in Pennsylvania
Qualifying residents can receive substantial discounts on tuition at public schools. To qualify for in-state tuition rates, learners must typically have resided in Pennsylvania for non-academic purposes for at least one year prior to enrolling.
Recent high school graduates can demonstrate residency through the location of their high school. Adult learners can prove their residency status by submitting their lease or mortgage, state income tax returns, or Pennsylvania driver's license.
Cost Considerations for Online Students in Pennsylvania
The figures above do not include additional costs, such as room and board. When budgeting for college, learners should consider all expenses. Below are some cost considerations for students attending online schools and colleges in Pennsylvania.
Some online programs require campus visits, which may last days or weeks. Learners must typically cover costs associated with housing, food, and transportation.
While 43 states maintain reciprocity agreements that provide tuition breaks for regional students, Pennsylvnia does not. Students from neighboring states do not receive discounted tuition rates at Pennsylvania schools.
Cost Differences Among Schools
Each school charges different fees and tuition rates. Additionally, some community colleges offer significant discounts for county residents.
Recurring Technology Costs
Many schools charge distance learners one-time or per-semester technology fees. These fees typically cover costs such as tech support and online learning platforms.
Class Material Costs
Online students must pay for physical or digital textbooks, software, and additional class materials. Some schools charge a flat fee to cover access to materials for each course.
Paying for College in Pennsylvania: Scholarships and Financial Aid
In addition to federal grants and loans, students at online schools and colleges in Pennsylvania can fund their education through public and private scholarships. Below are some grants and scholarships that can help Pennsylvania students cover the cost of earning a degree.
Scholarships for Pennsylvania College Students
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports learners who are 24 years old or younger. Applicants must reside in Allegheny County and must have experienced homelessness while attending school. Applicants must be pursuing higher education for the first time.
Who Can Apply: The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania awards this scholarship to graduating high school seniors from Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Fayette, Washington, or Westmoreland Counties. Applicants must plan to study an environment-related subject.
Who Can Apply: Pennsylvania residents in their first semester at an ABET-accredited engineering school in the state can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must have SAT math and EBRW scores of at least 700 and 600, respectively, and a minimum 3.6 GPA.
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate students pursuing a career in an environment-related field and attending an eligible school can apply for this award. Applicants must submit a one-page essay discussing their interest in an environmental field.
Who Can Apply: Learners with a minimum 3.5 GPA and whose family's annual income does not exceed $110,00 can apply for this grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Amount: Up to $2,000 for full-time students and $1,000 for part-time students
Grants for Pennsylvania College Students
Who Can Apply: This grant supports spouses and children of Pennsylvania National Guard members who have entered into an additional six-year service commitment. Applicants must be studying at an approved Pennsylvania institution.
Amount: Up to full tuition plus technology fee
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be the child of a soldier designated as MIA or POW who served on active duty after January 31, 1955. The applicant's parent must not have deserted or defected and must have been a Pennsylvania resident for at least 12 months before serving on active duty.
Amount: Up to $1,200
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be a Pennsylvania National Guard member who is enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program at an approved Pennsylvania institution.
Amount: Up to full tuition plus technology fee
Who Can Apply: This grant supports U.S. citizens and qualifying noncitizens who are Pennsylvania residents and who hold a high school diploma. Applicants must demonstrate financial need.
Amount: Up to $4,123 or 75% of the student's total direct educational costs after aid
Who Can Apply: High school graduates who are Pennsylvania residents of good character can apply for this grant. Applicants must be studying at least part time at an approved school.
Amount: Varies, with reduced amounts for students taking 50% or more of their courses
How Can I Find Which Online Colleges Offer the Degree I'm Looking for in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania maintains some of the largest distance education schools in the world. In fact, Pennsylvania's public and private institutions offer so many online options, future students can find it confusing to sort through them all to pick the right one. To help, the Open Education Database and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education both provide lists of the state's online schools.
Online College and Adult Education in Pennsylvania
Online learning can be ideal for adult learners with busy schedules and personal responsibilities. In addition to higher education programs, adult learners in Pennsylvania can access high school equivalency programs, literacy courses, and career development resources. The sections below include information and statistics about adult learning in the state.
By the Numbers: Adult Education in Pennsylvania
- In 2015, 85,178 students in Pennsylvania were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses.
- In 2015, 88.7% of the total student enrollment in Pennsylvania enrolled in both on-campus and distance courses.
- Adult learners comprised 19% of Pennsylvania's student enrollment in 2015.
Adult Education Programs for Pennsylvania Students
Pennsylvania residents can access English as a second language courses and GED preparation classes. The state government also funds initiatives to improve access to career training and life skills education. Below are some adult education programs in Pennsylvania.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Education's Division of Adult Education helps residents pass high school equivalency exams, participate in their children's education, and secure and maintain employment.
- The Office of Adult Education provides classes in adult basic education, GED and high school equivalency exam preparation, and English for speakers of other languages.
- This website is a hub for adult education resources in Pennsylvania, including high school equivalency programs, English as a second language courses, family literacy programs, and career resources. The website also features professional learning opportunities.
Many who live in Pittsburgh understand the importance of a college education. The Pennsylvania Department of Education reports that in a recent academic year, city residents attained approximately 6,000 associate degrees, 17,500 four-year degrees, 9,000 master's degrees and over 2,000 doctorates.
For the student who requires more flexibility, Pittsburgh's colleges offer online learning options. For instance, Pittsburgh University's online bachelor's degree programs span education, nursing and social and urban research, along with graduate degrees in business and information sciences.
|University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus||33,082||$15,272||Public|
|Carnegie Mellon University||12,175||$43,160||Not For Profit (Private)|
|Duquesne University||11,746||$26,413||Not For Profit (Private)|
|Point Park University||4,828||$22,900||Not For Profit (Private)|
|Carlow University||3,483||$23,296||Not For Profit (Private)|
|Chatham University||2,735||$29,212||Not For Profit (Private)|
|La Roche College||1,646||$22,218||Not For Profit (Private)|
|Rosedale Technical Institute||583||$12,080||Not For Profit (Private)|
|Community College of Allegheny County||31,869||$5,252||Public|
|Gannon University||4,996||$25,735||Not For Profit (Private)|
|Mercyhurst College||4,987||$25,860||Not For Profit (Private)|
|Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Erie-Behrend College||4,618||$12,776||Public|
|Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine||3,030||N/A||Not For Profit (Private)|
Online College Resources for Pennsylvania Students
Pursuing a college degree requires significant time and financial investments. Prospective learners should carefully research options to make the best choice for themselves, their families, and their futures. The following resources provide information about online schools and colleges in Pennsylvania, transfer credits, financial aid, and the transition into the workforce.