Online Schools and Colleges in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania has nearly 250 institutions of higher education, including 14 state-run universities and 92 private universities and colleges. The state system of higher education enrolled 102,301 students in fall of 2017, a 9 percent drop from a decade earlier. This decline has pushed colleges across the state to adopt more diverse degree program delivery, with blended and online learning options on the rise. With just 7.8 percent of Pennsylvania college students taking an online class in 2012, Penn State World Campus, the state’s largest distance learning provider, has 150 online degrees and certificates available. But how does a student find the right online college in Pennsylvania? Which have the right accreditation and affordability to make a difference? Get answers to these questions and more below.

Top 10 Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania 2020

Rank School Location
1 Pennsylvania State University-Worldwide University Park, PA
2 Temple University Philadelphia, PA
3 West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester, PA
4 Robert Morris University Moon Township, PA
5 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
6 Duquesne University Pittsburgh, PA
7 California University of Pennsylvania California, PA
8 Cairn University Langhorne, PA
9 DeSales University Center Valley, PA
10 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Slippery Rock, PA
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Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania 2020

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% decrease from 2007 enrollment.

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.

2-Year Colleges

  1. Pennsylvania State University-Worldwide
    Location

    University Park, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    With over 18,000 students studying online, Pennsylvania State's online school is among one of the largest in the nation. On top of their impressive class size, Penn State offers 35 different undergraduate degree options, all of which can be completed entirely online. The length and cost of the online program will vary depending on how many credits the student has earned prior to enrollment. Penn State accepts transfer credits as well as some credit-by-examination. The requirements for transfer credits vary, so students should reach out to the school to see whether their credits will be accepted. As far as tuition goes, the cost of the program typically decreases the more credits a student already has. Also, more credits means a reduced amount of time to earn a degree, resulting in lower cost overall. Anyone who does not have credits entering the online program should be able to earn their bachelor's degree in the traditional 4 years.

  2. Temple University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Temple University's distance education program gives students the flexibility to study at their own pace. Students studying toward an undergraduate degree online have two options to fit their schedule: a traditional 15-week semester or a dual accelerated 7-week session. If students choose to study full time, they can easily complete an undergraduate program in four years - however, many students do choose to study part-time. For students that want to get ahead, Temple also offers dual accelerated 6-week sessions in the summer. Currently, the only online undergraduate program offered by Temple is a bachelor's in business administration (BBA). This fully online program can be specialized through one of 6 majors and/or 9 minors. While attending Temple Online, students will also get access to immersion opportunities, giving them professional experience in the business field they choose. All online students also get the financial benefit of in-state tuition per credit, regardless of where they live.

  3. West Chester University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    West Chester, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    West Chester University's distance education program lets students choose when and where they want to attend class. Online offerings include an MBA, a Master of Public Administration and master's degrees in education, community nutrition and human resources. The school offers Doctor of Public Administration and Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees. For students who don't need full degrees, West Chester offers graduate certificates in a number of fields, including public administration, physical education, industrial and organizational psychology, education technology and special education. Some programs, such as the MBA track, offer hybrid options that allow for in-person sessions.

  4. Robert Morris University
    Location

    Moon Township, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Robert Morris University offers a wide variety of fully online degrees and certificates. Undergraduate degrees including business, criminal justice, health services administration, hospitality/tourism management, nursing and organizational leadership. Graduate programs include data analytics, engineering management, health services administration and human resources management. In addition, Robert Morris allows students to complete a number of non-degree certificates virtually, including land management, labor relations, logistics and supply chain management and project management. Online classes at RMU are designed and taught by the same faculty that teach the university's traditional courses. For individual attention, RMU Online Division has specific counselors to help students navigate the unique challenges of completing coursework and pursuing a degree remotely.

  5. Misericordia University
    Location

    Dallas, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The online offerings at Misericordia University focuses on the unique needs of adult students. The school works with students to transfer credits from other institutions, and it gives credit for life experiences. Degree offerings are career-focused. Among the online undergraduate majors available are accounting, addictions counseling, business administration, information technology, nursing and social work. In addition to bachelor's degrees, Misericordia offers certificate programs in such areas as patient navigation and diagnostic medical sonography. Graduate programs include an MBA degree and post-graduate degrees in organizational management. Misericordia also offers a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree and a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. In addition to fully online courses, Misericordia offers hybrid classes that combine virtual participation with in-person instruction allowing students to evaluate how well cyberlearning works for them.

  6. Duquesne University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Duquesne University offers online Bachelor of Arts programs in computer systems technology and organizational leadership, and a degree in nursing for current registered nurses who would like to earn their bachelor's degree in nursing. Graduate degrees in areas of business, nursing, education and leadership are also available in a hybrid format or entirely online. Individual programs accept some transfer credits. Duquesne provides the widest range of online degrees in their nursing program. Online nursing students can earn a master's degree in nursing with specializations in forensic nursing, nursing education and faculty role, or as a family nurse practitioner. There are also online doctorate degree programs in nursing, nursing ethics and nursing practice. Accepted online nursing program students are assigned a faculty mentor to help develop a plan for degree completion. All online students have access to writing center resources, student advisers and career support. Online courses last 8 weeks and while some are synchronous, most allow students to self-direct their education based on their own schedule. So, students can earn a bachelor's in under 4 years or a master's degree in under 2 years.

  7. California University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    California, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    California University of Pennsylvania offers over 75 online associate, bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree programs. Areas of study available through Cal U Global Online include business, law, health care, engineering and technology, education, human services or computers. Cal U online students can also study Arabic language and culture at the undergraduate or graduate level. The college provides an online master's degree program in exercise science with specializations in nutrition, group fitness, health promotion, sports, injury prevention, fitness, management, rehabilitation, sport psychology or wellness coaching. Most online undergraduate degrees can be completed in under 4 years, depending on the number of transfer credits a student applies toward the program. International applicants are welcome to enroll in online degree programs. Cal U supports online students with career counseling and financial aid. Veterans and active service members receive tuition assistance, as well. The online degree programs at Cal U meet Pennsylvania's requirements for recommending candidates for certification, but distance learning students who will seek certification in their state after earning an online degree from Cal U should verify their state's requirements.

  8. Cairn University
    Location

    Langhorne, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students can complete their Christian theology-based undergraduate degree through online programs at Cairn University-Langhorne, or work to earn a graduate degree in a fully online format. Cairn offers online degree completion programs for bachelor's degrees in Bible studies and liberal studies, and their Bible degree program can be combined with a master's degree in religion. They also offer master's programs in education and special education, nonprofit leadership and business that are designed to be completed in 2-3 years of full-time study. Students who earn a master's in special education in applied behavior analysis also fulfill requirements to become a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. Online student tuition is charged by credit hour and in-state students pay the same rate as out-of-state students. If a student receives support to attend Cairn from the student's church, the college will match up to $1,000 for the fall semester only. There are also tuition discounts for spouses enrolling at Cairn together, and scholarships for employees at Christian schools. a master's in special education in applied behavior analysis also fulfill requirements to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Online student tuition is charged by credit hour and in-state students pay the same rate as out-of-state students. If a student receives support to attend Cairn from the student's church, the college will match up to $1,000 for the fall semester only. There are also tuition discounts for spouses enrolling at Cairn together, and scholarships for employees at Christian schools.

  9. DeSales University
    Location

    Center Valley, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    DeSales University is a private, 4-year institution affiliated with the Catholic Church. Through its ACCESS program, students can choose from among 13 bachelor's degrees that can be earned 100% online and another 19 that are presented in an online/in-class format. Major subjects include Business Administration, Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, Human Resource Management, Pharmaceutical Marketing and Theology. In-person classes can be attended on DeSales' Bethlehem Area, Lansdale Area and Central Valley campuses. Both full-time and part-time study options are available, and students can begin their degree work on any of 11 start dates offered annually. A high school diploma or GED - and a desire to learn - are the only requirements for admission into an ACCESS degree program. Students can apply up to 75 previously earned college credits to their degree program. DeSales also awards college credit for qualifying work experience and military and non-traditional training, as well as through College Level Examination Program (CLEP) testing and DSU challenge examinations.

  10. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Slippery Rock, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Slippery Rock's 5 online bachelor's degree completion programs are designed for busy working adults with associate degrees or at least 60 completed college credits who are seeking to expand their career opportunities by earning a bachelor's degree. Majors available include Management, Philanthropy & Nonprofit Management, Nursing and Leadership Studies. Also available is an Interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts that allows students to work with a faculty adviser to design an individualized curriculum that suits the student's specific interests and goals, while building on previously earned college credits. All undergraduate degree programs are presented in a fully online format. Admissions requirements vary slightly by program. Details can be found online with each individual program's description. With the exception of the BSN, all degree programs require applicants to have an associate degree earned with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher and meet certain course prerequisites for English and math proficiency and computer competency. BSN applicants must have an RN diploma or associate degree earned with a minimum 2.5 GPA along with possession of a currently valid RN license.

4-Year Colleges

  1. Harrisburg Area Community College
    Location

    Harrisburg, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  2. Bucks County Community College
    Location

    Newtown, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  3. Lehigh Carbon Community College
    Location

    Schnecksville, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  4. Northhampton Community College
    Location

    Bethlehem, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  5. Westmoreland County Community College
    Location

    Youngwood, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  6. Delaware County Community College
    Location

    Media, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  7. Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
    Location

    Johnstown, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  8. Montgomery County Community College
    Location

    Blue Bell, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  9. Reading Area Community College
    Location

    Reading, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

  10. Community College of Philadelphia
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

View a City From Pennsylvania

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.

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 DiplomaHigh School DiplomaAssociate Degree
$28,756$37,960$44,824
Bachelor’s DegreeMaster’s DegreeDoctoral Degree
$62,296$74,568$94,900
Source: BLS

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 TuitionOut-of-State TuitionNational Average
$14,534$27,129$9,037 (In-State) $25,657 (Out-of-State)
TuitionOut-of-State TuitionNational Average
$40,068N/A$30,731
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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.

  • Required Travel: Some online programs require campus visits, which may last days or weeks. Learners must typically cover costs associated with housing, food, and transportation.
  • Tuition Agreements: 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.

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.

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

  • Hope Through Learning Award

    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.

    Amount: $2,500

    Apply For Scholarship

  • Beulah Frey Environmental Scholarship

    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.

    Amount: $2,500

    Apply For Scholarship

  • Pennsylvania Engineering Foundation Scholarship

    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.

    Amount: $1,000

    Apply For Scholarship

  • Allegheny Mountain Section of the Air & Waste Management Association Scholarship

    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.

    Amount: Varies

    Apply For Scholarship

  • Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program

    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

    Apply For Scholarship

Grants for Pennsylvania College Students

  • Pennsylvania National Guard Military Family Education Program

    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

    Apply For Grant

  • Children of POW/MIA Soldiers

    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

    Apply For Grant

  • Pennsylvania National Guard Education Assistance Program

    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

    Apply For Grant

  • Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program

    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

    Apply For Grant

  • PA State Grant Program

    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

    Apply For Grant

Financial Aid for Online Schools

The Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities 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.

Subject-Specific Accreditation

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.

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.

Source: Distance Education State Almanac 2017

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.

  • Adult Basic and Family Literacy Education: 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.
  • Philadelphia Office of Adult Education: 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.
  • Pennsylvania Adult Education Resources: 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.

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.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.


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