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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.

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.

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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.

Salary Comparison by Education
Less Than a High School Diploma High School Diploma Associate Degree Bachelor's Degree Master's Degree Doctoral Degree
$28,756 $37,960 $44,824 $62,296 $74,568 $94,900

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.

Average Tuition Rates vs. National Averages
In-State Tuition Out-of-State Tuition National Average
$14,534 $27,129 $9,037 (In-State) $25,657 (Out-of-State)
Average Tuition Rates vs. National Averages
Tuition Out-of-State Tuition National Average
$40,068 N/A $30,731

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

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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.

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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


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


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


Allegheny Mountain Section of the Air and 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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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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.

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.

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.

Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

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.

  1. Harrisburg Area Community College
    Location

    Harrisburg, PA

    Tuition

    $6390

  2. Bucks County Community College
    Location

    Newtown, PA

    Tuition

    $6720

  3. Lehigh Carbon Community College
    Location

    Schnecksville, PA

    Tuition

    $6000

  4. Northhampton Community College
    Location

    Bethlehem, PA

    Tuition

    $5820

  5. Westmoreland County Community College
    Location

    Youngwood, PA

    Tuition

    $7320

  6. Delaware County Community College
    Location

    Media, PA

    Tuition

    $6780

  7. Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
    Location

    Johnstown, PA

    Tuition

    $5684

  8. Montgomery County Community College
    Location

    Blue Bell, PA

    Tuition

    $8640

  9. Reading Area Community College
    Location

    Reading, PA

    Tuition

    $7500

  10. Community College of Philadelphia
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $8880

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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.

This organization comprises 88 private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. Students can learn about member schools and explore higher education research. This center provides details about which courses and degrees transfer between participating schools, which include community colleges, private institutions, and state universities. This department offers information about the transition between education and employment. Students can sign up for the department's newsletter. This website provides information about the 14 universities that comprise the Pennsylvania state system. Students can learn about each institution and its programs. This state-supported student aid organization provides information about grants, loans, scholarships, loan forgiveness programs, and work-study options. The agency also offers college planning tools and manages several aid programs.

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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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