Online Schools & Colleges
in Pennsylvania

Cost, Accreditation and the Best Online Universities in the State

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.

Best Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

2-Year Colleges

Higher education has become a necessity in today’s economy. However, not everyone can attend a college or university while raising a family or holding down a 9-to-5 job. Online and blended learning opportunities continue to help make this kind of multi-tasking a reality, but it can be difficult to find the right program. Many online colleges in Pennsylvania have started to stand out, with affordable tuition, a strong curriculum and sizable collection of distance programs and courses across numerous majors. See which schools made the list for 2018.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Harrisburg Area Community College $6,390 31 11% 1% Yes Yes Yes
2 Bucks County Community College $6,720 20 16% 3% Yes Yes Yes
3 Lehigh Carbon Community College $6,000 17 15% 2% Yes Yes Yes
4 Northhampton Community College $5,820 19 20% 6% Yes Yes Yes
5 Westmoreland County Community College $7,320 44 13% 7% Yes Yes Yes
6 Delaware County Community College $6,780 8 16% 6% Yes Yes Yes
7 Pennsylvania Highlands Community College $5,684 5 26% 6% Yes No Yes
8 Montgomery County Community College $8,640 12 20% 6% Yes Yes Yes
9 Reading Area Community College $7,500 7 12% 18% Yes Yes Yes
10 Community College of Philadelphia $8,880 7 12% 13% Yes Yes Yes
11 Butler County Community College $6,240 4 23% 13% Yes Yes Yes
12 Luzerne County Community College $7,500 10 19% 4% Yes Yes Yes
13 Community College of Allegheny County $6,467 25 12% - No Yes Yes
Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Pennsylvania State University-Worldwide $16,952 46 56% 87% 35% Yes Yes Yes

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 $15,384 8 52% 71% 83% Yes Yes Yes

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 $7,238 4 64% 69% 12% Yes Yes Yes

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 $27,320 19 80% 63% 97% Yes Yes Yes

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 $29,150 9 74% 72% 100% Yes Yes Yes

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 $35,062 16 74% 76% 99% Yes Yes Yes

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 $7,238 17 96% 58% 14% Yes Yes Yes

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 $24,946 10 98% 68% 100% Yes Yes Yes

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 $33,500 15 76% 71% 99% Yes Yes Yes
10 Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania $7,238 11 69% 68% 38% No Yes Yes
11 Rosemont College $18,500 4 69% 44% 100% Yes Yes Yes
12 University of Scranton $41,762 7 75% 81% 93% Yes Yes Yes
13 Philadelphia University $37,200 11 61% 67% 98% Yes Yes Yes
14 Saint Joseph's University $42,840 18 78% 74% 97% Yes Yes Yes
15 Clarion University $7,238 20 94% 51% 41% Yes Yes Yes
16 University of Pittsburgh $17,688 7 55% 83% 41% No Yes Yes
17 Cedar Crest College $36,225 8 66% 69% 98% Yes Yes Yes
18 Point Park University $27,780 17 71% 59% 97% Yes Yes Yes
19 Geneva College $25,680 7 71% 65% 95% Yes Yes Yes
20 Edinboro University of Pennsylvania $7,238 10 95% 52% 74% Yes No Yes
21 Carlow University $27,136 8 86% 60% 99% Yes Yes Yes
22 Drexel University $48,660 18 75% 68% 97% Yes Yes Yes
23 Wilkes University $31,946 14 76% 57% 96% Yes Yes Yes
24 Messiah College $32,350 3 80% 80% 100% No Yes Yes
25 Immaculata University $32,608 11 82% 62% 98% Yes Yes Yes
26 Gannon University $30,185 11 78% 67% 92% No Yes Yes
27 Eastern University $30,780 8 61% 63% 100% Yes No Yes
28 Indiana University of Pennsylvania $8,430 4 92% 55% 32% Yes Yes Yes
29 Millersville University $8,970 3 69% 66% 19% No Yes Yes
30 Lock Haven University $7,238 7 88% 49% 14% Yes Yes Yes
31 Chatham University $34,195 5 53% 57% 100% Yes Yes Yes
32 Saint Francis University $32,244 5 67% 73% 91% No Yes Yes
33 Clarks Summit University $22,510 12 43% 51% 79% Yes Yes Yes
34 Neumann University $27,340 4 94% 55% 100% Yes Yes Yes
35 Villanova University $48,610 23 44% 90% 53% No Yes Yes
36 Alvernia University $31,650 7 74% 54% 97% Yes Yes Yes
37 La Salle University $40,400 7 77% 68% 84% No Yes Yes
38 University of Valley Forge $19,224 9 79% 48% 97% Yes Yes Yes
39 Lehigh University $47,920 18 26% 89% 47% No Yes Yes
40 Gwynedd Mercy University $32,889 11 91% 55% 100% Yes No Yes
41 East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania $7,248 3 83% 58% 10% No Yes Yes
42 Keystone College $23,998 5 98% 38% 94% Yes Yes Yes
43 Mansfield University of Pennsylvania $9,150 7 88% 56% 45% No Yes Yes
44 Westminster College $33,810 7 74% 74% 100% No Yes Yes
45 Widener University $42,034 6 70% 54% 95% No Yes Yes
46 Carnegie Mellon University $51,196 8 22% 90% 50% No Yes Yes
47 Wilson College $23,745 3 58% 44% 100% Yes No Yes
48 Harrisburg University of Science and Technology $23,900 5 - 21% 99% Yes Yes Yes
49 Peirce College $13,872 12 - - 94% Yes No Yes
50 Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences $25,040 9 57% - 17% Yes No Yes

Are you are interested in attending an online school in Pennsylvania, but don’t know where to start? Here are answers to some of the most common questions about online programs in Pennsylvania.

How can I find which online colleges offer the degree I’m looking for in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania Department of Higher Education provides a digital map of all colleges and universities in the state. Whether you wish to study liberal arts, engineering, or pursue a medical degree, Pennsylvania schools offer a variety of online program options. Here are just a few of the most popular programs online at Pennsylvania colleges and universities.

This is only a small sampling of the numerous distance learning options available at Pennsylvania institutions. If the program you are looking for isn’t listed above, keep researching; your prospective major is likely available through one of the state’s many online schools.

Which online schools in Pennsylvania will accept my transfer credits or work/life experience?

Many online learners return to the classroom after an extended period in the workforce, bringing a great deal of professional and life experience with them. Fortunately, several Pennsylvania colleges offer course credit for prior learning. Penn State provides numerous online learning options and offers credit for on-the-job training programs approved by the American Council on Education. Students who have completed police academy training or hold nursing licensure may also receive college credit. In addition, Penn State maintains a portfolio program, which allows learners to document any major-related activities they have performed outside of the classroom. A committee then reviews the portfolio and confers the appropriate college credits.

Some candidates wish to transfer credits from other institutions toward their online degree. Every school maintains different credit transfer policies, which apply equally to on-campus students and distance learners. At the University of Pittsburgh, transfer students undergo an admissions review, in which a committee evaluates previously-earned credits and decides which should transfer. The University’s transfer credit and GPA guidelines give applicants an idea of what each program requires, although the committee makes all final decisions.

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How Much More Do College Grads in Pennsylvania Make?

While Pennsylvania residents working in jobs that require college degrees generally enjoy higher salaries than those without, individuals with bachelor’s degrees may reap the greatest benefits from higher education in the state. On average, careers requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Pennsylvania make an average of $33,000 more per year those working in jobs that require only a high school diploma. It is important to note that some professions are more lucrative than others, and the data below represents the combined average earnings for all occupations.

Mean Annual Salary for All Occupations in Pennsylvania by Degree Level:

No Formal
High School
$33,443 $44,190 $57,196 $77,151 $76,695 $111,470

Many exciting and fulfilling occupations require a bachelor’s degree, and online education can open up a world of new job opportunities. For example, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum qualification needed to take on roles in public relations, social services and applications development. Despite this, the percentage of Pennsylvania residents with only a high school education is slightly larger than the national average, allowing college-educated Pennsylvanians to stand out in the job market.

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The Impact of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania

As online learning continues to grow in popularity, accreditation is more important than ever. In a state full of great universities, it is easy to become overwhelmed by so many opportunities. Accreditation makes it easier to narrow your options and helps to ensure that you select a quality Pennsylvania school.

The Importance of Regional Accreditation

When it comes to campus, blended or online learning, regional accreditation signifies quality. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes six regional accrediting agencies, with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) overseeing the colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. Both Temple University and Villanova University, for example, are accredited by the MSCHE. When you’re researching and narrowing down your online college choices, make sure every school on your shortlist has regional accreditation.

Programmatic Accreditation

Although the University of Pittsburgh holds regional accreditation from the MSCHE, many of the university’s individual programs hold programmatic accreditations. The bachelor’s in nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, and the law program is accredited by the American Bar Association’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Both programs are offered online as well as on campus.

Paying for Online College in Pennsylvania: Tuition & Financial Aid

While student debt is a serious issue for students nationwide, Pennsylvania residents have greater reason for concern. The state’s student loan debt rates are second-highest in the country, with the average 2017 graduate leaving school with $36,000 in debt. That said, a college degree is often the ticket to a fast-growing, higher-paying occupation in the state. Online universities in Pennsylvania have made it easier for students to save on traditionally campus-based costs, such as room, board, parking and related fees.

Let’s take a look at how online learning costs compare to traditional on-campus options.

  • The University of Pittsburgh’s tuition rates vary by program. However, the School of Education charges $18,130 for full-time, in-state students, versus $920 per credit online. An online student with a 15-credit course load would pay only $13,800. Out-of-state learners who study on campus pay $31,102, making online education an even better deal for candidates outside of Pennsylvania.

  • Slippery Rock University charges slightly separate rates for in-state and out-of-state online tuition. Pennsylvania residents pay $322 per online credit hour or $3,858 for 12 hours. Tuition for out-of-state students is $328 per credit or $3,935 for 12 hours.

  • Tuition rates at Temple University vary according to degree. The Fox School of Business and Management charges in-state students $10,308, which increases to $18,276 for those residing out of state. Online students pay $595 per credit regardless of residency, or $8,925 for 15 credit hours.

Online learning is convenient as well as affordable. Many distance learners continue to work as they study, which provides additional funding and helps keep students out of debt.

Still wondering about the cost of attending school online in Pennsylvania? Here are answers to a few more common questions about tuition and residency requirements.

What are Pennsylvania’s requirements to qualify for in-state university tuition?

To qualify for in-state tuition in Pennsylvania, students must meet the requirements laid out in Pennsylvania Code –35.29b. Candidates must have resided in the state for at least one year prior to the term’s start. Special exemptions may be made for those who do not meet this requirement, but are government employees or dependents of Pennsylvania residents.

Are online credits more affordable in Pennsylvania than other places?

While costs vary from school to school, Pennsylvania tuition rates tend to be higher, on average, than those in other states. In-state tuition tends to cost around $15,000, compared to $16,070 in New Hampshire and $5,220 in Wyoming. When exploring the cost of attendance at online schools in Pennsylvania, it helps to compare per-credit costs against other web-based programs. At $328 per credit hour, Slippery Rock’s online tuition rates compare favorably to Arizona State University’s online undergraduate tuition, which costs between $520 and $728 per credit hour.

How can I get help paying for online college in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania sponsors several grants administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). PHEAA serves as a portal for students seeking financial aid. While assistance is available for online learners, PHEAA cautions that students earning more than half of their credits through distance education may receive a reduced award.

One major funding opportunity for Pennsylvania students is the Pennsylvania State Grant Program, which provides awards to qualifying state residents each year. Grant amounts vary between candidates, and eligibility is based on both need and academic performance. These grants do not need to be repaid. However, qualifying students must obtain at least half of their course credits through classroom learning.

Some grant and loan programs are intended for Pennsylvania residents who fall into certain demographics. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts issues grants of up to $20,000 for qualifying students. Undergraduates who previously participated in the state’s foster program may also be eligible for a Pennsylvania Chafee Education and Training Grant of up to $3,000. Children of firefighters, police and other public servants may qualify for the Pennsylvania Postsecondary Education Gratuity Program.

In addition to loans and grants, prospective students should explore specialized financial assistance opportunities at their chosen school. The University of Pennsylvania provides information regarding institutional grants and scholarships on the school’s financial aid page.

As in most states, Pennsylvania students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access federal financial aid opportunities. PHEAA directs students to its own FAFSA page, which walks students through the application process. PHEAA also offers assistance for candidates interested in applying to the state grant program.

Online Education & Adult Education in Pennsylvania

Often working hand in hand, adult education programs can provide the path to a college degree that many non-traditional students in Pennsylvania are looking for. A vast majority of adult education participants are between the ages of 25 and 44, which includes many working adults, parents and seniors who set their college aspirations aside for other priorities earlier in life, but still have a desire to earn a college education.

If you’re preparing for college in Pennsylvania, here are some types of adult education programs that could help you get started:

Academic Readiness:
Career Resources:
More than 21,000 students participated in adult education in 2016. Of those 21,000 learners, more than 45 percent made measurable skill gains, which was far ahead of the state’s goal.

Students can search for these and more adult education programs in their neighborhood thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

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