Virginia has long been regarded as the home for storied collegiate institutions and thus quality educations. That tradition now carries over to the state’s considerable selection of fully online four-year programs and courses. Prestigious schools like James Madison, George Mason and Norfolk State all have a host of online programs, be they fully online or a selecting of core courses and electives available online in conjunction with an on-campus curriculum.
But before we look at the best online colleges in Virginia, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Virginia today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Virginia
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Virginia had 132 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 40 public schools, 38 nonprofits and 54 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 35,521 at public schools, 14,695 at private nonprofits and 4,533 at private for-profits.
- 40 public
- 38 non-profit
- 54 for-profit
Overall, Virginia ranks fourth in graduation rates nationwide, with 49.1% of students finishing their degrees in four years, as reported in 2013. A 2012 report conducted by CollegeMeasures.org found that following graduation, “36% of bachelor’s degree graduates are earning a full-time wage and another 13% are enrolled in other higher education programs in Virginia institutions.” The report also went on to say that bachelor’s degree holders in the state make, on average, 67% more than professionals in the state who who only hold a high school diploma or GED.
Tuition-wise, the College Board found that, in the ’15-’16 school year, the average in-state tuition and fees for four-year public schools was $11,820, while the out-of-state average was $30,400.
As for the state’s financial aid efforts, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Virginia awarded $162.2 million in need-based grants and $90.2 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 14.2% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education. Virginia also awarded out $214.9 million in tuition waivers over the same period.
Altogether, Virginia students have a slew of schools to choose from, varied financial support services and incredibly strong graduation rates and job placement stats. The state is well positioned for the next decade in higher education.
The State of Online Higher Education in Virginia
The NCES estimates that at least 18.6% of students enrolled in Virginia’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 67.3% were reported to be undergraduates and 45.2% were found to be living in Virginia, indicating the state does an excellent job of attracting out-of-state distance students.
Two organizations at the forefront of online higher education efforts in Virginia are the Electronic Campus of Virginia (ECVA) and Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS). ECVA is essentially an alliance of 10 public and private institutions in the state that focuses on sharing online education strategies in the hopes of bolstering each school’s offerings. The schools themselves are some of Virginia’s most premier, including UVA, VT, GMU, JMU and William and Mary. The ECVA also serves as a launching point for what it calls “cross-institutional initiatives,” which are essentially opportunities for students to pursue courses and programs remotely at other schools that fall under the ECVA banner. These efforts make it one of the nation’s stand out school-to-school organizations.
The VCCS, meanwhile, functions much like the ECVA but only at the community college level. The organization monitors distance enrollment opportunities at all of its member community colleges, both full programs and individual courses. Students at 24 of Virginia’s community colleges can readily inquire about and pursue distance courses at their fellow VCCS schools. For prospective students, the VCCS site serves as an excellent directory of available programs and courses throughout the community college system of Virginia.
Virginia is also a member of the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus. An initiative that lets students sift through an impressive directory of online programs throughout the southeast U.S. SREB also has strong aid initiatives. Services like the Academic Common Market/Electronic Campus and the Regional Contract Program for Health Professions let students fully enroll in a selection of out-of-state programs while paying in-state rates. While the program selection is small and the admissions criteria strict, for qualified students these are incredible opportunities.
Best Online Colleges in Virginia
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Virginia. Our profiles look at how schools approach online education and then list out their services for distance students and their popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in VA, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Virginia or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||University of Virginia||Charlottesville||$$$$$|
The Charlottesville-based University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. The school offers students the opportunity to earn recognized degrees through its online programs. Online students can pursue bachelor’s programs in interdisciplinary studies and health sciences management. Both programs accept transfer students, who enter as third-year students and must complete at least 60 credit hours. They also require online students to attend an on-campus orientation prior to beginning studies.
Students can earn undergraduate or graduate certificates in 13 disciplines, including accounting, information technology, public administration, project management, human resource management, health sciences, and others. Coursework is completed entirely online or in blended formats that combine online and face-to-face learning. Online courses are delivered through the school’s UVaCollab digital platform. Students have the option to complete their coursework synchronously or asynchronously. The school recommends setting aside 10-15 hours a week for homework.
|2||George Mason University||Fairfax||$$$$$||4400 University Dr|
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444
George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public research institution, is located in the Fairfax County suburbs of the District of Columbia. The school is well-known for its business, computer science, creative writing, economics, and law programs. George Mason is home to two recent winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Online students can pursue more than 50 fully online and hybrid programs, with hybrid programs consisting of at least 51 percent online learning. Certificate and degree programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
All graduating students from online programs receive a regular George Mason University diploma, with no mention of the virtual or hybrid format. George Mason is also one of the rare online colleges in Virginia with options for international students. Learners from outside the United States have no face-to-face attendance restrictions if they are enrolled in hybrid programs.
|3||Liberty University||Lynchburg||$$$$$||1971 University Blvd|
Lynchburg, VA 24515
Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, is the world’s largest Christian institution of higher learning, with tuition rates that rank among the lowest in the nation. Online students pay the same affordable tuition rates regardless of whether they are in-state or out-of-state. Liberty offers more than 250 online programs leading to certificates and degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. These factors combine to make it one of the leading online schools in VA.
Liberty was one of the first colleges in the United States to embrace the potential of online learning, with a distance education history dating back to 1985. Online applicants must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 in all previously completed college or high school coursework. Liberty maintains an inclusive, accessible military admissions policy, offering tuition discounts, book vouchers, and a wide range of other liaison and support services to students with backgrounds in the armed forces.
|4||Old Dominion University||Norfolk||$$$$$||5115 Hampton Blvd|
Norfolk, VA 23529
Old Dominion University is considered one of the most reputable online colleges in VA. The school’s 2015-16 student satisfaction survey found that 96% of Old Dominion online students were “very satisfied” with their overall experience. Dozens of online programs are available at all levels, including synchronous and asynchronous options. Synchronous courses are streamed live in real time through a web conferencing platform, enabling person-to-person interaction between the instructor, in-class students, and online students. Asynchronous courses have few real-time meetings, with students having the option to complete coursework on a regular or accelerated schedule.
Out-of-state students are eligible for online study with tuition rates that are less than 10% higher than on-campus students. Applicants in the Virginia community college system and Old Dominion’s partner schools in Arizona and Washington State are eligible for guaranteed acceptance, which includes a student-friendly transfer credit system.
|5||Averett University - Non-Traditional Programs||Danville||$$$$$||420 W Main St|
Danville, VA 24541
Located in Danville, Virginia, Averett University is one of the top online colleges in VA for students seeking placement in advanced graduate and professional programs. The online programs are offered through the school’s non-traditional administrative stream. Five program areas are offered: business, criminal justice, education, leadership, and nursing. All online programs are asynchronous, delivering 24/7 access that allows students to complete their coursework on a flexible schedule.
Averett maintains a transfer credit evaluation system that gives students and applicants access to dedicated admissions counselors. Military service, CLEP and DSST tests, and courses completed at regionally accredited colleges and universities may be eligible for credit. Averett welcomes online international students to its master of business administration program at tuition rates that compare favorably to those paid by domestic online MBA students.
Hampton University is a historically black school with a past that dates back to the Civil War era. The school was founded as an institution for educating recently emancipated slaves.
Hampton’s online courses include a range of options, including undergraduate and graduate religious studies programs. Other programs include business management and counseling. The school is consistently rated among the best historically black higher learning institutions in the United States. Online students receive access to resources and support services. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition rates as in-state students, but applicants from outside Virginia are encouraged to consult Hampton’s state authorization page to ensure they are eligible to apply. The university also offers a generous reentry scholarship program, which is available to students whose educations was interrupted for reasons beyond their control and are returning to undergraduate studies after an absence of five years.
|7||Virginia Commonwealth University||Richmond||$$$$$|
Founded in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University is a leading public research university with a top designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. It is considered to be one of the most innovative online colleges in Virginia, making use of several delivery modes. These include synchronous and asynchronous combinations of online and in-class learning, entirely online courses, and courses that exclusively use video conferencing technologies.
The school’s catalogue of online programs includes a master of arts in homeland security and emergency preparedness and a master of education in sports leadership. The National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements officially recognizes out-of-state students from all U.S. states and territories, except California, Florida, Massachusetts, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Financial aid is available to all students accepted to online programs.
|8||Regent University||Virginia Beach||$$$$$||1000 Regent University Dr|
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
Located in Virginia Beach, Regent University is one of the only Christian online colleges in Virginia. Distance learners can choose from more than 60 online programs, this includes undergraduate and graduate degrees. Degrees are offered in the fields of business, film and animation, information systems technology, international studies, and more. Courses are taken in an eight-week format.
Regent is one of only 23 universities in the entire country to earn an “A” grade from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The university’s eight-week class schedules make it easy to balance continuing education with existing career and life commitments. The school’s online courses are delivered through the Blackboard platform. In-state or out-of-state status does not change the tuition rate. Forty four percent of graduates received a promotion or found a new job.
|9||Averett University||Danville||$$$$$||420 W Main St|
Danville, VA 24541
As one of the leading online colleges in VA, Averett University has embraced the Moodle digital learning platform, incorporating it into almost all of the school’s educational initiatives. Almost all of the courses in the graduate and professional studies lineup make full or partial use of virtual or hybrid learning formats. Averett is also home to the IDEAL Program, which is designed for adult learners seeking to complete undergraduate degrees entirely online. Students in the IDEAL Program qualify for discounted tuition rates, which are the same for in-state and out-of-state learners.
Admissions requirements for transfer students include a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 in all previously completed courses. Undergraduates applying directly out of high school must have a GPA of at least 2.5, with a minimum total SAT score of 850 (and at least a 370 SAT reading score).
|10||Bluefield College||Bluefield||$$$$$||3000 College Dr|
Bluefield, VA 24605
Bluefield College, one of the most popular online colleges in Virginia for business, criminal justice, management, and nursing, is a liberal arts institution with a strong Christian focus. The school offers 10 online programs. Graduates enjoy strong job earnings, with a recent State Council of Higher Education for Virginia survey finding that Bluefield alumni had salaries 20.4 percent higher than the statewide average for college graduates. Online program include education, management and leadership, human services, and entrepreneurship and small business management.
Bluefield is a leading provider of advanced education for veterans and members of the armed forces. The school maintains a dedicated Veteran Services department, and certifies students through participation in a wide range of military programs. Classes begin every eight weeks, delivering students accelerated paths to degree completion, which can be earned in 13 months.
|11||Virginia State University||Petersburg||$$$$$|
One of few historically black online colleges in Virginia, VSU Online has brokered a bilateral partnership with Ed4Online to build one of the most extensive virtual career training institutions in the state. The school’s online programs are offered in four major areas: behavioral health training, career training, business, and personal enrichment. Many graduates are prepared for work in counseling, education, health care, information technology, law, skilled trades, and more.
Students gain full access to the Ed4Online platform through a single login ID, facilitating asynchronous learning. All online students receive access to library resources, which are accessible through the Petersburg campus and through the school’s online university libraries interface. Personal enrichment courses are offered in writing and publishing, photography, outdoor sports, and more.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Virginia
Below you’ll find the best online colleges in VA, sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Norfolk State University||Norfolk||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Virginia University of Lynchburg||Lynchburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Old Dominion University||Norfolk||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing||Richmond||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Virginia Commonwealth University||Richmond||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||George Mason University||Fairfax||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||University of Virginia||Charlottesville||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||Sentara College of Health Sciences||Chesapeake||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||Hampton University||Hampton||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||Regent University||Virginia Beach||School profile||$$$$$|
|11||Liberty University||Lynchburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|12||Bluefield College||Bluefield||School profile||$$$$$|
|13||Averett University||Danville||School profile||$$$$$|
|14||Shenandoah University||Winchester||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Virginia
AHEPA Scholarship Endowment
The American Hellenic Education Progressive Association is open to students at Christopher Newport University who are majoring in Business Administration. Applicants must be juniors or seniors, with a GPA of 3.0+. Selection is based on academic performance and financial need.
Bluefield College provides the Harman academic scholarship to incoming freshmen based on academic performance. The scholarship will go to the applicant with the most competitive GPA and SAT/ACT scores. Maximum award is $10,000 per year for 4 years.
Lee Jackson Foundation Scholarship
The Lee-Jackson Foundation awards a total of 18 scholarships annually to Virginia high school seniors. Applicants must submit an analytical essay on any aspect of the career, character, or legacy of General Robert E. Lee or General “Stonewall” Jackson. The author of the best-in-state essay will receive the maximum award of $10,000. Runners-up will receive $2,000.
Liberty University Academic Scholarship
Liberty University provides Academic Achievement scholarships to incoming freshmen and transfer students who are Virginia residents. Selection is determined by academic merit; the award amount is calculated based on GPA and ACT/SAT scores (however, ACT/SAT scores are not required for students more than 22 years old).
Lincoln-Lane Foundation Scholarship
Provided by the Lincoln-Lane Foundation, this scholarship is available to high school seniors or undergraduate students who are residents of the Tidewater area of Virginia. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0+ and demonstrate financial need. An interview may be required. The maximum award is $3,000 per year for 4 years.
National Merit Finalist Scholarship
The Liberty University National Merit scholarship is open to National Merit participants who are residents of Virginia, and are entering Liberty University as freshmen. NM Finalists are eligible for full tuition, room and board; Semifinalists and Commended scholars are eligible for full tuition. The duration of the award is 4 years.
National Merit Scholarship
This scholarship is available to National Merit Finalists who select the University of Richmond as their first-choice school. The maximum award is $2,000 per year for 4 years.
Samsung American Legion Scholarship
Provided by the American Legion of Virginia, this scholarship is open to high school juniors who complete a Boys State or Girls State program, and are a direct descendant or legally adopted child of a wartime veteran who is eligible for American Legion membership.
Bluefield College awards the Spire Scholarship to ten incoming freshmen each year. To be eligible, students must have a GPA of 3.5+ and an SAT score of 1180+ (26+ ACT). Two letters of recommendation and an on-campus interview are required. The scholarship amount is $2,000 per student; the awards will be given in addition to other grants or aid.
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