In an effort to give Washington’s postsecondary students cutting edge online educational opportunities, the state formed the Washington Student Achievement Council, a cabinet-level agency, in July 2012. The council’s mission was to develop a ten-year roadmap proposing goals and resources to strengthen postsecondary education in the state. In its December 2015 progress report, the council announced its vision to see 70% of Washington residents between the ages of 25 and 44 achieve a postsecondary degree by the year 2023. Through research, strategic planning, oversight, and advocacy programs, the nine-member Council works tirelessly to enhance online student success.
But before we dive into our list of best online colleges in Washington for 2017, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Washington today.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Washington
In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that Washington had 87 degree-granting institutions, broken down as follows: 43 public schools, 24 nonprofits and 20 for-profits. The total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the ’12-’13 school year at these schools was: 24,649 at public schools, 7,293 at private nonprofits and 747 at private for-profits.
- 43 public
- 24 non-profit
- 20 for-profit
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 $10,290, while the out-of-state average was $28,830.
As further evidence of the state’s commitment to higher education, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs (NASSGAP) reported that Washington awarded $354.3 million in need-based grants and only $0.5 million in non-need grants for the ’13-’14 school year. Grants make up 22.6% of the state’s total fiscal support for higher education. The percentage of state funds directed to educational incentives is evidence of a state focused on its resident students.
The State of Online Higher Education in Washington
Washington is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), which makes it easier for students living in one state to participate in distance learning programs offered by universities in another. SARA is overseen by a National Council and administered by four regional education compacts.
Washington is also part of the SARA regional education compact known as the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). The WICHE Internet Course Exchange (ICE) offers opportunities for Washington state residents, through their local college or university, to access high quality programs offered by member institutions in other states at the lower Washington tuition rates.
But WICHE offers much more than access to online programs in other states. It offers initiatives focused on financial aid, workforce policies, and specific areas of study. For instance, the Consortium for Healthcare Education Online (CHEO) provides funding for online science labs allowing healthcare students to conduct science experiments in a virtual setting. Washington has also been an active participant in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), a leading force in the development and advocacy of technology in education.
The NCES estimates that at least 6.7% of students enrolled in Washington’s Title IV institutions are in fully online programs. Of those, 5.9% were reported to be undergraduates and 32.8% were found to be living in Washington.
Best Online Colleges in Washington
Below, you will find our rankings of the best online four-year programs in Washington. 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 Washington, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Washington 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||Washington State University||Pullman||$$$$$||French Administration Building|
Pullman, WA 99164-5910
Washington State University is located in Pullman and offers 12 online master’s degrees and 10 online undergraduate degrees. WSU’s newest degree programs include a BS in economics and a master’s in software engineering; a new data analytics BS program will also be debuting in the fall of 2017. Additionally, WSU’s Global Campus offers 12 certificate programs and three online teaching endorsement programs. These offerings are all designed for part-time students.
Most online courses last either seven or 16 weeks, although WSU has a three-week winter session and a three-week intersession. Courses are delivered through Blackboard and are conducted completely online, unless otherwise specified.
Global Campus students have their own student government, which hosts face-to-face events and annual parties in Tacoma, Seattle, and Pullman. The group advocates for distance students and builds a sense of community among online learners. WSU’s online students pay the same tuition as on-campus students.
|2||Central Washington University||Ellensburg||$$$$$||400 East University Way|
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7501
Central Washington University is located in Ellensburg and graduates roughly 3,000 students each year from its five colleges; about 10% of these graduates are online students. CWU offers over 135 majors at its seven university centers, including courses in music, geology, paramedicine, physics, and education.
CWU online offerings include eight master’s degree programs, 10 certificates, and 17 minor programs, some of which can be completed in just two summers. It has 10 bachelor’s degree programs, including a paramedic hybrid program designed for students who are already certified and want to complete their bachelor’s degree. It also offers a bachelor’s in aviation management, which is the only fully-accredited public university program of its type in the Pacific Northwest. Students use state-of-the-art flight simulation equipment, and the school has direct hiring agreements with almost a dozen airlines. All of CWU’s programs for distance learners can be completed entirely online, with the exception of the online paramedicine program and the two health-related master’s programs. Additionally, out-of-state students enrolled in one of CWU’s fully-online degree programs pay the same tuition as in-state students.
|3||City University of Seattle||Seattle||$$$$$||521 Wall Street, Suite 100|
Seattle, WA 98121
City University of Seattle offers a diverse range of distance learning programs including 15 undergraduate degrees, 20 graduate degrees, two doctorate degrees, 16 certificates, and six endorsements.
Bachelor’s programs at this online college in Washington include applied psychology, where students select from three areas of focus: child and adolescent services, criminal behavior, and gerontology. This degree can be earned within three years. Additionally, the school’s bachelor’s in applied computing program is modeled after certificate programs for Cisco certified network associates, Microsoft certified systems engineers, and certified information systems security professionals. This degree can be earned in just 2.5 years.
Most bachelor’s programs require 180 credits, which students can earn online, onsite (with day, night, and weekend classes), a hybrid format, or with a regional cohort model. This model is an unusual option among online schools in Washington; students view lectures online and then spend in-class time on projects and discussions. Classes are held at various sites and students are paired with others in their area to form a regional cohort.
|4||Western Washington University||Bellingham||$$$$$||516 High Street|
Bellingham, WA 98225-9008
Through WesternOnline, Western Washington University caters to residents on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas and other underserved parts of Washington state. Located in Bellingham, this institution offers more than 100 online courses across 11 disciplines. Some courses are term-based and follow a quarterly schedule with specific assignment due dates; these may or may not be taught synchronously. Most term-based courses are taught through the Canvas learning management system. Other classes are self-paced but must be completed within a period of six months.
Western’s teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) certificate program is a standout among online schools in Washington. TESOL is a blended learning program that is designed for students who want to work abroad teaching English or providing humanitarian aid.
Western offers one online undergraduate program: a bachelor’s of arts in human services. This program prepares students for careers as grant writers, youth workers, and fundraisers. Students supplement their distance learning courses with supervised fieldwork over the course of three required internships. Students need 180 credits in total to graduate, and they may transfer up to 104 credits from a community college.
|5||Heritage University||Toppenish||$$$$$||3240 Fort Rd|
Toppenish, WA 98948
Heritage University is located 20 miles southeast of Yakima and provides quality educations to multicultural populations that have been educationally isolated. One of the distinctive services that makes Heritage one of the top online colleges in Washington is its college assistance migrant program, which helps first-year college students from migrant and seasonal farm worker families by providing personalized advising and peer mentoring.
Heritage offers bachelor’s and master’s programs in English with focuses on literature, writing, and preparation for teaching certification. Graduates may become journalists, editors, copywriters, researchers, grant writers, or instructors. There are also online master’s programs in educational administration and the ProTeach program, which is for teachers with residency teacher certificates who require second-level certification. Graduates are prepared to assume leadership roles in the classroom. Multiculturalism is a part of every course in every discipline.
As opposed to relying solely on a student’s previous grades, applicants to Heritage are evaluated based on their eagerness to learn and their potential to benefit from an educational program.
|6||Northwest University||Kirkland||$$$$$||5520 108th Ave NE|
Kirkland, WA 98083-0579
Northwest University is a non-profit Christian university based in Kirkland. It also has locations in Sacramento, California and Salem, Oregon. NU’s main campus is surrounded by several high-tech companies, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, which increases the employment prospects of its graduates.
NU offers over 75 associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Distance learners seeking to attend an online college in Washington can enroll in one of NU’s six bachelor’s and six master’s degree programs. The school also has two associate programs.
Its 120-credit bachelor’s degree programs include a bachelor’s in ministry leadership, which has classes such as Corinthian correspondence and effective preaching. The bachelor’s in public safety administration covers management and crisis intervention, while students pursuing the bachelor’s in psychology study lifespan psychology and theories of personality. Online courses use the Moodle learning platform.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Washington
Below, you’ll find the most affordable online colleges in WA, sorted by annual tuition rates.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Peninsula College||Port Angeles||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Faith Evangelical College & Seminary||Tacoma||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Eastern Washington University||Cheney||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Central Washington University||Ellensburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Washington State University||Pullman||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||City University of Seattle||Seattle||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Heritage University||Toppenish||School profile||$$$$$|
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Washington
Alumni Board Scholarship
Western Washington University’s Alumni Associate offers this scholarship to full-time WWU students and to transfer students entering WWU. Applicants must be undergraduate students with a GPA of 3.10+. Preference will be given to students with financial need, and to those who are active in serving their community.
Central Investment Fund Scholarship
Central Washington University provides this merit-based scholarship to incoming freshmen or transfer students. Applicants must be Washington state residents, have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, and demonstrate leadership and academic potential. Applicants must also have completed a college prep curriculum.
The Chancellor’s Scholarship is available to freshmen entering Saint Martin’s University. Recipients are selected based on high school GPA, class rank, SAT/ACT scores, and leadership or community service. Students receiving this award have an average GPA of 3.86 and SAT score of 1796. The award is $16,000 per year for 4 years.
The Dean’s Scholarship is open to freshmen entering Saint Martin’s University. Recipients are selected based on high school GPA, class rank, SAT/ACT scores, and leadership or community service. Students receiving this award have an average GPA of 3.33 and SAT score of 1504. The award is $14,000 per year for 4 years.
The President’s Scholarship is available to freshmen entering Saint Martin’s University. Recipients are chosen based on high school GPA, class rank, SAT/ACT scores, and leadership or community service. Students receiving this award have an average GPA of 3.62 and SAT score of 1590. The award is $15,000 per year for 4 years.
Western Washington University’s Presidential Scholarship is available to incoming freshmen. Recipients are selected based on academic performance (measured by GPA and SAT/ACT scores). The maximum award is $6,500.
State Need Grant
Provided by the Washington Student Achievement Council, the State Need Grant is available to Washington residents pursuing a bachelor’s, certificate, or associate degree at an approved institution within the state. The award amount varies based on the institution the recipient attends; the maximum award is $10,868 per year.
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