According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Washington state hosts 86 postsecondary educational institutions. Of that number, 26 are four-year public institutions like the University of Washington and Central Washington University, and 23 are four-year nonprofits, including Antioch University and the Art Institute of Seattle. Of the two-year programs, 17 are public, and five are nonprofits; of the 15 for-profit institutions, 11 are four-year and four are two-year programs.
With this wealth of educational opportunities, Washington state is the center of education in the Pacific Northwest, providing students with a variety of training opportunities. Study anything from software development and cybersecurity to healthcare specializations such as chiropractic therapy and dentistry to journalism or linguistics. This page covers online colleges in Washington state, including the best online colleges and the most affordable programs. This is the place to begin your school search.
Before we dive into our list of the best online colleges in Washington for 2018, let’s start with the state of higher education and online education in particular in Washington today.
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A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Washington
The NCES listed 366,162 students in Washington’s post-secondary institutions in 2016, outmatching Oregon numbers by over 100,000 enrollees and Idaho by over 200,000. Washington attracts students because of its reputation as a hub for tech and business. As such, institutions in Washington provide a broad range of degree focuses and technical training programs.
- 43 public
- 28 non-profit
- 15 for-profit
Like the rest of the country, tuition for schools in Washington have doubled since the 2004-2005 academic year. Tuition for a two-year, public program that in 2004 cost $2,482 cost $4,376 in 2017. Similarly, the $4,914 at a four-year Washington institution in 2004 is now $9,480 as of fall 2017. The University of Washington, the state’s flagship university, today costs $10,974 for in-state tuition and $35,538 for out-of-state enrollees. Given the steep cost of an in-state quality education, Washington provides an impressive array of grants and scholarship opportunities.
According to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, in 2016 Washington supplemented the tuition of over 102,000 students through programs such as the Washington State Need Grant program, College Bound scholarships, and work retraining programs. Crucially, the local state legislature just instated new student loan protections and set aside millions of dollars for tuition assistance in spring 2018. All of these endeavors provide more educational opportunities for state residents.
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The State of Online Higher Education in Washington
Of the more than 365,000 students enrolled in Washington state schools in 2015, 21.4% took at least one course online. Though the number of student enrollees in Washington is less than the national average, growth in online coursework exceeds national trends at 18.1% (compared to the nationwide growth of only 11%). Nearly half of the students enrolled in distance learning in Washington take all of their classes online. These statistics indicate online programs in Washington state will continue to increase in popularity.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
Given the dramatic rise in tuition costs, schools and state governments are combining forces to provide funding opportunities and tuition forgiveness. Washington state belongs to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), a consortium of 16 western states and territories, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and U.S. Pacific Territories and Guam. This consortium coalesces resources in order to increase dialogue and degree opportunities between individual public institutions.
The WICHE Out-of-state Tuition Discount Program, also known as the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), guarantees successful applicants a lower out-of-state tuition rate, at no more than 150% of in-state rates. That means a state resident of Idaho or Alaska could attend the University of Washington for, at most, $16,500 in tuition rates and fees, rather than the current out-of-state tuition rate of around $35,500. In the 2017-2018 academic year alone, WICHE saved over $400,000,000 for qualifying western state students. In their efforts to stem financial hardship, WICHE serves undergraduates, graduate students, and professional development programs, and is dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to members of all communities.
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 their services for distance students and their most popular, fully online degrees. After reviewing the best online schools in WA, explore our state resources, like a database of every college and university in Washington or our index of popular in-state scholarships.
|Address & Contact Info
|Acclaim for Online Programs
|Washington State University
|French Administration Building
Pullman, WA 99164-5910
Founded as a land grant university in 1890, WSU boasts a long history of educating students at its Pullman campus. The institution also maintains satellite campuses in Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and Everett. The second largest university in the state, WSU enrolls nearly 25,000 undergraduates. In 2012, the university founded an online education division known as the WSU Global Campus.
WSU Global Campus offers degree seekers more options than other online colleges in Washington state. Undergraduates enrolled in Global Campus courses can pursue degrees in economics, hospitality and business management, human development, and the social sciences. Students may also choose from several business administration majors, including accounting, management, and marketing. In addition, the university offers a variety of online minors, such as biology, criminal justice, business administration, history, and psychology.
Distance learners at WSU also benefit from partnerships with dedicated academic advisers, student services staff, and a student government representing online students' needs and interests. WSU provides online tutoring and writing labs to help students successfully complete their assignments. Candidates can build peer relationships through the university's Global Connections program, which presents webinars and live-streamed events, providing students with a sense of community while earning a degree online.
WSU Global Campus offers master's degrees in engineering, special education, strategic communication, and several other fields. Business students may also pursue an online master's in business administration (MBA) or executive MBA. WSU boasts a strong reputation for agricultural studies programs, offering a web-based master's in agriculture with a food science and management emphasis or a plant health management focus. Many WSU professionals strengthen their skills through the software engineering master's program. While operating on a semester system, WSU Global Campus offers two accelerated three-week sessions in winter and summer, during which students can earn three credits.
|Central Washington University
|400 East University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7501
Located in the scenic Kittitas Valley in Ellensburg, Central Washington University dates back to 1891. The public institution began as a teacher preparation school and today offers more than 130 undergraduate majors and over 35 master's programs. CWU operates campuses in Des Moines, Wenatchee, Yakima, and Lynnwood, with a combined student body of more than 12,000 individuals. CWU also offers hundreds of courses each quarter through its Online Learning division.
Online students at CWU may choose from a variety of fully accredited undergraduate and graduate programs. Intended for incoming students with an associate degree in business, the university's undergraduate business administration program lets candidates earn their degree in as little as five quarters. Professionals interested in Washington's tech industry can pursue an information technology and administrative management degree with specializations in cybersecurity, project management, and retail management.
Online students may also earn bachelor's degrees in sociology, psychology, English, and social services. CWU also offers undergraduate minors in library and information science, project management, public health, information technology, human resource management, and accessibility studies. Most students can complete a minor through one year or two summers of coursework.
CWU graduate students enjoy multiple degree options, including master's in education programs such as school psychology, higher education, and school administration. The one-year information technology and administrative management master's program builds and strengthens tech skills and features specializations in administrative management, cybersecurity, and information technology.
Online students at CWU enjoy access to advising services and tutoring support. Web-based courses use the same quarter system as on-campus classes, and students can enroll in the fall, winter, spring, or summer quarters. CWU prioritizes course scheduling flexibility, which helps students earn their degrees faster. Offering a variety of program options and flexible schedules, CWU ranks as one of the best online colleges in Washington state.
|City University of Seattle
|521 Wall Street, Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98121
A private, nonprofit institution founded in 1973, City University of Seattle enrolls over 6,500 online and on-campus learners. CityU offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in management, education, technology, and the liberal arts. In addition to its Pacific Northwest campuses, the university maintains locations around the world, with campuses in China, Mexico, Switzerland, and Vietnam. CityU prioritizes flexibility, providing on-campus, online, hybrid, and performanced-based program options.
CityU offers multiple online undergraduate and graduate degrees. Distance learners can earn an associate degree in business or a bachelor's degree in business administration. The university also offers programs in education, human services, cybersecurity, and project management. The general studies program appeals to many transfer students with previously earned college credits, and CityU accepts up to 135 transfer credits towards the 180 quarter credits required for a bachelor's degree. In addition to its transfer credit policy, CityU's prior learning assessment program lets undergraduates translate their professional and personal experience into college credits.
Graduate students may pursue a master's in counseling through CityU's hybrid program, a fully online master's in education, or a master's in business administration. Additional master's programs in information security, computer science, project management, and accounting are available online. Unlike many other online colleges in Washington state, CityU offers online doctoral programs, including doctoral degrees in business administration and educational leadership.
CityU maintains a rolling admissions system, allowing prospective students to apply at any time throughout the year. Online courses operate on the quarter system, and some programs let students begin classes at any quarter during the year. CityU's virtual classrooms facilitate interaction between distance learners as they build skills and peer relationships. The university also runs a career center, which helps students and alumni identify job opportunities, strengthen interview skills, and plan their careers.
|Western Washington University
|516 High Street
Bellingham, WA 98225-9008
Overlooking Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands, Western Washington University offers public education in a picturesque Pacific Northwest setting. Founded in 1893 as a teaching school, Western now enrolls around 15,000 undergraduates and offers bachelor's and master's degrees. Located between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, Western is the northernmost university in the contiguous United States. In addition to on-campus programs, the university offers web-based courses and degrees through Western Online.
Undergraduates can earn a teaching English as a second language certificate or pursue a bachelor's in human services online. The human services program emphasizes interdisciplinary skills and concepts such as prevention, problem remediation, and quality of life improvement. The curriculum also incorporates an internship component, allowing candidates to build professional experience. Graduates go on to pursue careers as case managers, youth workers, and advocacy specialists.
Students who live on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas may enroll in Western's online multidisciplinary studies bachelor's program. This program lets students customize their curriculum based on their previously earned college credits. The school offers some degrees in a flexible hybrid format, which appeals to returning students, active military, and veterans. Learners may also enroll in multiple Western Washington online college courses each quarter. Web-based offerings include classes in accounting, economics, education, finance, and music. Instructors present online classes in two formats: term-based classes following Western's quarter schedule or self-paced courses that let students begin learning at any time and complete coursework on their own schedule.
Western provides distance learners with many useful resources, including technology guides, a distance education library, and other student support services. Western also ranks as one of the most affordable online colleges in Washington.
|3240 Fort Rd
Toppenish, WA 98948
Located on the Yakima Indian Reservation in Toppenish, Heritage University dates back to 1907 when the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary founded it as a private religious institution. The university operates 20 departments which confer 40 majors; it offers associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in a multicultural and inclusive environment. While around 1,000 students are enrolled in one of Heritage's traditional, campus-based programs, the university also offers online classes and degrees.
Heritage distance learners may pursue one of three online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The web-based bachelor's degree in English emphasizes critical thinking, interpersonal communication, and multiculturalism -- providing graduates with the skills needed to succeed in a variety of fields. Many graduates go on to seek jobs in education, law, publishing, and business. Online graduate students can earn a master's in educational administration or a master's in English.
The master's in educational administration readies current educators to take on leadership roles at elementary and secondary schools. Course instructors are often school superintendents and principals who provide real-world insight into school administration. Qualified candidates may qualify to earn their degree through an accelerated one year program. Distance learners earning a master's in English acquire knowledge and applied skills crucial to teaching at the secondary and college levels. Developed with working professionals in mind, both programs prioritize flexibility, and online students may access course materials at any time. Heritage also offers flexible hybrid options for students interested in completing part of their degree online.
|5520 108th Ave NE
Kirkland, WA 98083-0579
Situated near the shores of Lake Washington, in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, Northwestern University is a private, religious institution dating back to 1934. Today, the university grants associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. NU undergraduates can choose from over 50 bachelor's programs, including options in nursing, education, business, and pastoral ministries. Graduate programs include management, teaching, theology, and a doctorate in counseling psychology. In addition, the university offers web-based courses through Northwest University Online.
NU offers online degrees at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels. Undergraduate majors include business management, information technology, public safety administration, and organizational leadership, as well as an online registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing program. Master's students can earn online degrees in clinical mental health counseling, education, and nursing, or enroll in NU's web-based master's in business administration program. Created to meet the needs of working professionals, all programs feature flexible schedules and course formats.
In addition, the university offers a variety of web-based theology and religious studies degrees. Distance learners can earn an associate or bachelor's degree in ministry leadership or a master's degree in ministry or Bible and theology. The bachelor's program provides specialized training for candidates seeking church leadership roles and individuals interested in ministering in non-church settings. Degree curricula include courses in biblical studies, theology, and practical ministry.
Online students benefit from NU's extensive technical support services. Required application materials include official transcripts and Test of English as a Foreign Language scores for international students. The school does not charge an application fee. Undergraduates are not required to submit SAT or ACT scores, but may provide them if they wish. Online students are welcome to attend the university's commencement ceremony. Like the other accredited online colleges in Washington state on our list, NU holds regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Washington
Below, you’ll find the most affordable online colleges in WA, sorted by annual tuition rates.
|Faith Evangelical College & Seminary
|Eastern Washington University
|Central Washington University
|Washington State University
|City University of Seattle
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Washington
State unemployment in Washington during 2018 persists at between 4.5% to 4.8%, nearly 1% higher than the national average of 3.9%. Even so, the mean annual wage holds strong at $57,480 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These numbers indicate professional wages for employed Washingtonians are higher than averages of other states, even though more locals are battling unemployment. Through initiatives like WICHE and the WUE, Washington counters these employment issues by providing degrees in popular fields statewide.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Washington
Ajia Matthews Educational Scholarship
For high school graduates in Washington state, the AMES Fund supports students with strong academic backgrounds, with a history of school involvement, leadership, and community service.
Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship
Graduating high school students or current undergraduates of Asian or Pacific Islander descent are invited to apply for the APIAS Fund for undergraduate studies. Must maintain a minimum 2.7 GPA.
Army ROTC Green to Gold Scholarship
Enroll in the ROTC and receive funding for between two to four years of undergraduate education. Applicants must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, and four-year applicants must have a minimum ACT score of 19 or minimum SAT score of 1000.
Better Business Bureau Integrity Scholarship
Designed for high school juniors or seniors residing in the Pacific Northwest, applicants must demonstrate personal integrity through community service and academic accomplishments, and produce a 90-second video on how to prevent harmful business practices.
Education First Scholarship
Designed for low-income high school seniors accepted to accredited post-secondary institutions and trade schools, with preference accorded to first-generation college applicants.
Grieg Lodge Academic Scholarship
For descendants of Norwegian culture and those dedicated to the study of Norway.
Celebrate the West Scholarship
The Western Governors’ Association supports aspiring Northwest artists with this scholarship. Applicants must submit a two-dimensional painting that draws inspiration from Northwest subject matter. First prize wins $1,200.
Pacific Northwest Cancer for College Scholarship
This scholarship specifically supports cancer patients and survivors. Must be enrolled in an accredited college in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or Montana.
Daughters of the Pioneers Scholarship
For descendants of Washington territory pioneers (those who can prove ancestry in Washington prior to or during the 1870s), this scholarship supports juniors and seniors in a four-year institution or graduate students.
Western Chapter Korean American Scholarship
Applicants must be of Korean descent and accepted to an accredited college in the western U.S., with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and of demonstrable financial need.
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