In recent years, online enrollment in Virginia’s higher learning institutions has increased significantly. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the proportion of students enrolled in distance courses rose by more than one percent from 2014 to 2015, growing from 34.7% to 35.9%. From 2014 to 2015, the number of undergraduates enrolled in Virginia colleges’ online degree programs grew by over 4,000.
The State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, a government body dedicated to advancing postsecondary education in the state, helped to increase online enrollment. In 2014, the council introduced the Virginia Plan for Higher Education, which aims to increase affordable higher learning options for nontraditional and returning students.
This guide covers essential topics for students considering an online education in Virginia. Below, you will find important information on higher learning institutions, college tuition, and financial aid options in the state. In addition, this guide explores the overall state of online learning in Virginia compared with the rest of the country. For those considering working in Virginia after graduation, this guide outlines the state’s most important industries and fastest growing jobs.
A Brief Overview of Higher Education in Virginia
According to the NCES, a government body that gathers data on U.S. schools, Virginia boasts 131 degree-granting higher education institutions. The NCES tallied a total of 40 public institutions, 43 nonprofit institutions, and 48 for-profit schools. These numbers encompass all types of degree-granting schools, including two-year community colleges, four-year universities, and special focus schools.
Of the nearly 20 million students enrolled at degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the U.S., over 557,000 study in Virginia. While total college enrollment in some states has dropped by more than 20%, enrollment at higher education institutions in Virginia has held steady since 2010. Actually, the number of students studying at colleges and universities in Virginia increased by over 180,000 since 2000.
- 40 public
- 38 non-profit
- 48 for-profit
The College Board reports that average tuition and fees at Virginia’s public, four-year universities for the 2018-2019 school year reached $13,490 for in-state students. Average in-state tuition at public, two-year colleges reached $5,127 during the same period. In addition, the College Board found that, for the 2018-2019 academic year, tuition and fees at the University of Virginia totaled $16,520 for Virginia residents and $47,562 for out-of-state students.
In terms of Virginia’s public financial aid programs, the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs revealed that the state awarded $90.6 million in non-need based grants and $365.2 million in need-based aid for the 2015-2016 school year. This represents a more than $200 million increase in need-based aid since the 2013-2014 academic year.
The State of Online Higher Education in Virginia
According to data from the NCES, 204,637 students in Virginia incorporate at least one online course into their postsecondary education. This translates to around 36% of the total postsecondary enrollment in Virginia, considerably higher than the national average of 29.7%. Approximately 115,570 students in Virginia (20.3% of the total enrollment) take all of their coursework through distance education programs. Undergraduates comprise around 65% of the strictly online learners in the state. Of those online students, 45.8% reside in Virginia — less than the national in-state average of 55.1%.
The number of graduate students in Virginia enrolled in at least one online course grew by around 5,000 from 2012 to 2015, due in part to efforts from organizations such as Electronic Campus of Virginia (ECVA) and Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS). ECVA, an association of 10 prominent Virginia universities, aims to enhance and improve online education across member institutions. Member schools research statewide education and technology programs and then collaborate to advance their online offerings. EVCA also hosts events that allow leaders in higher education to come together and share ideas.
VCCS, an alliance of the state’s community colleges, provides information to prospective community college students. Through the VCCS website, prospective students can learn about programs, tuition, transfer policies, and resources at 23 community colleges across the state. In addition, students can research online college courses in Virginia and distance enrollment at various schools.
Tuition Breaks for Out-of-State Students
Online programs often appeal to students who wish to attend college in another state. Some universities allow distance students to pay in-state tuition regardless of where they live. In addition, organizations such as the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) enable out-of-state learners to save on tuition costs while studying at a Virginia college online.
The SREB, a nonprofit coalition established in 1948, seeks to enhance public education across its 16 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Through SREB’s programs, out-of-state students do not need to choose the cheapest online college in Virginia to obtain an affordable education.
Through SREB’s Academic Common Market initiative, college students living in member states can pay in-state tuition at participating institutions across 15 states. The Academic Common Market/Electronic Campus (ACM/EC) program allows online students to pay in-state tuition rates at hundreds of approved undergraduate and graduate distance education programs. Online learners may take advantage of the ACM/EC program if in-state schools do not offer their desired academic program.
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 their services for distance students and their most 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||$$$$$||1827 University Avenue|
Charlottesville, VA 22903-2628
The Charlottesville-based University of Virginia was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. The school offers students the opportunity to earn recognized degrees through its online programs. Online students can pursue bachelor’s programs in interdisciplinary studies and health sciences management. Both programs accept transfer students, who enter as third-year students and must complete at least 60 credit hours. They also require online students to attend an on-campus orientation prior to beginning studies.
Students can earn undergraduate or graduate certificates in 13 disciplines, including accounting, information technology, public administration, project management, human resource management, health sciences, and others. Coursework is completed entirely online or in blended formats that combine online and face-to-face learning. Online courses are delivered through the school’s UVaCollab digital platform. Students have the option to complete their coursework synchronously or asynchronously. The school recommends setting aside 10-15 hours a week for homework.
|2||George Mason University||Fairfax||$$$$$||4400 University Dr|
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444
George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public research institution, is located in the Fairfax County suburbs of the District of Columbia. The school is well-known for its business, computer science, creative writing, economics, and law programs. George Mason is home to two recent winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Online students can pursue more than 50 fully online and hybrid programs, with hybrid programs consisting of at least 51 percent online learning. Certificate and degree programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
All graduating students from online programs receive a regular George Mason University diploma, with no mention of the virtual or hybrid format. George Mason is also one of the rare online colleges in Virginia with options for international students. Learners from outside the United States have no face-to-face attendance restrictions if they are enrolled in hybrid programs.
|3||Liberty University||Lynchburg||$$$$$||1971 University Blvd|
Lynchburg, VA 24515
Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, is the world’s largest Christian institution of higher learning, with tuition rates that rank among the lowest in the nation. Online students pay the same affordable tuition rates regardless of whether they are in-state or out-of-state. Liberty offers more than 250 online programs leading to certificates and degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. These factors combine to make it one of the leading online schools in VA.
Liberty was one of the first colleges in the United States to embrace the potential of online learning, with a distance education history dating back to 1985. Online applicants must have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 in all previously completed college or high school coursework. Liberty maintains an inclusive, accessible military admissions policy, offering tuition discounts, book vouchers, and a wide range of other liaison and support services to students with backgrounds in the armed forces.
|4||Old Dominion University||Norfolk||$$$$$||5115 Hampton Blvd|
Norfolk, VA 23529
Old Dominion University is considered one of the most reputable online colleges in VA. The school’s 2015-16 student satisfaction survey found that 96% of Old Dominion online students were “very satisfied” with their overall experience. Dozens of online programs are available at all levels, including synchronous and asynchronous options. Synchronous courses are streamed live in real time through a web conferencing platform, enabling person-to-person interaction between the instructor, in-class students, and online students. Asynchronous courses have few real-time meetings, with students having the option to complete coursework on a regular or accelerated schedule.
Out-of-state students are eligible for online study with tuition rates that are less than 10% higher than on-campus students. Applicants in the Virginia community college system and Old Dominion’s partner schools in Arizona and Washington State are eligible for guaranteed acceptance, which includes a student-friendly transfer credit system.
|5||Averett University - Non-Traditional Programs||Danville||$$$$$||420 W Main St|
Danville, VA 24541
Located in Danville, Virginia, Averett University is one of the top online colleges in VA for students seeking placement in advanced graduate and professional programs. The online programs are offered through the school’s non-traditional administrative stream. Five program areas are offered: business, criminal justice, education, leadership, and nursing. All online programs are asynchronous, delivering 24/7 access that allows students to complete their coursework on a flexible schedule.
Averett maintains a transfer credit evaluation system that gives students and applicants access to dedicated admissions counselors. Military service, CLEP and DSST tests, and courses completed at regionally accredited colleges and universities may be eligible for credit. Averett welcomes online international students to its master of business administration program at tuition rates that compare favorably to those paid by domestic online MBA students.
|6||Hampton University||Hampton||$$$$$||E Queen Street|
Hampton, VA 23668-0099
Hampton University is a historically black school with a past that dates back to the Civil War era. The school was founded as an institution for educating recently emancipated slaves.
Hampton’s online courses include a range of options, including undergraduate and graduate religious studies programs. Other programs include business management and counseling. The school is consistently rated among the best historically black higher learning institutions in the United States. Online students receive access to resources and support services. Out-of-state students pay the same tuition rates as in-state students, but applicants from outside Virginia are encouraged to consult Hampton’s state authorization page to ensure they are eligible to apply. The university also offers a generous reentry scholarship program, which is available to students whose educations was interrupted for reasons beyond their control and are returning to undergraduate studies after an absence of five years.
|7||Virginia Commonwealth University||Richmond||$$$$$||910 W Franklin St|
Richmond, VA 23284-2512
Founded in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University is a leading public research university with a top designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. It is considered to be one of the most innovative online colleges in Virginia, making use of several delivery modes. These include synchronous and asynchronous combinations of online and in-class learning, entirely online courses, and courses that exclusively use video conferencing technologies.
The school’s catalogue of online programs includes a master of arts in homeland security and emergency preparedness and a master of education in sports leadership. The National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements officially recognizes out-of-state students from all U.S. states and territories, except California, Florida, Massachusetts, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Financial aid is available to all students accepted to online programs.
|8||Regent University||Virginia Beach||$$$$$||1000 Regent University Dr|
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
Located in Virginia Beach, Regent University is one of the only Christian online colleges in Virginia. Distance learners can choose from more than 60 online programs, this includes undergraduate and graduate degrees. Degrees are offered in the fields of business, film and animation, information systems technology, international studies, and more. Courses are taken in an eight-week format.
Regent is one of only 23 universities in the entire country to earn an “A” grade from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The university’s eight-week class schedules make it easy to balance continuing education with existing career and life commitments. The school’s online courses are delivered through the Blackboard platform. In-state or out-of-state status does not change the tuition rate. Forty four percent of graduates received a promotion or found a new job.
|9||Averett University||Danville||$$$$$||420 W Main St|
Danville, VA 24541
As one of the leading online colleges in VA, Averett University has embraced the Moodle digital learning platform, incorporating it into almost all of the school’s educational initiatives. Almost all of the courses in the graduate and professional studies lineup make full or partial use of virtual or hybrid learning formats. Averett is also home to the IDEAL Program, which is designed for adult learners seeking to complete undergraduate degrees entirely online. Students in the IDEAL Program qualify for discounted tuition rates, which are the same for in-state and out-of-state learners.
Admissions requirements for transfer students include a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 in all previously completed courses. Undergraduates applying directly out of high school must have a GPA of at least 2.5, with a minimum total SAT score of 850 (and at least a 370 SAT reading score).
|10||Bluefield College||Bluefield||$$$$$||3000 College Dr|
Bluefield, VA 24605
Bluefield College, one of the most popular online colleges in Virginia for business, criminal justice, management, and nursing, is a liberal arts institution with a strong Christian focus. The school offers 10 online programs. Graduates enjoy strong job earnings, with a recent State Council of Higher Education for Virginia survey finding that Bluefield alumni had salaries 20.4 percent higher than the statewide average for college graduates. Online program include education, management and leadership, human services, and entrepreneurship and small business management.
Bluefield is a leading provider of advanced education for veterans and members of the armed forces. The school maintains a dedicated Veteran Services department, and certifies students through participation in a wide range of military programs. Classes begin every eight weeks, delivering students accelerated paths to degree completion, which can be earned in 13 months.
|11||Virginia State University||Petersburg||$$$$$||1 Hayden Drive|
Petersburg, VA 23806
One of few historically black online colleges in Virginia, VSU Online has brokered a bilateral partnership with Ed4Online to build one of the most extensive virtual career training institutions in the state. The school’s online programs are offered in four major areas: behavioral health training, career training, business, and personal enrichment. Many graduates are prepared for work in counseling, education, health care, information technology, law, skilled trades, and more.
Students gain full access to the Ed4Online platform through a single login ID, facilitating asynchronous learning. All online students receive access to library resources, which are accessible through the Petersburg campus and through the school’s online university libraries interface. Personal enrichment courses are offered in writing and publishing, photography, outdoor sports, and more.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Virginia
Below you’ll find the best online colleges in VA, sorted by affordability.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Virginia Commonwealth University||Richmond||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Virginia University of Lynchburg||Lynchburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing||Richmond||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Sentara College of Health Sciences||Chesapeake||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Hampton University||Hampton||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||Norfolk State University||Norfolk||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Old Dominion University||Norfolk||School profile||$$$$$|
|8||George Mason University||Fairfax||School profile||$$$$$|
|9||University of Virginia||Charlottesville||School profile||$$$$$|
|10||Regent University||Virginia Beach||School profile||$$$$$|
|11||Liberty University||Lynchburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|12||Bluefield College||Bluefield||School profile||$$$$$|
|13||Averett University||Danville||School profile||$$$$$|
|14||Shenandoah University||Winchester||School profile||$$$$$|
Job Outlook for College Graduates in Virginia
Students attending accredited online colleges in Virginia can expect ample job opportunities in the state after graduation. Virginia boasts a 3.0% unemployment rate, significantly lower than the national rate of 3.7%. In addition, workers in Virginia enjoy higher-than-average annual salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual mean wage in Virginia is around $54,000, over $3,000 more than the national average of $50,620.
However, job outlook and salary depend heavily on a student’s particular degree and qualifications. Students looking to attend Virginia college online programs should consider that the state’s key industries include corporate services, information technology, and supply chain management. Virginia boasts a high concentration of tech workers, the third largest port on the East Coast, and a thriving manufacturing sector.
Scholarships and Financial Aid in Virginia
Jefferson Scholars Foundation Scholarship
Students must be nominated by their secondary school and must show exceptional academic and leadership abilities. Recipients attend the University of Virginia with a full scholarship.
Bluefield Rotary Club Scholarship for Online Learners
Must be an online student pursuing an undergraduate degree at Bluefield College. Applicants must maintain a 2.0 GPA and must study full time.
Lee-Jackson Foundation Scholarship
Must be a student at a Virginia public high school, private school, or home school who plans on attending an accredited U.S. university full-time.
Davenport Leadership Scholarship
Incoming freshmen at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering may apply for this scholarship. Students can renew the awards, which are distributed based on academic merit.
Lincoln-Lane Foundation Scholarship
High school or college students residing in the Tidewater area of Virginia may apply. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Leo Bourassa Scholarship
Must be an undergraduate or graduate student at an accredited Virginia institution to apply. Students must attend a program related to water resources. Acceptable fields of study include biology, conservation, and engineering.
Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program
Must be the child or spouse of a deceased or disabled military service member to apply. Applicants must reside in Virginia and must attend a public institution in the state.
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.
Franklin D. Boyce Scholarship
Residents of the City of Hopewell and several other areas in Virginia may apply. Applicants must choose a health-related undergraduate major, demonstrate financial need, and hold a 3.0 GPA.
Roothbert Fund Scholarships
The Roothbert Fund prefers spiritually inclined applicants who plan to work in education. Applicants must reside in one of 16 states, including Virginia.
Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program
Must attend a higher education institution in Virginia as an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student to apply. Applicants must be earning a degree in an area other than religious training or theology.
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