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.
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.
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.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||Cost||Address & Contact Info||School Links||Acclaim for Online Programs||School Description|
|1||Washington State University||Pullman||$$$$$||French Administration Building|
Pullman, WA 99164-5910
Washington State University is located in Pullman and offers 12 online master’s degrees and 10 online undergraduate degrees. WSU’s newest degree programs include a BS in economics and a master’s in software engineering; a new data analytics BS program will also be debuting in the fall of 2017. Additionally, WSU’s Global Campus offers 12 certificate programs and three online teaching endorsement programs. These offerings are all designed for part-time students.
Most online courses last either seven or 16 weeks, although WSU has a three-week winter session and a three-week intersession. Courses are delivered through Blackboard and are conducted completely online, unless otherwise specified.
Global Campus students have their own student government, which hosts face-to-face events and annual parties in Tacoma, Seattle, and Pullman. The group advocates for distance students and builds a sense of community among online learners. WSU’s online students pay the same tuition as on-campus students.
|2||Central Washington University||Ellensburg||$$$$$||400 East University Way|
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7501
Central Washington University is located in Ellensburg and graduates roughly 3,000 students each year from its five colleges; about 10% of these graduates are online students. CWU offers over 135 majors at its seven university centers, including courses in music, geology, paramedicine, physics, and education.
CWU online offerings include eight master’s degree programs, 10 certificates, and 17 minor programs, some of which can be completed in just two summers. It has 10 bachelor’s degree programs, including a paramedic hybrid program designed for students who are already certified and want to complete their bachelor’s degree. It also offers a bachelor’s in aviation management, which is the only fully-accredited public university program of its type in the Pacific Northwest. Students use state-of-the-art flight simulation equipment, and the school has direct hiring agreements with almost a dozen airlines. All of CWU’s programs for distance learners can be completed entirely online, with the exception of the online paramedicine program and the two health-related master’s programs. Additionally, out-of-state students enrolled in one of CWU’s fully-online degree programs pay the same tuition as in-state students.
|3||City University of Seattle||Seattle||$$$$$||521 Wall Street, Suite 100|
Seattle, WA 98121
City University of Seattle offers a diverse range of distance learning programs including 15 undergraduate degrees, 20 graduate degrees, two doctorate degrees, 16 certificates, and six endorsements.
Bachelor’s programs at this online college in Washington include applied psychology, where students select from three areas of focus: child and adolescent services, criminal behavior, and gerontology. This degree can be earned within three years. Additionally, the school’s bachelor’s in applied computing program is modeled after certificate programs for Cisco certified network associates, Microsoft certified systems engineers, and certified information systems security professionals. This degree can be earned in just 2.5 years.
Most bachelor’s programs require 180 credits, which students can earn online, onsite (with day, night, and weekend classes), a hybrid format, or with a regional cohort model. This model is an unusual option among online schools in Washington; students view lectures online and then spend in-class time on projects and discussions. Classes are held at various sites and students are paired with others in their area to form a regional cohort.
|4||Western Washington University||Bellingham||$$$$$||516 High Street|
Bellingham, WA 98225-9008
Western Washington University caters to residents on the Kitsap and Olympic peninsulas and other underserved parts of Washington state. Located in Bellingham, this institution offers more than 100 online courses across 11 disciplines. Some courses are term-based and follow a quarterly schedule with specific assignment due dates; these may or may not be taught synchronously. Most term-based courses are taught through the Canvas learning management system. Other classes are self-paced but must be completed within a period of six months.
Western’s teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) certificate program is a standout among online schools in Washington. TESOL is a blended learning program that is designed for students who want to work abroad teaching English or providing humanitarian aid.
Western offers one online undergraduate program: a bachelor’s of arts in human services. This program prepares students for careers as grant writers, youth workers, and fundraisers. Students supplement their distance learning courses with supervised fieldwork over the course of three required internships. Students need 180 credits in total to graduate, and they may transfer up to 104 credits from a community college.
|5||Heritage University||Toppenish||$$$$$||3240 Fort Rd|
Toppenish, WA 98948
Heritage University is located 20 miles southeast of Yakima and provides quality educations to multicultural populations that have been educationally isolated. One of the distinctive services that makes Heritage one of the top online colleges in Washington is its college assistance migrant program, which helps first-year college students from migrant and seasonal farm worker families by providing personalized advising and peer mentoring.
Heritage offers bachelor’s and master’s programs in English with focuses on literature, writing, and preparation for teaching certification. Graduates may become journalists, editors, copywriters, researchers, grant writers, or instructors. There are also online master’s programs in educational administration and the ProTeach program, which is for teachers with residency teacher certificates who require second-level certification. Graduates are prepared to assume leadership roles in the classroom. Multiculturalism is a part of every course in every discipline.
As opposed to relying solely on a student’s previous grades, applicants to Heritage are evaluated based on their eagerness to learn and their potential to benefit from an educational program.
|6||Northwest University||Kirkland||$$$$$||5520 108th Ave NE|
Kirkland, WA 98083-0579
Northwest University is a non-profit Christian university based in Kirkland. It also has locations in Sacramento, California and Salem, Oregon. NU’s main campus is surrounded by several high-tech companies, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, which increases the employment prospects of its graduates.
NU offers over 75 associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Distance learners seeking to attend an online college in Washington can enroll in one of NU’s six bachelor’s and six master’s degree programs. The school also has two associate programs.
Its 120-credit bachelor’s degree programs include a bachelor’s in ministry leadership, which has classes such as Corinthian correspondence and effective preaching. The bachelor’s in public safety administration covers management and crisis intervention, while students pursuing the bachelor’s in psychology study lifespan psychology and theories of personality. Online courses use the Moodle learning platform.
Most Affordable Online Colleges in Washington
Below, you’ll find the most affordable online colleges in WA, sorted by annual tuition rates.
|Rank||School Name||School Logo||City||School Link||Cost|
|1||Peninsula College||Port Angeles||School profile||$$$$$|
|2||Faith Evangelical College & Seminary||Tacoma||School profile||$$$$$|
|3||Eastern Washington University||Cheney||School profile||$$$$$|
|4||Central Washington University||Ellensburg||School profile||$$$$$|
|5||Washington State University||Pullman||School profile||$$$$$|
|6||City University of Seattle||Seattle||School profile||$$$$$|
|7||Heritage University||Toppenish||School profile||$$$$$|
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.
Find Schools in Washington
Explore accredited online colleges with our comprehensive database of online programs. Sort the results based on criteria like degree level and location.Start Your Search