Virginia Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016

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A Guide to Online Colleges in Virginia

From junior colleges to 4-year universities, Virginia offers a wide range of educational institutions. Virginia is home to 18 4-year colleges and universities that offer some type of online or distance education. Virginia ranked 14th in the nation for the most post-secondary institutions, with 173 accredited career schools, colleges and universities in 2013. The state placed 11th nationally for total student volume.

The University of Virginia at Wise (UVa-Wise) offers a variety of online courses to new students and adult learners, and for students interested in obtaining an associate degree, the state is home to 23 community colleges and four adult education centers.

At a Glance: Virginia Beach Colleges and Universities

To understand the educational landscape in Virginia, we’ve taken the pulse of colleges and universities in Virginia Beach, offering both traditional and distance learning.

According to the U.S. Census, Virginia Beach exceeds the national average for higher education; 28.1 percent of its residents over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the national average of 24 percent.

Regent University is one of only 22 universities to receive an “A” rating by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). The university’s School of Law was included in the “Top 10 Faculty in the Nation” list compiled by The Princeton Review (2013). Regent’s Moot Court team was the overall winner for Oxford’s Price Media Law Moot Court Programme in 2014-2015.

Tidewater Community College (TCC), one of 23 colleges that make up the Virginia Community College System, offers numerous degrees in business, nursing, information systems and criminal justice. Virginia Beach is also home to several technical and trade schools, including the Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Center.

Online Learning in Virginia Beach

These Virginia Beach schools also provide online education options for students interested in distance learning. Regent University was named as the eighth best online bachelor’s program for veterans by U.S. News & World Report. The university offers multiple fully-online undergraduate and graduate degrees in a range of academic areas. Classes are delivered and managed through Blackboard learning systems and, on average, consist of 17 online students.

For prospective students earning their 2-year degrees from Virginia Beach, the e-learning program at Tidewater Community College provides a way for non-traditional students to earn their degree from a distance. Students can choose from fully online courses delivered through Blackboard, or hybrid courses that utilize both online coursework and traditional campus meetings.

At the graduate level, Atlantic University offers online graduate degrees and certificates and non-credit continuing education courses for focused career study.

Tuition & Cost of Living in Virginia

By and large, tuition is the largest factor in degree-related expenses. Tuition varies by school and student residency, and residents of Virginia will typically pay less than out-of-state students earning a degree from a Virginia-based university. The average college student in 2012 paid $13,138 per year, placing Virginia at number 19 for the most affordable in-state tuition in the United States.

After tuition and fees, students should factor cost of living into their education budget. On-campus students must pay for room and board, while off-campus students must pay for housing, utilities, food and transportation. Virginia’s cost of living index (COL) is about 4 percent lower than the U.S. average. Below is a regional breakdown of the COL in Virginia’s cities as compared with the national average, represented as 100.

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Martinsville-Henry County -12.9% -22.4% -6.0% -10.9% -17.1% -12.4% -6.8%
Lexington-Buena Vista-Rockbridge -6.3% -2.2% -7.9% -5.7% -8.8% -9.3% -8.3%
Roanoke -5.9% -7.8% -10.3% 4.1% -8.9% -2.1% -5.2%
Blacksburg -5.0% -5.1% -8.5% 2.3% -8.9% -2.5% -4.9%
Lynchburg -4.9% -7.3% -9.3% 9.7% -11.2% 0.1% -4.2%
Staunton-Augusta County -3.8% -6.3% -1.7% 0.0% -5.5% -1.9% -3.4%
Harrisonburg -3.0% -3.2% -2.5% -3.2% -9.6% 0.8% -1.4%
Winchester 2.3% -5.5% 4.6% -1.8% -3.2% 5.0% 10.9%
Richmond 4.5% 3.2% 3.6% 13.9% 0.8% 12.6% 3.2%
Charlottesville 7.0% 22.6% 1.2% 0.8% -9.4% -5.5% 4.0%
Hampton Roads-SE Virginia 11.7% 21.9% 6.6% 8.4% 4.1% 9.6% 8.4%

Students exploring degree options in Virginia should also consider the return on investment (ROI) of each degree plan. ROI considers tuition, fees, potential salary and the odds of finding a job in that career path after graduation. ROI is calculated by subtracting the cost of college from the average lifetime earnings in that career field. The following Virginia colleges offer an RIO higher than their competition:

  1. University of Virginia
  2. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  3. West Virginia University Institute of Technology

Financial Aid and Paying for College in Virginia

For students who aim to reduce their total out-of-pocket expenses for a college degree, multiple financial aid options at the national, state and institution levels are available in Virginia. At the federal level, prospective students can fill out a FAFSA® form to earn need-based funds. About 67 percent of undergraduate students in Virginia received federal aid in 2012.

Scholarships also provide prospective students a means to reduce their total educational costs. Scholarships in Virginia are offered at the university, non-profit, private and federal levels. Here are some of the major establishments offering scholarships to students in Virginia:

  • Carville M. Akehurst Memorial Scholarship
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange
  • Lighthouse Guild
  • Mid-Atlantic Security Traders
  • Virginia Commonwealth
  • Lee-Jackson Educational Foundation
  • Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives

Accreditation Standards in Virginia

Virginia colleges can accept federal scholarships or financial aid only if the college is accredited. Each university must meet certain criteria and quality standards set by a board before they university is deemed accredited. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools serves as the main regional accrediting force in Virginia. Many educational institutions in Virginia also offer specialized accreditation for individual programs, colleges or departments. The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, for example, is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Best Online Colleges in Virginia for 2015-2016

Online learning is featured prominently by many public and private universities in Virginia, allowing students to earn degrees and certificates without ever setting foot on campus. Students who cannot relocate or commute to post-secondary institutions can complete degree and certificate programs from anywhere in Virginia. Among the many schools in the Commonwealth, the following colleges and universities were selected as the Best Online Colleges in Virginia for 2015-2016, based on their excellent academic programs picked with affordability, accreditation and flexibility.

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCost MORE INFO
1 Virginia University of Lynchburg 99.1710:1100%

Lifelong learning is a key component of the online degree programs offered by Virginia University of Lynchburg, with three bachelor's programs and two master's degrees available. Degree plans include topics of study in business, management and religious studies. Further religious certificate specializations are also offered online. Many of the online classes are taught by the same faculty leading campus-based courses. All online faculty have undergone training on providing the best digital learning environments for students. Financial aid is available to online students, and prospective students with military experience may be able to have their previous experience converted into transferrable credit hours.

2 Liberty University 93.6218:195%

Liberty University provides over 250 degree programs at levels ranging from associate to doctoral in addition to offering multiple professional certificates in specialized fields of study. Liberty University teaches from a foundation of Christian beliefs and many courses offered focus on religious topics. Students with professional experience may be able to translate some of their previous on-the-job training into course credits. Most courses are at Liberty University are offered fully-online, with the exception a few hybrid courses where students may be required to complete some courses on campus.

3 Bluefield College 91.9914:1100%

At Bluefield College, students can choose from seven online bachelor's programs offered through the colleges of professional programs, education and nursing. Students can also pursue a master's level degree in education. Through the accelerated program, enrolling students with properly transferable credits can finish an undergraduate program in as few as 13 months. In addition to all online students qualifying to apply for financial aid, the institution also offers a program called Yellow Ribbon, designed to reduce university expenses for military members. Support resources for online students are available, including an online writing lab, library, academic and career advising and technical support.

4 Averett University 90.4510:1100%

Averett University offers a distance learning program called IDEAL, or Individually Designed Education for Adult Learners. Coursework has been created for adults wishing to continue their education after full-time employment. Averett University offers bachelor's level programs in business, criminal justice, sociology, sport management and applied science with degrees in science in business, business administration and education. Averett University also has additional degrees at the associate and postgraduate levels. Classes are delivered via Moodle, an interactive learning platform that serves as home base for engaging with peers and professors, competing coursework and taking part in required assignments.

5 Old Dominion University 89.9320:182%

Online classes allow students to maintain a flexible schedule using an asynchronous system wherein students can submit assignments and complete coursework at their own pace during each course session. To Many online classes allow students to maintain a flexible schedule using an asynchronous system wherein students can submit assignments and complete coursework at their own pace during each course session.

6 Virginia Commonwealth University 88.7117:179%

Fully-online degrees are offered at Virginia Commonwealth University with programs from the colleges of humanities and sciences, allied health professions, education, engineering and government and public affairs. Degrees are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate levels, and several career development certifications are also offered completely online. Program offerings include gerontology, rehabilitation counseling, health administration, occupational therapy, sociology and homeland security. A number of academic and general support services are available to online students, such as course and career advising, financial aid counseling, technical support, writing assistance, online library resources and disability support.

7 University of Virginia-Main Campus 88.0316:154%

One bachelor's degree in health sciences management - alongside multiple undergraduate and graduate certificate programs including pre-med, accounting, e-marketing, leadership, project management and technical leadership - are available in an online format from the University of Virginia. Many of the same faculty members teaching campus-based courses deliver online classes, and have undergone special training in the best methods to create engaging online learning environments. Most classes have about 20 students and are offered both synchronously or asynchronously, depending on the course. Four of the bachelor's degree courses require an in-person visit to the campus in Charlottesville.

8 George Mason University 87.8916:166%

Multiple degrees at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels are offered through the Office of Distance Education at George Mason University. All degree programs are delivered from the colleges of education and human development, health and human services, humanities and social sciences, science, business, policy and government, and engineering. George Mason University offers several adult degree completion programs for students who have already completed their first two years of education elsewhere. Students from across the world are eligible to enroll at GMU.

9 Regent University 87.0537:1100%

Nearly 70 degrees are offered from Regent University at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctorate levels, with the majority concentrated in undergraduate programs. Students enrolled at Regent can choose from courses including accounting, English, journalism, communication, information technology and business. Regent University keeps class sizes small, with a typical sizes averaging 17 students. All courses offered are asynchronous, so that those enrolled can log in and complete their work on their own schedules. Courses are offered in 8-week terms and focus on education from a Christian prospective.

Search Accredited Virginia Online Colleges

Virginia offers distance students numerous 2- and 4-year degree plans that allow them to find the best program to suit their educational and scheduling needs. Students looking for a Virginia-based online program can use the custom search tool below to sort degrees and programs by cost, acceptance rate, accreditation and type of degree to find the best match for their future career goals.

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Deans Talk: Inside Virginia’s Online Colleges

To understand the inner workings of the most celebrated online schools in the Commonwealth, we contacted faculty members from Virginia’s top universities and asked them what sets their degree programs apart from the competition. Here’s what the faculty had to say about Virginia’s top online programs.

Online Departments in Virginia

Radford University

How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?

The MFA in Design Thinking is Radford University’s newest 100% online program. At Radford, we approach online teaching with the student in mind. Our program is predominately taught using an asynchronous format so that individuals who work can access our course materials 24 hours, 7-days a week. Knowing that the online learner may need face-to-face contact, our faculty are always accessible. Many of the faculty in our program hold Skype sessions and use other forms of technology (e.g., Adobe Connect, Second Life, Facebook) to give students a more personalized approach to the class.

Another benefit to our program, is that it is taught by faculty who have a strong background in design, on-ground teaching, and online training. While all of our faculty have received numerous hours of training in developing, implementing, and teaching online, a strength and uniqueness to our program is that it is taught by experienced designers. Many existing programs that teach design thinking do not have seasoned designers as instructors. Furthermore, our class sizes are small which allows us to personally know our students in order to build a community of design thinking learners.

Resources for Online Students in Virginia

For new or continuing online students in Virginia, the following links can be useful for researching financial aid for school, completing high school graduation requirements, discovering how to transfer credits or learning about educational benefits open to veterans.