Virginia Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2015

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 as it supplied students with certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs. To put it into perspective, one out of every 37 U.S. college students attended a school in Virginia. From religious schools to online colleges, from junior colleges to four-year universities, the allure of the state’s system of higher learning lies in its range of institutions:

College Type Number in Virginia
Public 40
Private for-profit 39
Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation) 25
Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation) 15

Top Locations for Postsecondary Education in Virginia

From mid-sized cities to major urban areas, Virginia colleges find various places to call home. The following lists present data on the number of colleges and students per city:

Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)

  • Norfolk (82,700)
  • Annandale (77,500)
  • Lynchburg (70,300)
  • Richmond (53,800)
  • Fairfax (33,100)

Virginia Cities with the Most Colleges (Total)

  • Richmond (18)
  • Arlington (13)
  • Norfolk (11)
  • Virginia Beach (11)
  • Lynchburg (8)

At a Glance: Virginia Beach Colleges and Universities

According to the U.S. Census, Virginia Beach exceeds the national average for higher education attainment: 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. Given the high quality institutions in the area, that statistic is no surprise. Regent University, for example, describes itself as “one of the nation’s leading academic centers for Christian thought and action,” and is one of only 22 universities to receive an “A” rating by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). Additionally, the university’s School of Law has received numerous accolades, including “Top 10 Faculty in the Nation” by The Princeton Review (2013), and their Moot Court team finished top 2 globally at Oxford’s Price Media Law Moot Court Programme. There is one community college in Virginia Beach, Tidewater Community College (TCC), which is one of 23 colleges that make up the Virginia Community College System. The city is also home to a number of technical and trade schools, such as the Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Center.

Online Learning in Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach also has a number of online education options for those interested in distance learning. Regent University has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for its online bachelor’s programs, with its online bachelor’s programs for veterans earning the no. 8 spot. The university offers a number of online undergraduate and graduate degrees in a range of academic areas. Classes are delivered and managed through Blackboard and, on average, consist of 17 online students. Tidewater Community College also has an eLearning program, offering a number of non-traditional options. Students can choose from fully online courses that are delivered through Blackboard, hybrid courses that utilize both online coursework and traditional campus meetings, and technology-enhanced courses, which are classes that meet on-campus regularly, but incorporate online activities and assignments. Lastly, Atlantic University offers online graduate degrees and certificates as well as non-credit continuing education courses.

Virginia Distance Education Options

In 2013, Virginia accommodated 18 four-year colleges and universities that offered some type of online or distance education. For example, the University of Virginia at Wise (UVa-Wise) offers a variety of online courses to new students, adult learners, and those simply interested in finding out what distance learning is all about. Online learning has featured prominently on the horizon of higher learning, and now that technology has caught up with the demand, many traditional schools present online programs, allowing students to earn degrees and certificates without setting foot on campus.

Paying for College: Tuition, Fees and Cost of Living

College costs can be intimidating, to say the least, and prospective students should be cognizant of the full scope of this cost. By and large, tuition is the main player when it comes to degree-related expenses, and it varies by school and student residency. The average Virginia student in 2012 paid $13,138 per year, putting Virginia at 19th in the U.S. for the most affordable in-state tuition.

After tuition and fees, the third big budget item is the cost of living associated with higher learning. For on-campus students, this takes the shape of room and board, and for off-campus students, expenses include housing, utilities, food and transportation. Virginia’s cost of living index is about 4 percent lower than the U.S. average, which is good news for students trying to stretch their dollars. Below is a regional breakdown of the COL in Virginia’s cities as they compare to the national average (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%

There are many colleges and universities in the Commonwealth, but which ones offer lasting value on your educational investment? We’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you in creating this list of the top colleges in Virginia based on ROI (low cost tuition and fees combined with lifelong earnings of graduates):

  • Washington and Lee University
  • Virginia Tech
  • The College of William and Mary
  • University of Virginia
  • George Mason University

FAFSA and Scholarships

For Virginia students who wish to make paying for a college degree more reasonable, a few options are available in the national, state and private sector arenas. In 2012, 67 percent of students in the state profited from federal aid after filing the proper FAFSA forms. Federal aid can open doors for students who are in need or otherwise out of luck when it comes to financing college.

Scholarships present another opportunity for financial assistance to Virginia college students. Supportive and generous private companies and organizations seek to promote education by donating money to worthy students. These funds often pay for tuition, fees and even textbooks, and some scholarships are offered by the colleges themselves. Find out more about some of the major financial backers in the state of Virginia:

  • The Virginia Golf Foundation
  • Carville M. Akehurst Memorial
  • Virginia Commonwealth Awards
  • The Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association
  • Elizabeth J. & William R. Bruce, Sr. Memorial
  • Lee-Jackson Educational Foundation
  • The Virginia War Orphans Education Program
  • River Farm
  • Vincent J. Thomas Memorial
  • The Mid-Atlantic Security Traders Foundation
  • NACA Southeast Student Leadership
  • The Lighthouse
  • Virginia Library Association

Accreditation in Virginia

The ability of Virginia colleges to accept federal or scholarship financial aid is based in part on the college’s accreditation. Each school must meet certain criteria, certain quality standards, to garner the label of “accredited.” The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools( serves as the main regional accrediting force in Virginia, verifying that schools adhere to common standards. In addition to institutional accreditation by a regional accrediting body, many institutions in Virginia also hold programmatic or 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.

At AC Online, we always urge students to find an online program that suits their financial budget. Students in Virginia enjoy some of the country's most affordable online education options, but also some of the most innovative. Read our interview with Radford University about what sets them apart, and what the future holds for online learning.

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.

Virginia boasts what were some of the first online learning programs in the United States offered by four-year accredited online colleges. Online degree programs in Virginia cater to their students with flexible schedules and convenient admissions. And just like their on-campus counterparts, these programs offer similar tuition assistance and rigorous admissions requirements. Due to the equivalent course expectations and curriculum, online schools in Virginia also grant degrees and certifications that match those issued on-campus. Prospective students can use our list to compare Virginia online colleges. Ordered from lowest to highest tuition, each of these schools provides an excellent online education.

Click here to see our methodology.
Bluefield State College
Tuition and fees: $5,180 Enrollment: 2,531 Accredited: YES Website: Bluefield State College

Located in Bluefield, West Virginia, Bluefield State College is a historically black college. The college was founded in 1895 and is a member school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Even though it maintains it federal status a historically black college, Bluefield State College is 90% white. Online Degree Programs offered at this college include; E-Business and Entrepreneurship, Human Services, Management and Leadership Degree and Nursing (RN).

Old Dominion University
Tuition and fees: $6,566 Enrollment: 21,958 Accredited: YES Website: Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University’s online college programs offer over 60 certificate and degree programs. ODU provides online study for an extensive number of disciplines. Pursue a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in fields of study as diverse as Health Care, Criminal Justice, Engineering or Leadership. Online courses in some degree programs may require in-person for a practicum or internship.

Norfolk State University
Tuition and fees: $6,700 Enrollment: 7,351 Accredited: YES Website: Norfolk State University

Norfolk State University offers Bachelor of Science degrees in an online format for History, Interdisciplinary Studies and Health Service Management. Online college students can pursue a Master of Arts degree online in Teaching, Pre-Elementary Education and Urban Education. Distance learning administered through Blackboard, an online education management system, and the programs are accredited by the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools.

Virginia University of Lynchburg
Tuition and fees: $7,880 Enrollment: 826 Accredited: YES Website: Virginia University of Lynchburg

The distance learning program at Virginia University of Lynchburg offers a number of online college degree programs for students who cannot attend on-campus classes. Pursue an associate degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences or a bachelor’s in Religious Studies, Business Administration, Organizational Management, Sociology, or Criminology. Master’s degree programs are offered in Organizational Management and Divinity.

Radford University
Tuition and fees: $8,320 Enrollment: 8,835 Accredited: YES Website: Radford University

Radford University’s College of Visual & Performing Arts offers a 100% online college program leading to a Master of Fine Arts in Design Thinking. Study design in the context of cognition, history and politics. Explore the science of design through research. Learn a teamwork approach to design management and create design solutions in a virtual studio.

Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs
Tuition and fees: $8,520 Enrollment: 1,340 Accredited: YES Website: Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs

Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs cater to the needs of adult learners by offering online college programs leading to associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees as well as graduate certificate. Online degree programs in Business Administration, Sociology and Criminal Justice, and Education offer the working professional a flexible schedule and allow them to build on their previous education and experience.

George Mason University
Tuition and fees: $9,266 Enrollment: 32,634 Accredited: YES Website: George Mason University

George Mason University offers online college study for bachelor’s, master’s and graduate certificate programs among many fields of study. Complete an RN to BSN; a bachelor’s degree in Health, Wellness and Social Services, Applied Information Technology, or Technology and Innovation. Master’s degree programs include Executive MBA; Conflict Analysis and Resolution; Transportation Policy, Operation, and Logistics or Systems Engineering.

Virginia Commonwealth University
Tuition and fees: $9,517 Enrollment: 26,661 Accredited: YES Website: Virginia Commonwealth University

Using a combination of current technology, Virginia Commonwealth University offers online, hybrid and video conferencing class formats for students to participate in many of its popular degree programs including bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and certificate programs. Fields of study include: Allied Health Professions, Education, Engineering, Government and Public Affairs, Medicine, Nursing and Social Work.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Tuition and fees: $10,509 Enrollment: 24,730 Accredited: YES Website: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is committed to serving life-long learners who want to continue their education after receiving a bachelor’s degree. To that end they offer an extensive choice of master’s degree and graduate certificate programs online. Small class sizes, internationally-respected faculty and the latest online college learning tools further that goal.

Longwood University
Tuition and fees: $10,530 Enrollment: 4,571 Accredited: YES Website: Longwood University

Longwood University prides itself on the quality of its instruction and its student-faculty interactions. Online college classes offer the same attention to excellence. To see if online classes are right for you, Longwood offers an assessment tool and recommends that you have the technical skills, hardware and software necessary to benefit from web-based learning.

Regent University
Tuition and fees: $12,338 Enrollment: 2,646 Accredited: YES Website: Regent University

Regent University offers its online college students the opportunity to study Arts and Sciences online in a program leading to the associate or bachelor’s degree. Students at Regent receive an education grounded in Christ. Online peer mentorship, tutoring and even chapel attendance on the web or on-campus provide both educational and spiritual support to students taking classes online.

Hampton University
Tuition and fees: $18,798 Enrollment: 5,186 Accredited: YES Website: Hampton University

Hampton University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees online as well as on campus. Choose from an ever-expanding list of degree options and fields of study. Attending a web-based, virtual online college campus gives you the flexibility to study anytime, and anywhere you have a computer and an Internet connection. Student support from real people sets Hampton U’s online program apart from others.

Liberty University
Tuition and fees: $19,154 Enrollment: 100,000 Accredited: YES Website: Liberty University

Liberty University, a Christian-oriented school, offers over 160 online degree programs. Students can pursue their studies from anywhere. Degrees include associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and certificate programs. Business, education, criminal justice and nursing are a few of the popular areas of specialization. Some online college programs may require minimal face-to-face class time.

Bluefield College
Tuition and fees: $19,980 Enrollment: 979 Accredited: YES Website: Bluefield College


Bluefield College
Tuition and fees: $19,980 Enrollment: 979 Accredited: YES Website: Bluefield College

Bluefield College degree programs are taught online by faculty members with academic credentials, professional experience in their subject fields, and a commitment to a Christian-based education. The school encourages military veterans to use their education benefits in pursuit of degrees in Management and Leadership, RN to BSN Nursing, Human Services and Entrepreneurship.

Marymount University
Tuition and fees: $23,972 Enrollment: 2,717 Accredited: YES Website: Marymount University

Marymount University in Arlington, Va. offers a hybrid RN to BSN nursing degree program. In addition to online college coursework, clinical or laboratory time is required. Marymount also offers a Master of Education in Administration and Supervision degree online for Catholic school administrators and an MA in Criminal Justice Administration and policy online for Criminal Justice professionals.

Averett University
Tuition and fees: $24,480 Enrollment: 934 Accredited: YES Website: Averett University

Averett University credentialed instructors are experienced in the latest online methods of instruction and curriculum to meet the same criteria as on-campus degree programs. The difference between taking on-campus and online college courses is the convenience of participation. Class materials are available 24/7. Pursue an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree in Business, Nursing, or Criminal Justice.

Eastern Mennonite University
Tuition and fees: $26,400 Enrollment: 1,243 Accredited: YES Website: Eastern Mennonite University

Eastern Mennonite University has been offering online college courses for over a decade in Anabaptist theology, practical ministry and church history. Study from anywhere and earn credits toward a theological degree, develop your leadership skills or just enhance your personal faith. Courses are administered through Moodle, an online class management system.

Randolph College
Tuition and fees: $30,376 Enrollment: 592 Accredited: YES Website: Randolph College

Randolph Community College offers associate degrees online in Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Healthcare Management, and Office Administration. Online college classes are convenient but require self-discipline. You log in at your convenience but are required to participate as would in on campus classes. The difference is that your interaction with your fellow students and instructors is virtual.

Lynchburg College
Tuition and fees: $30,805 Enrollment: 2,388 Accredited: YES Website: Lynchburg College

Lynchburg College offers a Masters in Nursing online to students holding an accredited baccalaureate degree in nursing and current unrestricted nursing licensure. Choose from one of two emphases, Clinical Nurse Leader or Nursing Education. Nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree in a major other than nursing, can pursue the MSN with the help of bridge courses.