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 2016-2017, based on their excellent academic programs picked with affordability, accreditation and flexibility.
|Rank||University||Location||Score||Annual Tuition||# of Online Programs||Financial Aid %||Student-Teacher Ratio||Grad Rate||Credit for Experience||Placement Services||Counseling Services||University Information|
|1||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA||99.78||$21,000||61||78%||18:1||50%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Liberty University online offers educational paths from the certificate to the doctorate level with suggested degree completion plans to guide student progress in over 245 degree choices. The online career center serves as a professional network to connect graduates with potential employers. With a mission centered on Christian values, online students have service opportunities to embody the university mission, such as watching online lectures from champions of faith, accessing digital content and resources through the Online Student Life Video Library, and taking part in international mission trips. All programs are accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
|2||Hampton University||Hampton, VA||99.01||$21,760||27||47%||9:1||66%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Hampton U online serves as the virtual campus to provide accredited online degree programs through Hampton University. The online bookstore is coordinated with class schedules to ensure availability of texts and to eliminate incorrect purchases, as well as facilitating the download of necessary digital course content. Student access to HU online course content is offered through the Blackboard learning interface, and an online tutorial for new users is available. For career planning assistance, the Career Counseling and Planning Center provides resources and information to guide students and alumni in major declaration and degree path, job search workshops, and networking with potential employers.
|3||Old Dominion University||Norfolk, VA||99.00||$8,970||45||41%||20:1||52%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Utilizing the Blackboard online class framework, Old Dominion University operates on a semester schedule and offers either live (scheduled to ‘meet at a specific day and time) or asynchronous (no specific meeting time) options for online courses. Having offered distance learning options for over 30 years with more than 11,000 degrees conferred to date, ODU is accredited to offer bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and education specialist degrees through the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. With eight fields of study, students from a wide array of career field choices have access to required courses through Old Dominion University.
|4||Virginia Baptist College||Fredericksburg, VA||98.56||$5,200||6||100%||6:1||N/A||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Associate, bachelor's and master's degrees are available completely online, offering distance learners degrees in fields such as ministry, Christian education and biblical studies. Many degree programs offer several different options for personalized concentrations. Across all fields, professors record sessions and them post them online for distance learners to access. Sessions are posted the day after they are recorded, and online learners then have a full week to complete assignments. Virginia Baptist College is a member of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. The school's purpose is to support local churches by educating Christian students.
|5||Regent University||Virginia Beach, VA||97.94||$16,438||9||97%||32:1||50%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Regent University offers distance education grounded in spirituality and faith. Seven associate degrees and dozens of bachelor's degrees are offered at the undergraduate level. There are also a wide range of graduate programs, both at the master's and doctorate degree level. Distance learners have access to hundreds of online research databases and periodicals, as well as tech support services. Courses follow an eight-week format and are taught by professors who offer feedback, guidance and a Christian perspective. Online learners are not bound to a specific schedule, and can instead set their own pace.
|6||George Mason University||Fairfax, VA||97.71||$10,382||6||20%||16:1||67%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Online classes at George Mason University follow the same coursework as that which is delivered to on-campus students in face-to-face classes. With both fully online and hybrid formats available, classes are delivered in both the synchronous and asynchronous formats. The Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Education and Development is dedicated to supporting distance learners through their academic pursuits. Other services available to distance learners include an online writing lab and the assistive technology initiative. There are more than 50 programs available overall across many different fields of study. Prospective students can take a virtual tour.
|7||Norfolk State University||Norfolk, VA||97.57||$7,552||3||42%||18:1||33%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Students interested in earning an online bachelor’s or master’s degree at Norfolk State University (NSU) can choose from several programs, in areas such as history, education, psychology, business and cyber security. NSU Online also offers several management programs, including both certificate and bachelor’s degree programs in health services management. Students pursuing an on-campus degree, but needing more flexibility can take individual online courses to complete their degrees. NSU Online students have access to several resources, including free tutoring through SMARTHINKING, an online academic support system available 24/7, an assigned academic advisor and the Lyman Beecher Brooks library system.
|8||Sentara College of Health Sciences||Chesapeake, VA||97.52||$1,926||3||N/A||8:1||N/A||No||Yes||Yes|
Sentara College of Health Sciences (SCOHS) started as Norfolk’s first nursing school and now has several other programs, including surgery technology and cardiovascular technology, with associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, continuing education and certificate options available. These programs are a combination of on-campus and online courses, due to clinical time as part of the curriculum. SCOHC also offers an on-campus BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and a completely online RN to BSN program, for those with RN status planning to pursue a bachelor degree. The online courses are paced like traditional on-campus courses, with weekly assignments and deadlines, except for the self-paced RN to BSN program.
|9||Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing||Richmond, VA||97.50||$4,871||3||N/A||8:1||N/A||No||Yes||Yes|
In addition to an on-campus BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree, Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing offers an online RN (Registered Nurse) to BSN degree, which can be completed in three semesters, with full-time enrollment. This program is designed to provide flexibility to working RN’s, with access to courses around the clock, part-time and full-time enrollment options, and communication with instructors via e-mail, online office hours and video chat. Students can work with an advisor dedicated to help with the transition from traditional courses to web-based learning. RN’s may be able to receive help with tuition through employers’ tuition assistance programs.
|10||University of Virginia-Main Campus||Charlottesville, VA||97.45||$13,208||3||29%||15:1||94%||No||Yes||Yes|
Online students attending the University of Virginia – Main Campus can choose from fully online degree programs and individual courses that can be completed at a distance. The school uses the online learning software, Adobe Connect, which gives students a similar experience as they would receive in a traditional learning environment. Adobe Connect allows them to interact with instructors and peers through shared screens and real-time chat platforms, as well as take part in discussions through live conference calls. A new online learning initiative also works to provide massive open online courses (MOOCs) to individuals living in Africa.
|11||Bluefield College||Bluefield, VA||93.67||$22,840||23||1%||14:1||50%||No||Yes||Yes|
Accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Bluefield College’s online degree program includes accelerated degree programs in addition to 14 fully-online undergraduate degree options. Graduate degrees and certificate programs are also offered through Bluefield, which includes attributes such as an 11:1 student to teacher ratio and an educational foundation based in Christian faith. Online courses are offered in an 8-week format with learning resources including online lectures and discussion boards that can be viewed on a variety of devices within a virtual classroom environment.
|12||Jefferson College of Health Sciences||Roanoke, VA||86.00||$23,380||9||97%||9:1||56%||Yes||No||Yes|
Providing online options for certificate programs, as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees, Jefferson College of Health Sciences is fully accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and will soon be offering doctoral programs, as well. With resources such as the Learning and Writing Center, which provides online peer guidance to improve writing skills, and the Educational Testing Center which provides exam proctoring services, students have a range of tools to complement the distance learning process. Counseling service are offered for all students for no additional fees.
|Rank||University||Location||Score||Annual Tuition||# of Online Programs||Financial Aid %||Student-Teacher Ratio||Grad Rate||Credit for Experience||Placement Services||Counseling Services||University Information|
|1||Southwest Virginia Community College||Richlands, VA||94.53||$3,312||21||58%||24:1||32%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
With the numerous resources and student services provided by Southwest Virginia Community College, earning a degree by studying in a virtual format is a comfortable and efficient process. By utilizing previously recorded lectures, students will be able to learn in an environment that closely resembles the classroom scenarios they have become accustomed to, but also affords the advantage of pausing and replaying sections if they happened to miss them. SWCC also allows its distance students to earn many of the same scholarships and grants, guaranteeing payment won't be a problem.
|2||Mountain Empire Community College||Big Stone Gap, VA||92.97||$3,336||15||38%||24:1||29%||Yes||No||Yes|
Prospective students who are interested in a virtual learning environment may consider looking into online programs at Mountain Empire Community College. Online workforce training and degree programs are developed to reflect the school's mission and values of providing quality education opportunities that are accessible to all individuals and meet each students' personal needs. To help students achieve their academic goals, MECC provides multiple student resources including academic advising, tutoring, and career services. The Great Expectations program is also available to help non-traditional students transition to academic life.
|3||Tidewater Community College||Norfolk, VA||91.38||$3,944||24||3%||22:1||14%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Tidewater Community College offers degree and certificate programs that can be completed 100 percent online in subject areas such as business, criminal justice, accounting and social sciences. Prospective students are encouraged to gauge their preparedness for online programs through an online quiz to see if they are a good candidate for virtual learning. Online courses are designed to provide access to course material at all hours of the day to work around students' busy schedules. Online degree and certificate credentials are the same as on-campus courses and are taught by experienced faculty.
|4||Thomas Nelson Community College||Hampton, VA||90.96||$4,169||24||5%||23:1||16%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Thomas Nelson Community College provides learners at a distance with the opportunity to pursue their degrees entirely online. TNCC values access to education and acknowledges how beneficial technological learning can be for time, employment, and location constraints associated with learning. Prospective students can gauge whether or not online learning is right for them by completing TNCC's "Is Distance Learning Right for You" quiz. Once enrolled, students will gain access to the web-based academic management platform, Blackboard, where they will access course information, assignments and communication methods such as discussion boards and video conferencing.
|5||Northern Virginia Community College||Annandale, VA||90.95||$4,853||36||1%||24:1||23%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Northern Virginia Community College has an extensive list of online degrees, certificates, and continuing education courses, all offered through their Extended Learning Institute, including a certificate in social media marketing an associate in fire science. Students who are uncertain about e-learning can complete the Smarter Measure quiz which will help gauge their readiness for the online classroom. Online resources and student services include counseling, career and academic advising, and tutoring services. NOVA also offers technical support at all hours of the day for online troubleshooting.
|6||Rappahannock Community College||Glenns, VA||90.48||$3,401||6||24%||26:1||31%||Yes||No||Yes|
Distance learners at Rappahannock Community College can choose from courses delivered through three formats: online, hybrid and interactive video. Students can pursue fully online degrees at the associate and certificate level. Before registering for courses, students unsure about online learning are encouraged to complete a short quiz that reviews recommended study habits and success strategies along with access to a sample class. All student resources that are offered on campus at RCC are available for online students including technical support services and libraries with high-speed internet connection.
|7||Virginia Western Community College||Roanoke, VA||90.32||$4,174||6||25%||26:1||22%||Yes||No||Yes|
Students who need an academic structure that works with their busy schedules may consider enrolling in one of Virginia Western Community College's distance learning programs. eLearning programs at VWCC are designed to give non-traditional learners who are unable to attend on-campus courses with the opportunity to pursue their degrees wherever they have a computer and internet access. Online students are required to complete an orientation, either online or on-campus, before beginning their e-course to become familiarized with the online course delivery and student expectations.
|8||Lord Fairfax Community College||Middletown, VA||90.18||$4,199||6||12%||19:1||33%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
College-bound students interested in enrolling in a virtual academic program may consider one of Lord Fairfax Community College's online courses at the associate and certificate levels. Distance learners can participate in LFCC's courses in three different formats: online, hybrid and through live or pre-recorded videoconferencing. LFCC recommends that students dedicate around nine hours a week to a three-credit course to be successful. LFCC provides student resources that are especially dedicated to online learners including personal counseling, academic advising, technical support and access to the library.
|9||Southside Virginia Community College||Alberta, VA||89.92||$4,155||6||15%||23:1||35%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Southside Virginia Community College has a fully-developed online and hybrid learning program that allows students to complete their courses at a distance. While online learning allows students to complete their learning around their busy schedules, SVCC recommends that students are regularly engaged and following course materials. SMARTHINKING provides SVCC online students with distance tutoring services in subjects such as geometry, accounting, anatomy and economics. Technical support and writing workshop can also be accessed through SMARTHINKING. The SVCC bookstores also have information for online courses and allow students to order course materials such as textbooks online.
|10||Piedmont Virginia Community College||Charlottesville, VA||89.84||$4,235||6||7%||19:1||27%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Piedmont Virginia Community College offers comprehensive online courses in subject areas such as art, science, humanities and business. Online courses at PVCC are designed to provide students with the same high-quality education that is offered in a traditional learning environment. Before beginning their course, students are required to complete the Distance Learning Orientation which will give them an idea of what to expect from a virtual classroom along with the personal characteristics needed to succeed. All online learning material is provided through the academic portal, Blackboard which also provides technical support services.
|11||New River Community College||Dublin, VA||89.74||$3,325||3||11%||29:1||24%||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|12||Wytheville Community College||Wytheville, VA||89.72||$4,170||3||39%||26:1||33%||No||No||Yes|
|13||John Tyler Community College||Chester, VA||89.44||$4,150||15||3%||23:1||14%||Yes||No||Yes|
|14||Central Virginia Community College||Lynchburg, VA||89.27||$4,245||9||7%||20:1||25%||Yes||No||Yes|
|15||Reynolds Community College||Richmond, VA||89.24||$4,428||9||4%||20:1||13%||No||Yes||Yes|
|16||Patrick Henry Community College||Martinsville, VA||88.28||$4,163||6||1%||22:1||29%||No||Yes||Yes|
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.
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.
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.
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.|
|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:
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:
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.
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.
|RANK||COLLEGE||Score||Student-Teacher Ratio||Financial Aid||Cost||MORE INFO|
|1||Virginia University of Lynchburg||99.17||10:1||100%|
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.
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.
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.
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||89.93||20:1||82%|
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||88.71||17:1||79%|
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||88.03||16:1||54%|
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||87.89||16:1||66%|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.