Washington Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for 2016-2017

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Deans Talk: Inside Washington’s Online Colleges

What makes an excellent online school rise above the pack? To find out, we asked the colleges making the best online college list to describe how their academics, faculties and online delivery methodology contribute to student success. Here’s what they told us.

A Guide to Online Colleges in Washington

Washington had 125 vocational schools, colleges and universities in 2013, offering both undergraduate and graduate education. The state ranked 23rd overall in the country for its number of post-secondary institutions and 19th in number of students. One out of every 52 students in the U.S. chose Washington as the place to attend college in 2013. Diversity in education is prioritized in the state, which features a broad range of educational choices through its vocational schools, religious institutions, public and private 2- and 4-year colleges, universities and distance learning programs. Prospective students considering colleges in Washington have many factors to evaluate before deciding what institution to attend or program to select. Campus, hybrid and online learning are among the options as are small, medium and large schools.

As one of the largest online learning centers in the state, The University of Washington offers bachelor’s completion and master’s degrees online, as well as certificate programs and individual courses. For further research into the educational landscape of Washington, let’s examine the higher education options in Seattle.

Seattle Colleges: Education in the Emerald City

The city of Seattle is a tourist mecca and one of America’s best educated metropolitan areas. The Emerald City is home to 23 colleges, universities and private schools. According to the U.S. Census, 56 percent of all Seattle residents over the age of 25 have completed at least a bachelor’s degree, a figure twice the national average.

Located on the north side of the Seattle on Portage Bay, The University of Washington is ranked the 25th university in the world by the Times of London, and 12th overall in clinical, preclinical and health sciences. U.S. News ranked the UW Medical School first in the nation for primary care studies for 2014. The “U-Dub” consistently earns high rankings for its Michael G. Foster School of Business and College of Engineering as well. The school’s students have included 35 Rhodes Scholars and 136 Fulbright Scholars.

Seattle Pacific University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees along with a specialization in theology. Key arts schools in the city include The Art Institute of Seattle, and the downtown Cornish College of the Arts, which offers bachelor’s degrees in dance, theater, performance production, design, fine art and music.

The Seattle Colleges, formerly known as the Seattle Community College District, has four campuses, bringing 135 academic and career-technical programs to around 50,000 students per year. The school offers transfer associate degrees in business elementary and math education, fine arts and applied science. The Seattle Colleges also grant associate degrees and technical certificates in fields such as aviation technology culinary arts, drafting, health professions and nanotechnology.

Online Learning Options at Seattle Schools

Forbes Magazine stated that Seattle had the most hot spots for wireless access of any city in the country in 2013, making it the perfect hub for distance learning, and many of the schools located in the city limits offer online degrees and technical programs at the certificate, undergraduate and graduate level.

The University of Washington’s Professional & Continuing Education Program offers an online bachelor’s degree completion option for any student, no matter their location or previous schooling. The university also offers 16 online master’s degrees in fields including public health, aerospace engineering, civil engineering, special education and geographic information systems, and 53 online professional certificate programs.

Tuition & Cost of Living in Washington

Prospective distance learning students in Washington should keep in mind the costs that come with post-secondary education. Tuition accounts for the most significant share, although scholarships or in-state tuition rates can help offset these. Residency status – and whether the college is public or private – can significantly change the cost of tuition. Residents of Washington paid an average $11,065 in tuition in 2012, ranking Washington as the 23rd most-expensive state to attend college.

Students should also budget for books, food, gas, transportation and lodging. The state of Washington has a cost of living (COL) ranking 4 percent higher than the U.S. average. Take a look at the COL in Washington communities as compared with the national average, rated at 100.

Urban Area Composite Index Housing Groceries Utilities Transportation Health Care Misc.
Kennewick-Richland-Pasco -7.4% -14.1% -9.1% -14.9% 6.1% 9.9% -4.8%
Spokane -6.1% -14.3% -7.6% -10.5% 9.1% 10.0% -3.5%
Vancouver -5.2% -17.8% -3.1% -8.2% 6.1% 14.3% 0.1%
Yakima -4.2% -13.1% -0.2% -13.2% 5.5% 17.1% -0.8%
Olympia 4.1% 2.2% 7.4% -17.9% 14.9% 20.5% 6.0%
Tacoma 9.5% 16.6% 11.3% -16.9% 9.0% 15.1% 10.2%
Everett 11.3% 28.1% 12.0% -14.6% 10.4% 29.1% 2.1%
Bellingham 13.0% 35.9% 14.9% -16.2% 13.2% 15.3% 0.8%
Seattle 21.4% 40.3% 15.1% -14.3% 18.8% 19.9% 19.1%

Accreditation Standards in Washington

Whether online or on-campus, students should always verify that all programs of study have been accredited. Colleges must meet standards in education set by a regional accrediting organization before students can qualify for federal student aid. In Washington, accreditation usually is administered through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Programmatic accreditation is also offered for specialized programs. For example, the University of Washington’s Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Architecture and Doctor of Architecture degree programs have all been accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

Best Online Colleges In Washington For 2016-2017

Private institutions pioneered a lead role in online learning, but public schools in Washington have also embraced distance education. In 2013, 14 4-year schools in Washington offered some form of distance education. The institutions on the Best Online Colleges in Washington for 2016-2017 list were chosen for their excellence in providing high quality online degree or certificate programs in a competitive educational landscape. Explore the schools that made the list.

Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
1 Shoreline Community College
93.54 19% 24 17:1 26%

Shoreline Community College offers more than 25 online programs through their Virtual Campus for associate degrees and certificates. Some of these online programs include accounting, criminal justice, and child care professional.Shorline offers relevant classes that aim to provide students with skills for the jobs of today.At Shoreline, students also have access to free online tutoring through the eTutoring program using an online chatroom, or submitting specific eQuestions.The Shoreline Virtual campus is run through Canvas online classroom and the school is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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2 Spokane Falls Community College
93.40 14% 21 18:1 23%

The Community Colleges of Spokane Online, or CCS Online, offers courses through Spokane Falls Community College as well as Spokane Community College. This online program offers associate degrees, certificates, and a GED program for recent high school graduates and adult learners alike. Each student is paired with a Student Success Coach during their time to help guide them through the academic process. CCS Online students use the online platform Canvas to complete their coursework. Compared to larger online institutions, CCS Online classes are relatively small. For eTutoring, students have access to online writing labs, live eChat questions, and offline questions.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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3 Edmonds Community College
91.97 27% 9 14:1 27%

Edmonds Community College has one of the biggest eLearning programs in Washington state. The college has three online associate degree options including an associate of arts, applied science and technical arts. Edmonds also offers certificates in business and a bachelor’s degree in partnership with Washington State University. All coursework is completed entirely online, but courses may require students to take proctored exams at approved testing centers. Students utilize Canvas as their online platform to access course resources. Online tutoring is available at no extra cost to all Edmonds students in many subjects including math, accounting and writing. Edmonds Community College is accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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4 Clark College
91.24 11% 6 15:1 24%

At Clark College, the online eLearning program offers an associate in arts degree in various subjects and a degree in business administration. These programs are offered completely online, a hybrid of online and classroom time, or through a weekend degree program that requires students to visit the campus at least three times per quarter. During their time at Clark College, students use the Canvas platform to manage their coursework. Every student also has access to eTutoring via writing labs for papers or eChat for immediate assistance. The college is accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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5 Bellingham Technical College
90.15 14% 3 22:1 42%

Bellingham Technical College offers diverse programs and degree options to prospective online students. Areas of study include, but are not limited to, accounting, computer networking, data entry, engineering, medical receptionist and social media marketing. Online eLearning at BTC is provided through the Canvas Learning Management System and educators also use Panopto for recordings of lectures and presentations. Distance learning requires that students engage in Zero Week, an online orientation week during which students can familiarize themselves and get started with their classes a week before the academic term starts.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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6 Grays Harbor College
90.14 11% 3 20:1 37%

Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Washington offers students a number of programs to choose from. Using the Canvas learning management system, GHC offers many online classes and three programs that can be completed online in their entirety. The Associate of Arts - Direct Transfer Agreement, the Criminal Justice Associate in Arts Transfer Degree, and the Early Childhood Education Certificate of Achievement. Grays Harbor College offers students helpful resources for eLearning, organized into three categories: Technology Resources, Learning Resources, and Study Skills; there is also a set of tutorials to help distance students learn to use the Canvas system for a number of basic functions.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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7 South Puget Sound Community College
89.82 12% 3 17:1 29%

Students interested in completing an online Associate in Arts degree can do so through South Puget Sound Community College; the school uses the Canvas system and even allows students to access courses from other community colleges in Washington State through the Washington Online (WAOL) consortium. SPSCC serves a diverse student body comprised of degree-seeking individuals, veterans, high school students, and underemployed workers; the school is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and was recently awarded a $500,000 grant for their Guided Pathways program. SPSCC students are all given access to eTutoring through the Western eTutoring Consortium in several academic areas.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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8 Renton Technical College
89.75 15% 3 14:1 61%

Renton Technical College offers students the flexibility to pursue online and hybrid programs in several fields. The online and hybrid programs include: application development, early childhood, legal assistant, child care management, nursing assistant and office assistant/receptionist. The eLearning at RTC is provided through Canvas and requires students to take an online Canvas orientation prior to taking courses; the school also offers eTutoring services. RTC boasts an 85 percent job placement rate and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. RTC has an estimated placement rate of 85 percent and a Fall to Fall retention rate of 69 percent, 9 percent higher than comparable schools.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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9 Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom
89.45 11% 3 18:1 20%

Lakewood, Washington’s Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom has many eLearning opportunities for incoming students, taught through the Canvas Learning Management System. Two options that can be completed fully online are social media marketing and business; the latter is a competency based two-year program. A number of other classes and programs offer students the flexibility of distance learning as well. Pierce College is a school that has been accredited by the Northwest Commision on Colleges and Universities and the Fort Steilacoom location has 6,142 students enrolled in classes. The school has robust resources for students including financial support and eTutoringa along with technology and troubleshooting resources.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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10 Cascadia Community College
88.46 3% 3 17:1 31%

At Cascadia Community College, students can choose from various courses that can be completed entirely online. Before registering for courses, CCC recommends that students complete a five-minute survey to determine if online learning is a good option for them. This will also help them know what characteristics are required to succeed in a virtual class room. Cascadia online classes are completed through the online learning portal, Canvas, which will organize course information, assignment materials, and examinations that can be accessed by students and instructors. Online students also have access to academic advising and technical support.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
Score Tuition & Fees Financial Aid % #ONLINE PROGRAMS Student-teacher RatioGrad Rate
1 Washington State University
99.78 51% 25 15:1 67%

The WSU Global Campus is the student portal for online undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs through Washington State University. The Blackboard learning interface serves to provide course content, while virtual mentors offer catered guidance to assist distance learners. The Global Connections program offers digital resources and webinars on student issues such as health, fitness, and social matters, and to offer extra-curricular events for online students. Teaching endorsements, non-degree courses, and content provided free of charge strictly for intellectual, professional, or personal development, are added learning resources presented through the Washington State University Global Campus.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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2 Central Washington University
99.66 71% 21 19:1 53%

Providing fully accredited undergraduate and graduate programs, Central Washington University offers hundreds of online courses scheduled on a quarterly basis. The Online Student Resource Center delivers information and support, including technical assistance and instructional videos for the Canvas learning platform, as well as program advising and assessment-focused tools to prepare for a distance-learning education environment. Certificates and endorsements, in addition to seven master’s degrees and over 10 bachelor’s degrees, provide a diverse range of disciplines in which to complete an online degree or career enhancement education path. Small class sizes and a faculty mission focused on individual student success brings added resources to a diverse online program.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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3 Heritage University
99.38 95% 12 8:1 19%

At Heritage University, students can utilize online learning resources to complete a bachelor’s degree within the English and humanities program, or choose between several available master’s degree programs for fully-online degree completion. On-campus programs include associate, bachelor’s, master’s, certificate, and teacher professional certification. The online career services page provides information and resources to assist students in choosing a field of study and aligning goals with a future career path. Heritage University is accredited through multiple organizations including the Northwest Commission on Colleges, the Universities National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Lab Sciences, and the Professional Educator Standards Board.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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4 Peninsula College
98.89 23% 3 15:1 29%

The Canvas online learning platform is utilized by students pursuing online degrees through the Peninsula College eLearning program. Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities provides degree transfer options in a range of disciplines, in addition to technical professional programs and bachelor’s degree options. Peninsula College courses operate on a quarterly system and non-credit community education classes for professional or personal development are offered, in addition to workshops, classes, and seminars offered through The Entrepreneur Institute. Peninsula College embraces its unique locale and utilizes the environment to bring education outdoors to integrate the advantages of the campus and the Washington landscape.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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5 Western Washington University
98.80 43% 5 19:1 72%

Self-paced online courses are combined with term-based courses to provide multiple options for distance learning through Western Washington University. WesternOnline term-based courses operate on a quarterly basis, while independent courses allow students to choose the stat date, with a six-month timeframe provided for completion. Accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), WWU offers certificate programs and bachelor’s degree programs in a range of disciplines. Online course content is delivered through the Canvas learning platform with interface support being offered through the online Canvas Guide and Canvas Community. The Office of Student Life provides additional support and resources for all students.

  • Credit for ExperienceNo
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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6 City University of Seattle
94.19 N/A 38 11:1 N/A

Students pursuing online education through the City University of Seattle will utilize the Backboard learning platform to access and complete courses. CityU offers a wide range of degree options from associate through the doctoral level, in addition to certificate programs and endorsements, all of which are fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Blackboard support, as well as information regarding student activities, can be accessed through the online student portal. Additional resources include the Career Center which provides job search assistance, including informative webinars presented by leading career experts and supported through the CityU Alumni Association.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesYes
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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7 Faith Evangelical College & Seminary
86.00 13% 6 15:1 82%

Offering bachelor’s degrees in four disciplines, five complete master’s degrees, and two doctoral options for degree completion, Faith International University is accredited through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). Most programs can be completed in a fully online format, in addition to offerings for hybrid or in-residence study options. The college mission is centered on a biblical focus in an academic environment striving to educate and equip Christian leaders to serve as chaplains, life coaches, counselors, missionaries, teachers, and a range of other roles in public service.

  • Credit for ExperienceYes
  • Placement ServicesNo
  • Counseling ServicesYes
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Search Accredited Washington Online Colleges

Many students seeking online colleges in Washington are kept from attending campus-based programs by work or family commitments. Finding the right program means matching up a prospective school’s curriculum with educational goals and finding a flexible class schedule. The following custom search tool helps students quickly sort hundreds of potential online colleges and programs by cost, acceptance rate or field of study.

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Best Online Colleges in Washington for 2015-2016

RANK COLLEGE ScoreStudent-Teacher RatioFinancial AidCostMORE INFO
1 Western Washington University 99.8120:173%

An online college in the state of Washington, Western Washington University provides support in the development and delivery of quality online courses. The university offers one Master Degree Program, one Bachelor Degree Program and one Certificate; Masters of Education in Continuing and College Education, Bachelors in Human Services and TESOL Certification.

2 Northwest University 96.2413:199%

Founded in 1934, Northwest University has over 1,000 enrolled students and is a regionally accredited, Christian coeducational institution. Online Degree Programs offered at this university include; Online Certificate in Ministry Leadership, Online BS in Criminal Justice, Online Master in Business Administration (MBA), Online Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MATESOL) and Online Master in Ministry.

3 Heritage University 96.078:1100%

Located in Toppenish, Washington, on the Yakama Indian Reservation, Heritage University offers Online Degree; Bachelors in Arts in the following areas of concentration- American Cultural Studies, American Indian Studies, English and English/Language Arts (5-12 teaching credentials), Masters in Educational Administrations and Masters of Arts in English.

4 Washington State University 95.9615:179%

Founded in 1890 and located in the state of Washington, Washington State University is home to the crimson and gray colored cougars. The University offers a variety of Online Degree Programs including; Undergraduates Degrees, Graduate Degrees and Non-degree options. More than 27,000 students attend Washington State University with more than 22,000 undergraduate students and 3,500 postgraduate students.

5 Saint Martin’s University 95.6912:195%

Founded in 1895 and with nearly 2,000 enrolled students, St. Martins University coeducational, Catholic, liberal arts university in the state of Washington. This university offers 10 Master Degree Programs and Major Studies in the following areas; Accounting, Biology, Business administration, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Community Services, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Elementary Education, English, History, Interdisciplinary Studies, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Music, Nursing RN-BSN (Transfer only), Political science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Social Work, Sociology and Cultural Anthropology, Special Education and Theatre Arts.

6 Central Washington University 95.6819:185%

Home to the wildcats and founded in 1891, Central Washington University has more than 11,000 enrolled students. The university encourages you to take the first step towards completing your degree with affordable, convenient and flexible online programs. Online college degree programs include; Masters of Education, Masters of Science in Health and Physical Education, Masters of Education in Special Education, Bachelors of Arts, Bachelors of Science, Bachelors of Applied Science, Bachelors of Arts- Law and Justice and Bachelor of Science- Paramedicine.

7 University of Washington-Seattle Campus 91.1915:155%

Offering a variety of courses, certificate programs and Bachelor and Graduate Degree Programs, the University of Washington- Seattle Campus has over 42,000 enrolled students. The university offers online courses in the following areas of concentration; Art, Writing and Culture, Biotechnology and Biomedical, Building Construction, Design and Real Estate, Business, Communication and Media, Computing and IT, Education, Engineering, Environment and Sustainability, Health, Medicine and Social Work, Humanities and Social Science, Law and Regulation Non-profit and Public Sector and Science and Math.

8 University of Washington-Tacoma Campus 86.6417:183%

University of Washington-Tacoma continues to add to its online course offerings, though it already hosts courses across several subject areas as well as a fully online degree in criminal justice. For their foreign language requirement, students wanting to take courses online can use Rosetta Stone resources as a self-paced, independent-learning language option that is recognized by the school for course credit. The university uses Canvas as the learning management system for its online courses, which keeps faculty and students in constant contact for assignments, grades, discussions, and other course requirements.

Useful Resources for Online Students in Washington

For new or returning online students, the web is an inexhaustible source for information on education-related topics. Starting with these resources, students can target key information about financial aid for Washington students and veterans, income-based grants, tuition guarantees or college savings plans.