Washington Online Colleges & Universities – Top Online Schools for ’15

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Washington had 125 vocational schools, colleges and universities in 2013, offering undergraduate or graduate education and the opportunity to complete a diploma, certificate or degree. The state ranked 23rd overall in the country for its number of post-secondary institutions and 19th in terms of students. One out of every 52 students in the United States chose Washington as the place to attend college. Diversity in education is prioritized in the state, which features a broad range of educational choices through its vocational schools, community colleges, religious institutions, public and private four-year colleges, universities and distance learning programs.

Top Washington Cities for a College Education

Students can find educational opportunities in a mix of locations in Washington, ranging from seaside towns to urban areas. Many of these choices will be available in Seattle and Spokane, but small- and mid-sized towns also have options for academics and career training as well as cultural events and rural scenery. Read more about the distribution of college students in Washington:

Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)

  • Seattle (83,600)
  • Tacoma (35,200)
  • Spokane (35,100)
  • Bellingham (28,000)
  • Pullman (25,500)

Cities in Washington with the Most Colleges (Total)

  • Seattle (22)
  • Spokane (11)
  • Tacoma (9)
  • Bellingham (6)
  • Everett (6)

Seattle Colleges: Education in the Emerald City

The largest city in the Pacific Northwest is also one of America’s best educated. 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. More than 90 percent of residents have completed high school.

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. Its students have included 35 Rhodes Scholars and 136 Fulbright Scholars.

Free Methodist pioneers established what is now Seattle Pacific University as a seminary in 1891. Today, SPU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees along with a specialization in theology from its campus overlooking Lake Washington. Key arts schools in the city include the downtown Cornish College of the Arts, offering bachelor’s degrees in Fine Arts (dance, theater, performance production, design, fine art, and music) and The Art Institute of Seattle, a private school in Belltown, the former home of the grunge music scene and now a designers showplace.

Seattle is also home to The Seattle Colleges, formerly known as the Seattle Community College District, with four campuses in the north, central and south sides of the city, offering 135 academic and career-technical programs to some 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, nanotechnology, and more.

Online Learning Options at Seattle Schools

For students who cannot attend studies on campus, there are online degree programs that fit the most-hectic work and family schedules. Seattle, according to Forbes Magazine, has the most hot spots for wireless access of any city in the country. In a city that gave birth to Microsoft, there is no shortage of online college programs for professional certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees. 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, to finish their degree. 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.

Washington Online Schools

Private for-profit institutions have long had a lead role in online learning, but traditional schools in Washington are now discovering the value in distance education, both for students and in enriching overall academia. In 2013, 14 four-year schools in Washington had some form of distance education, giving students the option to work on certificates or degrees. The University of Washington, for example, offers bachelor's completion and master's degrees online, as well as certificate programs and individual courses (some of which are free) through UW Online.

College Tuition and Other Expenses in Washington

Students wanting to attend college in Washington should keep in mind there are various costs that come with post-secondary education. Tuition often accounts for the most significant share, although scholarships or in-state tuition rates can help offset costs. The school itself, and whether it is public or private, can tie into tuition costs, as does a student's resident status. Students in Washington with in-state residency paid an average $11,065 in tuition in 2012, making the state the 23rd in the nation as far as in-state tuition costs. Students need to think about the costs of books, food plans 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 against the national average, which is 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%

You don’t have to flee the state to find lasting value in a college education. We’ve created a solid list of the top colleges in Washington when it comes to balancing the cost of learning with a lifelong earning potential. These Washington colleges had the highest ROI in the state in 2013:

  • Saint Martin’s University
  • University of Washington
  • Whitman College
  • Gonzaga University
  • Washington State University

Paying for College with Financial Aid and Scholarships

Students looking for ways to make their college costs fit within their budget can turn to their school as well as state and national options. Financial aid may be available at the federal level, for example, loans that a student typically would not need to repay until after leaving college. The application process starts by filling out the FAFSA form, which helps to determine loan eligibility and the potential award amount. In 2012, 55 percent of undergraduate students received federal financial aid in Washington, making the state 49th in the country in terms of the percentage of students receiving federal assistance.

Students who are veterans may also be eligible for tuition assistance or coverage at the federal or state level. Local veterans' agencies can advise regarding eligibility. Finally, scholarships provide yet another way to locate extra money, which often can be used in combination with federal aid. Students in Washington may be able to find scholarships available through the schools they want to attend, regional clubs and organizations, non-profits or private organizations. Some of the major organizations offering scholarships for Washington students include:

  • American Legion, Department of Washington
  • American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) - Pacific Northwest Chapter
  • Arc of Washington State
  • Edmund F. Maxwell Association
  • Independent Colleges of Washington
  • MetLife Foundation
  • Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation
  • Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board
  • Washington State Association for Justices (WSAJ)
  • Washington State Auto Dealers Association
  • Washington State PTA
  • Washington Thoroughbred Foundation
  • Verizon

Accreditation in Washington

Whether working on a certificate or a master's degree, students should verify that a program has been accredited. In order for students to qualify for financial assistance, schools must meet certain standards in education, which can be set through a regional accrediting organization. In Washington, that approval is typically administered through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Programmatic accreditation might also be available for specific programs within schools. 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).


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. The information above offers a starting point, and students can find more details below about online programs and courses available through Washington colleges.

Online degree programs in the state of Washington are unsurpassed in the opportunities that they offer their online distance-learning students. Washington online colleges are fully accredited and grant certifications and degrees that are indistinguishable from those earned through more traditional routes. In fact, online degree programs in Washington also offer tuition assistance and access to many of the same professors as who teach on campus. Students can find all of these convenient benefits at the following four-year, fully online schools in Washington. We’ve researched exceptional online schools that foster accessibility and convenience through higher education. Listed from lowest tuition to highest, use this guide to find the online college in Washington that best fits your needs.

Click here to see our methodology.
Olympic College
Tuition and fees: $3,726 Enrollment: 11,658 Accredited: YES Website: Olympic College

Located in the state of Washington and with more than 12,500 students in enrollment, Olympic College was founded in 1946. This university offers online college certificate, associates and bachelor degree programs in the following areas of concentration; Business Administration, Entrepreneurship, International Business, Management and Operations, Management Information Systems, Criminal Justice, Humanities, Social Sciences and Women's Studies.

Bellevue College
Tuition and fees: $3,763 Enrollment: 22,452 Accredited: YES Website: Bellevue College

A public college located in Bellevue, Washington, Bellevue College is home to the bulldogs with more than 37,000 students. Bellevue College offers distance learning through Online Degree and Certificate Programs. Programs of study include; Associates in Arts and Science, Associates in Business, Associates in Arts General Studies, Bachelor of Science in Business Management, Bachelor of Science in Health Care, Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Bachelor of Science in Public Safety, Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration: Accounting (Major), Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration: Management Information Systems (Major), Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration: Management and Operations (Major), Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences and Bachelor of Arts in Human Development.

Faith Evangelical College & Seminary
Tuition and fees: $7,560 Enrollment: 195 Accredited: YES Website: Faith Evangelical College & Seminary

An evangelical Christian college and seminary located in Tacoma, Washington, Faith Evangelical College and Seminary was founded in 1969. Today the college offers the following Online Degree Programs; Bachelor of Arts in Leadership, Bachelor of Arts in Religion, Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (Interdisciplinary), Master of Arts in Theological Studies (Interdisciplinary), Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (with concentration), Master of Arts in Theological Studies (with concentration), Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry.

Eastern Washington University
Tuition and fees: $7,933 Enrollment: 13,328 Accredited: YES Website: Eastern Washington University

Located in Cheney, Washington and home to more than 12,000 students, Eastern Washington University is a public, co-educational university. Online college degrees offered by the university include; Children’s Study Program, Dental Hygiene Program, Interdisciplinary Studies: Health Leadership Emphasis, African Studies, Communication Studies, Health Service Administration, History, Philosophy, Religious Studies and Geography Minor.

Western Washington University
Tuition and fees: $8,805 Enrollment: 15,252 Accredited: YES Website: Western Washington University

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.

Central Washington University
Tuition and fees: $8,925 Enrollment: 12,943 Accredited: YES Website: Central Washington University

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.

Washington State University
Tuition and fees: $12,300 Enrollment: 25,588 Accredited: YES Website: Washington State University

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.

University of Washington-Seattle Campus
Tuition and fees: $12,383 Enrollment: 34,266 Accredited: YES Website: University of Washington-Seattle Campus

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.

City University of Seattle
Tuition and fees: $14,440 Enrollment: 1,224 Accredited: YES Website: City University of Seattle

With more than 7,500 enrolled students, the City University of Seattle consists of the School of Management, Albright School of Education, the Division of Arts/Sciences and Management Institute. Online college programs offered at the university include; M.A. Leadership, M.Ed. Adult Learning, M.Ed. Educational Leadership: Administrator Certification, M.Ed. Leadership, M.Ed. Reading and Literacy, M.S. Computer Systems, M.S. Information Security, M.S. Project Management, MBA, MIT Performance Based, A.S. General Studies, B.A. Applied Psychology, B.A. Early Childhood Education, B.A. Human Services, B.A. in Education: Elementary Education, B.A. Management, B.S. Accounting, B.S. Business Administration, B.S. Computer Systems, B.S. Criminal Justice, B.S. General Studies, B.S. Healthcare Administration, B.S. Information Systems and B.S. Project Management.

Heritage University
Tuition and fees: $16,515 Enrollment: 1,011 Accredited: YES Website: Heritage University

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.

Northwest University
Tuition and fees: $24,706 Enrollment: 1,473 Accredited: YES Website: Northwest University

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.

Saint Martin’s University
Tuition and fees: $28,740 Enrollment: 1,543 Accredited: YES Website: Saint Martin’s University

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.

Gonzaga University
Tuition and fees: $33,652 Enrollment: 5,135 Accredited: YES Website: Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University is a private, non-profit university founded in 1887 in Spokane, Washington and is on 28 member institutions of the Association Jesuits Colleges and Universities. This university offers two online college degrees; Masters in Organizational Leadership and Masters in Communication and Leadership.

Whitman College
Tuition and fees: $42,105 Enrollment: 1,676 Accredited: YES Website: Whitman College

Becoming a 4-year degree granting institution in 1883, Whitman College has more than 1,500 enrolled students. Whitman claims to “hold dear the traditions and value of a liberal arts education, yet the college continually evolves itself to ensure that graduates are prepared for futures that offer limitless possibilities.” Online college courses of study include; Art, Business, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Geology, History, Mathematics, Music, Physics, Religion, Sociology and much more.