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:
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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
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.
AC Online: Ranking the Most Affordable Online Colleges in Washington
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.